10 important tips for learner drivers

learner drive getting into her car

Danny Baggs

Posted October 19, 2022

Young drivers in their first year of driving are much more likely to crash than an experienced driver. Here are RACV’s top learner driver tips for safe driving.

Young and inexperienced drivers are over-represented in road fatalities. 14 per cent of drivers who lost their lives in 2018 were aged between 18 and 25, even though this age group only accounted for 10 per cent of Victorian licence holders. Inexperience, poor decision-making, willingness to take risks, peer passenger influence, and alcohol and drug use are all contributing factors to this tragic statistic.

RACV Drive School Manager Lydia Kendray says that she commonly spots poor driving habits such as driving with one hand or using two feet on the accelerator and brake. “It’s just so dangerous,” she says.

Picking up good habits is essential to safe driving, particularly for learner drivers. Here are ten key tips for learner drivers starting out behind the wheel.

Top tips for learner drivers in Australia

Always carry your learner's permit, L plates and logbook

If you get behind the wheel as a learner driver in Victoria, you will need to bring the three Ls:

  • Learner's permit – you are legally required to carry your learner's permit when driving on Victorian roads. You could keep your permit in your glovebox or phone wallet to make sure you don’t go driving without it.

  • L plates – you must display learner plates on the front and back of your vehicle when driving as a learner. This helps to make other drivers aware that an inexperienced driver is on the road so that they can take extra care around you. It also hopefully means you are more likely to be treated with patience, as drivers who witness a mistake understand that you are just learning.

  • Logbook – Victorian learner drivers must log 120 hours of supervised driving experience, including 20 hours of night driving, before they can apply for their probationary drivers licence. Keep a hardcopy in your glovebox or set up a profile with VicRoads’ myLearners app to log and track your hours digitally.

learner driver placing an L plate on her car

It's a legal requirement to display L plates on vehicles a learner driver is operating. Image: Matt Harvey


Make sure you understand the road rules

In addition to following all road laws, learner drivers must follow some extra rules. Under Victorian law, when driving, learner drivers must:

  • Drive with a supervising driver who has a full and current licence for the same type of vehicle being driven by the learner

  • Carry their learner permit or receipt

  • Ensure their L plates can be seen on the front and back of their vehicle from at least 20 metres away

  • Have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of zero

  • Not use a mobile phone or other handheld or hands-free device

  • Not tow a caravan, trailer or other vehicle.

Unlike some other Australian states and territories, Victorian learner drivers do not have a maximum speed limit in addition to signposted speed limits, and may carry the usual number of passengers appropriate for their vehicle.


learner driver with mother in car

Finding a comfortable driving position can help your driving. Image: Matt Harvey


Learn how to find your comfortable driving position

You need to feel comfortable behind the wheel so that you can easily reach the pedal and brake, comfortably turn the wheel, and easily check your blind spots. Follow this step-by-step driving position checklist before you turn the ignition:

  • Adjust the seat – pull the driver’s seat forward or backward until your feet can comfortably reach the pedals with a slight bend in your knees. Make sure you are seated towards the back of the seat for optimum spinal support. You can also adjust the seat height and headrest in most modern vehicles to better support your head.

  • Adjust the steering wheel – your arms should be slightly bent when holding the steering wheel. Most modern vehicles allow you to adjust the steering wheel up/down and in/out, so adjust until the wheel faces your chest (not your face) with about an A4 page length between you and the middle of the wheel.

  • Adjust the seat belt – ensure there are no twists in the seat belt and that the seat belt adjuster sits about even with your right ear. Check that your fastened seat belt sits low, flat and firm across your shoulder and hips.

  • Adjust your rear-view mirror – you should see as much as possible out of the back window, and as little as possible of the car’s interior, without needing to move your head

  • Adjust your wing mirrors – move your wing mirrors until the horizon lines up with the middle of the glass, then push them outwards until the inside edge of the mirror only just shows the side of your car.

Each car model feels different to drive, so take your time making the necessary adjustments when driving a new car.


learner driver getting into car with RACV driving instructor

Having professional driving lessons can kick-start learners' driving skills. Image: Matt Harvey


Join a quality driving school

Professional driving lessons are vital to help learner drivers develop good habits. “Lessons with a professional driving instructor can help ensure you practice integrating safe habits into your driving before your test day,” says Kendray. “Your instructor can also conduct an assessment with you to assess your competence, and highlight any areas of your driving which require attention or additional practice.”

