In Summary
  • Eventually, you will have to buy a new car. But how do you know when it is time to finally ditch that vehicle and start again? These are some of the signs that you should be watching out for.

As a learning motorist, the best way of communicating to other motorists that you are indeed still learning is when you put a metal plate with letter “L” which stands for learner, at the front and rear sides of the car. It usually has a white background and a bold red character. As a learner, one of the bad experiences is to have an encounter with the law in the learning stages, just like Amanda Ninsiima, in 2016.

When she was learning to drive three years ago, she was accompanied by an instructor on her maiden road test experiences. When she thought she had mastered the skill and art of driving, she fuelled her sister’s car and hit the road.

“As I drove, I made a U-turn where I was not supposed to. A traffic officer followed me and signalled me stop. I panicked and looked for the nearest parking space on the roadside. The officer said I had committed a traffic offence and was to be issued a penalty receipt as fine. When he asked for my driving permit, I remembered that I had forgotten my purse that had my learner’s permit at home. I had to call my instructor to come to my rescue,” Ninsiima recalls.

That day, Ninsiima also had one “Learner” plate sign at the front of the car, yet the law, according to Charles Ssebambulidde, the traffic directorate spokesperson, says you are supposed to have one at the back as well. Now that she has her driving permit, she says the first thing she checks for before leaving her home every time is her driving permit.

Learners permit
Ahmed Kyeyune, a driving instructor at Automobile Association Driving School, says before going on the road, it is advisable to first acquire a learner’s driver’s licence that falls in the category or class of vehicle you are driving. A learner’s driver’s licence is also sometimes referred to as a provisional permit.
It is one you are given at your driving school to present to authorities such as traffic police before undergoing the final process of acquiring the actual driver’s licence when you have completed driving school.

“A big number of motorists believe that whoever sits behind a steering wheel actually understands different aspects of the road and how to drive. If you do not place the learner plates where they are visible to the motorist driving behind or ahead of your car, you can be bullied or knocked off the road by errant motorists,” Kyeyune notes, adding that learner plates serve as safeguards in situations when you are caught by the law such as driving in the opposite direction of a one-way road.

Bashir Lukwago, a driving instructor at D and Sons Driving School in Namuwongo, Kampala, explains that a learner’s driver’s licence or provisional permit is one of the requirements you ought to have before acquiring the final driver’s permit.

“In driving school, there are classroom and practical lessons. By the time you are issued a learner’s licence, you need to have passed the classroom tests to qualify you to undergo practical lessons on the road under the guidance of an instructor,” Lukwago explains.

Time for practicing
Ssebambulidde, advises that as a learning motorist, there is no best prescribed time for you to get on the road by yourself. This is because your driving instructor ought to have taken or exposed you through and to all driving situations, including practicing in traffic jam, driving on roundabouts, in the rain, at night and even on highways.

To Ssebambulidde, these are some of the most challenging aspects of driving to new or learning motorists that you need to overcome.
“When you eventually get on the road on your own, you need to be extra cautious. Watch out for road signs and do not attempt to do what is contradictory to any road sign. If the sign says do not drive above 50 kilometres per hour, drive within the given speed limit,” Ssebambulidde advises.

Read other motorist’s behaviour
As a learning motorist, you should have high levels of judgement on the road. This involves reading intentions and behaviour of other road users, especially within Kampala or any urban town with busy traffic. This is because commuter taxi drivers can stop anywhere at any time as they look for passengers.

“As you drive behind commuter taxis, you are at their mercy. Expect them to turn or stop without indicating left or right so that you do not ram into their car from behind,” Ssebambulidde warns.
One of the other things to always look out for are children or animals on the road. Unlike commuter taxis, children and animals can cross the road at any time.

If you see them from a distance, it is advisable to reduce your driving speed or turn on your hazard or danger lights when they are crossing the road to alert motorists behind you.

Getting your car ready
Before you start your first drive:
Check that the tyres are inflated properly.
Make sure you have enough fuel and that the oil and water is full.
Adjust your seat so you have good visibility and control.
Adjust the headrest so the top is at least as high as your eye level.
Adjust the steering wheel height so you are comfortable and have a good view of the instrument panel and the road ahead
Make sure your feet can comfortably reach the pedals.
Ask your supervisor to walk around the car and help you do a mirror check to find blind spots.
Ask your supervisor to check that the indicator and brake lights are working correctly.
Take note of where important controls, such as the handbrake, demister, windscreen wipers, indicators and horn are located and make sure they all work correctly.