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Learning to drive when older. Help!

(60 Posts)
OneForTheRoadThen Thu 24-Sep-20 07:02:03

I've started learning to drive at age 40. I've always had anxiety (medicated) so have put it off for years but now I have young children I really just want to be able to go on day trips or holidays without having to lug everything on public transport.

I've had 5 2 hour lessons and I just don't feel I'm getting it. I actually almost stopped my lesson yesterday and felt like giving the whole thing up. I don't understand the clutch and the bite and when you use it after braking, I still only just can go in second gear and my instructor has to literally talk me through everything. I feel like I'm never going to be able to drive independently let alone with 2 children in the back.

It doesn't help that I'm in London, zone 4, so the roads are always really busy. Everyone keeps saying 'it will soon click' but it isn't and at the back of my mind is how expensive the whole process is and how I can't afford what is obviously going to be hundreds of hours of lessons. DH doesn't drive either abs I really do want to be able to but I just feel so anxious.

I feel I would have been more gung-ho if I'd learned as a teenager and I'm cross I left it so long.

Does anyone have any success stories of not being a natural driver? Or of learning as an adult? I really need a boost.

OP’s posts: |
StopMakingATitOfUrselfNPissOff Thu 24-Sep-20 07:06:33

Could you swap to learning in an automatic? Takes all the changing gear stuff away.

Lottapianos Thu 24-Sep-20 07:13:49

I learned 2 years ago and passed my test aged 39. The whole experience was one of the most daunting, intense, and at times, bloody terrifying experiences of my life. And it feels like no one understands, because most people passed when they were teenagers and have either forgotten the terror or never felt it in the first place! So its bloody lonely as well

It took me AGES to get the mechanical stuff like clutch management too. Dont underestimate what a hard skill it can be to learn. People told me it would 'click' too, but to be honest, it never did for me, it was a long slow slog. The good news though, is that it's worth it. I've been driving for 18 months, I still get nervous, but I can do it. It makes life a lot easier in lots of ways. 10 hours of lessons is early days - most people have at least 40 hours before taking their test. Are you comfortable with your instructor? If not, consider changing. I didnt like my instructor but stuck with him and wish I hadn't. Keep at it and good luck!

OneForTheRoadThen Thu 24-Sep-20 07:13:55

Thanks @StopMakingATitOfUrselfNPissOff I have considered it but I've been told that it's harder to rent cars etc especially abroad. Funnily enough I can do the gear changes, it's using the clutch to break that I just don't GET.

OP’s posts: |
Seeingadistance Thu 24-Sep-20 07:15:09

I couldn’t have coped with 2 hour lessons - I’d have been frazzled within an hour and not able to take in any more info or cope any more. And I’m saying this as someone who learned as a teenager.

Can you try having shorter lessons?

OneForTheRoadThen Thu 24-Sep-20 07:17:53

Ah @Lottapianos THANK YOU, you've described my feelings so well. Well done for sticking at it. I do like my instructor, he's very calm which I need. I am going to stick at it. I am reading up about the clutch etc but I just can't envision ever feeling comfortable.

I'm thinking I might do an intensive course, not to pass quickly as I'd do my normal lessons as well but just to try and get the basics down. Currently I have one lesson a week and I spend the first hour of it having to practice what I've forgotten from the last week. It just feels like a vicious cycle.

OP’s posts: |
Seeingadistance Thu 24-Sep-20 07:19:01

You will ‘get it’, OP. Unfortunately, stressing about it can make it harder. That’s what makes learning to drive such a bugger and so frustrating.

Can you find somewhere quiet to go and focus solely on clutch work? Ideally with a calm and patient friend who can take you out between lessons, and with no time pressure so you can take a break when you want to chat and unwind before having another go.

Gwynfluff Thu 24-Sep-20 07:22:29

I’m not a natural. Learnt when I was 17 and it took a year. 10 months before I became test ready and 3 tests. To be honest with the ruse of electric and hybrid cars, I’d probably learn in an automatic at your age. Gear shifts will probably start to die out in the next 10 years. I think it’s useful to learn manual if you are younger as the cheaper second hand small cars for the next few years will be manual. But if you can skip these, just learn automatic.

