I hated learning to drive and the whole experience knocked my confidence for a number of years before I made a concerted effort to build my confidence as a driver. So if you are nervous, I completely understand. No matter how excited you are to get driving, it can be daunting but with a little practice, you’ll find that confidence in no time. Here’s some practical advice for anyone learning to drive.
Take your time
There’s no rush to pass your test so if it takes you a while before you switch your green licence for a pink one, that’s fine. I made the mistake of rushing too quickly into my first test and, as a result, I failed.
Take as long as you need to get to the test stage. Listen to the advice of your instructor but don’t feel under pressure to take your test too soon because if you fail it’ll just knock your confidence.
Get as much practice as possible
If you’re able to, get out on the road as much as you can. If you have your own car, all you need is someone over 21 who has held a full licence for three years or more to sit alongside you. Just go for small, easy drives to begin with but start building up. If you can build your confidence doing relaxed, normal drives then not only are you going to ace your test but you’ll carry that confidence through your driving career.
Find the right instructor
I made the mistake of sticking with an instructor I just didn’t click with. He didn’t do anything wrong but his teaching style just didn’t work for me and, as a result, my confidence was shot before I got anywhere near my test. It was only when I switched instructors that I started to make progress but that lack of confidence stuck around for many years.
If you’re not sure about your instructor, don’t be afraid to change. It’ll make a huge difference to how you progress and how you feel once you’ve passed your test.
Work out how you learn
This fits in with the point above. If you know how you learn then you’ll find it easier to find an instructor that suits you. Some of us fare best when thrown in at the deep end and asked to get on with it, others need a more methodical approach where they can consult the theory behind manoeuvres before getting on with them. We’re all different, no one way of learning is better than another.
I found this out too late. If I think about reverse bay parking as a series of steps, I just can’t get it right but if someone had said to me: “Pull up next to the space, full lock away from it then drive backwards into the space,” I probably wouldn’t have struggled as much.
Instead, I had: “Pull up next to the space, drive forwards at full lock away from it, then go into reverse, then a bit of lock towards the space, then when you see this specific point in your mirror, go full lock, then when you see you’re lined up, straighten out…” etc. That didn’t work for me and that’s something that remains for everything else I’ve learned since.
When I was playing roller derby I couldn’t get the hang of walking backwards until someone said: “just walk backwards”. I can’t tell you how much easier it is for me to learn a new skill now I know what I respond to best.
Make sure you’re covered
If you’ve got your own car then you need to be insured. What a lot of learner drivers don’t realise is that you have to be the holder of the insurance if the car you’re learning to drive in is yours. You also get better coverage if you’re the policy holder. If you’re simply a named driver to save some money, you’re usually only covered third party.
Some learners choose specialist learner driver insurance to cover them during that learning period. This avoids the high premiums you get for being a new driver.
Don’t let other drivers pressure you
When you’re on the road, don’t let other drivers pressure you. For the most part, other motorists will see that you’re learning and will keep their distance. There are some horrible, impatient drivers out there and if they’re hassling you, ignore them and keep calm. It’s a fact of life that there are idiots on the road but they have their own problems, you’re doing nothing wrong.
Take the Pass Plus
The Pass Plus is a practical training course that takes at least six hours and helps drivers improve their skills and drive more safely. You can take it any time but it’s ideal for new drivers who want to gain more confidence and get better at driving.
I never did this but it may have saved a lot of anxiety when faced with motorway drives. Living in Norfolk, I’m quite far from a motorway and when I first passed my test, I didn’t even have any need for a dual carriageway. When I started work after college, I was suddenly driving to new places and that was a source of a lot of angst for me. Get this out of the way as soon as you pass your test, especially if you live in a part of the UK that has great motorway links.
If you’re not a confident driver and you’re struggling, talk to family and friends as well as your instructor as they may be able to help with more practice, advice and ways to overcome your specific fears.