*** I is for Independent Driving ***
There are three possible elements to this; using SatNav (including on your driving test), following road signs (including on your driving test) and 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.
During the driving test you won't be asked to programme it yourself; it's only there for you to follow the directions. Don't forget that one in five driving tests will still use the follow the roadsigns to... method.
Following road signs
It goes without saying, but if you don't plan where you're going, you probably won't get there.
Look well ahead and make a note of any signs in the distance which may help when you get close enough to read them
If you aren't sure which direction the signs are going to send you, then make sure you check surrounding lanes early - before you might need to move - just in case you do need to change lanes
Look early at the lane layout sign to ensure your positioning is correct for the direction you are travelling. Spiral roundabouts for example will have a sign advising which lane you will need on approach
Understanding how signs work is vital in helping you to recognise quickly where you're going
Motorway information has blue backgrounds, primary routes have green, and non-primary or local routes have a white background
As well as looking for the destination name, make sure you look out for the road number too - this will help to confirm you're still in the right lane on roundabouts
Understand where to expect the information to be found (position of signs, information on roads etc).
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 gone 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.
*Sections reproduced with the kind permission of Mercury Driving School