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Two 17-year-olds explain the pitfalls of being new drivers

An L plate on a blue carAre learners being properly prepared for our roads? We talk to two people who have recently passed to find out how they think the system should be improved.

Laura Avery, 17, passed her driving test four months ago after seven months as a learner. She passed first time, but says she still can’t park properly and had no night driving experience.

Parking is a big issue for Laura and she says the test didn’t prepare her enough: “You’re taught how to reverse into a space but the first time I went forwards I got stuck because I didn’t know what angle to go in at.

“Parallel parking is another one: I couldn’t go into a small space now with the method I was taught.”

Laura also thinks the Highway Code should be a bigger focus during practical lessons.

“When it comes to road signs they expect you to know it from the theory test but I didn’t learn the whole book. The first time I went on the motorway I didn’t know what the slip road count-down signs were.”

Calls have been made to add motorway driving to the test, rather than just including it in the Pass Plus scheme, which many drivers don’t bother with.

Laura added: “It would be nice to have a bit of training without having to pay extra. I think Pass Plus is just a scam to get extra money out of you.”

Night driving was also something she felt underprepared for.

“During the seven months of lessons I never went out in the dark with my instructor. He pushed for lessons in the day to avoid the dark. It was quite scary the first time I went out on my own after dark.”

Laura also thinks passing the driving test owes a lot to luck.

“We only did one manoeuvre in the test. I was confident with reverse around a corner and that’s what I got. If I’d had to bay park I’m sure I’d have failed so it’s just down to luck on the day.

“I’m a lot more confident now than I was before but I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant. Sometimes I wonder how I passed the test and I can’t believe some of my friends are allowed to drive. One friend failed with 16 minors and two majors then a month later she passed with two minors. I don’t know how that’s possible.”

Jack Taylor, 17, passed his test three months ago after five months as a learner. He’d practised driving before on private land and although he passed the test quickly, and first time, he still thinks there are things that driving lessons overlook.

Like Laura, Jack finds parking problematic.

He said: “Driving lessons don’t prepare you for real life when it’s busy and other drivers are around.”

And again, he agrees that the lack of motorway driving leaves new drivers underprepared.

Jack also thinks the attitude of young men on the road differs greatly to women of the same age. “Boys are definitely more confident on the road but some drive so fast.”

In the last year three of Jack’s close friends have had car accidents. One wrote his vehicle off when Jack was a passenger.

“He came round a corner too fast, took his eyes off the road for a second and went straight into the back of another car.

“Everyone involved now drives a lot more carefully. It just showed us that we don’t need to drive like that. Girls are definitely a lot more careful.”

The cost of driving is another issue affecting Jack, Laura and their friends.

Jack added: “The cost definitely puts people off especially with everyone about to go to uni. Lots of our friends are putting it off because they know they can’t afford a car anyway.”

Were you prepared for the road when you passed your test? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below. 

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Lois Avery

Lois Avery

Lois joined Confused.com in 2010 after working for Dyson and as a local newspaper reporter in Wiltshire. After a year writing financial journalism at Confused.com, Lois won the 2011 'most promising newcomer' at the BIBA journalist of the year awards.

Read more from Lois