Wednesday, April 17, 2024
For men, women, and teens


Why you should learn to drive even if you are scared (all ages) - and how to make it easier

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

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Young woman driving a car

No matter whether you're a teen or a middle aged adult, it's understandable if the thought of driving seems scary. Many people are scared to learn to drive, you're not the only one. In fact, thinking this way shows that you're aware of the serious responsibility of driving, so it's a positive thing. Driving does have inherent risks - to yourself, your passengers, to pedestrians and to other drivers.

At the same time, understand that driving is a basic life skill that you're missing out on if you choose not to learn to drive. There are a lot of benefits to yourself of learning to drive. You're likely aware of most (but I bet not all) of these. After mentioning the benefits, we'll go over ways to get over the fear of learning to drive, as well as tips to ease into driving in a way that works for you.

Of course, if you currently live and work downtown in a big city where a car is a liability (here I mean literally New York, Chicago, London, etc) then you might not need to drive - but it helps to learn this skill anyway, even if you don't own a car. Plenty of people don't own cars yet still know how to drive. It's useful if you ever need to drive a longer distance where you need to get a rental car or something similar such as a commercial car share service.

Benefits of being able to drive

Independence

As you're probably aware, the biggest benefit of driving is independence. You don't need to rely upon others to help you get from A to B. Even if you live in an area with excellent public transportation, there are probably some areas where it's challenging to get to, or occasions where you have something awkward or bulky to transport. Being able to drive eliminates the need for you to ask a friend to chauffeur you to your destination.

Even if you don't own a car and wouldn't use it much, being able to drive means you can book a car share service for a day and get your more complex errands done then. Remember, anytime you have to ask someone to drive you somewhere, it might be a one-way trip for you but a round trip for them, so it takes them twice as long. If your friend doesn't live really close to you, then he or she has the added distance of picking you up as well as the round trip. You can also save money on constantly needing to get an Uber, Lyft or taxi if you wind up getting your own car. Getting your own car can become an option for you if you can drive, but it won't be an option if you can't drive.

Even if you're married and your spouse can drive, it's not really fair on them to shoulder all of that burden, and even more so if you have kids that need to be ferried around to after school activities.

Ability to live in a cheaper area

Good news here! That's right, if you're able to drive then you have so many more options available of where to live. It's because if you can drive, you're able to successfully live in smaller cities that might not have the best public transportation. This comes with a much lower cost of living.

Even with the cost of car ownership and insurance, you will likely find that you're able to save more money and have better housing in a smaller city. It's important to crunch the numbers of course, since every situation is different, but in general living in a smaller city or the suburbs tends to come with much lower housing costs than in downtown or in a big city.

Ability to apply for more jobs - without even considering jobs that need you to drive on the job

More good news! You'll be able to consider jobs in areas that wouldn't have been an option for you before. This is because you're able to get from your home to your work wherever you live.

As an added bonus, that's without even considering jobs that require you to drive as part of the job (e.g. meeting clients at their location). So even without jobs that actually need you to drive, you still win!

To sum up this bit, your total pool of cities where you could successfully live goes up when you can drive. This means your pool of jobs you could consider has expanded too.

Even if you can get to your job just fine now without a car, you might want to switch jobs one day. You don't need to limit yourself just to a few big cities - that would cut you out of a lot of jobs on the market. As mentioned before, many jobs in the market are in more affordable areas.

Saves you so much time

Being able to drive means that if you have a car, you don't need to plan how to get somewhere. You can just hop in the car on a whim and go to the grocery store. You don't need to first start planning when you can go. These time savings all add up. Also, it means that you're more easily able to participate in spur of the moment things. Otherwise by the time you figure out how you'd get there with public transportation, it almost doesn't seem worth it because you'd get there so much later than everyone else.

Common fears of driving and solutions for you

Here is how to get over the fear of learning to drive. These practical solutions will help you not to be scared when driving, and as an added bonus it really does get easier as you practice more.

Fear that you won't be a safe driver

There is a simple solution to this: just learn for longer.

Different people take different lengths of time. Accept it might take you a little longer than average. Do not feel bad about this: remember, purely by statistics, half the population will take longer than average to learn!

If you have a learner permit or have only recently gotten your license, ask a friend (preferably one who already knows how to drive) to be your passenger occasionally so you can practice driving while they help you navigate or helping you generally with advice on any bits you're worried about. It's much easier than doing it alone, especially at first. Do this even if you are having separate driving lessons with an instructor - the more occasions to practice, the better. I am ever grateful to my co-workers for fulfilling that role whenever we had to all go somewhere in the company car. They let me drive and were supportive and helpful about giving me advice.

If you don't have an appropriate friend who can calmly do this, at least just take lessons for longer. Find a reputable local driving school in your area - it's worth the cost. You will eventually get to the point where you can drive without being scared, it just could take awhile. That is perfectly OK and nothing to be ashamed of. Keeping yourself and others safe is a priority. It is totally worth spending the money on this. Even after you have your license, it's OK to take refresher lessons if you feel you need it.

