Everything you ever wanted to know about your first driving lesson

Just about to get behind the wheel for the very first time? Nervous? Let the driving instructors at Steering Clear help to calm those early nerves.

For most of us, after a number of years, driving becomes almost second nature. Putting the car in gear, checking mirrors, moving off into traffic, using the handbrake – it all just happens. We hardly think about it. However, if you’ve never been behind the wheel before, driving can appear quite a hard skill to acquire. All the manoeuvres appear to occur at the same time and, just in case you weren’t hyper aware of this already, you’re in a vehicle weighing well over a ton, on a public highway.


Don’t worry. Please be assured that all of us felt that way when we first started. Yes, even us old hands here at Steering Clear. We’ve helped many, many novices overcome their nerves, so do be assured that you’re in safe hands. And, on the assumption that forewarned is forearmed, we’ve put together this blog to let you know what’s going to happen during your first lesson, as well as some top tips to help you make the most of the time you have with your instructor.

Firstly, nerves aren’t a bad thing. You will feel a bit jittery, and quite frankly, if you didn’t have a few butterflies we’d be a little concerned! Why? Because over-confident learner drivers could be in for a short, sharp shock when they attempt to drive to the exacting standards set by the DVLA. Also, being a little nervous heightens your alertness, which is good.

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First Things First

Allow about two hours for your first driving lesson. There’s a lot to know and it’s best to have plenty of time.

You won’t be in the driving seat immediately, so don’t worry about this. You must bring along your provisional driving licence, which you instructor will review and check, in order to make sure that you’re legal to drive. Without this, you won’t be going anywhere.

The Cockpit Drill and the Basics

Your instructor will pick you up from your home and drive you somewhere quiet. Ideally, this will be a low-traffic road where you can get a handle on the car controls safely. And now…it’s time to change places. You’re stationary, behind the wheel. No panicking, please. Put your faith in your instructor, as you won’t be allowed to start “properly” until you’re 100% ready to do so. And, everyone learns at their own pace.

You’ll establish a good steering position (you may be moving the seat), how to adjust the mirrors and put on your seatbelt. There’s an important process to go through; a series of vital checks to put in place every time you drive. After a while this will be as natural as breathing, but for now, pay close attention. Safety first, always.

Those confusing dials on the dashboard, as well as the other gizmos and gadgets will be clearly explained. Next, it’s time for:

Sadly, at this stage, some people give up on the idea of driving altogether. The very concept of repeating failure is terrifying; they tried it once and never again. Ever. Don’t let that person be you.
You WILL succeed, you simply need to try again.

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Your First Drive

Accelerator – Break – Clutch. Or, ABC, but in reverse order. The clutch is on the left, the break in the middle and the accelerator on the right.

What’s a biting point? Put the car in first gear and raise your foot gently off the accelerator until you hear the engine noise change to a deeper and lower sound. Your car is all systems go. You’re now ready to:

• Signal
• Check your mirrors (including where your blind spot is), and
• Move off

Yikes, you’re actually driving

Yes, it’s likely that you will be doing some actual driving on your first lesson. How long you drive for will depend on how quickly you understand and feel comfortable with the controls. Although your heart is beating fast, there’s no need to worry. Remember: the car you learn in will have dual controls. Your instructor will be able to take over if necessary and bring the vehicle to a safe stop. And, they’ll have been in this position literally hundreds of times. They know that you’re nervous. The role of a skilled driving teacher is to move at your own pace.

You may struggle at first. Pulling away, using the gears correctly, stopping, starting again. You’ll be using the brake, accelerator and the clutch again and again. You may stall. Does it matter? Not a bit. We learn from the mistakes we make, and driving is no exception. Just relax as much as you can – and keep going.

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Those two hours will fly by super-fast.

Consider your achievements: you have driven a car! Very well done. Two hours ago you didn’t have the first clue and now, well – you’ve only blimmin’ well gone and done it. Today is the first day of the rest of your “driving life” and later on, when you’ve reflected on the day, you’ll probably find that you really enjoyed it.

Your instructor will drop you home and have a chat with you about how it went, focusing on your areas of development for next time.

Time to book some more lessons. You may be able to block book, so see if you can reserve the same slot for several weeks at a time. Twice a week is ideal, as this enables you to reinforce your learning, but once a week is good, too.

You’ll be Absolutely Fine

Smart people learn to drive – and not-so-smart folks, too. Think of the daftest person you know. If they can do it, you’ll have no trouble at all. And, welcome to the wonderful world of driving!