I’d always wanted to learn to drive but when I lived in Sheffield there was no need. I had my Husband, Mum and friends who could all drive and were there to take me places if I needed it. I also lived within walking distance of the city centre, it was only just over a mile away and then there was public transport. There were buses every 5 minutes going from where I lived in to the city centre. I just didn’t need to learn to drive, I couldn’t justify it at all.
When we moved down to the South Coast in February 2015 we suddenly didn’t live a stones throw away from great High Street shops. I live near the village centre of where we live but it only has a small handful of shops. But there’s buses right? Yes but there is only one bus every half an hour and a couple of times one of those hasn’t shown up which then drops you to one bus an hour. It takes 15 minutes to drive to work, on the bus it takes 50 minutes! It was all becoming a bit inconvenient. If I wanted to go shopping in Portsmouth or Southampton it was costing me over £10 to get there and pretty soon the decision was made. It was now time to learn to drive.
Won’t someone take my money?
I began taking note every time a driving instructor car drove past us and started noting down names, telephone numbers and websites. I must have emailed 5 driving instructors and only received one response telling me she doesn’t work weekends which was ideally when I’d have liked driving lessons. I phoned countless instructors and left so many messages but only received a couple of replies one to tell me they were too busy at the moment and were no longer taking on pupils and another to say they were on holiday and would call me when they got back….they didn’t! This suddenly seemed really difficult. It was like none of the independent driving instructors wanted to take my money.
It was actually whilst ranting about this in the car that we passed an AA driving school car. I’d not looked at them as I presumed they’d be expensive being a big chain. When we got home I looked on their website and found they were actually a similar price to the independent driving schools I’d looked at and had a good offer on that saved me £40 on 10 hours of lessons and amazingly I could start lessons the very next week. This was the week of Christmas and as I get the time off between Christmas and New Year it seemed like an ideal time to start.
I had my first lesson on 28th December 2015. I didn’t really feel nervous before that first lesson. We started right away on the roads practicing setting off and coming to a stop. It wasn’t long before I was progressing with changing gears and steering. With nearly every lesson I was learning something new. My driving instructor had diagrams to explain manoeuvres which made them easier to understand, and also funny little phrases to help remember things e.g. Less space, less pace.
I progressed nicely with my lessons and got on really well with my instructor. He allowed me to keep paying the special rate of £40 off of 10 hours of lessons. I paid £220 for 10 hours. As my lessons progressed the only thing I found difficult was parallel parking and felt I never really improved at it. I just couldn’t get the hang of it (and to be honest I still can’t!)
The First Test
I had my first test on May 25th and failed. My approach speed at junctions was too fast. Afterwards my instructor told me this must have been nerves as I never do it in my lessons. Unfortunately the wait at the test centre for tests is ludicrous and I had to wait until August to take my test again. This did however give me enough time to iron out any other things I’d been struggling with and gave me more time to practice the dreaded parallel parking. I actually had this as the manoeuvre in my first test and someone passed it!
The Second Test
In the hour before my second test we practised parallel parking again and again and again and I only correctly did it maybe twice. Every other manoeuvre I nailed but parallel parking just wasn’t for me. Heading in to my second test I was ridiculously nervous. Waiting for them to call my name I said to my instructor I actually thought I was going to be sick, but then there was my examiner calling my name and I didn’t really have time to think about it again.
Pass or Fail?
I drove really well, my manoeuvre was a turn in the road which I managed in three and that was it. There were no hiccups no nothing, although the examiner did tell me to let go of the nerves a couple of times! And when we pulled back in he uttered those magical words to tell me that I’d passed! I had a hard time believing it that’s for sure and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!
Afterwards my driving instructor told me I’d just taken my test with the head examiner and that he can be harder to impress so I was extra pleased I’d passed!
What does being able to drive mean to me?
It sounds a bit cheesy to say driving has changed my life but it really has. Before it was rare I went out on my day off from work as getting the bus/public transport was a hassle and expensive. Now I can nip out whenever I fancy keeping to my own schedule and not that dictated by public transport.
I also don’t have to rely on friends anymore. If we went out I needed a lift home, if my husband was out of the office and wasn’t going to be back in time I needed a lift home or to plan my day off so that I’m off when he has to travel but now it doesn’t matter.
I can now drive back to the North to see friends and family whenever I like.
Learning to drive is the best thing I’ve ever done.
AA Driving School
I learnt to drive in a brand new Ford Fiesta that was in good condition and well maintained. If learning to drive is something you’re thinking about I recommend the AA Driving School