RACV Members save 10 per cent on 5-lesson packages with the RACV Drive School, one of Australia’s oldest driving schools with 80+ qualified instructors across Victoria. “The RACV Drive School goes beyond the VicRoads four stages of learning which helps learners pass their probationary driver test. RACV has a six-stage learning program that focuses on developing drivers to not only pass their test but to stay safe beyond test routes, so they can get home safely for the rest of their lives,” explains Kendray. “When you book with RACV, you can have peace of mind knowing that you will be with a fully accredited instructor who also has a valid police check, working with children check, as well as full, comprehensive insurance including Professional Indemnity and Public Liability insurance. It is also reassuring to know that all our cars are new, five-star ANCAP-rated vehicles full of the latest tech and safety features.”

In addition, if you’re a young Victorian learner driver aged between 16 and 21 who doesn’t have access to a supervising driver or an appropriate vehicle to gain your necessary driving experience, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) L2P program may be able to help you out.


RACV Members save on Drive School lesson packs.

Increase your hazard perception skills

Hazard perception – the ability to spot potential dangers while driving – is one of the most important skills you will learn as a driver.

RACV Drive School Senior Instructor Silvia Morris says there are two main mistakes that she sees learner drivers making. “When experienced learners book in their first professional driving lesson it is common to see them not doing enough mirror checks and blind spot checks, putting them at high risk of missing hazards such as vulnerable road users on cyclists or scooters,” she says. “Not checking your mirrors enough also puts you at a higher risk of rear end collisions, as if you are aware of someone driving too close behind you or approaching too quickly this means you can start to manage these risks by braking earlier or slowing down. Being constantly aware of your surroundings by checking your mirrors also helps drivers choose a safer strategy in the case they need to avoid an unexpected situation.”

“Not checking for pedestrians before turning left or right is another common issue we see with learners,” Morris adds. “At intersections it is easy to get caught up concentrating on the traffic you must look for, which makes it easy to miss seeing a pedestrian. This is a dangerous habit to miss. For example, if you only notice a pedestrian after you have already started turning right, not only do you risk the life of the pedestrian, but this also has the potential to put you in a very dangerous situation where you may stop in front of an oncoming vehicle to avoid the pedestrian.”

To increase your hazard perception, practice ‘scanning’ ahead and around your car instead of only watching the car right in front of you. You should also practice slowing down in reaction to hazards, spotting and understanding advisory signs, and keeping a minimum three-second gap from the vehicle in front of you.


driving instructor talking to learner driver and her mother

Driving instructors can help learner drivers improve their hazard perception skills. Image: Matt Harvey


Eliminate distractions

There are a lot of things to think about when you’re learning to drive. Minimising distractions will help you focus on what’s important.

Turn your mobile phone or GPS system off when learning to drive. Not only is it illegal to use as a learner driver, but even hearing it ring may increase the risk of a collision. Similarly, turn your car stereo off (or at least down) while you are learning. Loud music can distract you from safe driving and drown out warnings like vehicle horns or emergency vehicle sirens.

Keep passengers to a minimum as a learner driver. Interesting stories and funny jokes from  family or friends may have an adverse effect on developing safe driving skills as a learner. Squabbling or crying children can pose a major distraction, as can pets.

Finally, learners should avoid eating behind the wheel and take a break between long stints of driving.


man placing phone away in car

Minimise distractions when driving to stay safe. Image: Matt Harvey


Practice driving in adverse conditions

One of the best ways to prepare for driving solo is to practice driving in adverse conditions with your supervisor or instructor. Learner drivers should develop experience driving in these scenarios:

  • Night drivingdriving vision can be impaired at night-time, so turn on your headlights when it starts getting dark so that you can see the road and so other drivers can see you. Remember to adjust your rear-view mirror to avoid headlights from vehicles behind you shining through the mirror and temporarily blinding you.

  • Heavy traffic – when driving in heavy traffic, merge into your correct lane well in advance to avoid sudden lane changes. Watch for reduced speed limits in shared pedestrian zones.

