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to ask how you got over the fear of driving on your own/returning to driving/driving on new roads

(78 Posts)
BriechonCheese Tue 17-Oct-17 19:31:04

I passed my test years ago but for a long time after that I drove maybe 1-2 times a year and on roads in familiar with. I'm ok on familiar roads and for the past year have been driving the same 2/3 routes twice a day with no problems.

For a new contract I have to drive every day on different roads and I'm terrified. I had a few refresher lessons but the instructor was a nasty, racist, sexist idiot who knocking every ounce of confidence out of me. I can't really afford to shell out for more lessons until my contract starts paying.

I made two really stupid errors this evening and I feel close to giving up. At a junction coming from a small road onto a busy A road I sat in the middle of the small road rather than positioning myself for a right turn. Another was at a crossroads, where I placed myself too far into turn box (?) because the markings were so faded. I ended up slightly blocking the way for the people turning right from the other direction.

How on earth do you build up confidence?
I passed my test nearly a decade ago with very few minors but I felt like so much was missing - I didn't know how to overtake, I had only ever driven on a duel carriageway in the left lane (because that's all they do for the test where l lived at the time), I had done big roundabouts but never been near those areas where there are a series of roundabouts all feeding into each other. It took me ages to get over the fear off all that and to learn how to deal with it.

How do you build up your confidence when so much is at risk? I've come home shaking from those mistakes, scared that I could have hurt someone.

Any tips?

Ifearthecold Tue 17-Oct-17 19:43:23

You have my sympathy, I don't like driving on unfamiliar roads either. Things that have helped me are are having sat nav, so I don't need to worry about getting lost, making sure I allow lots of time so I don't feel stressed about being late and remembering that if I get to end without hitting anything then it is mission accomplished! Seriously it sounds as though your mistakes are only small ones and the more you drive the easier it gets. There are advanced driving courses that might be useful in time. I know my driving issues are really anxiety based and not about my car control. Most driving issues are caused by people driving with too little care and attention not us anxious over worriers!

NurseButtercup Tue 17-Oct-17 19:47:32

I was a really nervous driver just after I passed my driving test. To build my confidence, I used to do a dry run of the routes I needed to do early mornings at the weekends when the roads were quiet.

KityGlitr Tue 17-Oct-17 19:48:26

Gradual exposure. Make a hierarchy of feared driving situations and spend a week working on each step of the ladder from easiest to most anxiety provoking, doing the task at least 4-6 times per week, ideally daily. As you progress up the ladder you'll acclimatise to the anxiety of each stage and build in confidence. Based on CBT for exposure to anxiety provoking situations/phobia.

aaaaargghhhhelpme Tue 17-Oct-17 19:52:07

Some really good ideas here. I found sat nav invaluable as it gives you that forewarning of a junction or roundabout.

Also if I'm going somewhere off the beaten track I google earth the route so I can literally see what I'm going to drive though (I have some horrendous single width winding roads round our way...always good to be prepared and know where they are!)

aaaaargghhhhelpme Tue 17-Oct-17 19:52:49

Drive through not though!
Pesky autocorrect!

Josieannathe2nd Tue 17-Oct-17 19:54:31

Sat nav. Practice the route at quiet times. But what clenched it for me was really really really wanting the job. And it was really hard for a few weeks, but there were only a few near misses and I got better very quickly. I used to leave really early so it was quieter, and also so I had some time to recover before starting work! It was surprising how quickly I did get used to it though.

slimyslitheryslug Tue 17-Oct-17 20:00:52

Most of it just comes with experience. I passed my test, drove once two years later, didn't drive for ten years and then drove short distances once or twice a year. Then we moved and I was pregnant and realised I'd be very isolated if I didn't start driving regularly. I now drive 300 odd miles a week!
In retrospect, I'm not sure how I didn't have an accident in that first year or so. I think I didn't as I drove cautiously but not overly so, left myself plenty of time and so, if I missed an exit, could just take the next one and had time to sort it out and get back to where I should have been. A revelation for me was realising I prefer motorway driving to pretty much any other route for the simple reason that at least everyone is going in the same direction.
Also, read and re-read the Highway Code. That way, you know what the signs mean so will know what you can & can't do so won't waste time worrying about that rather than focusing on the road.

EggysMom Tue 17-Oct-17 20:03:34

All you can do is give it time and persistence. I put the car into a ditch during my first year of regular driving. I'm sure I had plenty of similar near misses and 'did I do that right' moments. Just keep going, don't let it put you off.

SparklyLeprechaun Tue 17-Oct-17 20:07:31

By doing it and learning from your mistakes. I used to have a terrible fear of motorways until I started a 2h commute involving 3 motorways. First time I was a bag of nerves but it got better. Just practice, don't give up.

Sparklesocks Tue 17-Oct-17 20:14:39

Hi OP, I feel your pain - I was a very nervous driver and took ages to pass my test because I was so anxious behind the wheel.
When I finally passed and got my car I only really did the same basic local routes - supermarket, parents' houses etc.

In all honesty i only started getting over it after getting more experience. A lot of my friends got married over a 2 year period, so I was forced to spend large chunks of my weekends driving up and down motorways for hens dos and far away wedding venues. I was a nervous wreck for most of it and I messed up a lot - taking wrong exits at roundabouts, annoying other drivers, stalling at traffic lights in a rush to pull away etc...over time though, it got easier - being exposed to different routes and situations all built up my experience and I learnt a lot. I still occasionally feel a bit nervy about big journeys but nothing like before, and I can really say I genuinely enjoy driving now.

