The first drive after a break

Getting back behind the wheel after a break can be daunting - here's Meg's top tips to help!


By Marmalade Author

Updated on Aug 5th, 2022

Hi guys! My name is Meg, I live in Manchester and I’ve been working in PR & Marketing since graduating from The University of Manchester a few years ago. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll know that I actually took seven attempts to pass my practical test, so my driving journey to actually passing my test has been a little longer and more complicated than most.

Unfortunately, my confidence took another knock earlier this year when I was involved in a car accident as a passenger. We were going straight on at a junction and someone on the other side of the road pulled out, without looking, as they attempted to turn right so we slammed on the breaks as quickly as we could but unfortunately, couldn’t avoid a collision. What scared me the most was knowing that there was nothing that we could have done to avoid it, in other words, we were powerless in that situation, which made me feel like it could just as easily happen again, at anytime, without warning. Even now, whether I’m driving or not, when I see a car approach a junction quickly, I just imagine that they are going to pull out and crash right into me, and anxiety starts to take over.

I decided to take a break from driving!

Soon after the accident, we were plunged into a third lockdown which meant that I didn’t actually have to drive to the office at all and we were encouraged to work from home five days a week. Considered that driving was no longer a necessity to go about my day to day life and coupled with my nervousness to even be in a car altogether, in case another accident were to happen, I simply made the decision to stop driving. I did all my shopping online for my groceries so there was really no urgent reason for me to get in the car, which I was thankful for!

Getting back behind the wheel

As you’ll all know, being a young driver isn’t cheap, and my beloved Fiat 500, affectionately named Pablo, was just gathering dust in my apartment car park, whilst I was still paying for my monthly finance, insurance, breakdown cover and everything else in between. 

As restaurants and shops were opening back up again, I knew it wouldn’t be long until the offices would be too. It didn’t come as a surprise when my employer shortly after announced a phased return to work starting with one day a week in the office. This meant one thing: my days of avoiding Pablo were numbered and the thought of that first drive filled me with dread.

I remember getting into the car for the first time with sweaty palms and shaking hands firmly on the wheel as I turned the key in the ignition and prepared to set off. Flicking from station to station to find a distraction from thinking about the car accident, I told myself reassuringly to just take my time and it would all be OK.

It’s hard to forget just how incredibly anxious I felt during that first drive. I had made it almost the entire way when I got stuck on the top of hill as I was signalling to turn right into my office car park. I struggled to move off and felt myself rolling back. I started to feel very pressured as there was a queue of traffic behind me and in those moments it was as if everything I knew about driving had gone from my mind!

Feeling overwhelmed, the gap between me and the car behind started to close, so I applied the handbrake, closed my eyes and took a moment to calm down and gather my thoughts before trying again. I just wanted to pretend for a moment that it wasn’t happening. The cars started to beep their horns more aggressively and my heart was beating faster and faster through my chest, I felt dizzy, sick and it was just a nightmare.

Luckily, someone from work was driving past, so they came to the rescue, and drove my Fiat straight into the car park for me, and I walked into the office a little more embarrassed that I am willing to admit, hoping that no one had noticed.

In all honesty, I have no regrets when it comes to taking a break from driving as I just didn't feel confident enough that I would be able to drive safely. That being said, I do wish that I had practiced before getting in the car to go to work – I could have taken my time to get back into the swing of things and maybe I wouldn’t have experienced quite so much panic when things didn’t go quite right.

My top tips to nervous drivers

Thinking back to that first drive, it’s more important than you think to take any steps that are within your control to reduce stress and anxiety.

One thing I would recommend is brushing up on your driving skills in any areas where you particularly lack confidence especially if you have taken a break and are feeling the pressure.

Personally, I underestimated the rush hour traffic as I hadn’t really been in the office before, after a year of lockdown restrictions and working remotely from home as it was a relatively new job. One piece of advice I would give to all nervous drivers is to give yourself plenty of time especially if you are driving to work or an appointment, and have to be somewhere by a certain time.

I would also advise getting your practice in with somebody else in the car, ideally an experienced and calm driver, I wish that I’d done this as my first drive after a break was facing the 9am rush on a Monday morning into the city centre. All in all, I would recommend that should other young drivers find themselves in a position where they  become too anxious to drive, there’s no shame in taking a break in driving. Take your time and focus on yourself before hopping back behind the wheel, but allow yourself time to get used to driving again before you head on an essential journey.

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