Author Topic: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff  (Read 975 times)

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Offline Nan D.

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Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« on: January 19, 2017, 10:13:15 AM »
Ok. So, I'm prepared to not have/drive a car. I'm good with that - I've been driving since 1970 and did a LOT of long haul driving and I've survived driving in LA at rush hour. When it was raining (a whole new level of hell). On a Friday Night Before a Holiday. (Cue the brimstone.)  I'm going to live in a place that basically has the kind of public transportation I need to manage with minimal discomfort/inconvenience. And I LIKE walking places. And jeez, cabs are cheap there compared to where we are now!  I have visited the UK several times and rented a car, and was white-knuckled most of the time until I could find a proper motorway and relax. (There's just nothing like coming around a curve to find a cow, sheep, or ancient stone building [Wales?] in the road to get the adrenaline pumping.) Besides, I'm getting older. My reflexes are slowing, and I don't even want to drive here at home anymore if I can manage to get someone else to do it. It's just not as fun as it used to be. I guess after 45-ish years the novelty has finally worn off.   8)

The kiddo, however, is going to be just starting out in her career, once finished with her degree. I am thinking she's going to be limiting her opportunities if she can't legally drive there. As it is, when she was studying there a couple of years ago she went on several trips with her school where a staff member had to drive them in a uni vehicle. So if she's planning to go into academia, she may need to be able to do the same. Or to get to whatever job it is she finally can find. I mean, it's entirely possible that she won't be able to find housing near her work. She is saying she "won't need a car" and that "getting a license there is hideously expensive." So I'm having a "hmmmmmm" moment. 

I am probably misunderstanding what I've been reading, as it's 2 in the morning (insomnia). BUT, it appears that she can legally drive for 12 months once we first get there on her US license. She'll have three-ish months from the time we arrive until her course starts to twiddle her thumbs. It would seem prudent to me (but hey, I'm the mom, so...) that she study for her UK license, and take the tests before that 12 months is up - even if we don't buy a car in the relative future.  That way she'd hypothetically at least be able to rent a car now and then, if she needed one.

Have I got it correct? For the first 12 months you can drive on the USA license, and that time starts from when you first enter the country. If you take and pass the driver test during that time (both parts) do you get a "regular" license, or would it be a provisional one (the big "L" learner, person with 3 years in the car, etc.)?

Is it possible to take the driving part of the drivers test without actually owning a car (say, in a rental)? When I took my test here, I was in a borrowed car (belonged to a friend who drove with me to the DMV). I don't think she'd want to borrow a car from a friend, but she'd probably consider renting one. Automatic, while she's still legal to do so.

Is it possible to buy like just one driving lesson (rather than a full package) to get someone to critique your UK driving before you go for the formal test at whatever the equivalent of the DMV is?

Are the tests a lot harder than California, if anyone's taken them both places?

EDIT - Ok, I found the answer as to the big "L" v a "real" license elsewhere on the board, so nevermind on that bit....

« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 10:30:04 AM by Nan D. »

Offline ksand24

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2017, 10:43:56 AM »
Have I got it correct? For the first 12 months you can drive on the USA license, and that time starts from when you first enter the country. If you take and pass the driver test during that time (both parts) do you get a "regular" license, or would it be a provisional one (the big "L" learner, person with 3 years in the car, etc.)?

You're not misunderstanding anything - you're completely correct :).

She will have 12 months to drive on her US licence from the date she moves to the UK. If she wishes to drive after the 12 months, she will need a full UK licence. If she doesn't pass the test and get the licence by the time the 12 months is up, she will be treated as a learner driver (must always be accompanied in the car by someone over 21 who has held a UK licence for a minimum of 3 years, no motorway driving allowed, and she must display red L plates on the car).

So, it's a very good idea for her to start preparing for the UK licence as soon as she can, as it can take a few months to get the licence, and she would be wise to take a few lessons to, to learn how to pass the test.

She will need to apply for a provisional UK licence in order to take the tests (she has to show it), but during those first 12 months, she can still drive as normal on her US licence.

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Is it possible to take the driving part of the drivers test without actually owning a car (say, in a rental)? When I took my test here, I was in a borrowed car (belonged to a friend who drove with me to the DMV). I don't think she'd want to borrow a car from a friend, but she'd probably consider renting one. Automatic, while she's still legal to do so.

Normally, UK teenagers take their test in their driving instructor's car, since not many have their own car. The instructor's car is good, because it's the same vehicle you learned to drive in, so you know how to handle it, and it's set up for people learning to drive (i.e. two sets of pedals, two mirrors etc.).
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Is it possible to buy like just one driving lesson (rather than a full package) to get someone to critique your UK driving before you go for the formal test at whatever the equivalent of the DMV is?

I would recommend more than 1 lesson - the UK driving test is very specific, and difficult to pass... she has to know exactly how to turn the wheel, check her mirrors, when to put the hand brake on, which gear to be in at which speed, how to carry out the manoeuvres (i.e. how many inches she has to be from the curb) etc. - it's about learning exactly what to do to pass the test, not learning how to drive.

