How I managed my driving anxiety

cartoon female driving red car at night time looking anxious

Posted by We Are Marmalade on 05 May 2017

It’s all very well reading tips for managing anxiety while driving, and to be told that you’re not the only one – but sometimes, hearing about people’s real experiences, and reading what steps they took can provide added re-assurance in similar situations.

Our young drivers Carl and Chloe explain what their concerns were learning to drive and how they overcame them.

Carl, 24

“A lot made me anxious when I was learning to drive, from worrying about scraping cars to holding up other road users when the inevitable stalls happened. I also kind of felt like if anything happened then it would be more my fault than the other road user, because I was the learner and thus didn't feel 'professional'.

“Another area that used to make me feel anxious was coming up to big roundabouts where you had to focus on the signs, lane positioning, all whilst trying to remember clutch control and giving way. Roundabouts are generally fast flowing and efficient which as a learner makes you feel extra pressure, as you feel like you might be holding other road users up.

“My advice is just go try and find an instructor and explain to them why you feel anxious in certain situations - I went through 3 instructors before I found one who I actually felt comfortable learning to drive with. It's a huge thing to feel as comfortable as possible when learning to drive.”

Chloe, 19

“At the moment I'm still learning to drive. I found my first few lessons very difficult as I didn't tell my instructor about my mental health issues and they started getting in the way. I would feel myself panicking every time another vehicle came near me on the road or I saw a bike in the distance in case I made a mistake and caused an accident. If something minor went wrong I would put myself down for it and found it difficult to regain the positivity needed to end the lesson well.

“Things changed when I told my instructor as he was very understanding and gave me a few techniques to try. The first was watching clips on YouTube to help me gain a fuller understanding of things I found difficult, primarily roundabouts. He also recommended making mind maps for manoeuvres. I found this extremely helpful in that when I came to approach a roundabout or something I felt unsure about, I could go through all the steps in my head, slow down and stay calm. By enabling myself to stay calm, I found a huge improvement in my driving as I had an increased confidence and decided to tell myself that things WOULD go right instead of assuming that I would make a mistake.

“I also found it helpful to remember that the instructor would not let something terrible happen, they have dual controls and can break or grab the steering wheel at any point if necessary. Before lessons, I started to drive my car up and down the drive just to get used to the pedals, etc. before my lesson. This made me feel a lot more comfortable in the car when my instructor arrived.

“Additionally, I got insured on my boyfriend's mother's car and began to do some extra driving with her each day. I couldn't believe how much things had changed by my next lesson. I think being in the car with someone so familiar made me relax a lot more and enabled me to focus on driving well. Also, she didn't get angry with me when things went wrong, just allowed me to pull over and calm down. I went into my next lesson with loads more confidence and my instructor was so impressed at the changes.

“As for exams and assignments, I struggled with attendance a lot throughout sixth form due to my mental health and found that I had to learn a lot of things from fresh, rather than revise things as I had not been there to learn them in the first place. My AS levels didn't go as well as expected, and I genuinely think this was down to trying too hard and cramming a year of work into hours of revision. For my A2 exams I relaxed, tried to tell myself that I knew the stuff and came up with back up plans in case I didn't get the results I needed for my degree. I revised for short periods of time but very often which I found a lot less draining than long periods of study. I didn't do as well as I needed to in my exams, but I'm so much happier in what I'm doing now than I think I would have been in my original plan.

“So just know that things work out no matter what happens, and you can always turn it around and become successful even if that success doesn't come from plan A.”