Driving lessons: what to expect

So, you’re about to get behind the wheel for the first time, slip the key into the ignition and start learning how to drive. The ultimate aim is freedom and independence.

It’s all pretty exciting, but the prospect of driving lessons might also make you feel a little nervous. And that’s why we’ve created this little guide on what to expect from your driving lessons.

Let’s pull back the curtain…

Is the first driving lesson really scary?


The thought of learning to drive for the first time is much scarier than the reality. And you know what? It's perfectly natural to feel a little anxious. 

However, bear in mind that driving instructors have seen it all before. They know that everyone's different, so you'll always be learning at a pace that's right for you.

How should I prepare for my first driving lesson?


Preparing for driving lessons is common sense, really. Don't drink any alcohol the night before and avoid any Netflix marathons. Instead, try to relax and get a good night's sleep.

Pick out comfortable clothes so that you'll be relaxed and wear flat-heeled, non-slip shoes or trainers so that you can feel the pedals easily.

Bring glasses or contacts if you have them and bring a bottle of water, too.  

What can I expect from my first driving lesson?


First of all, you'll be picked up by your driving instructor either at your home, college, place of work or from wherever you've arranged.

Before you do anything, your instructor will introduce themselves and put you at ease.

Then they'll check your provisional licence to see if you’re legally able to drive (so ensure that you bring it with you). If you don’t have a provisional licence, you can apply for one here.

Depending on where you live, your instructor will then drive you to a quiet spot and teach you the DSSM cockpit drill. This is an essential vehicle safety routine that should be performed before every drive.

  • Doors - are they securely closed?
  • Seat - is it in comfortable position?
  • Steering position - has it been established?
  • Seatbelts - are they on?
  • Mirrors - have they been adjusted?

After the cockpit drill, your instructor will then run through some basics by showing you how to work the clutch, accelerator, brakes, handbrake and indicator. 

You’ll also be introduced to the dashboard and all the various buttons at your fingertips.

At this stage, you might have some time left for a little driving. It might only be a gentle introduction to pulling away and stopping, but 5mph will still seem like 500 the first time you do it.

The idea is to start developing your ability to move a car from a stationary position and get used to speeding up and slowing down.

That's probably all you'll have time for. Your instructor will then take you back to your agreed drop-off point, discuss how the lesson went and then schedule another session.

What else will you learn?

With the first lesson done and dusted, you'll be feeling more confident next time around and your driving instructor will now introduce a number of key skills over the coming weeks and months. 

All the different driving topics are listed below and, although the order might vary a little depending on the instructor, this is generally the agenda most learners will follow.

There’s no rush, but when you can execute them all without any prompting, you’re ready for your test. 

  • Safe road positioning
  • Mirrors and signalling
  • Approaching junctions
  • Meeting traffic
  • Use of speed
  • Hazard awareness
  • Emergency stop
  • Roundabouts
  • Junctions
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Dual carriageways
  • Parking and reversing
  • Tackling different road conditions
  • Following directions

Other things to remember

Don’t forget that you’ll have to pass your Theory Test before taking a practical driving test. Most likely, you’ll be able to do that about halfway into the syllabus.

Need help passing your Theory Test?

Check out our free guide.

But aside from the Theory Test, that’s your schedule. And now that you know what to expect from your first driving lesson, you can relax a bit.

Try to keep things in perspective - making mistakes is inevitable; that’s part of the learning process. 

Being a proactive learner will stand you in good stead, so get reports from your instructor at the end of every lesson and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

By and large, that’s it. There’s pretty much just 14 steps between you and your driving test. And when laid out to bare, freedom doesn’t sound so far away now, does it?


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