She can try with just one lesson, but I'd suggest maybe 3-6 lessons and then see how she's doing.

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Are the tests a lot harder than California, if anyone's taken them both places?

The tests have about a 45% pass rate, and it's not unheard of to fail a couple of times before you pass.

I'm British, so have only taken the test here as a 17/18-year-old learning to drive, it took me 15 months, 3 test attempts and about 250 130 hours of lessons to pass the test! My middle brother also took 3 attempts to pass, but I think he got his licence within about 10 months. My youngest brother passed on the first attempt, within 4 months of turning 17.

Edited
: because I apparently can't calculate 15 months worth of 2-hour lessons/week :P
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 07:28:05 PM by ksand24 »

Offline Nan D.

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2017, 11:01:55 AM »
Thanks, Ksand.

I just found a "practice test" for the theory part online and barely passed it, taking it without any prep. Some of the hand signals are nothing we have here in the USA (even though we do actually have hand signals, from the days before blinkers). And "hazzard lights" usage is definitely different.  I think if she studies the book even a little, she'll pass the theory test.

The driving test, on the other hand... yes, perhaps lessons might be appropriate. And I really do think she should get the license, even if she never uses it.

As to the "hideously expensive" part - how much does a driving school there charge?  Is there a standard "going" rate for a package or do you just book an instructor by the hour until you think you've got a chance to pass?
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 11:07:20 AM by Nan D. »

Offline jimbocz

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2017, 11:06:45 AM »
I would be pretty unhappy living here if I could not drive and I live in London.  It's all good if you stay in big cities, but for any tourism in the country, somebody is gonna have to drive.

From what I hear, Über has made taxis very cheap in the US.  IMHO, taxis and Ubers are VERY expensive here. Not driving will get old quick.

Offline Nan D.

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2017, 11:12:57 AM »
Hi Jim.

Yep, but we don't use uber - it undercuts the local taxis who had to pay tens of thousands for licenses in this city. Plus, there have been several local incidents of uber drivers who were... well, let's just say I don't want my daughter in the same car with them, alone.  (The term "bat-s..t crazy" comes to mind.)

I'm happy with buses, walking, and paid tours. I particularly enjoy Rabbies tours. ;)  It's the kiddo's turn to do the driving.

The last time I was in Glasgow I took a cab down to the bus station from the Uni (to catch a bus to the airport in Edinburgh - long story, saved a lot of money flying out from EDI instead of GLA) it was pretty much pocket change. I'm good with that.

Offline jimbocz

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2017, 11:26:47 AM »
Did you say where you are going to live?  Glasgow?

Offline ellemontag

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2017, 11:27:34 AM »
I just got my UK license a couple months ago, and I found passing the test quite difficult. I drove in LA for nearly 20 years. I took lessons here in London, which I found very helpful. There are a lot of differences in driving rules here, as well as getting used to giant busses on tiny streets! I found You Tube videos helpful, especially for passing the Hazards, and reviewing my possible test routes before I took the actual driving test. I passed on the second try. Good luck, you should definitely do it sooner rather than later!

Offline ksand24

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2017, 11:30:42 AM »
I think if she studies the book even a little, she'll pass the theory test.

The driving test, on the other hand... yes, perhaps lessons might be appropriate. And I really do think she should get the license, even if she never uses it.

Oh, yes, sorry - I was talking about practical driving lessons in the car.

The theory and hazard perception tests just require studying - you can get books/DVDs to help you study and to practice taking the tests.

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As to the "hideously expensive" part - how much does a driving school there charge?  Is there a standard "going" rate for a package or do you just book an instructor by the hour until you think you've got a chance to pass?

It depends on the driving school and the instructor - lessons are charged by the hours, but you can usually book 'blocks' of lessons for a cheaper rate.

Back when I learned to drive 16 years ago, my lessons were £14/hour with an independent instructor (not part of a driving school). Now, though I think they're about £25/hour.

I would just shop around, have a look at some of the main driving schools, see what they charge and what offers they have.

Offline KFdancer

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2017, 12:17:58 PM »
I agree with budgeting about £25/hour for lessons.  And taking lessons just to learn to pass the test.  I'd also do the test in the instructor's car.

I also agree that you should bite the bullet and get your license too Nan!  There WILL be a time that having your license is handy - just like you anticipate it will be for your daughter.   ;D

Offline TravelingFrog

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2017, 01:41:50 PM »
Coming from the US, the questions on the theory test aren't all common sense and can't all be guessed. I had a tough time with the hazard perception and I overclicked on one of the videos, so I lost the points for that clip. Luckily, I still passed my first try (I got 49/50 on the multiple choice and just barely passed the hazard perception).

