Congratulations! You’ve aced your theory and passed your driving test. It’s a liberating feeling to finally tear off the ‘L’ plates and get out onto the road solo – but it can also be quite a daunting experience.
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about heading out on the roads for the first time by yourself, which is why we recommend displaying a green P (probationary) plate on your car. It may help you to build up confidence as you get more experience on the roads and it notifies other drivers that you may take a little bit of extra time and be slightly more cautious than those who have been on the road for longer.
So, what are the manoeuvres that make new drivers anxious? And what should you do to overcome them?
Firstly, don’t panic; that will only serve to make things worse. You can always take a trusted family member or friend with you when you venture out in the early days. As with everything new, practice makes perfect.
Here are Motors.co.uk’s top tips for combatting first time driver anxiety.
1. Hill starts
This means practising your clutch control. Try running through your hill starts on quiet roads so that you feel more comfortable when you have to do the manoeuvre on a busy road or in queuing traffic.
Many new drivers get anxious when they have to negotiate roundabouts on their own – particularly large ones where there are multiple exists and lanes. However, you’ll find the thought of using one is much worse than actually driving around it! It’s about trusting your judgment: don’t worry about other drivers behind you. If you don’t think you have time to move into the traffic flow, wait. Remember, the slower you approach the roundabout, the more time you have to process the conditions and traffic flows.
Take a motorway lesson if you want to build your confidence. Or, if you want to tackle it yourself, head out on a Sunday morning when it is quieter and stay in the inside lane. Focus on what you are doing – and don’t worry if other cars overtake. Exiting is easy: you can only turn left!
4. Parking the car
Whether you are in a supermarket car park or need to parallel park on a road, it can be nerve-wracking, especially if you have to squeeze your vehicle in a tight spot. Like all driving manoeuvres, practice makes perfect because you’ll get a better feel for your car’s dimensions. Find a quiet spot if you need to and move the car into place slowly – try and back into a space, too, because it’s easier to drive away when you return to your vehicle.
5. Filling up with fuel
It might sound like an odd thing to get nervous about but many new drivers do. Before you head to the garage, make sure you know how to open the fuel cap, the type of fuel your car takes and that you have sufficient funds to pay for it!
The petrol pump symbol on your car dashboard indicates which side your petrol cap is on; it will sometimes have a small arrow pointing to the left or right, but the fool proof way to tell is by looking at which side the pump handle appears on. This will be the same side as the fuel cap on the outside of the car.
Pull up fairly closely to the pump and park your vehicle so that the nozzles line up to your petrol cap. Remove the correct nozzle from the pump (black for diesel; green for unleaded petrol), insert it into the fuel cap and hold down the lever to release the fuel. Keep an eye on the counter display so you know how much you are spending. The pump stops automatically when the tank is full.
Then don’t forget to pay – just pop inside and tell the assistant which number pump you were using. If you’re using your card to pay at the pump, you will need to do this before you start to fill up, but you will still only be charged for the amount of fuel you buy.