Independent driving

To drive independently is the whole reason for learning to drive. While most of our journeys will be to places we know on routes we are familiar with. We have to know how to safely drive to new places.
To be able to drive your car under your own direction and purpose.
  • To see and respond to road signs and markings
  • To respond to other road users
  • To position correctly
  • To use the correct lane
  • To plan ahead
  • To be able to follow road signs and sat-nav
On your driving test:
On test: Independent driving

Assessment criteria will be marked under where the particular faults are committed.


This aspect of driving is all about purpose.

You have a car and you need to get from one place to another while dealing with whatever the road and traffic on it presents to you..

Road Signs And Markings:

Road signs causing change of plan

Even if we are familiar with where we are going we should still look out for and respond to road signs and markings. Changes both permanent and temporary can catch you out. This could be roadworks or a change in the road priority. Where possible use your local knowledge but remember someone might not know the area as well as you.

In areas you are unfamiliar with check your route before you go. This might help you be familiar with some of the names of places on the way which can be helpful.

Blue and green route signs will be for motorway and fast primary route dual carriageway. These will get you quickly to where you want to go. If you need to turn get into your position early.

Once you leave these routes you are becoming more local. Pay attention to the local direction signs.

Other Road Users:

Bus on the move

As you are driving, you will have to look for and respond to other road users. Besides the general traffic on the road this will also include:

  • Bicycles
  • Motorbikes
  • Buses
  • Lorries
  • Vans
  • Emergency service vehicles
  • Animals including horse riders
  • People

Each of the above will present their own set of problems. It is your duty to deal with all these safely. Remember there is no right of way only priority. You must give way in order to avoid an accident.

Position And Lanes:


Car in its lane

Your normal driving position should be over to the left. Make sure you allow a reasonable clearance to anything on the left. When driving in lanes keep to the middle of your lane. Sometimes the wear on the road will help you do this.

Your general position on the road will be decided by:

  • Where you are going which will mean your choice of lane
  • What the traffic is doing around you so look far ahead
  • The weather and sometimes the time of day

On rural roads be aware that the side of the road on the left can be broken up with large ruts and potholes. Your position should allow for this.


Choice of lanes

When following a route get into your correct lane early. This will give you time to get sorted. Look for the route signs as this will help you decide what lane you need.

Last minute lane changes can be dangerous and sometimes not even possible. Slow moving lorries could stop you taking the exit you want if you have not got into the correct lane early.

When changing lanes be aware of faster moving traffic trying to get around you. This can be on both sides. Make full use of mirrors and signals and do this before you manoeuvre. If you see something act on what you see.

A very quick sideways check can be a life saver. Make sure it is quick as you could be losing sight of what is happening in front. Be very careful if you are in someone’s blind spot. Watch out for foreign lorries (non-UK number plate) as the driver will be positioned on the left and may not see you.

Following Road Signs And Sat-nav:

Satnav on car

Sat-navs should not be programmed when on the move. Pull over somewhere safe and set your journey up.

Your sat-nav should be.

  • Safely secured in the car
  • Placed so that you can see it but not blocking the view ahead
  • Up to date with relevant maps
  • Placed out of site when not in use

When using sat-nav check the information on screen with what you might see outside your car. A temporary speed limit could well be different from that shown on the sat-nav.

Not all junctions are acknowledged. Changes in road marking, mini roundabouts, busy entrances are the sort of thing that can be missed. It follows that your sat-nav is as only as good as its last update and that update is only as good as the information it was updated with.

Road signs have to be seen before they can be acted on. Quite often you will have a road sign telling you where to go. Then the next road sign will tell you what lane to be in. Or sometimes the road marking will do this. If in doubt follow the road ahead. Look as far ahead as you can so you have plenty of time to act.

Plan ahead.

Planning a car journey

There are two aspects to planning ahead. Pre-journey to somewhere new. For this you may want to:

  • Pre-program your sat-nav
  • Check out route and traffic conditions
  • Have paper map of route just in case
  • Ask advice from someone who might have done the journey before

The other aspect of planning ahead is when you are on the road and have a clear idea of where you are going. To do this you will need to be looking and working out what the other road user might be doing.

When looking you should.

  • Look as far ahead as you can
  • Look everywhere
  • Keep looking

Having looked you need to react to what is happening around you. Doing this safely and in good time is the hallmark of a good driver.

At the end of this section you should have a better idea on how to get from A to B when you don’t know the road.

You should know:

  • How to plan a journey
  • What to look for when following a route
  • Where to be on the road to best follow that plan
  • How to use and limitations of satnav.
Further Reading:
The Highway Code Rule(s): 170-190

Driving The Essential Skills: Section(s) 7


What’s in the driving syllabus?

Click on a topic below to get started.
Please note this syllabus should be used with a professional driving instructor.

Cockpit Drill

Safety Checks

Controls and Instruments
Moving Away and Stopping
Safe Position
Mirrors Vision and Use
Anticipation and Planning
Use of Speed
Other Traffic
Dual Carriageway
Motorway Driving
Country Roads
Pedestrian Crossings
Turning the Vehicle Around
Emergency Stop
Independent Drive
Fuel-Efficient Driving
Passengers and Loads