If you have been following my driving journey, you may be well aware that, for me, the road to success was not exactly a smooth drive. After diving into an intensive driving course only to fail my first test attempt, although disheartened, I refused to give up on my driving dream. However, fate would not permit it and my second test was cancelled due to the driving examiner having a back injury- what were the chances!? Yet, as the saying goes, the third time’s the charm, and I finally passed my test in early April. Fast-forward a month, and I’ve got my own car (a little Fiat Grande Punto which has somehow become nicknamed Squishy) and a lot more confidence than when I first stepped out solo on the road.
Going it alone
In an ideal world, your first solo drive is peaceful, stress-free and reassuring of your driving ability. However, my first independent adventure fulfilled none of these expectations. Given my bad luck, the engine warning light of my new car had become illuminated, meaning we needed to take it back to the garage to get checked out… meaning my first ever drive after passing my test in my new car would have to be alone, following my Mum in her car as we drove down to the garage.
Scared was an understatement; I had never even driven my car before and I was already forced to go it alone! It’s safe to say that the drive to the garage was a bit of a disaster- I stalled the car at least twenty times. Everything felt so different, especially since I had never driven a petrol engine before. That terrifying journey left me deflated and completely hopeless. I felt like a learner driver all over again!
Being the first to pass my driving test within my friendship circle, means I’ve now become the nominated taxi driver for whenever we go out (but don’t worry, I always charge for petrol!). My role as designated driver includes regular adventures to McDonald’s during school lunch breaks. Check out the first-time we ventured through the drive-through in the video below. It may sound strange, but I was actually quite nervous as I hadn’t been to a McDonalds, let alone a drive-through in at least three years!
Another memorable trip that has become permanently ingrained as a nightmare in my brain was, what should’ve been, a simple drive to our local country park Ferry Meadows to attend an open-air cinema viewing of Mamma Mia. The only issue was, I had no idea how to get there. Despite visiting the park regularly since my childhood, I was still absolutely clueless on its whereabouts. So, accompanied by my best friend Hannah, who was equipped with a Satnav, we ventured off into the depths of Peterborough. Although regardless of Hannah helpfully recounting the directions that the Satnav politely iterated, we still managed to get lost, only to end up back where we started, right next to my house. A lot of panicking and some unrepeatable words later, we finally found our way to the open-air event, a bit late and exhausted by confusion. Regardless, we had an amazing time, singing and dancing to ABBA, wrapped up in thermals and blankets in the freezing British night time. And, we didn’t even get lost on the way home- it was a miracle!
Since beating the first solo drive shudders, my driving has come on leaps and bounds. The clutch and I have become better acquainted, and stalls are now far and few between. My nerves around other cars have particularly improved, and I’m no longer afraid of kicking it up into fifth gear. Truth be told, I’ve become quite attached to driving my little Squishy, so much so that any nerves following my first solo driving nightmare have pretty much dissipated.
However, no matter how well you drive, you can never control how well other road users handle themselves. There have been countless times that have scared me out of my skin; cars pulling out on roundabouts unexpectedly; taxi drivers stopping in the road to drop someone off; teenagers walking out in the road without looking and lots more that have been out of my control. Yet, I have managed to build up my confidence behind the wheel to the point where I can handle these issues without driving off shaken up and panicky.
Nowadays, I am driving near enough every day: whether it’s to school, to the gym or to work, I’ve begun to enjoy the freedom that driving has given me. It feels amazing to no longer rely on other people to take me places, especially since my Mum always used to make me late for work on a Saturday morning! Learning to drive has been like getting a new set of legs- I can go where I want when I want completely independently. It has definitely made me feel a lot more grown up and I’m looking forward to all the future road trips I have planned with my friends!