The Driving Test and After.
Two teachers in conversation watched as an anxious student drove into the school carpark on returning from a driving lesson.
"I see he has his hazard lights on," remarked one, to which the other replied "at least he's honest!"
Many students benefit greatly from their schools facilitating the opportunity for them to learn to drive during school hours.
It's not uncommon in our towns and cities to see several behind the wheel in school uniform taking extra care at traffic lights and roundabouts under the guidance of an instructor.
Others in their senior years prefer to wait until the summer break, when free from study and exam pressure, they can take to the roads with a clear focus and concentration.
For many young people, having a driving license is a marker and a means of independence, it is a gateway to further education and employment and a sign that one is ready to travel to new places.
Currently some desperate learner drivers are reporting that they struggle to find an instructor as the industry grapples with a huge backlog of pupils due to Covid when tests and lessons came to a forced and prolonged closure.
With courses disrupted and many learner drivers out of practice, it resulted in a knock-on effect of extra demand for places when restrictions were finally lifted, adding to more people who had since acquired a provisional license and now appearing on waiting lists.
Such demand led to extended waiting times for a Driving Test across the province. With energy prices soaring, by July 2022, lesson prices had understandably gone up in price to reflect rising business costs, as well as fuel and car maintenance.
To add to the woes, the dreaded 'theory test certificate' (which allows two years to pass the practical test) could expire if one was forced to wait too long after attaining it.
With a heavy backlog of driving tests, learner drivers are likely to feel even more pressure to pass the test when their time arrives.
Many can be anxious due to varying factors from lacking confidence behind the wheel, fear of the arising and unknown situations that emerge on the roads and the very presence of an examiner scrutinising every move.
Often, rather than focusing on driving safely and being alert to the reality of what is before them, some can carry in the back of their minds the worry of failing the test and how that might impact on them amongst their peers.
Others take the positive view that the examiner is really only providing feedback, all of which is necessary to ensure the safety of the learner driver and the safety of others long after the exam is passed.
When that crucial test pass certificate has been acquired, for the first time the newly restricted 'R' driver may be behind the wheel unaccompanied as a full driving licence holder until the well-earned photo-card license arrives in the post.
That should take no more than two weeks to arrive and the examiner will keep hold of the provisional for returning to the DVLA. So, although you can drive right away after passing your test, the first and most important point to consider is your car insurance.
Unless you have already considered and tended to this, most learner insurance policies do not cover the policy holder as a fully licensed driver. It is all too easy to inadvertently drive off from the test centre uninsured.
With everything in order, a new experience lies ahead, one that calls for care and insisting on putting into practice all the good habits that were rehearsed over and again in preparation for the test.
Maybe too, for the first time, the duration of one's travel will lengthen with motorway journeys and exploration of the open roads beyond the limitations of town and city driving.
These days with petrol and diesel prices rising rapidly, being aware of how to save fuel consumption is an important consideration.
Before the cost of fuel increased to nearly £2.00 per litre in places as it is now, aside from the most frugal of us or those availing of a vehicle owned by someone other than themselves, few drivers give much thought to the price of filling the fuel tank.
Bear in mind that safe driving is not only good for your insurance costs but also more economical in terms of whole vehicle maintenance. Small things matter such as paying heed to tyre pressure levels. The lower the pressure, the more fuel is required to move the car along the road.
Inside the car, heating and air conditioning levels can use a lot of fuel albeit their use is essential at times to clear hazy windows or to maintain cool driving conditions. Occasionally an indicator will appear on the dashboard reminding the driver about reduced efficiency when windows are open.
Much more widely known as a way to be economical is to stay at a steady speed where possible around 60 mph. Erratic and aggressive driving with a heavy foot on the accelerator and changing gears often is never a smart idea if we aim for fuel conservation.
Should one wish to be even more focused, simply reducing the number of trips to be made is an obvious way to maximise fuel usage. So some basic planning ahead is never to be understated.
As a cold engine uses much more fuel for the first five miles of a journey when driving, combining errands rather than singularly going out to deal with each separately in small trips can save a significant amount on fuel costs.
Having a full driving license is something to be respected as it opens doors to many new routes.
But the next time you go through the MSM routine of 'mirror, signal, manoeuvre' remember the well-known dictum 'never to drive faster than your guardian angel can fly!' It takes a lot of concentration and alertness to get behind the steering wheel.
Be prepared for the unexpected, enjoy the experience and drive safely!