Are intensive driving lessons a good thing?

, Feb 28 2013 at 2:54 pm

Teenagers long to drive – and how often do you come across a patient teenager? But whether you’re the youngster itching to get out on the road or an older relative perhaps with responsibility for helping the teen to get his or her licence, you need to decide whether to learn slowly and steadily or intensively, over the course of a few short days.

The world spinning the way it does these days, many people are eschewing the traditional two-or-three-lessons-a-week-over-the-course-of-several-months route in favour of week-long intensive driving courses (or ‘crash courses’, as they are amusingly termed) to save time – and also money.

A UK learner will average 47 hours of instructor-led driving lessons and 20 hours of private practise before taking their test. With the average cost of lessons being £22 a pop, learners can now expect to pay in excess of £1,000 before even booking their £62 practical exam.

Compare this to a five-day course at a driving school costing just shy of £600 including the test. So you can see the savings that can be made if you choose to take a quick-fix option.

My great-nephew (yes, I really am that old, although my brother started young) took a week-long intensive driving course…

How he chose to learn

At the age of 18, Alex decided it was a good time to unleash himself on Britain’s roads. After successfully overcoming what he saw as the relatively small hurdle of a theory test, it was time, he said, to start burning some rubber. He wanted to get the test done as quickly as possible and plumped for the five-day intensive course.

The driving school didn’t lie, it was very intense! He drove six hours a day, Monday to Friday, and had his test on the Saturday.

Shock to the system

Having had the dubious honour of changing Alex’s nappies what seemed like a couple of years back, it was a shock to think he could be up and driving within a week.

Driving. On his own. On the same roads as me. Blimey.

Alex said he quickly got to grips with the concept of moving up and down the gears and staring at oncoming traffic in the hope they didn’t decide to change lanes at the last minute.

Roundabouts remained a mystery until about day three, but he persevered and ended up being comfortable with pretty much every aspect of driving.

He soon mastered the main manoeuvres (reverse parking excepted) and started to build road confidence – key to success on the highway. And the tutoring was spot-on, taking him through exactly what he needed to know to pass the practical test. From checking the oil to crossing dual carriageways he was moved through the syllabus in quick-march style.

Is that conducive to deep and secure knowledge for something as important as driving? Hmmm, I remain to be convinced. Especially as, despite being supremely confident, Alex failed miserably! Turned out that, in his case at least, an 18-year-old with five days’ driving under his belt does not have enough experience to hit the roads on his own.

After failing his first test, he decided it wasn’t cost effective to attempt another straight away. It was three years later when he mustered the energy and the means to give driving another whirl. After only a few lessons under his belt, he took the test and passed.

What’s the verdict on crash courses?

Throughout Alex’s experience, one thing really hit home for me – no wonder car insurance premiums are so high for young drivers. The statistics show that 40% of 17-year-old male drives have an accident in their first six months of driving. This is no surprise if people can take to the road unsupervised after just five days behind the wheel.

Insurers can’t use gender to charge young men more than young women these days, of course, but those statistics can’t be spirited away by any amount of pronouncements by the European Court of Justice.

The problem with intensive courses isn’t just the small amount of experience you have on the road come test day, but the general stress of it all. Being a fairly chilled back lad, Alex undoubtedly found concentrating for six hours a day solid and trying not to make one wrong move was pretty tough on the mind and body.

Not enough experience

There’s a reason why teachers always tell students to start revising months before an exam – it’s the best way to remember things. Spending just five days learning to drive isn’t long enough to consider anyone qualified or safe.

This way of learning is not only unfair on a young person but potentially dangerous for other road users. Attempting to start from scratch and then 30 hours later being legally qualified to drive from Southampton to Glasgow seems a little… well, reckless.

17 thoughts on “Are intensive driving lessons a good thing?

  1. david

    People have different learning styles and what is suitable to one person may not suit another.
    When it comes to intensive driving lessons you do not need to cram 40 hours into a week. 2 hours a day over a month would perhaps be more benefiting and give you a similar result.
    Or 4 hours on a Saturday and 4 again on a Sunday and repeat over a month.

