Many teenagers cannot wait to learn to drive and eagerly anticipate their 17th birthday; the articles below will outline the process of learning to drive, as well as offering advice for choosing a driving school.

Applying for a provisional licence

Before you learn to drive you should obtain a provisional licence; you can either apply online using the DVLA website or collect a form from your local post office and send it away. The provisional car licence currently costs £50. You should expect your licence to arrive within 3 weeks of sending your application so it may be wise to fill in the application a month before you plan to start your driving lessons.

Choosing an instructor

There is an enormous range of driving schools nowadays ranging from small independent schools to large national chains. Try to ask around relatives and friends to gather their thoughts and personal experiences as they may have had particularly positive or negative experiences with certain instructors. The larger national chains are often more expensive but offer a more comprehensive service and more security in terms of providing insurance and new, well maintained vehicles; the main national driving schools include The AA and the BMA. If you are not happy with your instructor you should raise this issue with them or change instructors; it may take you a long time to learn to drive so it is beneficial to get on well with your instructor.

Theory test

All people who want to gain a full driving licence must complete a theory and a practical test. You can book a theory test online via the DVLA or DSA websites or via the telephone; these services also allow you to change the time or date of your test if you leave a certain amount of time. The theory test is split into two parts which include a section of questions related to issues such as road safety, car maintenance and first aid and a hazard perception test which is an interactive test which measures your reaction to potential hazards on the road; this may include spotting parked cars, pedestrians or road works for example. You must gain a total of at least 43 out of 50 for the questions and 44 out of a possible 75 for the hazard perception test. The cost of the theory test is currently £31.

Practical test

Your instructor will advise you when you are ready to sit your practical test; on average pupils receive 40 hours of tuition before being ready to take the test. Learner drivers may also practice with family members or friends who are 21 years old and have held a full driving license for at least 3 years; you should attach L plates to the front and rear of the car. The test lasts for 40 minutes and you will expected to demonstrate a number of different skills including carrying out manoeuvres, doing a hill start and doing an emergency stop, as well as showing that you are a competent and confident driver. You are allowed a total of 16 minor errors but will fail if you get any serious or dangerous faults. Once you have passed, your provisional licence will be replaced by a full driving license.