Learning to drive can be a daunting experience.
Having to come to terms with a new skill set whilst facing external pressures from other drivers and potential hazards is nerve-wracking.
Many drivers may feel apprehensive even after passing, and this is normal, but there are ways you can feel more confident when you get behind the wheel.
Louise Bruchez at PassMeFast suggested tips and tricks to feel more confident on the journey of learning how to drive.
1. Reframe your anxiety as excitement
Anxiety and excitement are physically almost identical and in both instances, it’s your body readying itself for action. Learning to drive doesn’t need to be a negative experience, it is an exciting time that unlocks a newfound freedom in your life.
One way to recognise it as excitement, as crazy as it sounds, is by talking to yourself. Tell yourself out loud that you are excited about learning to drive. Self-talk can help you to reaffirm your thoughts, and this will reframe your attitude towards learning.
Ultimately, it is down to your mindset. If you focus on accepting the feelings as something positive, your excitement can help you to focus and stay safe during your learning.
2. Start practising in an empty car park or down a quiet road
If you do not feel comfortable driving amongst other cars yet, the best way to gain confidence with basic skills is to practise away from busy roads. Find a quiet car park or road where you know you won’t have to pass many other cars and go over any elements you particularly struggle with, for example, manoeuvers, changing gears and more.
Once you feel more confident and have practised manoeuvres you previously found difficult, you can take yourself on busier roads to slowly get used to driving amongst other cars. This will solidify any learning you have done by putting yourself in a real-life driving scenario and remove any built-up anxiety before your driving lesson or test.
3. Get used to gear changes
Once you’ve mastered changing gears, you will feel more in control of the car. The more practice you have driving, the easier skills like this become, but sometimes your practical experience is limited as a learner driver.
Knowing where to place the gear stick without looking down can take a lot of practice, but you can rehearse the movement before stepping into the driver’s seat. Once you are used to the motion, you can begin to introduce it on the road.
Having the gear change nailed can make stopping and starting much smoother. Especially with more difficult skills, like hill starts, being comfortable when using your gears correctly can boost your confidence in other aspects of your driving.
4. Don’t take long breaks in between getting behind the wheel
What won’t help your confidence is taking a step back from practising. Not facing the issue may seem like the easier option, but it will only make you more rusty with your driving skills and, therefore, you will become less confident.
Finding other ways to boost your confidence, rather than avoiding the problem, is important. It may sound obvious but as you practise, the driving skill set will come naturally as you progress. Speak to family and friends for support, or find an alternative way to ease your feelings of anxiety before entering the driving seat. For example, you could listen to music, meditate, avoid caffeine or take a walk to refresh your mind.
5. Ask for moral support and positive reinforcement
As you learn to drive, having an experienced driver sitting beside you can make you feel more confident and supported. They will be able to answer any questions, offer constructive criticism and be there to step in if need be.
It can also be handy to have a second pair of eyes to point out any minor errors you may not have noticed yourself. Because of this, they can pull you up on any mistakes to ensure you don’t make them during your driving test.
6. Go at your own pace
Set realistic goals for yourself and the pace at which you learn. Don’t base your progress on someone else’s speed of passing their driving test. Learning to drive is certainly an individual experience. It might come more naturally to others at first, but that doesn’t mean you need to be worried.
If you rush the process, chances are you will feel more anxiety due to the pressure you’ve put on yourself. Take little steps by continuously practising. By doing this, you can push yourself to learn at the pace that suits you best and maintain confidence.
7. Identify the root of the anxiety
If you still feel anxious learning to drive after actively trying to overcome a lack of confidence, have time to reflect on what is causing these feelings to arise. It could be that you feel inexperienced, or you have the fear of failure. Understanding the root cause will allow you to process and overcome these feelings of anxiety and lack of confidence. Regardless of what it is, it is important to confide in someone you feel comfortable with – your driving instructor, friends or family.
They can build your confidence back up and offer positive encouragement to get you back on track with your learning.