Driving a car after a long absence

posted 3 years ago in The Lounge
Post # 2
1007 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2019

For me, the more I drove the more confidence I had. At first I was like you, always hesitating but now it just kinda comes naturally. You just need to relax and concentrate on what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. Maybe start driving a bit more on some quieter roads and build up your confidence? I still hate driving through the city but I have to do it. 

Post # 3
299 posts
Helper bee

I totally understand you. Other drivers can be crazy and that does not help. At all!

Could you practice in some quiet road? You probably just need to get comfortable driving, and the anxiety will wear off.

Post # 5
5013 posts
Bee Keeper

Like all things in life, you just practice.  And then you keep practicing.  It isn’t like human beings are born with the innate ability to drive – we all take classes or learn from an adult and then practice practice practice.  If you are only doing it a few times a year, how do you expect to get good at it?

Not sure where you are, but here when kids get their licenses at 16 they go to a driver’s education school and part of that is a required 6 hours of practice behind the wheel with an instructor.  You can purchase more than 6 hours of lessons if you want.  Try starting there – go purchase some behind the wheel lessons and get some practice in.

Also, look into purchasing a car with an automatic transmission since you appear to be driving a manual and are so uncomfortable with changing gears.

Post # 6
1827 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017

I agree with others that the more you practise the better it’ll get! And if you have the money, get yourself a smaller car. I live driving but couldn’t cope with a beast like that…

Post # 7
695 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2018

The only thing that helps is practicing. I hated driving for years and now drive a lot. The more you drive, the less nervous you get. Maybe practice as much as possible when there’s very little traffic.

Post # 8
672 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2015

Being overly nervous as a driver can be as dangerous as being careless, so this is something you will need to work through. Why not take a few hours of driving lessons? You might even see if your job is willing to cover the cost.

We are slowlygetting more roundabouts in the US because studies show that they are significantly safer than signal-controlled intersections, so learn to love them! 

Post # 9
3580 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

View original reply
moz89 :  I have also always been a very nervous driver. And a year and a half ago my husband and I were in an awful accident, so that certainly didn’t help. 

The thing is, you have to drive in order to get over your fear. If I had the option to go 6 months without driving, I would take it in a heartbeat. But also, I know that my anxiety would increase by a million percent in that situation. 

I can tell you that for the first year I drove, I was terrified to listen to the radio. And then I found out that it helps!! My anxiety is way worse when I don’t have something playing. Podcasts are my absolute favorite. So much better than music in terms of creating a relaxing drive, which of course decreases anxiety. 

So for the last 3 years, my commute to work was 10 minutes down fairly quiet streets. No highway, barely any danger. In January we moved far away, and my commute is now 45 minutes plus on the highway. In the beginning, my anxiety skyrocketed!!! I spent the first few weeks in complete terror. And then a funny thing happened — I got used to it. My brain now gets that I can make this drive every day without dying. Thanks to podcasts, my brain doesn’t think of anxiety – it thinks of listening and laughing and learning during my drive. 

And I was actually thinking yesterday that it’s amazing how much this commute has benefited me. I think I just needed to do it every day to become comfortable. 

Also, do please try to be logical. Roundabouts only exist because of how many accidents they prevent, and the fact that if there is an accident on one they aren’t dangerous. Your anxiety is stemming purely from you being nervous about doing it wrong, am I right? Practice roundabouts and it’ll become second nature. Watch videos on how to do them, go practice on a Sunday morning when there’s no traffic, and then continue doing it! You’ll never get over this if you avoid driving for months at a time.

Post # 10
10541 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

Cars are a big pastime in my family so when I was a very little girl my dad would teach me how to shift the gears on the manual truck as he drove. I’ve been physically driving since I was around 8 years old (I used to drive my dad to the beer store up the road as a kid when he had been drinking and wanted another case of beer. Safety first, and all that) so I’ve driving has always been a big part of my life.

