There’s no doubt that taking a driving test is incredibly stressful, regardless of whether you’ve been taking lessons for several months or you’ve opted for one of the refresher or ‘quick learn’ intensive driving courses. London learners have an added element of pressure too, unfortunately, with pass rates generally lower than across the rest of the UK. So how do learners in the capital equal the playing field and it comes to the driving test?
First of all it’s important to understand why the pass rates are lower in big cities. Any highly populated and busy urban area will have a larger volume of traffic passing through it – and in London this is even more exaggerated, being not just the capital city, but also the biggest tourist centre in the country too. Oxford Street, as the alleged busiest road in London, would be a nightmare for any learner driver to navigate, not to mention the time swallowed up by sitting in traffic. In fact, the A40 as a whole (Oxford Street forms part of this road) has a reputation for being one of the most highly trafficked and stressful of all British roads, passing through many popular London areas, including Camden, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea. Maybe the test routes make exceptions for this notorious road, but it’s only one of a number of similar cousins.
Figures released in 2011 showed that London has the highest number of the worst driving test centres of all British counties, with Wanstead’s Hermon Hill topping the charts with a huge failure rate of 71.5% – and it’s news like this that makes London’s learner drivers keen to seek out alternatives.
Practice makes perfect
Busier roads lead to higher stress levels in any driver whether experienced or a beginner – and this leads to more aggressive tactics and less tolerance and patience toward learners and other road users. These factors make the driving test much more challenging in London, especially around central London, but there are a few things that you can do to help you improve your chances of passing without too many attempts.
Plenty of practice will certainly give you an advantage; if you have an experienced driver in the family or a close friend, someone you can trust to be patient and who is willing to insure you on their car, take advantage of this and get as much extra time driving outside of lessons as you can. Also, make sure you get plenty of practice driving around the busy streets – there is a temptation to persuade your instructor to let you take lessons around the quieter areas, but you need to build as good an awareness and knowledge of urban driving as possible.
You need to understand how to use roundabouts correctly, be comfortable with ‘stop and start’ driving, be adaptable to different road layouts and junction types and be able to react quickly to other drivers’ mistakes. As with anything though, you need a little balance – you still need to have some time on more rural roads too, and practice on dual carriageways and ‘A’ roads.
Another good idea is to have an extra boost in your driving experience just prior to your test; by taking intensive driving courses, London will become much easier to cope with in terms of traffic volume and pace. Having a weekend or a week of constant driving will build your confidence and make the craziness seem a little more normal!
Choose a test centre further afield
If you’re feeling nervous about taking your driving test in London, then perhaps the best thing to do would be to book your test from one of the test centres on the outskirts or neighbouring counties. This may incur additional expense because you might have to book some double lessons with your instructor; this will help to cover the additional travelling time to reach these areas and practice the different test routes to help you prepare for the big day. But the extra investment may well be worth it, as it could also put you in a much better position to achieve the desired result with fewer attempts. Being prepared to travel just an extra 10 miles or so outside of your normal practice area to make a real difference, and save you money on numerous re-tests.
You could consider booking your driving test in areas such as Uxbridge or Hayes, Croydon or Enfield, Greenford or Watford or perhaps Hornchurch or Sidcup – any of these areas will be a bit quieter than the city centre. Once you’ve decided where to book your driving test, you can then plan an intensive driving course in that area of London to give you time to get used to the vicinity and familiarise yourself with the roads – that extra little journey really could make all the difference!