Learning to drive when you’re older

Are you scared of learning to drive? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, I promise.

Like lots of people, I turned 17 armed with my provisional and a burning desire to take to take to the open road. At the time I lived on the Isle of Skye, which meant relying on my parents to drive me everywhere or getting the CityLink coach, which unless you have had to rely on a transport system geared towards tourists to coordinate your busy teenage life, you probably wouldn’t understand.

Imagine being all dressed up for ‘the dance,’ a regular Friday night soiree that took place in the village hall of the islands largest town, Portree.  Social highlight to say the least. A typical outfit would be my Morgan pleather trousers, Britney Spears style pleather top, layers of weird Guerlin fake tan that you had to paint on with a cotton wool ( this was quite some time ago and I was an early adopter of fake tan) straightened hair courtesy of a Babylis contraption that you had to fill with water and maybe even my white pleather jacket that was reminiscent of one of the Britney outfits in the ‘Oops I Did it Again’ video.

Are you sensing a theme here? I would then navigate my way down to the bottom of a pitch black country road in my 5-inch heels and patiently wait for the CityLink bus to pass on the main road as it completed its 6-hour journey from Glasgow to Portree.  Sometimes it was 40 mins late and packed with tourists, other times it just flew past me at 70 miles an hour, it was nearly always blowing a gale and pouring with horizontal rain. Occasionally a brave sheep would try to make its escape from the rigours of rural life by climbing up the coach steps with me.

I had places to be and often in man-made fibres, so I needed my own set of wheels where I was in charge of climate control. After school I took lessons with my instructor and one of the many great things about Skye is that there are no pesky roundabouts, traffic lights, or dual carriageways. It should have been a learners dream,  however, I was really nervous and would neck half a bottle of Rescue Remedy before every lesson – I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I would kill myself and other people.

Still not driving

A few months later I left school and went out to live with my dad in Spain for a while. All thoughts of driving went to the back of my mind and I simply grew used to lugging heavy bags through the streets and relying on kind souls with driving licences to come and pick me up. A year later I went to University in Glasgow, where there was no need for a car but once again I was back on that bloody CityLink bus whenever I went home to see my mum.

The years rolled by and I simply became used to the dead fingers after lugging a supermarket shop home, arriving at work soaked from the walk to the train station and feeling like an overgrown teenager when I went to visit family and friends and needed to be picked up from the station. I would look at people driving about in their cars and feel like a major loser because it wasn’t that I didn’t want to drive, I was too scared to.

When I was 21 I had quite a few lessons but I was still totally terrified and the instructor, a very highly strung woman, wasn’t a good fit for me. After one particularly hormonal day for both of us, which involved a large roundabout, we decided to go our separate ways.

It’s easier in an automatic

Fast forward to my 28th year and enough was enough. I was still terrified but I really needed to feel like a proper person and I wanted to go to IKEA. I must have read every internet message board titled, ‘Help! I’m scared of learning to drive,’ and after a particularly successful Googling session I discovered that it was possible to sit your test in an automatic and that lots of Nervous Nellies like me, found it really helpful.

My rationale was, if I’m not thinking about the gear stick and clutch then I can focus on the road more and hopefully be less likely to die. That is exactly how my brain works, it’s very tiring.

I found a mellow older gentleman instructor named Jack and while I was nervous  quivering with fear to begin with, I soon became GOOD AT DRIVING!  This time around I passed my theory test before even starting my driving lessons, which meant I actually knew what was going on in the road, I would certainly recommend doing it this way.  During that time I dedicated myself to all things driving and, at the risk of looking like a creep, I would literally stand at junctions watching what people did, at work I played driving games on my computer and I watched endless YouTube videos on parking.

Of course, I still thought that I was completely rubbish and my parking was, truly, terrible but after a couple of months Jack insisted that I sit my test. That day a strange sense of calm suddenly came over me and as the sun shone brightly on a beautiful October day, I did something I never thought I would, I  passed my driving test first time.

Now don’t get too carried away. Even after passing my test  I still felt very ill-equipped. The day I picked my new car up from the garage and drove it an hour and a half to my dads on a dark winters evening, I felt like I was at the helm of an alien spaceship and totally out of control. That night I lay in bed cursing the shiny new car that was sitting outside.

For months I was terrified that I was driving too close to the kerb or into oncoming traffic and I found that my passengers had a habit of clenching their teeth as I approached tight bends.  Now I drive on the motorway every day – to get to work, not just for kicks and I wish that I had done it years ago.

Sometimes I’ll be cruising along, belting out Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves at the top of my lungs with Cher, and I’ll remember how crap it was when I couldn’t drive.  For lots of people driving comes easily, especially if you do it young when the fear is less likely to take hold, but if you’ve stumbled on this page in a fit of worry about an upcoming driving lesson then don’t worry! Like most things that seem scary, it’s worth it in the end, and even better if you’ve had to struggle a bit.

Driving really is actually pretty easy when you know how and if you’re scared to the depth of your core then hopefully you will be switched on and less likely to do anything crazy.

Top Tips if Your Afraid of Learning to Drive

1. Watch Thelma and Louise ( For inspiration only, NOT driving technique)

2. Pass your theory test first and search Youtube for their good but very badly shot parking videos

3. Don’t put up with a crappy driving instructor. The older and more mellow, the better

4. Look at all the baby faced/ ancient people behind the wheel, if they can do it so can you

5. Visualise yourself driving down the open road on a sunny day, with your windows down, music blaring

6.  Try an automatic if it all gets too much

7. “Imagine that everyone else on the road is an idiot,” wise words from my stepfather. Quite a lot of truly actually are so keep your wits about you.

Leave a Reply