Hit the road Jack

First time drivers

Learning how to drive can be a daunting task, particularly if you live in an urban or busy area. A lot of drivers seem to immediately lose their patience when they see an L plate,

Still, that hasn’t stopped Ireland’s youths from taking the first steps towards freedom. Carzone has released its motoring report for 2016, which shows that 20 per cent of Irish motorists first sat behind the wheel at the age of 17, with 41 per cent learning how to drive between the ages of 17 and 20. Practice meant perfect for more than half of those who took part in the research, who passed their test the first time round.

Memorising the rules of the road is one thing; employing it out on the road is another, with cars whizzing by with little regard to how nervous you are. The only way to beat the nerves is to get out there and get driving. To coincide with the report, Carzone has offered five top tips for getting road ready once you’ve got your provisional.

Preparation

Before you leave the house, know exactly where you’re going and the route you plan on taking. Opt for quieter roads and car parks – avoid the main roads and the motorway. If you’re really worried, take a walk or cycle along the road beforehand to identify any potential pitfalls, or how other drivers act on the road.

Get comfortable

Ensuring you can see and reach everything is key before you set off. Move your seat so that you’re not stretching to reach the pedals. Then adjust your wing and rearview mirrors so that you’ve got a clear view of your blind spots.

You should also familiarise yourself with the basic controls and where you can find them in a hurry – windscreen wipers and washers, indicators and your lights. Make sure you know how to work your lights, and be sure that you can quickly and easily switch between dips and full beam.

Laser focus

When you’re getting ready to set off, remove any distractions from the car. Turn off the radio, put your phone on silent, and boot out any passengers (apart from your fully licensed teacher). Take a simple trip – plan a route and stick to it. Avoid driving in bad weather on your first few trips, though you should be comfortable in all weather conditions, as it could be spilling rain on the day of your test.

Calm and cool

Staying calm and cool on the road is essential in helping to avoid accidents or incidents. Revise the basic rules of the road (such as the meaning of common signs, speed limits on different types of roads and where you can and cannot drive). Make sure your L plates are visible front and back – don’t worry what other drivers are thinking about you. You’re responsible for your car and your driving – make manoeuvres when you’re ready and when the way ahead is clear. Chances are you’ll be on the receiving end of a few beeps while you’re learning to drive, which can leave you a little flustered. Ignore it and your experience will be a lot more pleasant!

Back to basics

As a novice driver, your focus should be on the basics of driving – moving, braking, turning and looking around your field of view. As you start you’ll probably stall your car a number of times, or move jerk the car as you accelerate. Focus on smooth movements – you could practice your skills if there’s enough space at home, or in a quiet or empty car park.

Turning also requires smooth and confident driving, and you should practice turning with the steering wheel sliding through your hands, rather than crossing them over as you turn.

Finally, make sure not to simply stare straight ahead while you drive. Always be aware of your surroundings, and scan ahead to prepare for any potential dangers like pedestrians, cyclists or animals on the road. Check your mirrors regularly, and always check your blind spot when overtaking – you might be surprised at what you can’t see.

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