Whatever stage you're at, it’s absolutely normal to have a bad driving lesson. In fact, it’s very rare that a learner driver will get through every lesson smoothly—because that’s not usually how the learning process works. When you’re working on new skills, it’s quite overwhelming for your brain. There will be good days and bad days, and days where you seem to have forgotten everything you thought you knew.
So firstly, know that you aren’t alone. And secondly, whether you’ve been in tears during your driving lesson, or your instructor has had to grab the steering wheel, we’re here with some insight into how to make the best of the situation.
For most people, learning to drive is a big milestone, and one that is quite exciting. So if your first lesson doesn’t live up to your expectations, it can be disheartening. But it’s far too early to be asking yourself “why am I so bad at driving?”. You’re a beginner, and mistakes are part of how you learn. You might be tempted to give up after a bad experience, but the best thing to do is stick with it.
Better days are coming! Dipping in and out of lessons will just make the process more difficult in the long run. Even if you continue to struggle with your driving lessons for a while, recognise that it’s good to be stretched. That’s especially the case when the challenge leads to something great—in this case, a driving licence.
Here’s another thing that’s normal: feeling like you’ve hit a wall and aren’t making progress. When you first get behind the wheel of a car, you have to pick up a lot of new skills very quickly. That can make it seem like you’re making enormous progress—and you are. Within your first lesson or two, you’ll learn to steer, position your car and change gears. But when it comes to consolidating those skills and getting them consistent, that’s something that takes time and practice. It might seem like you’re plateauing, but you’re more likely learning to apply your newfound skills to different contexts.
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Just because it's normal, though, doesn't mean it isn't frustrating. Here are some practical steps you can take if you aren’t pleased with your progress:
Even confident learners can have bad driving lessons in the time leading up to their test. Often it’s just that you are more mindful that you should be driving at test standard, and nerves get in the way. Having a bad driving lesson before your practical doesn’t mean that you aren’t ready to take your test. All it means is that you’re not a perfect—and thankfully, your driving examiner isn’t expecting you to be.
All drivers make mistakes; that’s why you’re allowed up to 15 minor faults before you fail. If you’ve had a bad driving lesson before your test, try and settle your nerves. Take some deep breaths and put things into perspective. Making mistakes now at least gives you a chance to set them right before the practical.
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Just like if you’ve had a bad day at work or school, there are different things you can do to cheer yourself up. Obviously this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, but here are some useful suggestions on how to get over a bad driving lesson:
Need more in-depth advice? Here are our top tips for getting over driving mistakes.
Driving can be stressful, especially for new or learner drivers. There’s a couple of reasons for this.
Getting on the road can be daunting, but that’s exactly what your driving lessons are for. They’re a chance to build your confidence and skills, with the safety net of an instructor alongside you. With dual controls at their disposal, and experience of teaching nervous drivers, they will do everything within their power to keep you safe. If you’re worrying about your driving lessons, then it’s worth checking out our article on learning with anxiety.
Absolutely nobody gets behind the wheel for the very first time and is instantly a perfect driver. Even if you’ve studied the theory extensively, and know exactly how you should use the pedals and gear stick, you’re still going to have to learn to do so in practice. Tonnes of learners feel like they’re bad drivers at first, and the vast majority go on to pass their test within a few months of starting lessons. Eventually, you’ll get there too—and you’ll wonder why you ever worried about starting out as a bad driver.
The nature of a driving instructor’s job means they are ultimately responsible for you. Your actions impact on the safety of you, them and other road users, and so sometimes they have to speak bluntly. This might sometimes come across as rudeness, particularly in a culture where we aren’t always used to such direct delivery. Chances are that it’s not personal, and your instructor is just trying to be clear and unambiguous.
Of course, this doesn’t excuse real rudeness. If your driving instructor’s manner is impeding your learning, it’s worth raising the issue with them directly. It might be an uncomfortable conversation, so it’s one worth practising beforehand. Have a rough idea of what you want to say, so that it’s a calm and productive discussion. And, ultimately, you are free to look elsewhere for a driving instructor who treats you better.
Most DVSA-approved driving instructors aren’t bad, per se; they’ve undertaken extensive training to be in a position to teach you. But occasionally, you might not click with an instructor. As long as you’re not feeling unsafe, it’s usually worth giving it a bit of time. You might find that you warm to them and their teaching methods. If things don’t resolve themselves, there are 2 things you can do.
Still worried that you're not learning with the right person? Check out our signs of a bad driving instructor.