Meg here again! I’m a self-confessed nervous driver. Small tasks when it comes to driving stress. me. out. And whilst it may seem like all of my friends are total naturals when it comes to getting behind the wheel and just getting on with it – I know I’m not alone in being a nervous driver.
So how can I help? Well – get ready, because if you’re a nervous driver, I’ve pulled together my top 5 nerve-wracking situations when I’m out on the road, but also how to deal with them. Here is my ‘Guide for nervous drivers’.
1. Filling up the car with fuel
Every car’s fuel situation is different. The side you fill up, if it’s petrol or diesel, how to even get the fuel cap open! It goes without saying that if they were all the same, life would probably be a lot easier, but as it is, they aren’t and filling up with fuel can send me into a panic-filled mess.
It all stemmed from the first time I filled up my Fiat 500. It involved me forgetting which side of the car the petrol tank was on and then being stood for about half an hour trying to secure the cap back on to an audience of onlookers. It all ended with me having to call my boyfriend to come and rescue me. All things considered, this didn’t do much to build my drivers confidence and unashamedly, I didn’t fill my own petrol tank up for the next few months without someone for moral support!
It’s important to nail the basics so that if and when the warning ‘low fuel’ light comes on, it doesn’t need to be a source of utter panic. Check the handbook, practise opening and closing the fuel cap away from prying eyes, and you’ll have no problems in simply driving to the petrol station independently when you need to. Watch YouTube tutorials if you need too - no biggie!
Top tip – most cars will have a little arrow next to the fuel pump sign in your car. If you forget which side it is on when you get to the station, check that for a reminder.
2. Being stuck in rush hour traffic
For some, being stuck in a traffic jam may just be a part of life, and it may not stress the living daylights out of you. For me, this isn’t the case. I was used to much more rural routes but travelling to work often sees me stuck in gridlock traffic on the parkway. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about avoiding rush hour traffic, but I do have some tips to calm your nerves!
There isn’t always an easy solution to getting stuck in traffic, but you can take steps to manage your nerves and stress for when this does happen. The most important thing is to remember to take it easy and to not rush - if you’re extra nervous then don’t feel embarrassed about rocking your P Plates as this will remind other drivers to give you extra space whilst you do your thing.
If you’re still super anxious about being stuck in traffic, consider leaving a little bit earlier, or try finding a less congested route. It will all help you build your confidence.
3. Driving on the motorway
For me, this was easily the most nerve-wracking of them all! I remember the first time I drove on the motorway – it was to a shopping centre around 40 miles away from me. My sweaty palms were shaking as I grasped onto the steering wheel, and pretty much stayed that way the whole journey. Yes, I might have stayed in the left ‘slow’ lane the whole way, but I got there safely and felt so much more confident afterwards despite my initial nerves about it all.
A really important tip is to always make sure that you know how to operate your car correctly before setting off especially if you are planning to drive on the motorway or a longer-distance trip for the first time. Don’t assume that all cars as the same and remember to check how it all works. Being confidence with simple things like clearing the condensation on the windows and operating the windscreen wipers in different weather conditions will make all the difference.
4. Doing a 'hill start’ independently
The fear of 'rolling back’ if you’re doing a hill start can be very real! This is especially the case if you are at a set of traffic lights and might have a queue of cars waiting behind you. The last thing we want to do is hit the car behind us because we didn’t manage to get the hill start right on the first go.
If you are nervous then a good piece of advice is to always apply the handbrake if you are waiting in traffic and don’t release until you are confident that you have found the biting point. Also, remember to leave a decent gap between you and the car in front. That way, if they don’t quite get their hill start right, it gives them more space to fix it before hitting you.
5. Going somewhere completely new
It might sound silly, but I can assure you that it can be nerve-wracking especially if you don’t know the roads or the speed limits.
Heading out on new roads and routes if a big cause for concern for me. If I don’t know where I’m going, I won’t know the types of roads or speed limits when I get there – which I find super nerve-wracking.
Sat Nav all the way! If you aren’t lucky enough to have an inbuilt Sat Nav in your car, then you could always buy a phone cradle for your car and download Google Maps. This really helped me, especially when it comes to things like speed limits if it’s not always immediately obvious, as Google will tell you. It’s always important to remember to keep your eyes open anyway. Sat Navs, although they’re great and haven’t let me down so far, aren’t always 100% correct. Double-check where you’re going using road signs, and keep your eyes peeled for speed limit signs.
You’ve heard it before, but practice really does make perfect. My best advice for building your driving confidence is to celebrate each and every small achievement you have - whether that is filling your car up by yourself for the first time or parking in a bay in a busy shopping centre. These are all wins and feeling positive about something that you have done well will help you feel less nervous and more confident in being a great driver!
I hope my tips have helped you – from one nervous driver to another!