Advice for Private Practice

Main Points to Remember 

Do not cause another road user to Slow, Swerve, Stop or Swear through an action that is not in keeping with the Highway Code.

Fully understand the Highway Code and be decisive when taking action. Don't try to be ‘nice’ to other road users by letting them go or changing who has priority, you may not be understood and this creates tension and can lead to a dangerous road situation occurring.

Ensure the accompanying driver is watching the learner and the road at all times. They are there to help someone learn, not to let the learner get on with it and hope its ok. Its unlikely bad habits will be passed on if you talk about why there are differences in driving  styles, but bad habits will occur if some ones driving is left unchecked. They will not get into good routines with mirrors or rules and it may take longer to pass and be a lot more expensive to fix. Try not to tell them what to do all the time. The learner needs to make their own decisions but be ready with advice when needed.

It is ok and polite to say thank you to others road users by raising a hand, smiling or nodding. It is not good practice to wave people out of junctions or across roads. It is not up to us to make a decision for someone else.

I hope the following tips will help keep private practice on track and iron out any questions that may occur. 20 years ago it was rare for a household to have more than one car, now its quite common to have one car per driver in the house. The population is also greater. This contributes to more cars being on the road either moving or parked and less space and time to make judgment calls on how to proceed especially in unusual situations. The driving test has changed a lot over the last 15 years and standards are much higher than they used to be to reflect this situation.

The driving test will change again in Dec 2017 to continuously improve driver standards.

Moving Off

Depress the clutch and put the gear into 1st.

Set the gas between 1.5-2 rpm on the rev counter.

Slowly raise the clutch till a light pull is felt (bite point).

Observe all round the car starting from the pavement side, include all mirrors, until the road side blind spot is checked.

Is it safe to move off?

Indicate if there is a benefit to another person.

Release the handbrake/parking brake.

Keep feet still for a moment or two as the car moves off, then raise the clutch slowly and increase the gas level to pick up speed.

Check rear view and right wing mirror to check for approaching traffic, make sure not to slow them down.


The rev counter should be between 1500-2000 rpm

When speeding up, listen for the engine getting louder, don't let it struggle. Lift off the gas completely and depress clutch quickly, then smoothly move the gear lever to the required gear. Lift clutch smoothly but not too slow, once it ‘bites’ then add gas and continue to lift clutch smoothly until it is fully connected. 

When wanting to slow down but not stop, use the brakes to get to the required speed, stop braking, fully depress the clutch then change the gear once to the required gear for the speed and lift clutch, only use gas if necessary for the situation. This is called block changing, eg gear 5 at 50mph followed by braking to 15mph then into gear 2 and drive on.

If you want to stop, if traveling above 20mph, use the brake first, once you are below 20mph depress the clutch as well. Change into 1st gear around 10mph but keep the clutch down until you want to drive off. Brake as required till stationary then apply handbrake if you will be stopped for more than 2 seconds or if on a hill.

If the person who is helping you has learnt to drive more than 15 yrs ago they may go down the gear box using each gear to slow down the engine, eg 5-4-3-2-1. We do not use this method any more for every day use as it causes unnecessary wear and tear on the engine with no additional aid to braking. However it is used for helping you brake on snow or in very old cars with a different type of brakes that may get brake fade when hot.

Use of Mirrors

Always check in pairs for every potential speed change or direction change

The rear view shows the true image, wing mirrors show the image as smaller and further away.

Change of Direction eg parked car/bicycles/overtaking - Check centre and right mirror before moving out incase of an overtaker. Before returning to your normal road position, check centre and left mirror incase of people behind the obstacle or cyclists undertaking, certainly in slower traffic this is a real danger.

Change of speed - Check centre and right mirror before you speed up incase you are being overtaken therefore preventing them from finishing their manoeuvre. Check the centre and right mirror before braking as you may need longer than normal if there is a close or heavy vehicle behind you that may have a longer stopping distance than you. If you break too harshly them may collide with your car, instead you would want to brake lighter over a longer distance to prevent this.

Road Position

This is for ALL types of junctions, including roundabouts.

Single lanes 

The car should be positioned on the left, about 1m from the kerb or cycle lane, rather than middle of lane for left or straight on. Position next to but not on the centre line for right turns. This will help to confirm the direction of travel when another road user looks at your car. Mixed signals can delay traffic and be dangerous if your indicator and the road position do not match.

