On driving

I hate driving. Really, really hate it. Always have done. People used to say to me ‘it’ll get easier, you’ll get used to it, soon it’ll be second nature’…

When is soon, please? Because I passed my test 17 years ago now. And if I hadn’t had to learn to drive so that I could go for promotion I wouldn’t have bothered. I got the promotion – and with it a car – and then promptly breathed a massive sigh of relief as I was given the task of looking after London based ad agencies which meant – wahey – I could use the Tube for work, while the car was wheeled out at weekends so the Husband (the Boyfriend then) could drive me places. Which worked perfectly well for me, thank you very much.

Since then I have become adept at not driving places. I walk, bus or train whenever I can (it takes me 50 mins to walk to work, I get soaking wet nearly every day because this is Wales, and STILL I prefer that to driving).  For social occasions I’m the first to chip in with offers of petrol and beer money in exchange for lifts; I think people think I am lazy but I don’t care because that’s easier than admitting how terrified I am of being behind the wheel.

I am horribly and hyper aware of the fact that half a ton of metal plus engine equals a very dangerous combination and it doesn’t take much to go wrong for things to get catastrophic. And I am absolutely terrified that I will do something wrong, make a silly mistake, take my eyes of the road for one second, and cause that catastrophe. I can feel the adrenaline even as I write this, a horrible, panicking, thumping feeling.

If I’m driving a familiar route, I can just about stay on top of this. However if I am driving somewhere unfamiliar then as well as the fear of killing someone, I end up panicking that I’ll get lost on top of everything else, and it’s a pretty fair bet that getting lost is exactly what I will do. Like so many things requiring brainpower, this has got worse since having kids – it doesn’t matter how much I study the map and write out the directions and memorise the route, I just cannot keep the information in my head. It’s gone the minute, nay the SECOND  I turn the ignition key. I kid you not.

For the last few years this whole driving thing has been manageable. I can’t avoid the car altogether but the journeys I do are mostly short and familiar – the swimming pool, my Mum and Dad’s, my inlaws, and once a year or so a BIG drive when my uni chums and I get together with all our kids for a weekend. Which I grit my teeth and gird my loins to do, because seeing old friends is good for the soul. I dread it for weeks, and it’s always disastrous – last year I turned a 3.5 hour journey into a 5 hour journey – both bloody ways.

I kind of need to get this sorted now.  For a start, I have a job which requires me to drive to random places and for another start, I am just fed up of being so incompetent in an area of life that everyone else seems to manage without any problem at all. I’ve invested in a satnav, which does help the getting lost bit, though on the flip side it gives me something else to panic about – I can now add ‘being distracted by the flipping TomTom’ to the list of things that I could do which might end up killing someone.

But I do want to get this nailed. So – any suggestions wonderful readers? Or am I stuck with this for life?



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12 thoughts on “On driving

  1. Perhaps you need to borrow my rasta driving instructor to keep you calm and carry on. It certainly works for me. Although I can’t say I know much yet,ony had the second lesson after avoiding it for ten years. My mother hasn’t driven for over twenty years and then she got lessons to get back on the road, next thing I know she will be competing in F1 how confident she is now. Remember if my uncapable mother (sorry mum) can do that, surely you can. xx

  2. I’ve never passed a driving test… still managed to work in all sorts of places all over South Wales though. Bike to the station, train, and then bike from the other station. Doable but damp at times!

    1. You have just reminded me of the one thing I find more terrifying than being on the road in a car, and that is being on the road on a bike! I take my hat off to anyone who has the confidence to nip around on 2 wheels – I like my bike but I find road riding terrifying!

  3. The first time I learnt to drive (age 17) I was a wreck – everything was terrifying, I didn’t understand the speed of the car, reversing was something that must be reserved for geniuses because I certainly couldn’t make it work, changing gear needed a prayer each time and was only done when the car actively complained (or my instructor did) Admittedly at the time my eyesight was slowly declining, which probably increased the abject terror I was feeling. Then I called it a day.

