Fun fact: I’m actually pretty terrified of driving. Or I was until I actually started learning. There’s something about getting inside a metal box that you’re controlling that has the potential to kill people if you’re not paying attention, or get yourself killed, that never really filled me with much excitement. I think I’ve seen far too many episodes of Casualty.
But driving is a really valuable skill to have. It gives you this instant freedom (provided you have a road-legal vehicle, insurance and fuel), a sense of independence, and opens up doors. These are great end-goals to keep in mind when parallel parking gets really frustrating, and combined with other tips I’ve been given from friends that learned to drive before me, the wisdom of my parents, and my own experiences can really banish the fears around learning to drive.
find an instructor you’re comfortable with
the best way to tackle things that scare you, in my opinion, is to ease yourself into it. Finding a driving school and an instructor that you get on with really helps the whole situation. They don’t have to be in the running for BFF status, but it really does make a difference being taught by someone that you feel you can actually learn from. Otherwise you face spending awkward times in a confined space. I was petrified before my first lesson, but my instructor was great at reassuring me that driving isn’t as big of a deal as I was making it out to be in my head.
also make sure that your instructor is
– qualified and approved to teach (or in training)
practice, practice, and more practice
one of the things that really put me off driving when I was old enough to actually start was the fact I never had any time to hone skills. I’m a summer baby, so by the time I’d turned 17 I was flung into a very stressful upper 6th a2 year with extra-curriculars up to my eyeballs. There wasn’t much time at all to fit driving lessons into that, and it continued through my gap year, and into university. Until I finally decided that I’d make time.
practice also doesn’t have to mean clocking up as many hours as you can behind the wheel – though that is incredibly useful – but also learning the theory: hazard perception and your highway code. Sites like Book Learn Pass have a lot of information on the various aspects of learning to drive in an easy-to-understand format, which are so useful if you’re nervous about tackling a new maneuver, I generally feel way more confident doing something for real once I understand the basics of how to accomplish it in theory. So even if you can’t practice on the road because your mum has taken the car you’re insured on out, then you can still get some theory behind you.
don’t care what other people think
i have a bit of a crippling fear of doing something wrong or embarrassing in front of people who are likely to mock me for it. I didn’t have the most fun at school, and being picked up from school for a driving lesson to potentially stall in front of people I knew was something I considered to be world-end worthy back then. Self confidence issues are so much fun in these sort of situations. When you finish school, and realise that people generally don’t give two shits about what you’re doing and that actually, driving is a very useful skill to have, everything becomes much more manageable. Driving is something that we’re not born knowing how to do, it takes time and a few mistakes to learn; most people are sympathetic to your L plates.
talk to people about it
the thing that really kicked my arse into gear about finally getting my licence was the fact that two of my closest friends started learning to drive around the same time, and would tell me how their lessons were going. As with most things, talking and learning about things you don’t understand alleviates fear of the unknown, and having my friends talk about what they covered that day or what they were learning next made me tip from scared into curious. It also reassured me that pretty much everyone finds their first lesson scary, and that it takes a couple to get yourself in gear.
Puns aside, once you get going driving really isn’t as scary as I first thought it would be. It takes practice to get used to being out on the road and build your confidence, but once it’s there it’ll be with you. It’s also important to remember that you need to be really alert when you’re learning and practicing, so make sure you’re well rested before getting behind the wheel.
I hope this has been a little bit helpful for those who have been anxious about learning to drive. Let me know what advice you’d give to new drivers, and your thoughts on pass plus and provisional plates?