Whether you're a teenager looking to get on the road for some personal freedom, or you need an Irish driving licence to help you in the world of work, if you pass your driving test, it can feel like a real sense of achievement. That small credit card-sized piece of plastic is a ticket to mobility, meaning you no longer need to rely on public transport or family and friends to help you get to your destination.
If you're looking to pass your driving test in Ireland, some simple preparation and a decent amount of practice will help you on your way to taking your test and passing it first time. While the Road Safety Authority (RSA) states that you must conduct 12 hour-long sessions of Essential Driver Training (EDT) with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), you should top up your mandatory sessions with some extra time behind the wheel. Besides, you've got six months before you can take your practical test if you've got your first learner permit, so there's plenty of time to get more kilometres under your belt before test day arrives.
Here we run through some top tips to help you on the road to driving test success.
First things first - are you actually in a position to take your driving test in Ireland? The first step is to pass the Driver Theory Test, which shows that you have a good knowledge of the Rules of the Road. You can take your test at one of 41 test centre locations across Ireland, or via the new ProProctor Online Testing system.
To give yourself the best chance of passing the written exam first time, we'd recommend picking up the Rules of the Road and buying Official Driver Theory Test Revision Material. The latter comes as a book or a smartphone app, and has all the questions and answers that make up the theory test. Once you've passed the theory test, it's valid for two years, but you don't want to wait that long to apply for your learner permit, do you?
Check the time
You can apply for a learner permit from the National Driver Licence Service, either by booking an appointment at one of 34 NDLS centres, or you can do it easily online, as long as you have a Public Services Card and a verified MyGovID. If you want to pass your car driving test, it's category B that's needed on your licence.
As with the theory test, a learner permit is also valid for two years, although as already mentioned, you have to have held it for six months and conducted the required 12 one-hour EDT sessions with an ADI before you can actually take your test. If you need to reapply for your learner permit, that will be valid for another two years, but a third application (or later) is only valid for 12 months.
Pick a car, not any car
While an ADI will have a car for you to take the practical test in, having your own set of wheels to practice in will be a bonus. We're not going to go into the ins and outs of buying a car here, beyond saying it's worth getting one that's easy to control and reliable, because anything else can have a serious effect on your confidence.
You'll need L plates when you're learning to drive. While an ADI will have a car that's properly decked out, you need to add them to any private vehicle that you will be practising in. Make sure they're clearly visible, but without obscuring the car's lights or registration plate or your view out the windows. And remember, you could earn penalty points for not displaying L plates.
A word from our Sponsor
The RSA recommends nominating a Sponsor that will help you to learn how to drive outside of any ADI-assisted instruction. We're not talking corporate branding here; it's a Sponsor in terms of a person who can assist in teaching you the rules of the road, and is usually a member of your family that has held a licence for more than two years. However, bear in mind that they should be offering additional assistance - your ADI is the person who is actually teaching you how to drive and pass your test, so whatever advice they give you should overrule anything your Sponsor might say. Your Sponsor might think they know better, but it's the ADI that's responsible for getting you prepared for your test and a life of safe driving.
You don't necessarily need a Sponsor, but while it might be tempting to have a quick whizz around the block to keep your skills fresh, you need to take somebody with you. It can't just be anybody, either: it needs to be somebody who has passed their test and held a driving licence for at least two years. If you do drive unaccompanied, you could face penalty points, your car could be impounded (even if it is not yours) and you could face a fine of up to €1,000.
A learner permit allows you to drive on all roads except motorways, so you will get plenty of practice in a variety of situations. Always take on the advice of your ADI - they are the ones that will get you through the test - and try and supplement your 12 hour-long EDT sessions with additional practice. In this instance practice really does make perfect, although it's arguable that you never really stop learning, even after you've passed your practical driving test.
If you have passed your test, then the next stage of your driving life begins. You can ditch your L plates, but you're going to be swapping them for N plates instead, showing other road users that you're a new driver. These need to be displayed for two years, and if you don't, there's a potential fine in the offing.
Since you're fresh from learning, then why not take some extra lessons on motorway driving? Especially if you expect to be using them regularly when you drive. While some road users can feel intimidated by motorways, if you have instruction on motorways from an ADI it can help boost your confidence behind the wheel.
Keep it clean
Once you've passed your test, it's essential that you stick to the rules of the road. Driving with N plates is a period of probation, and if you're caught speeding, driving while not displaying N plates, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or any other offence, the penalties can be harsher.
You still tot up points just like any other licence holder, but while 12 penalty points normally nets you a six-month driving ban, N-plate drivers (and learners) need only amass seven points to be hit with the same penalty. What's more you'll have to go through the whole rigmarole of taking your test again. The best way to avoid this scenario is to make sure your car is roadworthy, stick to speed limits religiously, and just say no when it comes to alcohol or other substances.