I'd been driving in the US for over 10 years and I took six 2-hour lessons before attempting my practical test. I believe they were around £25 an hour, so £50 for each 2-hour lesson. That was in London, so prices may vary in other parts of the country.

I started lessons with one instructor, but when it was clear she wasn't going to be able to help me with the US-UK changes (side of road and side of car), I sought out another instructor. I found one who made the change himself between the UK and Spain regularly and he was a much better fit for my situation.

I took my test in the area where I had my lessons (knowing the roads definitely helped) and in my instructor's car. We drove around for half an hour before the test to get my jitters out and then he rode along on the exam. I passed the first try with two minors.

Like others have said, there are a lot of UK-specific techniques that you need to know and follow in order to pass the practical test. It's got a pass rate of around 50% and a first-time pass rate of around 25%, so it's not an easy pass.

I'd recommend taking the test in a manual rather than automatic if you can, just to avoid having to take it again in the future. If you're going to go through the headache of taking the driving test, you might as well get it all out of the way now. Taking the test in an automatic means you would need to retake the test if you ever wanted to drive a manual. Passing it in a manual means never having to worry about it again.

I've had my UK licence since 2012 and I have only used it once in the UK - to rent a van when we moved. We live in London, so we use public transportation and walk. We don't have a car in the UK and don't have plans to buy a car, but it's nice to have my licence. Plus, they're never going to make the rules easier or cheaper, so might as well get in early!

Timeline-wise, I arrived end of July 2012, applied for my provisional in December 2012, passed my theory in May 2013 (had to book in advance) and less than a week before my one year anniversary, I passed my practical (I initially had a later exam scheduled because everything was booked up, but my instructor snagged me a cancellation). It's not a fast process by any means, so best to get on it sooner rather than later!
July 2012 - Fiancée Visa | Nov 2012 - Married
Dec 2012 - FLR | Nov 2014 - ILR | Dec 2015 - UK Citizen

Offline jimbocz

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2017, 01:56:15 PM »
By the way, there's a neat thing here called a car club , the best example being zip car.  You pay to join, then you can rent a car for a few quid per hour.  The cars are parked all over and you open them with your phone. 

This is way easier and cheaper than traditional renting and suits someone who only drives occasionally.

Offline omglolmax

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2017, 02:41:34 PM »
I took my practical test last year. I booked a 10 hour block of lessons at a discounted rate, I believe it was 180 Pounds. I used the 10th hour of that block for the actual test. Passed on my first time, but I had already been driving daily for about 8 months on my US licence.

Offline Karlee

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2017, 03:33:27 PM »
I passed my theory last July and practical last October, both first time. I've been driving here since December 2015, so I had 10 months driving experience when I took the practical. There are some big differences between UK and US driving! I didn't think the theory was difficult, but you do need to study for it. I skimmed through the Highway Code, but found that the DVD was the most beneficial. Repetition with the practice tests and hazard perception was very helpful. The hazard perception can be tricky. If you click too soon or too late (or overclick), points don't count or can count against you.

Finding the right instructor is a little like finding a new doctor- if he/she isn't working out for you, move on. Not only did I have a difficult time finding an automatic instructor (in the area I live they're few and far between), but I went through 2 instructors before I found the one I passed with- I promise I'm not high maintenance  ;D First guy was rude and acted like he didn't want to be there, second guy was a much better instructor but was shockingly unreliable, third guy was the winner.

I'd never driven manual in my 10 years of driving and was a very nervous driver over here anyways, so I went with automatic. Husband gave me a few manual lessons, but it just wasn't for me. But, if you're comfortable with manual I say go for it! I had about 11 one hour lessons total and they were about £25/lesson. I also took my test in an area I knew fairly well, and I took the test and last few lessons in my own car since that was what I was most comfortable with. I just needed to check with my insurance to make sure I was insured for a driving test and lessons. There are many UK driving techniques, and you need to do them to a T on the test so you can pass. Your instructor should teach you all these. I also had a friendly examiner and I'm pretty sure I got one of the easier test routes, so I think those things worked in my favor.

I'd recommend getting started on the process ASAP, since it takes a while. Time flies! For 2 months I couldn't drive on my own since I had been here for a year (arrived Aug. 2015 and started driving that December). Taking the bus to work everyday for those 2 months was not fun!
4/2015 Married
7/29/2015 Spousal visa received

Offline Nan D.

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2017, 05:09:50 PM »
I agree with budgeting about £25/hour for lessons.  And taking lessons just to learn to pass the test.  I'd also do the test in the instructor's car.

I also agree that you should bite the bullet and get your license too Nan!  There WILL be a time that having your license is handy - just like you anticipate it will be for your daughter.   ;D

Oh, I know. I was thinking that as I drifted off to sleep last night. Sure as I can't legally drive and she'll break a leg.  ::)

Offline Nan D.

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Re: Oh, jolly.... driving stuff
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2017, 05:13:26 PM »
Did you say where you are going to live?  Glasgow?

Yep.