I took my first driving test on Friday 11th May, and I passed first time with only 6 minors. When the examiner said the words ‘I’m pleased to tell you that you’ve passed’, my reply was ‘Really?’ as my instructor was shaking my chair (he’d come along for the ride/moral support).
I’m not sure if I’ve gone into it before, however I have pretty poor eyesight. And when I say pretty poor, I mean ‘may as well be blind’. I only have peripheral vision in my left eye, meaning I rely solely on my right eye, which isn’t brilliant either. Meaning my hand/eye coordination is off, my reactions are a little slower, and if anything is happening to my left, I have to turn my entire head to see what’s occurin’.
So obviously, when you’re behind the wheel of a car and you’re doing 70mph down a dual carriageway, sight is fairly important. Resulting in me being an extremely nervous driver.
Progress was really slow as a result of being nervous. The average person can pass their practical driving exam within about 40 hours of lessons according to a latest study. Whereas little old me, has probably had closer to 70 hours. It seemed to take me a long time to grasp the concept of the pedals, my spacial awareness was a bit haphazard, and I never really knew what an acceptable speed was when doing manoeuvres. And when I went into panic mode, I just shut off. I couldn’t remember how to do anything and would just cry inside (and sometimes outside).
So these are my pieces of advice to you, my fellow nervous drivers:
My instructor was a babe. His name was Paul, he was incredibly patient with me, he would go through everything 4,768 times until I understood, and when I’d have my meltdowns he would bring me back down. Plus he called me ‘mate’ which instantly made me laugh.
So don’t be frightened to change instructor, you dosn’t owe them anything. They’re there to teach you, so if their teaching style doesn’t work for you there’s so many others to choose from.
The sooner you know what all the signs and rules are for the roads, it becomes so much easier to understand what you should be doing. It relieves the pressure of what seems to be aimless driving. Plus once you’ve passed that, you’re half way to your license. Which for me, made it all seems that bit more achievable.
Don’t feel that because you’ve had x amount of lessons, that you now need to take your test. You’ll know when you’re ready. Everyone learns differently and at different rates, only you know when you feel comfortable and confident. At the end of the day it’ll be you taking your test, so do it when you are ready.
One of my biggest issues was I would panic and rush a manoeuvre, a turn, anything, if I felt I was inconveniencing another driver. If I was in the middle of parallel parking, and a car would be waiting to get past, I would try and whiz through to let them past. And you guessed it, do the whole thing wrong and it actually took longer than if I’d just taken my time. They can wait 30 seconds whilst you’re learning it won’t kill them.
Give yourself the time to be prepared. Something I would do is wait until the last minute to do everything. For example coming up to a roundabout doing 40mph in 4th gear, waiting until you’re right there to slow down, gear down, check around you to see if it’s safe. Instead as soon as you see the sign, check behind you, slow down, once the car has slowed gear down to 2 and as you’re going slower you have more time to check and may result in you actually getting away faster. And not dislocating your shoulder with the sharp breaking.
It doesn’t matter if it takes you twice as long to learn. One day you’ll just catch yourself and think ‘oh ma gad I’m doing it’. You just have to keep pushing through it. If you’ve had a really shitty lesson, it all went wrong and you think to yourself ‘maybe I’m just not meant to drive’. Incorrect, go and book your next lesson. You are meant to drive and it will happen.
I was honestly the most stressed I’ve ever been the entire week before my test. I couldn’t focus, I was shaking constantly about 3 days before, I doubted myself to the extent I was already checking for re-sit dates. But, the examiner is just doing their job. It’s essentially another lesson, with someone else in the car. I took 2 breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth before hand, stood tall and said to myself in the mirror ‘you can do this’. As f’ing horrendously cliché and cringe as that sounds, it worked. As soon as I pulled away, my nerves seemed to melt away and I was determined to show him what I could do.
I may not sit back in my seat, I may still tense my arms and legs on a dual carriageway, and I’ll probably still mentally go through the checklist when approaching a junction. But if I can do it, so can you. You are meant to drive, and you will. Just keep swimming.