The fear of learning to drive is more common than you might think. Teens, as well as adults – often ask us how to gain confidence in driving, as well as how to develop good driving techniques despite their anxiety.
Rest assured, it is normal to feel nervous when learning how to drive. Between learning all of the road rules, the inner workings of controlling your car, deciphering road signs, and anticipating the actions of other drivers – we understand it can feel overwhelming when you’re just starting out.
In reality, it is no different from learning any new skill. Good driving techniques come from learning the correct set of skills that form the foundation of the driving process.
These skills practiced over time will become part of your muscle memory which in turn become habitual.
Below we will outline some driving tips for nervous drivers, to help you overcome your fears, and assist you in taking that leap forward, to independence and freedom!
Find an instructor you’re comfortable with
The first step in overcoming your fear of learning to drive, is to find a driving instructor that you’re comfortable with. While it’s often easy to learn to drive with your parents, if mum is sitting beside you in the passenger’s seat yelling ‘BREAK – BREAK NOW’ every couple of minutes, this won’t exactly help with your own anxiety.
The key here is to find an instructor which is calm, friendly in nature and understanding of your fears. Someone who knows when to slightly push you out of your comfort zone (when you’re ready), and knows when to pull back if it’s all getting too much to handle. Learning to drive with a fellow anxious driver, will only mean that their fears are projected onto you.
A family member or friend may not be the best solution for you – unless they are able to remain patient and calm. And it is also important to note that not all external driving instructors may be a great fit either. Do your research, and try out an instructor on a trial basis. If you gel well with their personality and teaching methods, continue your lessons with them!
Start off small
The last thing you want to do if you’re a nervous driver is to jump in the deep end too quickly. Our advice is to start off on a small scale (quiet residential roads), and slowly build your way up to tackling main roads and freeways.
Here at X Factor Driving School, we’re very fortunate to have access to the METEC facility, which allows us to teach students in an off-road driving course, simulating real road conditions (without the stress!). This allows us to teach our students good driving techniques before even hitting the roads!
Starting off small, and taking baby steps is a guaranteed way to help you gain confidence and overcome your fears of driving.
Don’t feel rushed
We know it’s easier said than done, but don’t feel rushed when learning how to drive. We understand that many of your friends may be getting their P’s on their 18th birthday – but if you don’t feel ready, this is completely okay! Take your time, there is no shame in learning how to drive properly and feeling confident behind the wheel, before booking your test. We have taught many adult students and have helped them overcome their fear of driving, so whether you’re 18, 25 or even older, there is certainly no need to feel embarrassed or pressured.
Another key element of not feeling rushed, is actually when you’re on the road! Nervous drivers can often feel intimidated by others on the road but you must remember to not tackle dangerous merges or manoeuvres just because someone behind you is getting impatient. Your safety, and the safety of other road users is paramount. A safe gap will always eventually arise – so learn to judge when this gap is made available and proceed accordingly. This judgement takes time to develop and we can certainly assist you with learning how to do this.
Practice, practice, practice!
Often when we’re asked how to overcome driving anxiety, we tell our students that practice makes perfect! Like with many phobias, exposing ourselves in small doses to situations which cause fear, can slowly help to desensitize and rationalise this fear.
Instead of going for a long 2 hour driving lesson – start by doing lessons of a smaller time period – maybe half an hour to an hour. As you become comfortable with this, you can work your way up to longer drives, and more difficult roads. We recommend driving at every opportunity – whether its 15 minutes in the morning to school, or half an hour to grandma’s house – take advantage of every opportunity.
Particularly when it comes to learning how to park – you certainly will need to take some to learn how to correctly do this. Practice is key when learning how to park, so set up some cones or wheelie bins and keep trying until you have perfected it!
Remember to breathe and focus on the positive
When we’re feeling very anxious, we can often forget to breathe. The last thing we want to do is evoke a panic attack while driving, so adopting some simple breathing techniques can help to make you feel calmer. Start by breathing deeply through your nose, right into the base of your lungs. Slowly exhale from your mouth, counting down in your head from ten to zero.
You can also use the following affirmations to help you change your thoughts. Try keep your mind-set positive to minimise your fears.
- Driving is a common, everyday activity. I am an alert driver participating in a common activity with care.
- I do not have to drive fast. I can drive in the left-hand lane if I want to travel slower than other cars.
- I do not have to risk switching lanes at the last minute. If I miss a turn-off, I can safely go back.
We hope the above tips help you on your journey to becoming a wonderful driver with confidence! Learning to overcome a fear of driving takes time and patience but it is certainly achievable! Be sure to get in touch with us if you’d like some assistance with learning how to drive, or overcoming your anxieties when behind the wheel. We’re always happy to help!
See how we helped Gillian go from anxious learner to confident driver!