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Facing the anxieties around getting back to driving

Chloe Martell profile

Chloe Martell

July 23, 2020

Learning to drive 7 min read

With driving tests now underway again for many across the UK, young learners across the country have been forced to halt their lessons as the pandemic hit the UK this year and will have now begun the task of building up skills and confidence behind the wheel.

But for many, this has been a trying time with some having to spend more money to book additional lessons, while the inconvenience of being unable to easily get about to their jobs or additional responsibilities during the outbreak has caused a feeling of anxiety in young people.

Many learners now find the thought of getting back to driving to be quite daunting, with the break in lessons leaving young people across the country feeling anxious about taking their driving test. We have spoken to the experts and some current learners to find out how to combat nerves.

What advice do the experts have?

Chris Bensted, Head of Training and Development at The Driving Instructor and Trainers Collective and Owner of Better Driver Training commented:

“The pandemic has increased anxiety levels and mental health concerns for many people, especially as not doing any act for a period of time can increase worry. I would recommend mental rehearsal, with a positive mindset it can be an incredibly beneficial way to combat anxiety and nerves before a lesson or test, especially in a controlled environment.

”For learner drivers to prepare in lockdown for their tests, I recommend you keep in touch with your instructor via Zoom or other video call platforms. These can be used to support private practice and off-road development. Youtube and visualisation also help, as well as getting family or friend drivers to let you call the shots or commentary drive from the passenger seat.

“With massively extended test waiting times, make sure you get on with the theory test if you haven’t already. You cannot book the practical until it is passed, so this would be a really good use of time.”

Dr Oliver Sindall is a clinical psychologist, specialising in child and adolescent mental health and commented:

“At a very basic level, anxiety is a fear of the unknown and the more things change in any situation, the more ‘unknown’ we have to face. The first thing you need to do is embrace your anxiety. No one walks into a driving lesson or test with no anxiety so accept that you are going to be anxious, especially with everything going on post-lockdown.

“Take some time when you are relaxed at home to think about what things generally make you anxious, what things about lockdown make you anxious, and then think about how driving makes you nervous. What triggers these feelings, and how do you behave when you’re anxious? If you know all of this, then it can’t be a surprise to you and you will feel more able to manage it.

“Choosing the right driving instructor for you is also key, someone you find calming, allowing you to talk about your anxiety. You should also reduce the ‘unknown’ by getting back into a car as soon as you can, even if that is at home with a member of the same household provided the learner has valid learner driver insurance, and the supervising person is over the age of 21 and has held a full UK licence for three years. This will allow you to assess what the traffic is like in your area post lockdown and allow you to familiarise yourself with driving. You can even visit your local test centre so you understand the social distancing measures they have in place.

What the learners have said about lockdown impacting their learning

Molly Bryan, 17, Worcester

I have had three driving tests cancelled because of COVID-19, on the 20th March, 17th June and 10th July, with one of my tests cancelled just two days before I was due to take it. This has been a real dent in my self-confidence because I worked really hard and had built myself up for the experience. As a 17-year-old, this is such a big part of my life and a rite of passage.

Having my tests cancelled has impacted me in many different ways, especially as my Grandad was suddenly taken very ill and diagnosed with cancer. My mum was relying on me to pass my test to run errands and pick up his medicine which has now all had to be rethought due to my test being cancelled, so more clarity would have been great.

The pressure of having my test cancelled three times, dealing with the mental pressure of lockdown and studying for my A-levels with no school while trying to adjust to the ‘new normal’ has been extremely difficult to deal with.

I have faced financial loss in having to book more driving lessons prior to whenever my new test date will be, to allow me to feel prepared enough for my test when I eventually take it. I haven’t actually had a new test date sent through yet, but I am expecting to have to pay to take at least three extra lessons before and now I will find myself out of pocket due to the lack of communication and the postponement of tests.

I did feel quite annoyed about having to take my test this late from my original booking, but I know that it is for the best safety of everyone involved, but I wish this was better communicated. Luckily, I have the support of a strong family to get me through these times.

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Chloe Martell profile

By Chloe Martell

'As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!'  See more posts by Chloe

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