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‘L’ plates during lockdown: How can learners build driving skills?

Young driver

The UK’s lockdown restrictions continue to present challenges for learner drivers and instructors, despite the relaxations announced in May and June.

The restrictions, which were designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, have forced new drivers to place their plans on ice since driving test centres across the country closed on 20 March, cancelling hundreds of thousands of tests.

Initially exceptions were only granted to key workers, but now some test centres are planning to reopen. Still, the future for driving lessons remains unclear due to the difficulty of maintaining social distancing in a car environment.

Perspex screens and protective equipment may provide one solution, but some driving instructors and learners may be reluctant to take the risk.

This means new learners – as well as those who might fail tests and need further practice – may be unsure how to develop their skills without mixing households.

There is no minimum number of professional driving lessons required prior to taking the UK driving test, but most UK learners need 45 hours of lessons, according to the DVSA.

Although professional tutoring can’t be easily replaced, there are things learner drivers can do independently to build skills.

Driving lessons within a household bubble

Taking formal driving lessons is a common way to learn how to change gear, reverse and tackle the roads – but it isn’t the only way. Lots of new drivers learn the ropes in a private vehicle.

Buying a car, or using a household member’s car, is perfectly legal for this purpose – as long as the learner is accompanied by someone aged over 21 who has been driving for three years or more. And, of course, all provisional licence holders need L plates and the correct learner driver insurance.

Practising in this way helps to keep general driving skills up to scratch by learning from a more experienced driver, such as a parent. For brand new drivers, setting the foundations in a private car can help to speed up the learning process once formal lessons are underway.

Starting on quiet, familiar roads is sensible. Learners and new tutors should focus on building up a rapport based on patience and respect.

The best driving theory test study resources

The practical driving test is just one half of the story – learners also need a theoretical understanding of the Highway Code. If a learner can’t take to the road for a while, they might instead consider studying the rules of the road in the meantime.

Some of the best resources around come from the official DVSA learning zone, which is a subscription service that can be taken out for a set number of months. It helps new drivers to prepare for parts of the theory test which simply cannot be learnt from a book – such as the hazard perception test – using multiple choice videos and interactive exercises.

Things to consider

Learning to drive independently comes with its draw-backs – not least because private cars don’t have dual controls. This type of learning may not eliminate the need to take formal lessons, since family members aren’t trained to teach driving skills – and they won’t necessarily have a full understanding of what’s included in the modern driving test.

To be best equipped for the practical driving test, learners need to practice driving with a Sat Nav system. They also need to handle manoeuvres such as pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, then reversing two car lengths.

There is no exact science to passing the driving test, but in order to have the best possible change of passing during unprecedented times, learners and their families can take some matters into their own hands

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