Learning to drive is a big deal. For most 15-year-olds, the prospect of obtaining their learner’s licence and setting off on the road to freedom and adulthood is the epitome of excitement.
Despite this, in the world of driver education I all too often find that students and their parents are lacking in their understanding of how to get started, what is involved, and the costs and requirements of such an undertaking. This is the result of an abundance of misleading, incorrect information provided by just about everybody, misinterpretations of rules and requirements, as well as social attitudes towards the entire process of learning to drive.
Learning to drive is a big deal because it’s the turning point in a young adult’s life. The process itself is simple, however it is also extensive and it is this extensiveness which leads to ambiguity and, by extension, ignorance.
This comprehensive guide will help you prepare for the road ahead, understand the whole process, and know what to expect from your learner driver journey.
STEP 1: DETERMINE WHAT KIND OF LEARNER YOU ARE
There are three main types of Learner Drivers I encounter on a regular basis. The first step in preparing for you learner licence is deciding which one you are and taking the necessary actions to plan ahead.
By doing this you’ll have a better understanding of how important getting your licence is to you and why you want and/or need it. This will in turn allow you to determine approximate dates for undergoing your written test, regularity of driving lessons and when you aim to have your hours done by.
First and foremost, you have the Eager Learner
Eager Learners jump at the chance to start driving, almost always sitting their written test within days of their 16th birthday, if not on the day itself.
Some reasons for this can be that they’re a car enthusiast, which I see regularly, or they may simply be desperate for the freedom that having a licence promises, or perhaps they need a licence for work or recreational purposes. Whatever the case you can be sure the Eager Learner will have their hours done well within 12 months and tend to seek professional driving lessons more so than any other type.
The second kind of leaner I encounter, and probably the most common, is the Plodder.
Plodders don’t rush out and sit their learner test as soon as the Eager Learners do. Often, they’ll wait anywhere from a few weeks to a month or so, and in some cases even a year, before obtaining their learner licence.
Note that in no way does this mean they are any less excited to begin driving, as frequently I find they are just as excited as Eager Learners.
Rather, the Plodders simply have other priorities taking up the bulk of their time such as a part time job, studying or sport. They can’t wait to start driving but don’t see the benefit in rushing out to begin so soon, especially when they have so many other things taking up their time. The Eager Learner sees getting their licence as the most important thing, whereas the Plodder sees it as one of many important things.
Plodders tend to get fewer and more sporadic driving lessons and will usually find themselves obtaining their provisional licence around 18-19 years of age.
Next you have the Adult Learner.
Adult Learners are those who begin learning to drive well into adulthood – kind of like a Plodder on steroids.
There are a number of reasons why they delay getting their Ls for so long, some of which include frequent travelling after school resulting in them having neither the time nor money to get licensed, simply not having the desire and therefore not bothering and, unfortunately, I get a lot of adult students who have had traumatic road experiences early on that constitute a fear of getting behind the wheel.
The most common reason I encounter for Learners waiting until they’re adults is location; people who have been studying and living in the inner-city, where walking and catching public transport has been far more viable than driving.
Lastly you have what I like to call an Adult Learner ‘sub-type’ and that is the International Licence holder.
What I mean by International Licence holder is not someone from the UK, USA or New Zealand. I’m talking about people who have moved to Australia from countries where road rules and licence regulations are drastically different from our own. These people have already obtained a licence in their respective home country, and are seeking to obtain their Australian licence.
It is important to note the fact that no one learner driver type is better than any other, nor are they set in concrete. You might be one or the other or anywhere in between. These are not strict categories but rather the most common behavioural patterns I see in Learners. You could go from being one type to being another and back again… with the exception of the International Licence Holder.
STEP 2: KNOW THE COSTS AND REQUIREMENTS OF GETTING YOUR Ls
Now that you’ve determined what type of Learner Driver you are and decided on an approximate date that you’ll be sitting your written test, it’s time to figure out how much it will cost and what you require to get your learner licence so that you can be ready to go on the day.
COSTS (as at 1 July 2017)
Unfortunately, licensing is an expensive undertaking, so it pays to be prepared.