Lottapianos Thu 24-Sep-20 07:22:50

Glad you liked your instructor, stick with him then. Any way you could increase to two lessons a week? And do you know anyone with a car who could take you out practicing in between?

In terms of not getting stuff, I think everyone has something. I honestly didn't really get mirrors (which ones to check and when) until after I'd passed my test! Even experienced drivers often have something they will avoid like the plague, often to do with parking! Its SO tough to learn for some of us, but you can do it. I used to think of some of the most ditzy, unfocused people I know and remind myself that if they can drive, so can I!

Cavagirl Thu 24-Sep-20 07:25:44

Most teenagers have a parent's car to practise in, in between lessons.
So give yourself a break, if you're literally only doing an hour or two a week, it will take longer.
As PP said, I would ask a nice friend and go to an empty car park for an hour or two.

I am definitely not an expert but it also sounds like you have a lot of negative thoughts about whether or not you will actually manage it/can afford it, etc. Which will definitely not be helping you focus on the practical.
You've decided you're going to do it.
You want to do it.
So - you will do it. You will.

OneForTheRoadThen Thu 24-Sep-20 07:35:06

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I actually did speak to my instructor yesterday about having another lesson a week abs he is going to try and for me in for 2 x 90 mins lessons a week. I need a longer lesson as I forget everything between lessons and spend most of the first hour trying to relearn it.

I think my dad would possibly let me practice in a car park with him. I will ask. Unfortunately not many of my friends have cars, although they can drive. When I'm a little better I might just buy a secondhand car and see if one of them will come out with me as I just don't get any practice between lessons.

OP’s posts: |
Mysa74 Thu 24-Sep-20 07:35:23


Thanks @StopMakingATitOfUrselfNPissOff I have considered it but I've been told that it's harder to rent cars etc especially abroad. Funnily enough I can do the gear changes, it's using the clutch to break that I just don't GET.

Hi OP I don't quite understand what you mean about using the clutch to break? To you mean going down through the gears as you slow for a junction or something else?
It might be worth trying a lesson with another instructor just to get things explained in a different way... I struggled with something for years and just couldn't get my head around it, someone else explained and it all made sense "or you mean parallel to the wall"! Light bulb moment, never had a problem again grin

Lottapianos Thu 24-Sep-20 07:46:04

Another alternative is to stick with your instructor but also watch some YouTube clips of other instructors giving lessons. I watched a lot of Ashley Neal and World Driving and found them really helpful

AshGirl Thu 24-Sep-20 08:15:12

I passed when I was 38 and the whole experience was horrible and ridiculously stressful. I hated my instructor and was regularly in tears after my lesson. My DH only passed the year before me so he couldn't take me out for any practice.

I passed on my third go and it is absolutely worth it. I am only just starting to 'enjoy' driving (2.5 years after passing!) but the freedom to be able to take DS to somewhere we couldn't access on the bus is amazing.

Stick with it, but definitely consider automatic. I think the thing you are describing with the clutch is how to come to a slow stop? So, as you shift down to first you put the clutch in at the same time to coast along for a bit? It is tricky, but you will learn what the tension in the clutch feels like under your foot.

Good luck!

OneForTheRoadThen Thu 24-Sep-20 08:53:13

Thank you @AshGirl the bit I was trying to describe is when you stop at a junction on a bit of a hill you use the handbrake but then have to find the bite to get going again where as if you are stopped on flat then you don't? I don't know why.

OP’s posts: |
Lottapianos Thu 24-Sep-20 09:04:01

Oh lord,finding the biting point on a hill start is murder! Took me AGES and still stalled fairly often even after passing my test. Used to fluster me terribly but you know, I dont think anyone has even beeped me for it. Someone stalled in front of me the other day when setting off at lights and I barely noticed it. You're doing fine!

knittingaddict Thu 24-Sep-20 09:42:52

I learnt when I was in my early 40's. I had loads, and I mean loads, of lessons and it certainly didn't come naturally. I'm so glad I did though as I love driving now and the sense of freedom is incredible.

