Driver Hub  Learning to drive  Anxiety and nerves   First time driving nerves
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Kimberley Dodge profile

Kimberley Dodge

March 19, 2018

Learning to drive Young driver stories 7 min read

The shimmering, right-hand door ceremoniously opens, revealing the gleaming interior of the driver’s seat; the moment has arrived. Months of waiting for your seventeenth birthday, jealously watching your older friends have their first endeavour behind the wheel. But now it’s your turn. It feels as though the heavens have parted and the celestial harmony of angelic voices invite you to sit- for the first time ever- in the driver’s seat. Your instructor slides in beside you, and the car doors slam shut. Suddenly the heavenly light goes out and the cherubic melody is silenced. You pause. Beads of sweat on your brow. The realisation dawns upon you. You’re about to drive a car…


It will be fine… right?

We all hold this spectacular expectation of our first ever driving lesson; everything will run smoothly, your instructor will be impressed, you’ll be a natural behind the wheel. But, for most of us, the moment you plonk yourself into the driver’s seat, all your hopes and dreams slither away, and you just become a nervous blob of shaky jelly. Moving past this initial fear may be difficult, and the first lesson is always extremely overwhelming, but this is the beginning milestone in learning to drive. Not moving off, not changing gear, not the emergency stop: confidence. I’m not talking arrogantly egotistical, always-in-the-right-hand-lane racer confidence. I mean having enough confidence to start the engine and tackle your driving journey head-on. Having recently experienced these first lesson jitters myself, here are some top tips to avoid dissolving to a pile of mushy nerves at your first driving attempt.


Sensory Overload

After the initiation ceremony of entering the driver’s cockpit has ceased, what follows is a list of instructions and adjustments you need to make to tailor the driving seat for you. Preceding this is a very unceremonious fumbling and fannying around; adjusting your seat, shuffling it back and forward (some even go up and down which is very exciting), twisting your mirrors, putting your seatbelt on, washing the windscreen… and so on and so on… You will soon adopt this ritual whenever you set foot inside your instructor’s car and, although it’s a necessary nuisance, it can feel a tad overwhelming doing it for the first time. How are you going to remember all this? How do you know if you seat is in the right position? What was the order again? And just like that your eye starts twitching and your foot starts tapping with stress. But don’t let it get to you. Trivial things like seat adjustments and mirrors soon become a habit in your driving routine: you’ll instinctively know exactly what you need to do the moment you get in the car. And anyway, does anyone ever really get their seat in the right position?


Robots in Disguise

Moving off for the first time can be extremely daunting; you are going to have full control of a highly powerful machine that can cause serious damage if handled incorrectly. However, unless you’ve got a date with a Transformer, nothing horrifyingly dangerous is going to happen. It can feel a little scary, knowing that at your fingertips lies the possibility of a road accident, but don’t forget – your driving instructor likely has dual control. This means that they have a second set of pedals on the passenger side of the car, allowing them full access to all control of the car. Therefore, to rid yourself of any nervous driving, you simply need to fully trust your instructor. Have faith that they will not allow anything bad to happen, as they can easily stop the car in an emergency situation. However, if the car suddenly mutates into Optimus Prime, I doubt they could take on an army of Decepticons.


Live life in the Slow Lane

Assuming you have established that you are not driving a mutating, giant, robot car, you embark on this new-found confidence. The car is moving (maybe only twenty miles per hour but oh well), you know how to stop, you know how to wash a windscreen and your seating position actually starts to feel comfortable. But, you suddenly find that your instructor is adding more and more to your list of things to do. Now you have to check mirrors, indicate, change gears- what even is a gear!? My instructor once tried explaining to me how gears worked and I honestly think that unless you’re Elon Musk, the clutch will never make sense (If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, he’s the genius that sent his car into space- if you don’t believe me, Google it). It will forever be just the pedal you push that lets you move the weird stick next to the driver’s seat, allowing you to drive faster without the car sounding like a bumble bee being stamped on. My advice when tackling all this new information is to simply take it slow; there’s no pressure to speed through the learning process like my mother in the right-hand lane of a dual carriageway (just to clarify, that means too fast). Take it all in bit by bit, absorbing everything at your own pace. If it feels overwhelming, just ask your instructor to repeat their explanation, or to delay developing to the next skill until a later lesson. It’s only your first time behind the wheel, take a deep breath and give yourself a break.


Evidently, there’s a lot you can be nervous about when embarking on the first steps of your driving journey. However, many of these fears are just down to first-time jitters, and your confidence will soon reassemble the pile of shaking jelly into an independent and self-assured driver. So, don’t be worried by your nerves on the first day, they’ll soon ease and you’ll be speeding down the parkway like my mum (just don’t go over the speed limit like she does). Now, cast aside your worries and realise that nothing bad is going to happen… unless you do accidentally end up driving a Transformer, then I cannot guarantee your safety.

Kimberley Dodge profile

By Kimberley Dodge

'For me, driving means freedom. I passed my test a year ago and so I’ve been enjoying getting where I want, when I want. I’m now 18, so having my own car has given me a lot more independence: I no longer have to rely on the taxi of mum and dad!'  See more posts by Kimberley

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