    I didn’t pick up learning to drive again until I was 19/20. I was lucky this time, I had a great instructor who managed to teach me rather than just the next student he’d picked up from the side of the road. My driving, I discovered, was actually okay: it was my utter fear and liability to go into hysterics over things like whether I stop at an amber light while I’m already driving through it or not. We worked on the complete road-terror, and I slowly calmed down and driving became – if not likeable, even now I tell people I hate it – then an experience that I mostly wasn’t going to shy away from. I passed my test first time, which seemed like a bit of a miracle.

    I did pass plus, which ended up firstly being three hours of nearly driving over the edge of mountains (great fun) and then three hours of driving to Swansea and back in the middle of the night in the biggest storm I can ever remember – wind pushing the car, rain so heavy it felt like wipers were pointless. The boyfriend was having kittens at his mother’s apparently. Those two completely different challenges really helped prove to myself that I was okay at this driving lark, and once I knew I was okay at it that really helped my confidence. I think a lot of the panicking came from the fact I thought I was a complete idiot on the road.

    I’ve still never felt calmer than when I had my instructor beside me. However a couple of things I did after I passed the learning stage really helped me:

    – I was terrified of driving at rush hour (as you know, I’m still not fond) and I needed to visit my mother, who lives four hours away – including an 96 mile stretch on the M4. So brilliantly I decided that considering the Swansea trip had gone so well I’d drive it at the dead of night – because then there wouldn’t be any traffic! (Sadly, I still have genius moments like this.) Similarly to Swansea it was absolutely bucketing it down, and I couldn’t see anything while I was cruising along at 50mph because there were no other cars. Plus one of my windscreen wipers was slightly bent and made a scraping noise against the windscreen the entire trip. I’m not sure the boyfriend has ever forgiven me for this. However because I managed this early on, it gave me an opportunity to adopt the mantra ‘well if I could do that twatting drive, I can certainly do this.’

    – Passengers stress me out. They basically equal distraction and more people to panic should I hit a kerb. They also never fulfill their promise of being good at directions (the one reason you should carry a passenger.) So I chuck the radio on and ignore them, which I find very calming. Singing whilst driving tends to help my concentration.

    – In frustration my boyfriend once told me “you have the directional sense of a, of a..” (he paused for thought) “a pickled onion!” This is true. Sadly. It took me 6 months to learn the drive to Tesco (10 minutes from my house, mostly straight lines.) So I bought a sat nav before I bought a car. It’s helpful, do simple routes to get to know it and its quirks. Update it regularly. Check the picture showing the road layout if you get confused. Program the routes you already take into it (set via points, if necessary) so you don’t end up arguing with it. Otherwise ignore it.

    So that’s my advice. Admittedly I still turn up to work two hours early because I think rush hour is terrifying and can only be negated by several coffees, but that’s a great improvement on how I used to be!

    1. ‘It was my fear and liability to go into hysterics’ – now there is a sentence that rings horribly true!! It sounds like an advanced driving course might be a sensible investment, several people have suggested it today. I reckon I might give it a go (when I have worked up the courage!!)

  4. I passed my test when I was 18 but didn’t really drive much in the decade that followed and never owned my own car. When I moved to North Wales, I lived two miles from work so always cycled, took the bus or walked. I now live about six or seven miles away and get the bus, although I used to cycle.

    I actually took a few driving lessons a couple of years ago after my now wife and I were chatting about how it’d be good if we could share the driving a bit more. It was really helpful as a friend was able to recommend a really good local instructor.

    I think that becoming a dad helped me to become a better driver as I ended up driving more regularly than at any stage of my life as my wife had a C-section and wasn’t allowed to drive for six weeks. It’s the only stage of my working life when I’ve regularly driven to work.
    Jonathan recently posted…Parenting clubs shouldn’t just be for mumsMy Profile

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I thought I was the only person with this crazy phobia. I’ve been thinking about driving lessons for while. I should just do it to build up confidence in a controlled environment.

    1. From the replies here and elsewhere, I don’t think you’re alone Nova – I reckon signing up for a few lessons or even an advanced driving course is probably a good thing to do – I’m going to give it a try – let me know how you get on!
      LearnerMother recently posted…Silent Sunday 24.11.13My Profile

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