    In both instances you reduce the pressure on yourself

    1. Malcolm

      Intensive courses the old fashioned way : First lesson on Monday test on Friday no longer work for most people. Engineers, siblings of a farmer would be the exception.
      Intensive courses when used as part of an overall learning to drive programme can save a lot of money and time. Whilst producing a very safe driver at the end.
      A 5 day intensive gets the process of car control into the nervous system with outstanding results. The following 5 days after a few days, or even a week off, the new driver blossoms out. The new driver is more than ready on this next 5 day course to take on traffic and challenging situations.
      A test should never be booked whilst taking an intensive course. It blocks the learning process. Once things start to come together a test cancellation is then booked with extremely good results.

  2. Mark

    Intensive Courses aren’t the problem.

    Young drivers have accidents due to lack of experience on the road but that’s not something they’ll get from driving lessons – they need to be driving on their own after the test.

    Which makes me think the only thing that are likely to help are a) making the driving test harder if they believe its too easy to pass and b) having some restrictions on young drivers for a period of time after passing their test.

    Both options were looked at by the government in their green paper due to be released by now but they backed out of coming out with any recommendations and feel it’s better to leave things as they are at this stage.

  3. Mark Bonney

    Clearly we have a vested interest as we deal in intensive courses.

    Experience is gained by spending hours behind the wheel.

    How does spreading out the number of hours over 12 months improve the driver ?

    If we only needed to watch and be in a car , everybody would already be able to drive when they turn 17.

    I would perhaps agree , that if every young driver , were to take weekly lessons , filling out a reflective log and compulsory homework, then this might improve the outcome.

    The government has long made noises about introducing compulsory learning periods and minimum number of hours with an instructor before taking a test
    ( at the moment, in theory, you could turn up for a driving test without ever having spent a single minute behind the wheel ).

    However , they have all backtracked due to the fact this would be extremely unpopular with the voting public – especially the parents of youngsters about to turn 17.

    As the situation stands , there is a healthy demand for intensive courses from students who do not wish to take 12 months to pass their driving test.
    Do intensive courses work for everyone ? No , however take a look at our site, which shows over 1000 customer reviews from successful students.

  4. Matt Leonard

    We offer intensive driving course and single hourly lessons.
    We have actually found that customers who take an intensive driving course manage to actually become more confident much faster…….obviously! BUT and its a big BUT, most of our customers say that the intensive course is much better than taking weekly lesson because they just feel that they would forget things from week to week!
    The reason new drivers crash so often when they have only passed their test is not because they did an intensive course, its because they have nobody sat next to them over seeing what they are doing. And as there are not enough police patrolling the roads these days people seem to think they can do whatever they want…..and most people do and there are often no consequences until something really bad happens!
    We should adopt a system where you are monitored when you pass and you should be limited to a certain size of engine SIMPLES!

  5. Steve

    Don’t agree with the premise of this article as you can’t legitimately generalise based on one experience or a writer’s prejudice. I know many people who have driven for years who are unsafe on the roads and others that have driven a short time who are perfect drivers.

    I took my test after six lessons then drove 1000 miles from England to Spain the day after I passed. I’ve never had an accident as I anticipate danger and drive sensibly. An element of that comes from cycling in London for 20 years, again without incident, although I have almost been knocked off by cars many times and I bet they weren’t intensive course-passed drivers.. They were just careless or incompetent or a mixture of the two.

    It’s all about concentration and how coordinated / spatially aware you are in my opinion. Many people aren’t and hence the accidents.

    I believe people should face a compulsory re-test after 20 years or if they are at fault in an accident. That would get many of the bad drivers off the streets where they are a menace to society and kill or seriously injure thousands every year in the UK.

    1. Jim

      Nowadays , nobody but nobody can start driving from scratch and be ready in six hours. It is not possible. I’ve had some people pass after 20hrs with no private practice. They are a very small percentage.

    2. javo

      hello there, I am currently trying to find the best method to pass my driving test as quickly as possible. I am a cyclist and have rode all over Europe and am fully aware of the generally poor standard of driving everywhere. I don’t particularly want a car but having that bloody ticket opens doors (not just car ones) sorry to bother you but its a heck of a lot of money and I am desperate to talk with people who have been in the same situation as me. wind at your back :)

  6. Danny

    We booked our son in with these guys and they were brilliant , having never driven before they had him passed in 3 weeks and 2 days all done !!

