In a recent report for ITV’s Westcountry News, figures released showed that more than 1 in 3 drivers (36%) were nervous about getting back behind the wheel after life in lockdown.
I was privileged to be asked to give my thoughts of was featured on their programme. As is the case with TV, my time was limited, so I’m going to to share my 4-step guide here.
Above: We’re all adjusting to getting back out on the roads again after 18 months of uncertainty
To be honest, this advice is relevant for anyone who’s worried about returning to driving after any period away or for those who might be worried about their driving for many other reasons.
The first thing to always understand is that the fears or worries you may have about getting back on the roads are very normal. I’d be more worried about someone who was not even just a little concerned about returning after a break from driving. In accepting that you are worried is the biggest problem solved and there is a lot that can be done about it.
Plan your first journey allowing plenty of extra time.
You know how stressful driving can be if you’re running just a little late or even arriving just on time. Allow that little extra time – after all, you can always have an extra cup of tea if you do arrive early.
There always seems to be a strange time warp in driving. If you leave just one minute late it seems all the traffic lights are red, every bad driver gets in your way, and you arrive 10 minutes late. Yet if you start off a few minutes early, you sail through the lights, it happens to be an unusually quiet day and you arrive 10 minutes early. Nothing really changes, but it’s your state of mind that alters the reality.
2. Take a someone with you
It’s a good idea to have some company if you’re feeling anxious about getting back into driving again. Don’t take that person who is going to scream and shout or spend the journey clutching the grab handle, take a calm person who will be supportive and will in turn help calm you.
If you can, leave the children behind if they’re going to argue or play up in the car. Keep to a simple journey, one that you know. Then build your confidence up with drifferent journeys.
3. Accept that others will make mistakes.
Even in the driver training industry, I see bad driving every single day and to tell you the truth, it used to annoy me. So much so that I was getting stressed.
Today I just go out every day and accept that I am going to see this bad driving, whether that’s somebody:
- On the phone while driving
- Driving too fast
- Jumping amber or red traffic lights
- Not signalling appropriately on a roundabout
I needn’t go on – we see examples of these every single day.
I just accept it and when I see it, I just think “bless them”. I can’t change their behaviour, well I could if I had them in a classroom, but today that is unlikely to happen. You too need to just accept it and just work on your own driving. Knowing you will see these things on your journey helps, as you can drive in a way that accepts (and anticipates) them, making you safer on the roads.
4. Test your eyesight
Getting your eyesight checked is always a good thing. In random eyesight tests, many people were found to have vision that was below the standard for driving. Simply getting new glasses – or wearing them made a huge difference.
I know one organisation who works with getting the elderly back on the road, find that just the wearing of glasses can help with confidence immensely.
Don’t do what one certain person did over lockdown, driving to a beauty spot to test their eyes!
Driving instructors are for life, not just for Christmas
For most drivers, just the 4 simple steps above will be all that are needed to get your confidence back on the roads but if you’re still worried, there are many driving instructors who specialise in this type of work.
For example, you’ll find instructors who frequently work with people who have had accidents, are very nervous, or who have had specific problems with things like manoeuvres/roundabouts.
There are names for the fear of driving too:
With at least four names dedicated to the fear of driving, you can see that it’s not uncommon to feel anxious about getting behind the wheel, and with more and more cars on the roads every single day, it’s only going to become more of an issue going forward.
If you still have contact with your old driving instructor, you may find that they will be able to fit you in for a refresher lesson. These are great stand-alone lessons where you can concentrate on one topic, whether it’s those tricky roundabouts or dual carriageways.
Today I train people to do this sort of work and there are many specialists out there. Some are even trained therapists. And I know of an organisation base in Exeter that has had excellent results, some of their excellent trainers I have worked with.
It happened to me
Many years ago, before I had even dreamed of becoming a driver trainer, I had a break in driving when my children were small. I spent all my time walking everywhere.
On my first car journey driving, I came across a pedestrian crossing and found myself looking at the red man and stopped. When the man turned to green, I started to move but instantly realised my mistake and stopped before I ran the people on the crossing over. I was even thinking the red man was very difficult to see from the car.
All soon became clear!
For me it really helped to take extra time with my journeys after that and I was sure to use familiar roads, allowing extra time. I soon got back into driving, and you will too.
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.