Learning to drive is something you’ve always wanted to do, but although you’re excited, your nerves are through the roof. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Driving can be daunting, and lots of people are apprehensive about sitting in the driver’s seat for the first time.
You might be surprised by how common your fear is. Whether it’s the thought of driving at night that keeps you awake, or you’re more worried about driving on the motorway, everyone gets nervous about driving — especially when they’re new to it.
1. Driving at night
When you’re learning to drive, most of your driving lessons happen in the light of day. New drivers don’t have much experience of driving in the dark, and it’s normal to be worried about doing something you’ve never done before.
Are you afraid of things that go bump in the night? Or are you scared you won’t be able to see your burger as you sit in the car park after a late-night trip to the drive thru? Either way, it’s easy to see why almost every driver has been nervous about driving at night at some point.
The best way to get over this driving fear is to drive in the daytime. Once you’ve mastered that, get behind the wheel in the early evening and build yourself up to driving when it’s pitch-black.
It’s worth checking if your instructor can do evening lessons. Practice makes perfect, and after a few late-night drives, you’ll wonder why you were ever scared of driving at night. Additionally, read our guide on driving at night for more advice!
2. Driving on the Motorway
Most people don’t drive on the motorway until they’ve passed their test. You’ll hear tales of people who add an hour onto their driving time if it means they can avoid the M25. This fear of the unknown doesn’t have to hold you back, though.
Although they can seem daunting, with different rules and a higher speed limit, motorway driving is something you’ll pick up quickly with a bit of practice. In fact, you might end up finding it easier than driving on other roads. Motorways are thought to be the safest roads — the main thing to focus on is driving in the correct lane.
If the idea of driving alone on the motorway for the first time worries you, you’re in luck. Since 2018, learner drivers have been able to do driving lessons on the motorway, so it might be something your instructor will cover once you’ve mastered the basics. Although it won’t be part of your test, it’s important to focus on being a safe driver for life.
3. Driving in Poor Weather
The UK is famous for its miserable weather — and for good reason. We’re often at the mercy of rain, ice, and the occasional bit of snow. If we avoided driving whenever the heavens opened, we’d never get things done.
When the weather is bad, you’ll have to deal with things like poor visibility and increased stopping distances, so it’s understandable if driving in the Great British weather sends your anxiety through the roof.
Driving in the rain is the most common scenario you’ll face. You’ll need to at least double your stopping distance and leave plenty of room between yourself and other drivers. It’s also important to avoid aquaplaning by resisting the urge to splash those poor pedestrians when driving through deep puddles. If you do find yourself stuck in a puddle, try to keep calm and ease off the accelerator until you regain control.
It’s almost inevitable that some of your driving lessons will take place during bad weather, so your driving instructor will be on hand to help you adjust. Remember their tips, pay extra attention, and with a bit of practice, you’ll be confident enough to hit the road come rain or shine.
Every driver has been there. You have places to be, but the person in front of you is taking all the time in the world. In these cases, you’ll want to overtake and carry on with your journey. If it’s something you’re not used to doing, overtaking another driver might fill you with fear.
It’s simple, really. You’ll get used to overtaking and being overtaken quickly as you rack up the hours of driving lessons. First, you’ll need to make sure you’re actually allowed to overtake. If you see a circular sign with two cars side by side, with one car being red, you’ll have to hold your horses. This is a no overtaking sign, so you should only overtake cyclists or horse-riders on these roads, providing it’s safe to do so.
When you are allowed to overtake and there are no hazards around, check your mirrors, make sure you have plenty of time and room, and signal right. There are some other rules you’ll need to learn about when to overtake, how to deal with being overtaken, and when you can undertake, but it’s all about timing. It’ll quickly become second nature to you as you gain more experience, and your driving instructor will be there to guide you.
When you’ve reached your destination, as a new driver, you’ll be happy to have made it in one piece and hopefully you’ll have learned to overcome some of your driving anxiety. Having said that, there is one more challenge that many new drivers fear: parking.
You might think that parking is as simple as driving into an empty space and turning off the engine, but there are lots of scenarios and manoeuvres that can test even the most experienced drivers.
The biggest anxiety seems to come from the fear that people are watching and judging. Ask yourself this: have you ever stood in the car park of your local Big Tesco and watched people’s attempts at reverse bay parking? If your answer is no, it’s safe to assume other people are far too busy with their shopping to notice you.
Like with anything else, the best thing to do is to confront your fears head on. Don’t be afraid to talk to your driving instructor about what you’re struggling with. This will mean they can adjust the lesson to suit your needs, and after a few attempts, you’ll be gliding into the free spots in no time.