I have a few recommendations: first of all, get a car you really really love. When I love my car I love to be in my car!  I love being able to open my sun roof and get some fresh air when I leave my windowless office after a long day and I love being able to turn on my seat warmers to loosen my muscles when I’m having pregnancy related back pain. It’s not just a giant killing machine that gets me from point A to point B, it’s actually great for my mental and physical well being. I look forward all week to being able to get in my car, turn on some nice music, open the sun roof and drive across town to my favorite tea room to have a salad and a dessert all my myself for an hour and just relax. 

Secondly, after you get a car, hang out in it! You don’t even have to go anywhere at first! Just go outside, turn on the car and get comfortable in it. Play some music that you love and check your emails or whatever else. Do this a few times until you start to feel more comfortable in your car and your car starts to feel more like a safe space. Then gradually work your way up to going around the block once, then maybe go around the block three times, then drive down the road to the store and pick yourself up a treat. You want to associate your car with good feelings so it’s important to reward yourself after a successful drive. 

ETA: even as comfortable with cars that I’ve always been I really didn’t start driving on the highway until my mid twenties. Up until that point I stayed in my “bubble” and took back roads everywhere. It wasn’t until I met my husband and we were long distance that I really started getting on the freeway as he lived 4 hours away and I would drive down to see him. Scary at first but I got used to it!

Post # 11
47432 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

Two things- learn to use your mirrors. It makes parking so  much easier.

Second, park the car, or have someone else park the car the proper distance from the curb- less than 12 inches and parallel to the curb- then get in the driver’s seat and look in your mirrors. See what you can see and where you can see sidewalk and what part of your car you can see. Memorize that, so you know when you are close enough. Also, use the car in front of you as a guide.

Post # 12
5081 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: December 2014

I drove on small town back roads in high school in my small car and then when I moved away for college, I didn’t need a car for 5 years in the city. After that I moved to another city where you have to drive and I was gifted a big SUV. The roads here have so many lanes and traffic, it’s crazy. I was scared at first, after not driving for years, but I got used to to just by doing it. Now it’s like second nature.

If possible, get a car that you are more comforable with, a smaller one or an automatic (I’m assuming you’re driving manual since you mention switching gears…). But really, the only way you’re going to get more comfortable is by doing it. Practice driving in “scary” areas like roundabouts when they aren’t busy. Go to an empty parking lot at night and set up cones to help with parking, have someone you know help you with the directions if you can’t figure out which way to turn the wheel. 

Post # 13
1528 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2017 - A vineyard

Ooof I understand this a lot. I had a really bad accident a decade or so ago and ever since I find it really hard to drive, especially alone. I mostly avoid it. But when I do find myself needing to drive I try to do it at the less busy times of day and I take quieter roads where I won’t be boxed in like busy roads or highways. I also drive only the speed limit, stay out of the speed lane, and tell myself people can go around if they want to speed. 

Having an automatic helps a lot too so if that’s ever a possibility to get I would do that too and maybe get a midsize or smaller car whenever you are able to. I didn’t realise until we upgraded to a much newer Rogue than my first that I don’t like driving full suv sized cars because of it being harder for me to maneuver backing up because everything is so tight. So I will not be driving anything larger than my current car ever again. 

When he’s able,  my husband takes me out to drive and that’s helped a little bit with the anxiety. At first I wouldn’t drive at all. So definitely practice as much as you can with someone you trust in the seat with you. It’s probably going to take me a long time to agree to drive without him anywhere off base but I’m working on it 🙂 

Post # 15
3580 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

View original reply
moz89 :  Your mom’s refusal to drive is probably what’s given you anxiety and caused you to doubt yourself. But honestly, you can do this. Facing your fear is the only way to get over it. As an American it’s crazy that cars in Europe are manual! I think you should consider searching for a car by price and tramsmission. Smallest may seem easiest right now, but also something a bit taller can actually be easier to control and give you more confidence. If you can find something a little higher up and automatic, you might be surprised at how much more comfortable you feel.

Keep practicing. You can do this! Try taking the car out for a drive on weekend mornings when there aren’t a ton of cars on the road. And go easy on yourself if it takes a few times to park! I consider myself a great driver but I can’t always parallel park my first try, and certainly if I went 6 months without driving it would take me many many more times!

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