I know it's hard but keep doing what you're doing, it's scary and horrible when you make faults, but it's ok - it will only get easier.

Another thing that helped me was realising that you barely interact with other drivers really, because sooner or later one of you speeds off!! If you do mess up and inconvenience someone, you won't be in front of them for long before you go your different ways - so it doesn't really matter, it's so quick.

In terms of worrying about hurting someone, you sound like a careful and conscientious driver - yes your errors were mildly inconvenient - but not hugely dangerous to anyone. As long as you take your time and stay aware of your surroundings you'll be safe.

And if you're really still struggling, could you look up other instructors to do some refresher training with you? Maybe get some recommendations from people, or do some research online for instructors with good reviews? Most instructors are helpful and patient and not like the horrid one I'm sorry you had to deal with.

You can do it OP, if I can - you can!

soberexpat Tue 17-Oct-17 20:15:16

Watching with interest. I've been driving for 24 years but was in a really bad car crash ( car flipped on 6 lane highway, I was a passenger) and as a result have massive driving phobia. I've been hypnotised to no avail.

Ilovehamabeads Tue 17-Oct-17 20:16:32

I am not a nervous driver in the same sense as you. But I don't really like driving to unfamiliar places at all. I've been driving for 25 years and it never gets less daunting! The best thing I've found to help me on a new route is to 'drive' it on google street view in advance. I take note of the buildings or surroundings at particular junctions I need to turn at. It just makes the journey seem familiar when I come to drive it for real.

Sparklesocks Tue 17-Oct-17 20:19:36

(Lessons after your contract begins I mean - but maybe you just need a handful to do a few scary routes and see how you get on)

Dowser Tue 17-Oct-17 20:24:04

I feel your pain
After driving for 40 years with my husband doing all long distance he had a stroke and lost most of his eyesight and his drivers licence in the process.
To continue the life we love, i.e. Doing lots of traveling I now have had to step up to the plate and do it
It's been nerve wracking... and I've always driven.

This year I've driven all around Scotland and then all around wales and Dorset

We live in the north east so just getting there was a challenge

Honestly it's all about the more you do the better you get

Sugarcoma Tue 17-Oct-17 20:25:57

Oh OP you could be me - except I haven't driven since passing my test 10 years ago. Have a baby now and finding it really hard without a car so am going to have to bite the bullet.

I like the gradual exposure idea.

Thanks for starting this thread!

missymayhemsmum Tue 17-Oct-17 20:35:17

Ask your calmest, kindest friend to sit in the passenger seat for a few trips while you learn the routes and get your nerve back. And yes, get a satnav

BonnieF Tue 17-Oct-17 20:57:04

Driving is a complex skill, and it's unrealistic to expect to be any good at it if you don't practice.

Sunday mornings are your friend as the roads are generally quiet. Get up early and just go for a drive. Start with familiar routes you know well. Drive to a cafe for breakfast, perhaps. Just drive. Build your confidence and experience, then be a bit bolder and tackle less familiar routes. The more you drive, the better you will get.

You CAN do it!

BriechonCheese Tue 17-Oct-17 21:21:15

Thank you all so much for your replies!
I think I am a fairly careful driver but making small mistakes panic me. I was involved in a crash (as a passenger) a few years back and I think the fall out from that (and working in ED) has stayed with me.

I'm going to use sat nav a lot more. Do you recommend buying a separate unit or is the one on your phone ok?

I think the idea of a hierarchy of feared situations is a great idea. I'm going to make a list like:
Series of large motorways one after another
Country roads
Merging lanes on busy roads
Motorways
Motoways with unusual entries (we have a few locally)

And try to tackle them until I gain some confidence.

I really want to be able to deal with any road I come to, rather than panic because I don't know what is coming.

gothicsprout Tue 17-Oct-17 21:26:23

I'll be another voice recommending sat nav and either visualising or practicing your route beforehand. I also took the step of getting an automatic/semi-manual car, as it allows me to focus more on the road and other drivers rather than the controls - definitely worth it for me.

BriechonCheese Tue 17-Oct-17 21:31:25

Series of large roundabouts*

flingingmelon Tue 17-Oct-17 21:39:11

I had no choice. I either drive or starve to death in the tiny village we moved to.

My confidence increased really quickly. Maybe a couple of weeks and then I was as much of an arsehole behind the wheel as anyone grin

bigkidsdidit Tue 17-Oct-17 21:39:21

I went out really really early - like 5-6am - very often and just drove. It got me used to unfamiliar roads and finding my way about, without annoying too many other drivers.

I am still nervous, and breathe a sigh of relief when all driving has been done for the day - but I'll do it now, whereas before I couldn't.

SkaPunkPrincess Tue 17-Oct-17 21:47:43

Once the penny dropped for me that all roads are pretty much the same as long as you know your highway code I got over it pretty quickly. I also try to go a different route to wherever I'm going as often as I can ie 3 ways to get to work/ school pickup

NurseButtercup Tue 17-Oct-17 21:54:56

If you can afford it I would suggest getting a separate sat nav. Nothing more annoying than the phone ringing when you're driving, and the sat Nav switches off.

I know you can adjust the settings to reject calls when in sat nav mode, but I always forget.

Congratulations on the new job by the way! You're going to be fine after you've done a few journeys flowers

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