Congratulations! You’ve passed your driving test! You’re now free to drive off into the sunset on your own!
While this might seem like a wonderful idea, and maybe one you’ve been waiting for, you might find yourself suddenly panicking about driving on your own. This is completely normal and you aren’t alone.
New driver anxiety is common, and it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Most of the time, you overcome new driver anxiety by becoming more confident at driving on your own. That said, we understand that it’s easier said than done. So there are other things that you can do to help overcome your anxiety.
In this article, we look at some of the things you might want to try, in order to help overcome new driver anxiety. It should be noted that this article is about overcoming anxiety while driving, and not overcoming a fear of driving.
Go back to basics
Going over the basics you learnt during your lessons will ease your anxiety when you are out on the road, particularly when it comes to manoeuvres.
Find a quiet place to practice the ones you are not sure on or that you think will cause you the most stress, such as parallel parking. Take a parent or a (calm and collected) friend with you so that they can help you and be there for moral support. They might also be able to give you some tips on how to approach certain manoeuvres.
Going back to basics will help you become more confident on the road and will in turn, help eliminate new driver anxiety.
Take small journeys you know well
Doing small journeys that you have done regularly before when learning is one of the best ways to build up your confidence. Mastering those short routes that you know will make you feel more confident when it comes to driving routes you aren’t too sure on.
When it comes to new journeys, prepare beforehand
There are lots of things that you can do to eliminate stress when it comes to a route you haven’t done before. Here are some of our top tips for preparing for a journey;
- Try and take roads you are familiar with
- Failing that, take roads that places fewer demand on you to avoid stress
- Allow plenty of time for your journey
- This will not only stop you feeling stressed but will also avoid you speeding or making reckless mistakes.
- Avoid travelling at busy times if you can
- Rush hour traffic can make you, and other drivers, impatient and stressed. This can lead to rash decisions on everyone’s part.
- Check the weather beforehand
- If the weather is going to be terrible, think about re-planning your trip. Driving in adverse weather conditions isn’t fun for any driver, and definitely not for an inexperienced one.
Reduce your stress levels when you are driving
Feeling calm and confident enough to drive off is one thing, but staying calm on the road is another. You aren’t the only one who gets stressed or feels nervous driving, so you aren’t alone. There are some things that you can do when you are driving to ensure that you stay as relaxed as possible. For example;
- Focus on your driving
- If you are anxious, you might start to think of other things that make you anxious and then you become more anxious and it’s a vicious cycle of anxiety. Focus on your driving and on the road ahead of you. If you find you are thinking of other things, then stop at a service station and take some time out before getting back on the road.
- Avoid distractions
- Turn off your mobile phone or put it somewhere where you can’t see it and don’t have your music too loud as this can be a distraction.
- This is a personal tip, but podcasts can be a good, non-dangerous distraction when you are driving. Having voices in the background that aren’t loud music can be calming when you are driving on your own. The same with audiobooks.
- Have confidence in yourself that you are a good driver
- You passed your test for a reason and that’s because the examiner thought that you would be safe driving on your own.
- It’s easier said than done, I know, but telling yourself that you know what you are doing and that you have done it plenty of times before does work. You just have to have some faith in yourself.
Practice calming techniques
If you have suffered from panic or anxiety attacks before, then you may already have your own ways of calming yourself down. However, if you haven’t, then it can be a really terrifying situation to be in, particularly if you are driving. This, in turn, makes you panic more, sending you into a spiral. So it’s important that you know some ways to calm yourself down should you have a panic attack on the road;
- Try and find a safe place to stop
- Focus on your breathing
- Breathe deeply and take long breaths in and out
- Breathe from your stomach rather than your chest
- If you can, go for a short walk or get something to eat or drink
- Don’t drink coffee, it’s not good for panic attacks
- You could even buy a paper and sit reading it until you feel calmer
- If possible, take a drive down some smaller roads until you feel your confidence is back up
You can read our other tips on staying calm when out on the road here.
Take a driving course
One of the best ways to help combat driver anxiety is to take a driving course. There are a few that are aimed at boosting your confidence such as the AA’s Driver Confidence Course and BSM Refresher Lessons. These will help boost your confidence hugely and you will learn some invaluable skills for when you are out on the road.
Alternatively, taking an advanced motoring course can also help with anxiety. This will teach you more advanced driving skills and that, in turn, will help boost your confidence when you are out driving on your own. All of these courses are invaluable and we do recommend that you have a look at them. While some of them might cost money or take time, they will be more than worth it in the end. Also, if you do take an advanced driving course you could end up bringing your insurance down, but that’s just a potential benefit. You can read more about the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ courses here.
So there are some of our top tips to overcoming new driver anxiety. One of the best things you can do is to keep practicing by doing routes that you know and are familiar with. Practising manoeuvres that you struggle with is also a good way to boost your confidence, as is driving with a friend or a family member. Alternatively, taking courses that help combat driving anxiety and boost your confidence are also a very viable option. And, if you do find yourself panicking when you are driving, then hopefully our tips to staying calm will help.