I’m taking a mini hiatus from my California Road Trip blog posts (I have loads coming up!) to talk about something a little different today…
Today, I’m celebrating. As I write this, I’m trying to come down from my adrenalin high, because this morning (about an hour and a half ago, to be exact) I passed my driving test!
I’m absolutely thrilled, even more so because it’s less than three weeks until my 26th birthday, and I swore to myself that this would be the year I learn to drive. Marc treated me to brunch at my favourite spot (Evelyn’s for those who are interested) to celebrate. I’m currently feeling full, happy and a little bit shocked that I’ve actually done it!
Learning to drive is something I’ve had on my ‘goals list’ almost every year. I moved to Manchester the week after I turned 18, and so I’ve never needed a car. But the closer I’ve gotten to my mid twenties, the more I’ve thought I really should get it ticked off. I did my theory test about 18 months ago, and so time has been of the essence to get my practical test done, since you have two years from the day you pass your theory.
I had a bit of a false start last year, when I booked myself a course of fifteen expensive hours with a well known national driving school, only to have a terrible experience with a sexist instructor. 15 hours is a long time to be in a car with someone you find offensive, and so I ended up requesting a change in instructor and cancelling the test I had booked. What made matters worse was that the original instructor then kept texting me, demanding to know why I had requested to change instructors!
Anyways, back to square one, I asked around for recommendations from friends, and friends of friends. Each instructor I was recommended was either unavailable in my area (central Manchester), had retired or just never got back to me. I had completely given up hope when I came across PassMeFast.
PassMeFast specialise in intensive driving courses, for people who are serious about knuckling down and getting their driving license ASAP. They offer courses of 5 hours for those that are ‘test ready’, up to 48 hours for total beginners. Lessons can be arranged around you and your schedule, and can be taken up to 5 hours per day (with breaks!).
This was spot on for me and my needs. I really didn’t want to go back to doing two hours per week for months on end as I felt that would hamper my progress. I work for myself and so can be flexible with my time, so it made sense for me to book an intensive course. The process for booking is really simple. I enquired about the 20 hour course, and was assigned Frank as my instructor. He took me out for an hour and assessed where I was at, and whether I would need more or less time. Let’s just say I was rusty… I booked on to the 25 hour course and booked my test for 4 weeks time.
I worked out my lessons with Frank, and was able to do two lots of 3 hours each week (over 4 weeks), with an hour saved for my test day.
It’s most definitely not a passive learning experience, you really do have to work hard to concentrate and make progress every lesson. Frank, my instructor, was honestly fantastic with me. He’s firm but fair, and taught me early on to take responsibility for my actions and how they affect other road users, pedestrians and my passengers. I think this was the hardest lesson to absorb, but the one that made the most difference to the way I drive. He told me after I passed that his standards are exceptionally high, so I took that to mean that I’m not too bad haha!
I thought it might be helpful to share my top tips for getting the most out of an intensive driving course, for anyone who is considering doing one.
1. Talk it through if it helps
I’m sure I drove my instructor mad talking to myself, but I really did find it helpful to talk through what I was doing/preparing to do. For example, “So I’m taking the next left…check my mirrors… signal… slow on approach…I’m going to drop down into 2nd… check it’s clear…now make the turn.”
If you’re doing bulk lessons like I did, make sure you eat something that will give you plenty of energy, shortly before you start. I always had a coffee just before, and took a snack and a large bottle of water with me. Nothing worse than a growling tummy when you’re trying to learn how to parallel park!
3. Get in the right frame of mind
Clear your head and get into the right frame of mind for your lessons. You can’t be thinking about work, or anything other than your driving when you’re learning. It requires 100% dedication. I found it helpful to turn my phone on airplane mode an hour before my lesson started, and to run through what I had learnt last time. I struggled with nerves and feeling anxious at the start of every lesson, so it helped me to run through in my mind what I was going to do when I needed to set off. I would sit on my sofa in silence with my eyes closed, and imagine I was setting off. I’d even pretend to adjust my mirrors, use the gear stick, handbreak, indicators, everything haha! Marc thought I had completely lost it, but hey, it worked for me!
Practice with family and friends in empty car parks whenever you get the chance. I didn’t have much opportunity to do this, since my boyfriend doesn’t have a car. But even if it was just ten minutes in a friends car when they come to pick you up, that’s enough time to practice parking. Every little helps, so call in some favours.
5. Do your theory test first
Get your theory test passed before you begin your practical lessons. I think it would be way too much to try and do it at the same time as practical lessons. PassMeFast can arrange it for you in advance of your intensive course.
6. Control the nerves
Learning to drive can be stressful, it certainly was for me. But being anxious and panicking when you make a mistake, only makes it harder to recover from safely. If you’re panicked, you might not remember to put your hand-break on or check all the way around the car before moving off, for example. It took until the last few lessons before my test when I stalled, for me to finally recover from it properly, taking all the steps calmly to move off safely. It helped me to remember that even experienced drivers stall and make mistakes. How you deal with it when things go wrong is probably the difference between being ‘test ready’ and not.
PassMeFast were brilliant, and I’m so happy to be able to confidently get behind the wheel now. I certainly found it hard to find an intensive driving course and instructor that I was comfortable spending a lot of money and time with, so I’m really happy to have a solid recommendation for you with PassMeFast. Don’t just take my word for it, their reviews speak volumes too. PassMeFast are available all over the north of England, so get in touch with them to find an instructor in your area. If you do end up contacting them, DM me on Instagram for a 10% discount code (I can’t publish it unfortunately). If you’re in Manchester, I highly recommend asking for Frank if he’s available!
Huge thanks to PassMeFast for working with me on this post, and of course, helping me pass my driving test!