By Caitríona Ní Chonaill

Are you learning to drive and finding it to be a scary and difficult experience? Same. Not everyone has the same skillset to be able to pick up driving at the same time, and not everyone passes their test on their first go and zooms off into the sunset.

You are not alone

A lot of the people you talk to will say “oh you’ll get the hang of it” or “it just comes naturally”. If you, like me, are terrified at the thought of getting behind the wheel and having the responsibility of you and another human in your hands, believe me, I feel you. (I should add that I have dyspraxia, which makes my ability to react to multiple moving vehicles in changing scenarios, follow a series of instructions and to judge distances more difficult than others, but the point still stands). Others struggle, stall when trying to exit a junction, and park awfully too. And I’m not just talking about learners…

Take it slow and steady

Getting over your nerves has to be done in stages, and first of all must begin with understanding your car. Knowing how to navigate the gears, pedals and various buttons and knobs is all very well when you’re in a stationary car in your driveway – trying to indicate in a busy roundabout while also controlling your speed, turning on your windscreen wipers and not crashing into other cars is another situation entirely. Starting off with just trying to control the car, such as in an empty car park or large yard can help to ease your anxiety before you have to navigate other cars on the road.

Consider who you drive with

As a learner driver, it can be a nerve wracking experience at the best of times. I have been very lucky with my driving instructor, who I find to be a calming, reassuring presence any time we are on the road. Having your parents help you learn, can be a different story. They may also find this a nerve wracking experience too, trying to instruct you, look out for coming hazards and come to terms with the fact that they can do nothing to stop the car, no matter how much they grab the handle and press their imaginary brake on the passenger side. A certain understanding should be laid out first, therefore, to assuage any possible grievances and to ensure that both parties understand that this can be a mutually stressful experience and that no offence should be taken from any expletives shouted before a stop sign!

Haters gonna hate

Unfortunately, impatient people, or simply those unwilling to let a learner learn may lean rudely on their horns behind you as you try to navigate a junction (I may or may not speak from an experience today…). These people are not a reflection of your driving skills or your speed, no matter how many times they toot the millisecond the light turns green and you have yet to release your handbrake. There will also be those who overtake you if they feel you are going too slowly for their liking, even if you are driving the speed limit, or worse, those who will drive with their nose to your bumper, absolutely waiting for an accident to happen. These people exist unfortunately, but do your best not to let them upset you. I try to remind myself that they were learners once too.

So, I wish you the very best of luck and hope you have the most patient of driving companions. I hope you achieve your goal and pass your test with flying colours!