The ultimate new drivers' glossary

Lesson Type
Last updated: 13 Nov 2019

When you’re learning to drive you hear a lot of new things. New words, new ideas, new acronyms that are meant to be easy to remember but somehow aren’t, there’s just too much to learn!

To help you out, we’re building a living glossary of terms that learner drivers might hear from their instructors, other learners or anyone else.


ABS – Antilock braking system. The technology which allows you to steer the car while braking sharply. You may feel a juddering when ABS is active.

Accelerator – The pedal that controls your speed.

ADI – Approved driving instructor. A fully qualified driving instructor who should display a green badge in their windscreen.

Automatic vehicle – A vehicle with a gearbox which changes gears for the driver. Visit ‘Learning to drive in an automatic car‘ for more information.

ANPR – Automatic number plate recognition. Used in places like petrol stations to gather number plates.


Bay parking – A manoeuvre which involves parking in an allotteded bay by reversing into it. May come up on your driving test. Visit our YouTube channel for more information on manoeuvres.

Box junctions – Junctions with a yellow crosshatched box indicating that traffic may not enter unless their exit is clear. Read our guide to junctions for more information.

Brake – The pedal that slows you down.

Blind Spots – Areas of the road which cannot be seen by a driver, even when using the rearview or side mirrors. Read our guide to blind spots for more information.

BHP – Brake horse power. A measurement of your car’s power.

Block bookings – Booking large numbers of driving lessons and paying upfront. Some instructors offer block booking discounts.


Car tax – See VED.

Car sharing – Driving lessons in which several learners are in the car together, taking turns. Also known as piggybacking. Not an ideal way to learn to drive.

Camber – The curve of the road from crown to curb.

Crown – The highest point of the camber, in the middle of the road.

Curb – The edge of the road/start of the pavement. Hitting the curb is never, ever a good thing.

Clutch control – Preventing the car from stalling and exercising fine control using the clutch. Visit our guide to clutch control for more information.

Clutch – The pedal that disengages the engine from the wheels.

Cockpit drill – The basic car set up routine that you should be doing every time you get into the car. Read ‘Master the cockpit drill in 6 easy steps‘ for more information.

Controlled junctions – Junctions featuring traffic lights and often including multiple lanes. Read our guide to junctions for more information.

Code of practice – A list of behaviours and professional standards for driving instructors set out by the DSA.

CRB checked – Criminal records bureau checked. A check to make sure that someone has no criminal convictions. All new driving instructors now must be CRB checked.



Dashboard warning lights – Little symbols which light up on your dashboard to let you know if anything’s wrong with your vehicle. Check out our guide to dashboard warning lights for more information.

Dash cam – A dashboard-mounted camera used to record your journey. Footage from dash cams is sometimes used in insurance disputes. See ‘Do I need a dash cam?‘ for more information.

Diesel – A type of fuel which is compressed before ignition, unlike petrol. Visit our guide to petrol vs diesel for more information.

Defensive driving – Expecting the unexpected when out on the road. Visit our guide to defensive driving for more information.

Dual carriageway – A high speed main road with two or more lanes. Visit our guide to dual carriageways for more information.

Dual controls – A system which places pedals in both the drivers’ and passenger side footwells, giving your driving instructor/examiner some degree of control of the vehicle during your driving lessons and test day.

DSA – Driving standards agency. The government body in charge of most things to do with driving and learning to drive in Great Britain.

DSSSM – Driving routine which stands for ‘doors, seat, steering, seatbelt and mirrors’. Used to help learners to remember how to perform the cockpit drill. Read our guide to the cockpit drill for more information.

Driving test report – The feedback form you get after completing your driving test. The driving test report is thoroughly explained in our article ‘Your driving test report explained‘.


EuroNCAP – The European New Car Assessment Programme. A car safety assessment.

Emergency stop – A controlled but sudden piece of braking. Comes up in around a third of driving tests.


Filter lane/lights – The lights and lanes used to control traffic in busy areas.

Fully comprehensive – The highest level of insurance cover available. Covers you and any third parties. Visit our guide to learner driver insurance for more information.


Green badge – The badge a fully qualified driving instructor displays on their windscreen.


Handbrake – Also known as the parking brake. Powerful brake used to keep the car stationary, usually found in the middle of the cockpit, near the gearstick.

Hazard lights – Lights which you only turn on when your car has broken down, your car is obstructing traffic or there’s a serious hazard ahead. Usually found as a white triangle on a red button on your dashboard.

Hazard perception – Part of the driving theory test which involves spotting hazards in real-life clips of driving scenarios. Visit our guide to the theory test for more information.


IAM – Institute of advanced motorists. A motoring organisation.

Independent driving – A section of the driving test where you’ll have to drive unaided for around 10 minutes. You’ll have to follow road signs and traffic signals without any help from the instructor. Visit our guide to independent driving for more information.

Indicators – The flashing lights on the dies of your vehicle which are used at junctions to signal which direction you intend to travel in. Read ‘When to use your indicators‘ for more information.

Interior mirror – Also known as the rearview mirror, the interior mirror is the rectangular one mounted in the middle of the windscreen on the inside of the vehicle. Read our guide to positioning your mirrors for more information.

Intensive driving course – A method of learning to drive quickly which involves taking a lot of driving tuition in a short space of time. Read ‘Should I take an intensive driving course?‘ for more information.



Lane positioning – Ensuring that your car is in the correct place in your chosen lane to make a manoeuvre.

LADA routine – Driving routine which stands for ‘look, assess, decide, act’.

L-plates – The temporary markings placed on a vehicle which someone’s learning to drive in. Visit our guide to placing your L-plates in the right position for more information.

Level crossings – Crossings where railway lines pass over the road. There are several types of level crossings, visit our guide to level crossings for more information.