  • Rainy or foggy weather – your visibility is reduced in rain, fog, mist or smoke. Practice switching between your headlights, fog lights, and/or high beams when appropriate and legal to do so, plus using your air conditioning or demister to un-fog your windscreen. In wet or inclement weather, you should also reduce your speed, avoid sudden braking, turning or accelerating, and keep more distance between you and any vehicle in front. Remember to never drive on a road covered with water and obey any road closure signs.

  • Mountain roads – take extra care when driving on steep, windy mountain roads, especially if you are following large vehicles. Adjust your speed to obey any yellow warning signs and advisory speed limits. If you’re driving a manual car, pay extra attention to your gear choice.

  • Unsealed roads – different unsealed road surfaces (e.g. gravel, sand, dirt) grip your car tyres differently. Slow down, adjust your driving technique to the new condition and remain cautious. Keep an eye out for wildlife or livestock on country roads, for potholes concealed in dust clouds, or for slippery patches in muddy conditions.

  • Roadworks and school zones – always obey the lower speed limits posted near roadworks and school zones. In school zones, be aware that children can be hard to spot when crossing the road from behind parked cars. In roadwork zones, follow any relevant detour signs and obey traffic conductors that may signal you to stop or slow down.

  • (In Melbourne) Driving on roads with trams – In Melbourne, you must never move into the path of a moving tram, stop behind trams during roadside stops until the doors close and pedestrians finish crossing, and always give way to trams at roundabouts. Not stopping for a tram in Melbourne can result in on-the-spot fines of $462. VicRoads reports that 70 per cent of tram crashes occur when cars turn or merge on to tram tracks.

If you notice your eyesight is affecting your ability to see clearly in adverse conditions, book in for an eye test at an optometrist. RACV Members save up to 50 per cent on eyewear and accessories from OPSM.


Watch out for trams on Melbourne roads.

Check that you have the right car insurance

Under RACV Car Insurance policy, learner drivers are automatically covered under the supervising driver’s policy.

If your supervising driver doesn’t have RACV Car Insurance, they will need to check their insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure you are covered.


learner driver getting into car with mother

RACV Car Insurance automatically covers learner drivers under the supervising driver's policy. Image: Matt Harvey


Know what to do in an accident or breakdown

Accidents and breakdowns can be especially scary for new drivers, so it helps to know what to do in an emergency.

In a breakdown, the first thing you should do is turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers that something is wrong. Where possible, safely pull off the road onto the shoulder. If you are alone at night or in an isolated place and the car is safe to remain in, lock the doors and stay put. If you’re not safe in the car, get all passengers to exit away from the road, moving behind a safety barrier if available and keeping any children or pets calm and under control. Once everyone is safe, call your Emergency Roadside Assist company for help.

In an accident, you should similarly turn on your hazard lights and safely pull off the road. Make sure that everyone in all cars involved is safe and uninjured – if they are, call an ambulance at 000. Make sure to exchange personal details with any other drivers involved: leaving the scene without doing so is a criminal offence. You should also note down important details such as time, location and details of the crash. Next, report the accident to the police on 131 444 if emergency assistance isn’t required and on 000 if it is. Finally, contact your car insurance provider to lodge a claim and organise towing if needed.


RACV emergency roadside assistance technician talking to learner driver about her broken-down car

Knowing what to do and who to call in the event of an accident or breakdown will help you stay calm. Image: Matt Harvey


Keep practicing your skills

Driving takes time and effort to learn properly. Keep practicing your skills throughout your time as a learner and probationary driver. Here are some extra resources to help keep your skills honed:

  • Guide for Learners – a VicRoads handbook that teaches you key driving skills and prepares you for your driving test. myLearners is an excellent online version.

  • DriveSmart – an interactive Victorian Government website with a range of driving scenarios and quizzes that teach you to make safe driving judgements. It also helps improve your hazard perception, scanning and concentration skills.

  • Road to Solo Driving – a VicRoads handbook that covers road rules and legal responsibilities. Hint: the learner permit test questions are based on this handbook!

  • How safe is your car? – this website helps you find which cars are the safest to drive based on your budget and preferences. It also explains key safety features that you’ll see when looking for a car.


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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s)issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.