Passing my driving test was one of the happiest days and scariest days of my life. After three failed tests, over 120 driving lessons and several panic attacks, I was finally handed my test certificate to say I could drive and I was elated, but when I left the building I was hit with the sudden fear that I now didn't have an instructor by my side and I would have to learn to drive on my own. Driving and I have always had a love-hate relationship. I love driving because it gets me from a-to-b without the need of public transport, but I've always been a nervous driver and as soon as I got behind the wheel my leg would hover over my clutch and begin to shake uncontrollably and I'd stall within seconds. I've lost count of the amount of times I've cried hysterically behind the wheel and had a full blown tantrum in front of my instructor, so when I left my test and knew I had to finally fend for myself, it was a bit of a reality shock.
My first car was and still is a white Fiat 500. I remember going to pick my car up with my dad and thinking 'how could anyone trust me on the road'. We took the long way back to my house so I could have a practice with someone in the car and then parked in my driveway. That car remained parked in my driveway for several weeks, until my husband convinced me I needed to get back behind the wheel.
At first I was apprehensive about driving on my own and I made a lot of mistakes - failing to indicate - check, getting too close on a roundabout - check, reversing into a wall - unfortunately check. I made every mistake someone who has never driven before could make, but apart from a dent in my car that got fixed, I was fine and in fact, crashing my car within the first few weeks made me a safer, more cautious driver. Fast forward a year later and I can happily say I've found my driving confidence. It took some building up and wasn't easy, but I'm now happier than ever on the roads. I drove to Newcastle the other week which is a three hour motorway journey and didn't flinch and I'm now looking at holidays down south. So how did I get my driving confidence? Here's a few of my tips.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The best thing you can do is get behind the wheel as often as possible and practice. Every time you go out on the road you will be faced with more challenges and the more you drive, the more you will learn how to overcome these difficulties.
Remember every driver makes mistakes
If you're wanting to improve your driving confidence, the most important thing you need to remember if that every driver makes mistakes. Many drivers believe that you actually learn to drive once you have passed your test, rather than in your lessons and I agree. When you're on your own you need to make your own decisions and adapt to different situations on the road. These can all take some getting used to and at first you will make mistakes, just make sure you're being as safe as possible and when in doubt take it slow.
Go on a drive with an experienced driver
If you are still struggling, consider going on a drive with a friend or family member who is an experienced driver. They can act as both a passenger and a little mentor and can give you tips on anything that worries you. When I first got my car, I asked my dad to come with me while I drove on the motorway and only say something about my driving if it looked like I was going wrong. If you don't know an experienced driver, there's nothing wrong with booking additional lessons with an instructor if you feel like you are struggling with certain things.
Get on the motorway as soon as possible
This was probably one of my biggest mistakes. It took me several months to get on the motorway because the thought of it terrified me, but it isn't as bad as it seems. I find the motorway so much easier to drive on than any dual carriageway because you have plenty of space and as long as you indicate in good time, most drivers will move over for you. The sooner you get on the motorway, the sooner you will realise there is nothing to be scared about and you can start planning your road trips.
I found the quote 'life is always a bumpy road, eventually you just have to learn how to drive on it' while searching for driving quotes and although it's more aimed at life, I think it pretty much sums up learning to drive. Whether you're a learner or someone who has passed their test, there will always be obstacles on the road and challenges you will face, but if you persevere and believe in yourself, you will eventually be able to drive on those 'bumpy roads'.
Have you ever experienced anxiety while driving?