Passing your driving test in Northern Ireland is a significant milestone, but driving confidently only comes through experience.
Last year, the Driver & Vehicle Agency conducted over 55,000 driving tests and if you’re one of the 57.9% who passed then congratulations.
But while passing your driving test in Northern Ireland is an outstanding achievement, a lot of your learning happens after you’ve got your full driving licence.
That’s because, during driving lessons and your test, you’re in strictly controlled conditions.
You may not have encountered torrential rain, black ice, snow or heavy fog before.
And you probably won’t have driven down a country lane big enough for one car only to find a tractor on its way up the road too.
Today, with the help of New Driver NI’s Shannon Doyle, we’re offering our top tips for new NI drivers.
1. New NI Drivers should stay local.
“After passing your driving test and getting your first car try to resist the urge to travel too far away from your home”, Shannon advises.
“Friends might ask you to take them for a spin to the beach, or shopping in a different city, but it’s not a good idea when you’ve just passed your test.
“Try to stay local for your first few months and get to know your car and its controls.
Each car is different, but over time, you’ll get to understand your car better,” she added.
2. Practice parking when car parks are empty.
Shannon says a new NI driver entering a busy car park for the first time might find it overwhelming.
“There are lots of things going on in busy car parks; ramps, pedestrians walking between cars, trolleys appearing out of nowhere and cars reversing into awkward spaces.
Try visiting your biggest supermarket car parks early in the morning and late into the evening when they’re at their most quiet,” she advises.
“Practice reverse parking into spaces and if you’re feeling adventurous and have the opportunity, reverse park in between two cars so you can gain the confidence to park closer to the shops.”
The idea here, says Shannon, is to carry out these manoeuvres when you’re not under any pressure.
“Sometimes when you’re in busy car parks, other motorists in a rush will be impatiently waiting for you to park, putting you under more pressure.
That’s why it’s always best to practice the most common manoeuvres on location but when it’s a bit calmer in terms of traffic,” she adds.
3. Keep distractions to a minimum.
We live in a world of distractions: smartphones in our pockets, smartwatches on our wrists, music on the radio, noise from car horns outside and much more.
And, Shannon says, the buzz or ping of a notification can affect your concentration.
“We always advise new drivers to put their phones on airplane mode while driving to ensure their concentration is wholly on their journey.
As a new Northern Ireland driver, we’d also advise you not to have your friends in the car with you for the first while.
If you need to bring someone with you, it should be an experienced, responsible driver who can act as a calming, reassuring influence,” Shannon says.
4. Adjust your mirrors correctly.
Your driving instructor will have reminded you lots of the importance of using your wing mirrors, and rearview mirrors correctly to improve visibility in blind spots.
But for correct use, they need to be adjusted to your size.
And all mirrors should be adjusted before you start driving, never during your journey.
“Make sure you can see all of the road behind you in your rearview mirror when you’re sitting with a natural posture in the driving seat,” Shannon explains.
“Your wing mirrors should show only the edge of your car but most of the road.
Don’t forget that wing mirrors can be moved up and down as well as left and right,” she adds.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Don’t forget; you’re a new driver, so you’re not expected to be confident weeks or months after passing your driving test.
It’s easy to feel frustrated in your early driving career but always remember, with time comes more experience and more confidence.
“After driving a year, you’ll have experienced all four seasons of weather in Northern Ireland, and you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in your ability to do the various manoeuvres.
Don’t worry about other drivers either; they’ll see your ‘R’ plate and know you’re inexperienced and most will keep their distance and allow you the time and space to drive,” Shannon adds.
Keep up to date with all the Northern Ireland driving news, tips and tricks on the New Driver NI website.