To undergo the Written Road Rules Test you’ll need pay a $23.90 testing fee.
When you pass the Written Test, you’ll be asked to fork out $166.10 for a learner licence valid for 3 years.
Should you lose your Licence or Logbook it will cost you $73.10 and $20.85 respectively for a replacement.
WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING
On the day of your Written Test you will be asked to provide a number of administrative documents before you can undergo the exam. It is crucial that you have all of these ready before you head off, as absolutely no exceptions will be made.
The first item you will need to provide is a completed Learner Driver Licence Application Form.
Next you will need to provide proof of identity which can be done by providing 3 Original Proof of Identity Documents. These are divided into 2 categories: category A documents and category B documents.
CATEGORY A DOCUMENTS
CATEGORY B DOCUMENTS
At least 1 category A document and 2 category B documents, or, 2 category A documents and 1 category B document must be provided and at least one of these must show your signature.
If the documents you provide for proof of identity do not show your residential address, you will be asked to provide proof that you live in Queensland which can be achieved by providing one of the following.
EVIDENCE OF QUEENSLAND RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS
Once you have provided all the necessary documents and payed the testing fee you will be given the test and taken to designated testing area.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE TEST
The Written Road Rules test consists of 30 multiple choice questions. 10 of the questions are about giving way and 20 of the questions are related to road rules and driver licence requirements.
You’re allowed to complete the test at your own pace as there is no set time to complete it in, within reason of course.
In order to pass the test, you must get at least 9/10 'giving way' questions correct and at least 18/20 'road rule' and 'driver licence requirement' questions correct.
The 'giving way' questions will require you to determine which car has right of way based on a diagram provided. 'Road rule' questions will ask you to circle the meaning of a particular road sign or marking, or to highlight the correct actions based on a brief scenario provided.
The best way to prepare for the test is to complete the online practice test on the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads website. It’s an excellent resource that provides detailed explanations of all the relevant rules and processes of each question whether you get them right or wrong.
It’s a great idea to keep doing the practice test repeatedly as you won’t always get the same questions. With enough attempts, you should hopefully have practised most of the questions and learnt the applicable rules in the process.
Of course, you can find a list of all the road rules on the TMR website and it would be of benefit to check that out as well.
Once you have passed the test and paid for your licence, you will be given a licence receipt that you must keep on you as a temporary licence while driving, until your licence arrives in the mail.
STEP 3: START LEARNING
Now that you’ve obtained your Queensland Learner Licence it’s time to start learning.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t required to jump behind the wheel the moment you get your Ls. The best time to start is when you feel ready, and this is where knowing what kind of Learner Driver you are comes in handy.
Once you do set out on the road there are a few things you should keep in mind.
WHAT ARE THE RULES?
You are required to hold your learner licence for a minimum of 1 year and complete a minimum of 100 hours of supervised driving before you are eligible to undergo your Practical Driving Test.
If you are under 25 you cannot use hands free or speaker phone while learning to drive. Doing so can result in a fine and 3 demerit points. Supervisors cannot use their mobile phone while a Learner is driving. This is a fact that many parents are unaware of and can lead to the supervisor receiving a fine. If you’re under 25, the supervisor and any passengers are not allowed to receive a call on loud speaker. If caught doing so they will receive a fine.
You must display L Plates on the front and rear of the vehicle whenever you are driving and your parents can’t leave them on once they’re back in control. This could lead to a fine for incorrect display of plates for both yourself and your supervisor. If fined you will receive 2 demerit points.
You must carry your learner licence with you at all times (or licence receipt if you are still waiting) and provide it to a Police Officer if asked.
Accruing 4 demerit points on your Ls will result in a 3-month suspension.
Speeding will not be tolerated and the fact that you are a Learner is no excuse. If caught speeding on your Ls, you face a fine and demerit points relevant to the amount you were exceeding the limit by.
As far as vehicles are concerned, you can learn in anything. Because you are under supervision you can throw a set of L Plates on any car and start driving. Want to learn
to drive in a Ferrari? Why not? Where the line is drawn is at motorcycles and trucks. For these you’ll need to obtain the relevant learner licence.