Multiple lanes

Left lane for turning left

Left lane for straight on unless specifically marked to be in right lane

Right lane for right turns

If you have two lanes with the same direction, you should choose the one on the left unless you have plans to overtake or do a right turn shortly afterwards.

Remember, in the UK we drive on the LEFT so the default lane is LEFT


Mirrors - Centre and Wing

Signal - Indicate if appropriate

Position - Make the approach road position clear for the intended direction

Speed - Slow down using the footbrake to warn other drivers, stop if necessary

Gear - Select the right gear for the speed you have chosen

Look - Observe that you can complete the turn safely before you commit


It is best to use the ‘pull-push’ technique where you pass the wheel from one hand to the other keeping the left hand on the left half of the wheel and right on the right side. You can practice this with a plate and a cloth. Pretend you are drying the plate edges by shuffling it around in your hands until all the edges are dry.

Keep your hands at 'ten to two' or 'quarter to three'. It is important to be comfortable and have maximum control. 

It is not true that you fail a test by crossing your hands. It may have been true in the past but with the addition of power steering and safer airbags there is a reduced risk of a serious incident. 

You should not let go of the wheel to let it self straighten because it may rotate faster or slower than expected. Dry steering is frowned upon because of the wear and tear on the car components and tires, but you will not be marked down in a test for dry steering.


If you are going to be stopped for more than 2 seconds then it is advisable to apply your handbrake until you have got your bite point again before moving off. 

When a driver is new, using the handbrake can reduce stress when getting ready to move off. Three pedals and two feet can cause problems to begin with until more confidence and control is gained. This happens naturally and cannot be forced. If an accompanying driver suggests not using the handbrake before the student is ready it can cause stress from stalling or rolling backwards.

More importantly it protects you as the driver. If you get hit from behind you are less likely to hit the car in front as the car will not bounce forwards as much. You are less likely to get ankle damage from the brake being forced upwards. You can give your foot a rest. Your foot will be in a better position to use the gas and therefore move off quicker.

Stopping Distance between Cars when Stopped in Traffic

Make sure you can see the rear tires of the car in front touching the tarmac.

This is for your own protection.

If they roll backwards you have time to react, beep your horn if you think they will hit you!

If the car behind ploughs into you, you are less likely to hit the one in front because

(a) you’ll have your handbrake on and (b) you’ll have shunting room. If you hit the one in front, then your insurance will have to pay even if you didn't initially cause the crash. This will be on your insurance for up to 5 years and will affect your premiums.

In the event of an emergency vehicle approaching from behind you will have room to move either left or right as required.

You will be able to see any road markings like ‘Keep Clear” appearing in slow moving traffic without having to brake sharply.

If the car in front breaks down you have room to manoeuvre around the obstacle.

It looks intimidating to other drivers if your car or van is bigger than them.

You wont gain anything by being up the bumper of the car in front. 


You must keep up to the speed limit if it is safe to do so but equally be careful not to exceed a safe speed even if other road users are trying to force you to go faster.

Keep a minimum of 2 seconds between you and the car in front at all times in good weather. Double on wet roads, ten times on ice. 

Ensure you can always have enough braking distance in the area of road you can see. The less you see, the slower you go.


You must make informed decisions before going around any parked vehicle or overtaking. Anticipate how long it will take to do the manoeuvre and ensure you have enough time and space without rushing.

If you have to cross the centre line, make sure you do not cause another road user to Slow, Swerve, Stop or Swear. It is unacceptably rude and dangerous.

If you have safely moved onto the other side of the road and then another car comes towards you, you will have to move back into an available space. There might be a gap  within a segment of obstructions or you may have to pass all them. 

Do not rush or move towards the parked cars or cyclists if there is not room for sharing, this is dangerous as it may encourage another car to squeeze into the space. The oncoming traffic should see you have no sharing space and should wait at the end of the obstructions giving you enough room to pass.

If there is sharing room, slow down then move slightly closer to the vehicle you are overtaking to enable both directions to make progress.

I hope this advice can help with making the most of private practice and reducing any anxiety that may be caused by differing opinions on rules. A lot has changed over the last few years. If there are any other topics that you think I should add on here, please email me.

Remember to drive safely with respect for all other road users but also enjoy your journey.

Please email me with suggestions for more advice 

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