    I dealt with all the communication as my son wouldnt have bothered , but overall a very professional outfit ,

    They know exactly what they are talking about and are very polite and if theres a problem , they asign 1 person to you and they stay with you until the problem is solved ,

    Brilliant Service Would definatly recommend
    5 Star Service

  7. Bryan Greenall

    Whether you learn to drive over longer periods like say 2 hours a week, or shorter periods due to an intensive course does not really matter for experience.
    If you take a 30 hour block crash course over 1 week and pass the test, this would really be the same as taking 30 hours over say 3 or 4 months and passing.
    So there is no lack of experience just because you take all 30 hours in a short time, and there could be an argument of information retention being better on intensive courses than say 2 hours a week over a longer period as some learners will forget certain driving techniques waiting for say 7 days between lessons and then being asked to remember what and how we did things on the previous lesson.
    I think it is all down to the individuals learning capabilities.
    Intensive is not for everybody.
    It does work.
    For me the best way of gaining experience is with private practice if there is a possibility to do this alongside driving lessons with their instructor, as it only confirms and solidifies what is being taught.
    An interesting debate with pros and cons on both sides.
    thank you for sharing.

  8. sarah

    I have been an instructor for over 20 years and I and all instructors I work with strongly believe for most pupils Intensive courses especially with a test at end of course are definitely the best way to learn. Here’s just some reasons why;

    1. Much quicker, more economical way to learn. More cost effective!
    2. No long waiting time for test date – as you can often book a course with test as quickly as next week.
    3. Quicker results – often pupils doing hourly lessons discontinue lessons for a time as it’s easy to lose interest, feel not improving, instructor or pupil can’t fit in etc. No need to worry about this on a course.
    4. More effective tuition – less time is wasted on recapping, re-orientation, driving is more concentrated and so your memory retention of the necessary information will be better. Lesson structure can be adapted and maintained more easily.
    5. Usually pupils are more focused and positive.
    6. Very useful to people with very little spare time in their normal schedule to fit in driving lessons.
    7. Can be tailored to match the learner’s expectations and time frame
    8. Very popular with learners of all ages.
    9. Instructor’s ability to deal with a pupil on an intensive course is also greatly improved, lesson structure can be adapted and maintained easier and learning is more enhanced.
    10. As test is usually booked for end of the course so the pupil has something to aim for.

  9. Dylan

    I have just taken a 25 hour intensive course with Go 2 Pass. I found the course was hard work and stressful, but it payed off, I would agree they work having been on one, the driving instructor must be good and easy to get along with otherwise it can be a bad idea, I also think having a bit of driving experience before going on one will help and my driving instructor agreed too. My driving instructor was very good and had a good personality so had a bit of a laugh at times.

  10. El

    Nice post, however I really don’t think intensive driving lessons are for everyone. Everyone has a different learning style. Some absorb the information quickly, others take alot longer. Oftentimes it is better to have some time between lesson to digest what has been learned.

  11. Ray

    Are intensive driving courses any good? That is the Question!!

    Certainly they work for some people but for others an intensive driving course (or crash course) is too intense! It will depend very much on the individual. But remember it’s not a short cut.

    You still have to learn the same amount.

    I would suggest that to gain the best from learning that you allow time in between your lesson to internalise what you have learnt. Slow and steady about 2 hours per week is usually good.

    In reality humans have a limited amount of concentration in one go. If you have booked an intensive course that includes about 4-6 hours per day over several days you can assume some of those hours would have gone to waste.

    If you have some driving experience already and nearly at test standard then a short intensive might be of benefit.

  12. Jon Bradshaw

    The time has come for expectations to change. The reason for driving lessons is the fact that everyone is entitled to have a driving licence – and a car. We need to lower the number of people who are allowed to drive. Tests should be much more difficult and should only qualify us for maybe 10 years.

    If there were less drivers, there would be less cars, road injuries would drop and atmospheric pollution would improve. We may even see improvements in Public Transport!

  13. Rebecca

    Personally as an ADI with 13 years experience- I prefer intensive driving courses. Granted it isnt for everyone, and from my experience, the more mature driver may struggle with a condensed course due to needing more hours. Why this is, nobody knows!
    Any professional establishment or course provider utilises half days or full days of classroom training. Driving works well the same. The myth of more than 2 hours being unbearable- isn’t !(MHO)
    I find the learner driver absorbs more information, and are more committed to learning due to the nature of the course. Most students take a week of work, or book a course in their holidays.
    Driving is very much a psychological process as it is a practical- and very often it comes down to personality traits. Thus far- all students have a positive experience.


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