26 January, 2017

How to deal with driving nerves

Why am I such a nervous driver? Help!

There could be lots of reasons for nerves as a driver, but many of them are to do with other drivers' actions, and our perception of them. If we cleared the roads, and you were the only person on them would that help? Of course it would. Which is why a good driving instructor will try to keep you to quiet roads until you have mastered the techniques required, and introduce busier roads carefully to ensure that confidence is built solidly. Most drivers will overcome their nerves as soon as they feel that they can control the safety of a situation.

Once you get out onto busier roads with more traffic, there is an great remedy for most nervousness - easing off the gas and, where necessary, the brake pedal! This will allow you to control the car in awkward situations, and will give you time to assess the situations and make decisions. If you are still unsure, just keep slowing until you are certain you are back in control. If this means stopping then do it. What would you rather do?

Stop when maybe you could go? Or go when you should stop?!
The simple answer is - if you feel unsafe - stop!

This solves the problem for most people, but if you still feel under pressure, ask yourself why?

  • Are you more nervous when there are people behind you?
    If you are, then you are one of a majority of drivers who don’t want to hold people up, and when you are ahead of other people, you fret. Try to work out why you feel like that? Are you regularly a passenger with someone who drives impatiently? If so, then their attitude to people in front is affecting the way you drive. Tell them how you feel when they next shout at the person in front, most will apologise.

There will always be a few people who blame someone else, when their driving is actually at fault - the same people who always blame someone else - should you really take any notice of them? Certainly not.

Remember, everyone has a right to learn to drive, and everyone on the road has at some stage been in the same situation as you, whether they remember it or not! Ignore the tailgaters, the beepers, the finger pointers, and avoid becoming one who then has an early heart attack due to stress at the wheel!


And if this means going a touch slower and getting everything right, making smooth safe progress, then you really won’t delay anyone’s journey for more than a few moments.

A good instructor will help you deal with these situations, especially if you can examine the reasons for your nerves within yourself. A good instructor doesn't want to hold up traffic, but will direct you to a safe place to stop and allow people to pass. A good instructor will never shout at a nervous student - for the simple reason that it doesn’t work. The only time a good instructor will even raise their voice is so that a necessary direction can cut through the nervous fog that sometimes occurs, and they will always explain why afterwards. Give yourself time to calm down if you get stressed. Pull over, open the window, take a deep breath, and if necessary, get out of the car and destress for a few minutes - your instructor should be able to help you to relax and get your concentration back.

Once your control of the car improves, you will worry less about clutch control and what gear you are in, and you will have the time and brainpower to assess what is happening around you more. As your assessment improves, you will find yourself getting less and less nervous, as you will anticipate hazards before they become a problem. You will know you’ve cracked it - you will be calmly spotting other drivers actions and adjusting your driving to accommodate them - before it becomes an issue!

This is what we all aim for.

Driving can and will become a calm experience, even in the busiest and most hazardous areas. Give yourself time, have determination and patience, and get good training.

Stay calm, keep smiling - it will come, and until then, there are L-plates and patient instructors!

(Originally published through Beyond Driving.)