Congratulations, you’ve passed your driving test. You’ve got your licence, insured your car and you’re ready to put your foot to the pedal and take to the roads – this time without an instructor or invigilator. Well, at least, that’s what it says on paper. But perhaps you aren’t feeling confident enough.
Not sure you’re prepared to take that step just yet? Do you feel a rush of anxiety when you’re behind the wheel? Relax, many people who have just passed their test feel like this. Driving on your own can be very nerve wracking, certainly for the first couple of weeks.
It’s a big step going from catching a bus and walking, or asking your mum for a lift, to driving anywhere you want to go. You’re becoming more independent and it’s going to be an exciting process. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous. In fact, according to an article in the Daily Mail, two-thirds of motorists aged under 25 say they lack confidence when driving. But confidence comes with time. If the nerves are really getting to you, here are a few things you can do to help.
1 – Don’t give your friends lifts straight away
The first thing you should do is remove any distractions that are currently making you feel uneasy and one of the main distractions for young drivers can be friends in the car. In fact, according to the Daily Mail, the risk of teen drivers dying in a crash doubles if friends are in the car. This can be due to a lack of concentration or bad influences.
This may mean telling your friends you can’t give them lifts for a while. It’s your car, think about you. The quicker you become accustomed to driving, the sooner they’ll be able to have lifts. As they’re your friends, they should have no problem with it. They were getting around fine until now anyway, right? You’ll have plenty of time to go on road trips and travel to theme parks later.
2 – Ignore your phone
Not only is it illegal to use your phone whilst driving, just the sound of it going off can be distracting. If you keep your phone on silent whilst you’re driving it could stop you from even thinking about it. According to an article on the Mail Online, one in four car accidents are caused by phone use behind the wheel.
3 – Make others aware
It might be worth getting some ‘P plates’. Having these displayed on your car will let others around you know that you’re a new driver. Seeing as though every driver has been a newbie at one point, they’ll hopefully be more understanding if you make any small mistakes. You’ll become more confident after time, so leave the plates on as long as it takes.
4 – Improve skills and gain experience
The best way to conquer your fears is to face up to them. The more you drive, the more you will become used to it. To help, you could take part in a driving scheme like Pass Plus, which gives you an additional 6+ hours of practice with an instructor to help build up your confidence and improve your skills. It might also be a good idea to simply drive around local areas, perhaps with someone you trust, to get more used to the roads.
5 – Calm your nerves
You might find something in particular helps you focus and relax. Some first time drivers try playing soothing music when they’re driving. You could try this, or play any music that’ll help you feel more at ease. Don’t have your music turned up too loud though as it can be distracting and prevent you from hearing sirens on emergency vehicles.
Is there anyone you feel particularly comfortable with? Perhaps your mum or dad? Maybe take them for short drives in your area. Even if it’s just to nip to the shops, it’s all experience that’ll help build your confidence.
6 – Practice makes perfect
It might take some time before you start feeling completely at ease, but just remember we’ve all been there and it’s okay to make small mistakes from time to time. The best thing to do is get out there and work on the things you think you need to work on. Perhaps go out with an experienced driver like a parent or guardian. If you need to practice driving on the motorway, ask them to come out with you and help you. If you have a black box, check your data to see your good and bad driving habits and see where you need to improve.
7 – Remember you are not alone
Importantly, know you are not alone. Most experienced drivers have felt nerves on the road at one point or another, and we’ve all started somewhere. There are many young drivers out there who have the same feelings of anxiety. If you’d like to talk to others who have had similar experiences to what you’re feeling now, visit forums like The Student Room.
Now get out there and make the most of your new found freedom. Let us know how you get on, and what helps you settle your nerves.