Marked junctions – Junctions with stop signs and lines. These will almost certainly come up on your driving test. Visit our guide to junctions for more detailed information.

MSPSL routine – Driving routine standing for ‘mirrors, signal, position. speed, look’. Read our guide to the MSPSL routine for more information.

Manoeuvres – Particularly controlled pieces of driving which’ll come up during your driving test. The manoeuvres you may encounter are: turn in the road, reverse around a corner, reverse parallel park and reverse bay park. Find out more on our YouTube channel.

MOT – Ministry of Transport test. Test to ensure that your car is up to a minimum standard of safety and roadworthiness.

Mock driving test – A pretend driving test taken with your usual instructor to see how well you’d perform in the real thing.

MPH – Miles per hour. A measurement of speed.


No claims bonus – A discount on the cost of your insurance if you’ve not claimed with them for a full year. Find out more in our article ‘What is a no claims bonus?‘.


One-way traffic – Traffic which can only pass in one direction.


P-plates – Probationary plates. Optional plates displaying a large green P, which you can choose to place on your vehicle in the months after you pass your test. See ‘Should I use P-plates‘ for more information.

Pass rate – The percentage of a driving instructor’s pupils who pass their practical driving test.

Pass Plus – Advanced training for new drivers. Visit our guide to Pass Plus for more information.

Parallel parking – A manoeuvre which involves parking in a parallel space by reversing into it. May come up on your driving test. Read ‘How to park a car‘ for more information.

Pelican crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing featuring a pedestrian-controlled set of traffic lights. Read our guide to pedestrian crossings for more information.

Petrol – Fuel for vehicles. Made from dead dinosaurs. Horribly expensive. Visit ‘What’s the difference between petrol and diesel?‘ for more information.

PDI – Potential driving instructor, an instructor in training. Will display a pink badge in their windscreen.

Puffin crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing which is similar to but more sophisticated than the pelican crossing. Read our guide to pedestrian crossings for more information.

Pegasus crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing which people mounted on horseback can use. Read our guide to pedestrian crossings for more information.

Provisional licence – The green driving licence that all learner drivers in the UK have. Visit our ‘UK driving licence explained‘ for more information.

POM routine – Driving routine which stands for ‘Preparation, observation, manoeuvre’.



Reverse bay park – A manoeuvre which involves reversing into a parking bay. May come up on your driving test. Read ‘How to park a car‘ for more information

Reverse around a corner – A manoeuvre which involves, unsurprisingly, reversing around a corner. May come up on your driving test. Visit our YouTube channel for helpful videos on manoeuvres.

Roundabout – A type of junction that often presents a challenge to new drivers. Visit ‘All about roundabouts‘ for more information.

Road tax – See VED.

RoSPA – The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.


SCALP routine – A driving routine which stands for safe, convenient and legal position. Used when looking for a safe place to stop your vehicle. Visit our guide to moving off and stopping for more information.

School crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing found near schools and often manned by a lollipop lady/man. Read our guide to pedestrian crossings for more information.

Start-stop technology – A reasonably recent development in car tech which allows the engine to automatically stop running when the vehicle is stationary and automatically restart when you begin to move again.

Stalling – A sudden and (usually) unexpected stop of the engine due to poor clutch control or inappropriate gear selection. Visit our guide to clutch control for more information.

Stopping distance – The distance it would take your car to come to a complete stop if you were to sharply brake. Increases in wet weather.

Supervising driver – A qualified driver who accompanies you on practise drives. Read ‘Who can teach me to drive?‘ for more information.

Side mirrors – Also known as door mirrors and wing mirrors, side mirrors are the ones attached to the sides of your vehicle. Read our guide to setting up your mirrors for more information.

Show me tell me questions – Questions your examiner will ask you at the start of your driving test. They relate to the maintenance and safety of the vehicle. Visit our guide to show me tell me questions and answers for more info.


Tailgating – Driving unnecessarily close to the vehicle in front of you. See ‘How to deal with tailgaters‘ for more information.

Telematics – A way of tracking your vehicle’s position and speed using GPS. This is how ‘black box’ insurance works.

Toucan crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing which both pedestrians and cyclists can cross. Read our guide to pedestrian crossings for more information.

Traffic light sequence – The order in which the lights on a set of traffic lights illuminate. Visit our guide to traffic lights for more information.

Third party only – A type of insurance that only covers damage and injury to the person/vehicle you damage. Is the minimal level of cover and is popular with learner drivers due to the lower cost.

Third party fire and theft – A type of insurance cover that includes damage caused by fire and theft in addition to the third party cover mentioned above.

Theory test – Multiple choice exam which you must pass before you are entitled to book your practical test. Visit our guide to revising for your theory test for more information.

Tread depth – The ‘tread’ are the grippy lines on your tyres. The grooves in your tread must be at least 1.6mm deep, but it’s recommended that you change your tyres once the tread depth approaches 3mm. Visit ‘The new drivers’ guide to tyres‘ for more information.

Turn in the road – Also known as the three-point-turn, the turn in the road is a manoeuvre which you will no longer encounter in your driving test, but is still a good skill to learn. It involves turning the car around without touching the kerb. Visit our YouTube channel for videos to help out with this manoeuvre.


Unmarked junctions – Small junctions without stop/give way signs or lines. Usually found in rural areas. Read ‘The learner drivers’ guide to junctions‘ for more information.


V11 reminder – The letter you receive to tell you that your VED is up for renewal.

VED – Vehicle Excise Duty, also known as road tax, car tax and vehicle tax. Annual tax payable on vehicles. Based on your vehicle’s emissions. Visit ‘All you need to know about road tax‘ for more information.


Zebra crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing identified by the black and white striped path across the road and the striped poles topped with flashing amber beacons. Read our guide to pedestrian crossings for more information.