As you get more experienced, you will lose that fear, don't worry! Learning to drive really does get easier even if it doesn't feel that way in the early stages of learning.

Fear of aggressive drivers

Rest assured that even confident experienced people don't like aggressive drivers! The solution to this is to remind yourself that in any situation (even not in driving situations) there are always going to be a small number of jerks - but remind yourself that you shouldn't let some random jerk stop you from getting a basic life skill.

Good news: most drivers are courteous and sensible. Aggressive drivers are the exception rather than the rule, so you won't be constantly encountering them. There are just a few aggressive drivers out there and rest assured no-one likes them.

A solution to this is to keep a Student Driver magnet on the back of your car until you're more confident with driving. It lets other drivers know that you're new to driving. You can get student driver magnets from Amazon.com.

Another solution you can have on the rare occasions you do encounter aggressive drivers is to simply make it easy for them to get in front of you (if the situation allows this safely). This may mean turning off into a parking lot or side street if necessary. This doesn't happen to me often - it's extremely rare, but it's an excellent tactic to keep yourself and your passengers safe and stress-free. If you can get an aggressive driver in front of your (instead of behind or on the side) that's a safe place since they're unlikely to crash into you from in front, so that's a win for you.

However, if an aggressive driver is trying to get you to turn at an intersection when it's not safe to do so, don't let it affect you or your decisions of when to turn. Just try to stay calm. It's up to YOU to make the decisions for your passengers and your car, and you should never put yourself or your passengers in harm's way because of someone else. The aggressive driver will just have to wait their turn, and if that makes them miserable that's their problem.

As you get more accustomed to driving, you'll quickly become unfazed by the rare aggressive driver you might encounter, especially now that you have practical solutions in place.

Fear of unknown lane changes

When you're first driving, the thought of changing lanes can seem so stressful! If you're stressed at the thought of not knowing which lane goes where, here is a simple solution: before you head out, look at a birds-eye view of your journey so you know where the lanes go. Open Google Maps, center it at the start of your journey and put satellite overlay on. You'll be able to see the road markings with this birds-eye view, so familiarize yourself with what lanes you need to be in.

Note that you won't see the streetside signage such as stop signs on satellite view, but you'll be able to see arrows on the road surface. Now you'll know which lanes go where. This method does require some memorization, since you can't do this while you're driving, but you can do it ahead of time for checking on the one or two difficult spots.

If you're ever in the wrong lane and can't easily change lanes, it's OK - just do what your lane does and turn around later to get back on track on your journey. This happens to everyone at some point, so don't get upset if that happens - it's far better than making an unsafe lane change.

As you become more adept at changing lanes, rest assured you won't get stressed at the thought of lane changes.

Fear of conditions that are too challenging for you to meet

The solution to challenging weather or road conditions is to work your way up to these. Understand that if it's raining and dark, don't drive yet. If you have to for whatever reason, go slowly.

It's OK to turn into a parking lot to take a break if conditions are challenging. Safety first! Don't risk yourself or anyone else. If it takes you awhile to complete your journey and it's done in several segments with parking lot turn-offs it's OK. It's probably still better and faster and more convenient than using public transportation.

Take the process in digestible chunks. If there's a longer way that's easier to drive, use that way at first.

You might be wondering how you'll know when you're ready to graduate to driving in the dark and the rain or on busier roads that make for a shorter journey? It's easy: when you're ready for the next step up, you'll know it because the inconvenience of doing it the old way will simply start feeling annoying to you.

If you encounter a flooded area, turn around, don't drown. Never drive your car through floodwater or standing water.

As you become more experienced with driving, you'll be better able to cope with different conditions. Even experienced drivers tend to slow down in heavy rain or bad conditions, you won't be the only one!

Conclusion and a few final tips

Yes you can learn to drive even if you are scared! You might need to take lessons for a little longer if you get very stressed when driving, but that is absolutely OK. Everyone is a little bit nervous of driving at first. The solutions that are mentioned above are very helpful for calming nerves when learning to drive. The bottom line is that you need to start small and work your way up.

This does not mean you'll be heading off onto the highway at rush hour the minute you get your license. Just because you have your license and a car does not mean that you need to start driving on every possible road in all possible weather conditions. Work your way up!

Here is a helpful mantra for you:

Getting from A to B in a safe manner is the only important thing. If I'm late, it's OK not to rush. It's better to get there 10 minutes late and have everyone be safe and well, than to have a car crash and never get there at all.

Don't feel bad about yourself if you have anxiety about driving. It's normal to be nervous and scared at first. That's a good thing. The people who are like "Who, me? I'm not scared of having a wreck! Look, no hands!" these are the people who are more likely to have problems when they drive. By contrast, a cautious person will do much better.

Learning to stay calm with driving is something that can only come with practice, so get plenty of practice. Start small and work your way up. You will find it comes easier the more experience you have.

You might also like to read about how to reduce stress in your life in general, as well as how to get more sleep. Both of these will help you handle challenges more easily.


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