Learning to drive during lockdown - how to keep your skills sharp without lessons

Among the earliest aspects of life to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak was the UK’s driving test system.

Even before the country was put into lockdown, theory and practical driving tests were cancelled and, soon after, driving schools began to cancel lessons.

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While learners are understandably keen to keep practising even without professional instruction, the CEO of one of the country’s largest driving schools is warning against heading out during lockdown.

Current government instructions are that you should only be driving if it is for essential reasons such as grocery shopping, caring for a vulnerable person or getting to work where working from home is not possible.

Home learning

Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School said: “The temptation for parents and their learner driver children to use the lockdown as an opportunity to practice is very real. If we are to look forward to getting out and about again soon, we must follow the Government’s advice to stay at home and avoid the appeal of quiet roads.

“Starting to learn with family members can set up new drivers with bad habits and, without dual controls in the family car, it can also be very dangerous for those just starting out. But most importantly right now, it is inappropriate for learners and parents to be out on driving lessons.”

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While learners can’t get out on the road to practice, there is plenty you can do at home to stay sharp, ready for when testing centres re-open. Here are Ian’s tips on brushing up on theoretical skills.

Nail the theory test

This part of getting a driving licence is often neglected as learners focus on the practical side of getting behind the wheel. And it shows in the statistics – the DVSA reports theory test pass rates for 2019/20 are just 48 per cent. With proper study, learners should be able to pass the test with flying colours and a solid grasp of the theory behind driving will only help learners excel on the practical side as well.

The theory test is made up of 50 multiple choice questions, and learners need to get at least 43 of these right. It’s recommended that learners do at least 20 hours of revision for the test.

Red Driving School’s Theory Training Test Aid gives access to more than 1,000 DVSA official practice theory test questions. Feedback is provided for every question and learners can even take a full mock test.

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You can also use the Government's example theory test to get a feel for the real thing.

Know your traffic signs

Being able to instantly recognise traffic signs and understand their direction is crucial to safe and confident driving. Take your learning to the next step by printing out images of the road signs and using them as flash cards. Leave the signs at various points around your house, like the ‘intersection’ of the hallway between the bathroom and your bedroom, and test yourself as you move through the house throughout the day.

Quiz your family and friends

Zoom quizzes have become a staple for socialising during lockdown so use the Highway Code to test your friends or family on your next big night in. While revising the Highway Code, prepare questions from the information you find, whether it’s a section you’re struggling to remember or an answer you were surprised by. Testing others can help reinforce your own knowledge. Learners might also get a kick out of testing their parents to see how good their driving theory is.

The hazards of the hazard perception test

The hazard perception section of the test is where many students become unstuck, but it’s testing drivers’ ability to recognise and respond to hazards on the road – an important part of safe driving. Hone your skills via official DVSA sample hazard perception clips which you can access online and trial via a laptop or computer. Learners can also speak to their driving instructor on how to get it right. And practice, practice, practice.

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Show me, tell me

The ‘show me, tell me’ section is part of the practical driving test. The ‘tell me’ questions are asked at the start of the test when the car isn’t moving while the ‘show me’ questions are asked during driving – when it is safe to do so. This is one section of the practical test that can brushed up on without having to take to the streets.

There are online tutorials for this section of the test, and all learners can ask their instructor for examples to practice in their own time. To test yourself, get your family to ask the questions and practice explaining them. You should also get familiar with the controls of the car, such as the de-mister, cleaning the windscreen and dipped lights, and this can be done from the safety of your driveway in a parked car if one is available.

Further instruction

If you’re looking for more guidance on the theory or hazard perception test, Bill Plant Driving School is offering an online theory test service with video advice and feedback from instructors.

The courses include every revision question from the DVSA for the theory test, over 700 high quality interactive clips for hazard perception and over 35 video tutorials to help prepare for the practical test.

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An introductory course, priced at £30 offers a single live conference with a qualified instructor before you start practising, while a £90 feedback course also includes a further five hours of tuition and feedback, including a syllabus of the learning categories, such as alertness, rules of the road and vehicle handling.

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