There are many misconceptions surrounding logbook requirement exemptions. I get many students and parents who think they can apply for an exemption and undergo their Practical Driving Test before they turn 17.
This is not true. You can only obtain your provisional licence if you are at least 17 years old and you will only receive an exemption if your circumstances meet a set of very strict criteria.
A Special Need – Provisional Licence Application can be submitted if you are 17 and have not held your learner licence for the minimum 12 months but need your P1
licence before this time.
The only other exemption a Learner driver may apply for is an Exemption from Learner Logbook Requirements, allowing you to undergo your practical driving test without completing 100 hours of supervised driving. Again, this depends on you meeting a set of strict criteria and you must still be 17 before you undergo your practical driving test – there are no exemptions for this.
Anyone 25 years or older need not apply for an exemption as you are not required to complete 100 hours of supervised driving before you can go for your practical driving test.
WHO CAN SUPERVISE ME?
Absolutely anyone can supervise you while you learn to drive so long as they hold a valid, open driver’s licence and have held that licence for at least 1 year. If their licence is currently suspended they cannot supervise you.
P Platers can’t supervise you, even if they hold a P2 licence (green Ps).
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF PROFESSIONAL DRIVING LESSONS
Although you aren’t required to seek professional driving lessons I urge you to do so. Even if you only get 1 or 2 you will learn something. Your parents have been driving for a long time and have no doubt developed bad habits which they will likely pass onto you. Some of these habits mightn’t be a problem but others may mean the difference between passing or failing your test, and if you do pass, some habits may result in you having an accident once you’re out on your own.
Driving instructors know all the rules and they know how the test is run. They’ll teach you to be the safest driver you can be.
CHOOSE THE BEST TIME FOR YOU
Plan to work driving lessons into your schedule in advance. Aim to book them when you have a lull in your workload, be it job or school. The less you have on your mind, the better you can focus and in doing this, you should come away from your lesson with more.
A good Driving School will work with you to book a suitable time.
Fashion is the least of your concerns when learning to drive, so dress in clothes that you are comfortable in. If your attention is focused on adjusting your clothes or hair, then you aren’t going to be getting as much out of the lesson as you could be.
The best footwear would be light shoes with thin soles. Avoid wearing boots or any shoes with excessively thick soles. Heels are a NO-GO!
Despite what everyone says there is nothing wrong with driving in bare feet. If that’s what you’re most comfortable with then go right ahead.
Bring the essentials to each lesson and have them ready the night before.
Money for the lesson
It helps take the stress off you if you aren’t forgetting important things, especially in the early days when you’re most nervous.
And trust me, your Driving Instructor will thank you for it.
BE OPEN MINDED
Despite what you may think, your Driving Instructor knows better than you.
Always listen to them because the only way you are going to learn is if you accept that you’re wrong when they correct you and do your best to apply their feedback.
The most important thing you can do while learning to drive is relax.
You aren’t going to be a very good driver when you begin and the sooner you accept that, the better. There is nothing worse than when a student makes a mistake and dwells on it. Your instructor isn’t going to let any harm come to you, it’s their job, so when you stuff up, take it on the chin and learn from it.
Expect to cop abuse. Open licence holders like to forget that they were Learners too,
once. They will treat you like rubbish as soon as they see an L plate but take it from me, you aren’t doing anything wrong. You’re going to make mistakes and it’s going to annoy other drivers who will proceed to hurl abuse. Don’t let it get to you. You must go into lessons with the mindset that no stuff up puts you in the wrong as you are only learning. People that abuse you will quickly forget about you and you’ll never see them again, so what they say or do or gesture means nothing. Besides, more often than not, Learners are the ones in the right as the rules are fresh in their mind.
Following these 3 easy steps will help you to be as prepared as you can possibly be to obtain your learner licence and embark on the journey towards your P1 licence and of course, freedom. Don’t forget to check the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads website for further details on anything to do with getting your licence, road rules, licence rules or exemptions.