Did you know that private driving practice is one of the best ways to develop your confidence on the roads?
Private practice helps you to develop muscle memory, gain confidence as an independent driver and get advice and guidance from someone else regarding your driving abilities.
It also helps you transition into independent driving once you’ve passed your test with more experience and road confidence.
Private practice is also a great way to get started on one of motoring’s more advanced and delicate skills: driving safely with ease in an unfamiliar vehicle. These vehicles can often have quite different controls and handling to what you’re used to.
We know it can be a daunting thought! That’s why we’ve put together this instructor’s guide to making the most out of private driving practice (whilst staying safe) to help you take to the roads in your own vehicle. Here’s our guide, and don’t forget you can contact us with any questions:
Guide to Supporting Your Driving Lessons with Private Practice
Preparing yourself to drive another vehicle
When settling in don’t forget to use the same cockpit drill as you do with your instructor. This will ensure that you are in a comfortable and safe driving position with good visibility all around.
Don’t rush this part of your private driving practice, especially early on when you are getting used to the vehicle. Take time to learn how to make all the adjustments to the seat, mirrors and head restraints and get used to all of the controls.
If you are using your practice partner’s vehicle, ask them to show you how to make all of the adjustments and how they like to set the car up. As each vehicle is different, they may have different points of reference, and they can help you with your awareness of the vehicle’s blind spots. Don’t forget, however, to take your instructor’s safety advice seriously every time you go out in a vehicle. Don’t move off or make any signals until you have good visibility all around the car and make sure you are safely restrained with access to all of the controls.
If it is your own vehicle that you are practicing in, take a look at the vehicle’s handbook to completely familiarise yourself with all of the controls- you will not have time to be fumbling about when you’re on the roads! It’s also important to make sure you’re happy with the set-up of your vehicle every time you drive it, even if you’re the only one who drives the vehicle, as mirrors can easily be knocked and seats adjusted between driving trips.
You should also make sure that you have “L” plates on the front and the rear of the vehicle. You should always ensure that the vehicle has a valid MOT certificate and insurance and make sure this insurance covers you as the learner driver. Either as the policyholder or a named driver.
Getting used to another vehicle safely
In manual vehicles, the bite point of each car will be different, you should get used to this first on a quiet, straight road if you can. You should also be aware that the acceleration is different for different cars, so you shouldn’t take any risks merging with traffic or arriving at ‘the right time’ before another vehicle as you may not have the power or control that you’re used to with your instructor’s vehicle.
Automatic vehicles also have different handling. You should acclimatize yourself to how the braking and acceleration feel for the vehicle you’re practicing in before entering a busy area.
You should also be aware of the size of your vehicle and how difficult this might make it to get through tight spaces or around bends.
Get used to driving the vehicle with caution, all of the controls will feel different (especially if it’s an older vehicle) so you must be careful: the controls will soon feel natural.
Choosing and communicating with your practice partner
It’s very important to make sure that the person you choose to practice with is:
- Over the age of 21
- Holds a full driving license
- Has had that license for over three years
- Does not use their mobile phone whilst accompanying you
It’s also worth asking your driving instructor what your strengths and weaknesses are and what areas you need to focus on at the end of each lesson so that you can tell your practice partner to help you with these aspects. Your instructor will quickly find that your skills increase with your confidence and they will help you keep developing these between lessons.
It’s also important to remain calm and focused at all times with your practice partner. They will not be experienced at explaining or instructing so you must both remain calm and take things slowly. A great private driving practice partner will coach you through your driving experience. This includes alerting you to hazards that might be developing, helping you with directions and identifying the correct action to take, e.g. when it is safe to join a roundabout. They should also remind you of key aspects of driving like signaling and safe speeds and following distances.
Private driving practice should be a discussion rather than an instruction, encourage your driving partner to allow you to explain what you would do in each situation and they can advise you and help you to improve your problem-solving and observation skills, just as your instructor does.
Planning a route
As your instructor will have taken you to training grounds near to where you live, take note of these areas and plan a route to one of these places to practice whatever aspect of driving your instructor has suggested- whether that’s traffic lights, bay parking, roundabouts or country roads. Never push yourself beyond what you feel confident practicing and never attempt anything that you haven’t thoroughly learned with your instructor- they are the professional with dual controls.
You should choose to drive in areas that you both know well to start off with and try to avoid rush hours or busy areas until you are comfortable with your practice partner and the vehicle.
It’s also a good idea to drive to places together, whether that’s a friend’s house or the supermarket. This helps driving to feel more normal to you and you can experience driving a familiar route. Dealing with any hazards regularly will also help you to understand how different traffic situations require different handling techniques and judgment.
Don’t forget, little and often is the perfect way to improve your skills on the road: never try to overstretch yourself.
Preparing for private practice with your instructor
We advise that you become comfortable with your clutch control before you go out without your instructor. You should also have a strong command of the brakes, including knowing when to start braking in anticipation of a hazard or speed change and how to safely complete an emergency stop.
You should also be more cautious with your driving as you don’t have the fallback of the dual controls, it’s all on you the driver, with a little support and assistance from your practice partner.
Your instructor can help you to identify when you’re ready to experience private driving practice and they can also help you to assess your confidence and ability with each of these skills by completing them frequently on your lessons and helping you identify perfect technique when you complete it successfully.
Being on the road with “L” plates compared to an instructor’s vehicle
Undoubtedly, road users will be less patient towards you when you’re not out in a driving school vehicle. This does not mean that you should rush or hurry to make a decision though, as making the wrong one could have strong consequences!
This is especially true if your practice partner’s instructions are sometimes a little bit late, You should always make the necessary observations and safely complete the maneuver so have the confidence to slow down.
At Awards, we’re always here to answer any questions you might have and support you every step of the way to achieving confidence as an independent driver. If you would like to know more about private driving practice or wish to book your lessons, then get in touch with us today by calling 0800 955 3800 or through our Contact Us Page.