I is for Independent Driving


There are two sides to this story. One is about using SatNav (including on your driving test). The other is driving alone.


Satellite navigation is great, although you need to use it carefully. Whatever model you buy (in many modern cars, you can even dock your phone and use Google Maps or Apple Maps), it needs to be kept up to date. And you must always check for yourself that it isn’t asking you to do something illegal, for example, asking you to turn in to a no-entry road or do a U-turn when road-signs prohibit it.

By far the easiest way to use satnav is as a visual aid, and to ignore the actual words it is saying out loud. Quite simply, anything the satnav says should just be a cue to look at the screen. This is quite safe: it’s easier than looking at a road-sign.

Usually, satnavs will use icons on the screen to give you advance notice of instructions. For example, it might show a roundabout symbol with an arrow pointing to the right. Even without a verbal instruction, you’ll therefore know to set yourself up in the correct lane for a right-turn.

The SatNav currently used on driving tests is the TomTom Start 52. Buy yours using the link below if you want to practice in your own car.

You won’t be asked to programme it yourself; it’s only there for you to follow the directions. And don’t forget that one in five driving tests will still use the old-fashioned follow the roadsigns to… method.

Driving alone

If you’ve passed your driving test: congratulations! Welcome to real independent driving.

Your driving test and lessons will have taught you all the skills you need. But here’s a reminder of some of the key safety-points you may have forgotten (or may feel embarrassed to use now you’re a “real driver”)

  • Plan ahead. Don’t do anything at the last minute. If you find yourself in the wrong lane at a big junction, don’t try and change lanes: just go wherever that lane takes you and find somewere safe to turn around later on. SatNav will detect you’ve one wrong and will help you get back on track.
  • Tell somebody where you are going. Agree a timescale for “checking in” and remember to park up before sending a text message.
  • Remember your personal safety. Keep your doors locked, and leave yourself an escape route when you pull up behind another vehicle.

If you have passengers who don’t drive, and don’t understand the stress you may be feeling, agree some rules about behaviour, and agree that you will pull in for a rest every two hours. Never be scared to ask you passengers to be quiet for a moment while you navigate a tricky roundabout or need to concentrate while joining a motorway.

Disability Driving Instructors is a voluntary register of specialist driving instructors.

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