Intensive driving course = stupid idea?
January 30, 2011 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I have to take two weeks off work in the next two months, and thought it would be a great idea to learn to drive. I've heard of 'intensive courses', which would theorically let you pass the driving test after 40+ hours -- in more or less 7 days. But! I'm not sure this is a great idea... (more inside)

I'm not sure this is a great idea, as it sounds a bit too good to be true. Have you learned to drive like this? Was it worth it, and not "too fast" a way to learn? Did you pass the first time?

Bonus question: I am in East London UK, and have no idea how to choose a school. Any recommendations much appreciated.

Thank you!
posted by Sijeka to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Driving is easy, or at least operating the automobile is. The decision making is a little harder. When I went to driver's Ed in 1991, all I needed to get a license was 1.5 hours of on the road training and 1.5 hours of closed-course training. Bam, 16 years old and a licensed driver. (This is in the US, and has since changed. I think it's 30 hours now.)

So you'll be fine. But remember that learning to drive is a lifelong process. You ought to get plenty of practice right after the course to solidify the things you've learned, and make sure to get out on the road every few months (assuming you won't be buying a car?).

The trick is to focus intensely and go through all the steps explicitly in your head as you drive. Check near, check far, mirror, mirror, speed, gauges, repeat. Eventually, your brain will get programmed to do all of that unconsciously. And as you get comfortable with the basics, start widening your scope of skills. Don't decide to pull a trailer on day 2.

Rule 1: don't hit anything. Rule 2: don't get hit by anything. Rule 3: Don't let anything else get in the way of rules 1 and 2. Pull over if you need to.
posted by gjc at 7:42 AM on January 30, 2011

Ditto on the practice - I would doubt anyone had the confidence to pass a test after 40+ hours all in one block, but you'd definitely have the training.

The best bit for me in learning over a longer period - I did two lessons a week (about an hour each) for a while, and then one a week for a few more weeks - was that I'd practice and drive by myself a lot in the interim, making it my main hobby, and my teacher would then correct the things I was doing wrong or had begun to take on as bad habits. Being a confident driver is in things like accurately judging parking spaces and gaps in traffic for changing lanes/crossing junctions, handling skinny narrow country roads and motorways with the same accuracy in positioning, and instinctively knowing how to respond to weird shit or impending accidents - time on the road is how I built up these faculties.

Do you have to take the two weeks off all at once, and is the cost a factor? A seven-day course might be great if you can afford some more lessons after, and then using other free time to do a lot of driving to build up your experience.

But it's definitely a great idea to learn to drive!
posted by carbide at 7:51 AM on January 30, 2011

How much of that time is actually behind the wheel? Nthing that the bulk of learning to drive is just driving around... but if you get 40 hours of driving then you will be an exhausted mess by the end of it.
posted by anaelith at 8:14 AM on January 30, 2011

I'm in the UK.

I didn't learn to drive like that. I had weekly hour long lessons. Probably about 60-70 of them. But, I think this is a good way of learning to drive.

In the UK at least, the test is sufficiently difficult that you won't pass if you aren't ready to pass. It's not like you'd be any worse than any other brand new driver. Most new drivers are not brilliant, but are safe enough. And get better by driving more.

Most of the people I know who did this sort of thing (and weren't 17 years old) used it to get pretty far in learning to drive and then took lessons once a week for a few weeks/months, or practised with friends/relatives until they were good enough to pass.
posted by plonkee at 8:34 AM on January 30, 2011

It would be a good way to learn the technical aspects of driving but you won't have enough time to acquire the good habits of a good (and not merely technically proficient) driver. For example here in BC after passing the proficiency exam new drivers hold a restricted, provisional licence for two years before they receive a full licence with the expectation they'll practice.

You may not need formal supervision but merely an awareness of your limitations during the first few months of driving. However an observer can help you by pointing out when you've made mistakes and that can be easier to take from someone you are paying rather than a friend.
posted by Mitheral at 8:55 AM on January 30, 2011

I am from the UK an learned to drive in 2001. I booked three hours a day, 9-12 Monday to Friday for a week. By the end of that I was completely at ease in the car, just had one or two little bad habits to iron out. After that I did two mock tests with my instructor, sat my test and passed first time with four minors. Seven years later I sat the test again, this time b+e for a trailer. Two minors (doing 31 in a 30!!!) and moving away from parked "quicker than I would have liked" according to the examiner.

My point: this talk of forty-sixty hours seems over the top to me. If you are doing all the lessons close to one another to prevent skill fade, you can get away with far fewer hours. I think this will suit your two weeks off situation perfectly.
posted by dougrayrankin at 8:55 AM on January 30, 2011

I did my drivers ed over one spring break my sophomore year of high school. Five days of in class instruction on the rules of the road, including one session in a driving simulator. The on-the-road instruction was a separate set of classes, five one-hour lessons that I was able to complete in the two weeks afterward. It did kind of suck to have to sacrifice my spring break for it, but from what I heard, it was a much better choice than dragging it out for a whole semester, as many other kids in my school did.

I did have the benefit of practicing in a parking lot 2 or 3 times with my mom and brother before the lessons, and that allowed me to take the test on my very first lesson. I would have passed, but I stalled the car on a hill start, which is an automatic fail. Or rather, a manual fail, one could say.
posted by Fuego at 9:42 AM on January 30, 2011

From what I understand the British test is more difficult that a similar test in the U.S. or Canada, so it's definitely worth some decent preparation.

I'm a big fan of advanced driver training. If you can afford a good driving school (one that has facilities to teach you skid control in a controlled setting, for example) with decent instructors, as opposed to the big, mass-market driving training programs or dinky, independent, no standards type of outfits, go for it.

Now most of the Brits that I know already have their licences, and a number of them have taken additional training and qualifications through the Institute for Advanced Motorists. Of course you're not in this position, but I still think IAM might be a good place for you to start:

Call them up and ask them about good driver training places in your area, and see what answers you get.
posted by sardonyx at 9:53 AM on January 30, 2011

I have had occasion to rent and have to drive gigantic moving vans, cross country. They are always terrifying when I first pull out of the parking lot, but by the time I get to my new home, hours or a couple of days later, I feel like a pro. Really, the best way to learn to drive is to just do it. So I would say a 40 hour intensive course is a better way to learn than the way most people learn.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:03 AM on January 30, 2011

This is how lots of people learn prior to getting a licence. Not so much for cars, but for motorbikes.

It's not too fast if your goal is getting a licence. However, you do need to view this as the start, and not the end of the process. A good place to go once you get your licence is a PassPlus course. And you need to get driving. Don't be scared of motorways. Get the practice from the get go. The licence teaches you the core skills, but not so much things like awareness, problem spotting, appropriate speed, how to navigate areas you're not used to etc.

I would personally avoid BSM and the AA and other operators where the driving instructor basically pays a franchise fees. In my experience, they tend to attract new instructors that don't have the existing customer base.

I don't have recommendations for specific intensive courses, I'm afraid. I would say that personal recommendations are worth gold whatever driving instruction you get. If you can get a good one, use that over online testimonials etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:16 AM on January 31, 2011

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