Bizarrely I passed first time, much to everyone's shock, especially my instructor. I even had the examiner with the worst reputation for failing people and being really harsh. I only passed because I didn't have to parallel park in the test. That was always my Achilles heel and I'm still terrible at it 15 years later.

So I would definitely say that you should persevere, op. Could you do just 1 hour lessons? That's what I did and even those were draining as you have to concentrate so much. I wouldn't switch to an automatic yet. Give it a bit longer and see how you feel. Good luck.

RaspberryCookies Thu 24-Sep-20 09:45:26

I passed my test a year ago and was in a similar situation to you (small children and wanted the freedom of having a car).

I am absolutely not a natural driver. I passed my test 3rd time. I still stall more often that i would like and have never driven further than about 45 minutes on familiar roads. I am slowly but surely improving.

5 x 2hour lessons isn’t much at all. Stick with it... you’ll get there!

knittingaddict Thu 24-Sep-20 09:46:22

Also, what shoes are you wearing?

I made sure that I wore shoes with a relatively thin sole, so that I could more easily get a feel for what the clutch was doing.

LtJudyHopps Thu 24-Sep-20 09:49:11

Try going out with your dad he may be able to explain it better in regards to the clutch control. I just sat and thought about how I’d try and explain it and was struggling!
The hill start thing is so the car has momentum to get going otherwise it will roll backwards.
I’d consider automatic if you’re still struggling in a couple of weeks. I have no idea about hiring a car abroad as I’ve never done it, but you can’t hire a car now so what difference does it make really? It limits your choice in cars a bit more but if it gets you more comfortable driving then go for it!

Iggly Thu 24-Sep-20 09:50:03

Do you understand what the clutch is doing and what the bite point is? Once I got that, then I found it easier.

You only need to worry about the clutch and breaking at lower speeds, but standard breaking eg a light tap (when you’re at a higher speed and higher gear) it’s not an issue in the same way.

Driving in London in loads of traffic does require you to be on top of your clutch control (I learned in zone 4!)

growinggreyer Thu 24-Sep-20 09:52:41

Ah, the hill start. Such a tricky beggar. The reason you want to find the bite is so that the car won't roll backwards. An easy way to tell that you are safe to drop the handbrake is that the bonnet lifts slightly, like the car is preparing to spring forward. Find an incline and practice this safely. It is only nerve-wracking if there is an expensive car waiting behind you! Good luck!

Alicenwonderland Thu 24-Sep-20 09:55:49

I passed at 41 but I had had many lessons in my teens, 20s and 30s. The car I learnt in had an automatic clutch, it was with the AA, it was weird at first but then I loved it. Personally with anxiety (which I had this time, never before) I'd go for two or three short lessons a week. Definitely get your instructor to take you somewhere that you can practice clutch control. The difference I found learning late is that I was very confident with saying if I didn't understand things and if I wanted to concentrate on a specific thing. Don't give up (I regret giving up in my 20s, I was ready then) and you will get there. I love my freedom now although I have become Mums taxi for my teens and little kids!!

MindyStClaire Thu 24-Sep-20 09:57:38

I did lessons at 29, passed at 30 I think. Honestly, I hated the lessons (not helped by the learner being attacked while I was behind the wheel in one lesson!), hated driving, took 4 attempts to pass the test. All worth it.

I don't like driving now, but I don't mind it and the thoughts of a long drive wouldn't bother me. Actually, a short drive work bad parking at the other end is a much bigger problem for me. grin

I lived in a city centre and understand what you mean about the busy roads etc, but honestly it was worth it as it doesn't bother me now if I have to drive on anything bar very narrow country lanes, which is very rare.

Do stick with it, it makes life so much easier, especially with kids.

MindyStClaire Thu 24-Sep-20 09:58:15

*learner car being attacked! Not just the learner.

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