Driving lesson

Learning to drive

What to expect from your first driving lesson

I asked the good folks at AMB Driving School to take me out on a ‘first driving lesson’ to get a sense of what learning to drive in Ontario is like.

Their instructor Bob Karmakar (an uncannily apt name for a driving instructor - Karma-car!) agreed to meet outside Toronto’s Victoria Park subway station for my convenience. (Most driving schools in Ontario will pick you up and drop you off wherever you want, at no extra cost.)

Bob had come in a 2014 Toyota Prius with a rooftop driving school sign, and an extra mirror and set of pedals for the instructor in the shotgun seat. These are all ministry requirements for a driving school car.

Without wasting time, Bob asked me to get behind the wheel. Once he had checked my licence (don’t forget to bring your G1 permit) the hour-long lesson began.

  1. The cockpit drill

  2. Though I was ready to zip right on to the street in that super-silent hybrid, Bob cheerfully asked me to hold my horses. The first step was to become familiar with the vehicle.

    He made a top-bottom, left-right sweep of the car - explaining how to use all the gadgets/buttons/controls I saw in front of me: from sun shades to windshield wipers, indicators, lights, mirrors, fuel gauge, gears, brake and gas pedals, and the very important parking brake.

    This rundown took us about 3-5 minutes, but don’t hesitate to ask your instructor to repeat anything you may have missed.

    DSSSM: Some final checks before putting the car on the road

    • Doors securely closed?
    • Seat in a comfortable position?
    • Steering position established?
    • Seatbelts on?
    • Mirrors adjusted?
  3. Let’s go

  4. Once I’d understood how to use the car in theory, it was time to put my knowledge to practice.

    Bob asked me to press down on the brake pedal, put the car in gear, and slowly release the brake. I thought I did a decent job of smoothly pulling out of the subways station parking spot.

    Then I was ready to press down on the gas a bit, and after some basic steering, we were on the road.

  5. The road

  6. In my excitement, I may have sped up a little over the limit, but the unruffled Bob simply reminded me to slow down when possible, and then began talking about some good driving habits I could adopt.

    “You know Bollywood?” he asked.


    “Well, you need to be shaking your head even more than those dancers,” Bob said - teaching me how to shoulder-check at turns and before changing lanes.

    We went through some basic manoeuvres during the lesson:

    • Checking my mirrors and blind spots
    • Signalling with my indicator
    • Changing lanes
    • Turning right

    Your driving instructor will tailor the first lesson to how confident you are behind the wheel. If you’re feeling reluctant to try something, or have enough experience to try advanced manoeuvres, be sure to let them know.

  7. After the lesson

  8. Time flew by - I could hardly believe my hour was up, but Bob’s car had a timer that showed exactly how long we had been driving. He asked whether I had any questions or concerns, and explained the things I could work on next time.

    I didn’t need to schedule a further lesson, but some driving instructors offer discounts for block bookings, so see if you can book the same slot for several weeks at a time. Ideally, you should have 2 or 3 classes a week to minimize time between lessons so you don't forget what you're learning.

    But don't rush. Everyone learns at their own pace and it's important to be fully prepared when you take your test.

    Good luck!

    Before your lesson:

    1. Get some sleep

    2. Do NOT drink the night before

    3. Breakfast!

    4. Double check where and when you're being picked up

    5. Choose comfy, non-slip shoes

    6. Take glasses if you need them

    7. Remember your G1 licence


    Farida started writing for ingenie in 2015. She got her Ontario licence in 2014 and her first car was a manual 2003 VW Jetta GLS 1.8T. Follow her on Twitter.