Learning to Drive? Jack tells us what it was like for him...
I guess learning to drive is a memory pretty much everyone can relate to - with a mix of fondness and an elevated level of stress. I can still remember struggling to get out of first gear while my grandfather explained how to do it for the one hundredth time. He was patient and he needed to be! I wasn't a quick learner. Eventually, just to get onto the road my grandfather decided to insure me as a named driver on his car - which was great -except it was an automatic! But I quickly came to terms with spatial awareness ( a fancy name for being aware of what’s going on around you) , how to properly turn and most importantly stop the car.
My grandad sorted me as a named driver on his insurance policy
Living in Louth, with it being the smallest county in the country, you would imagine at seventeen years old there wasn’t much of it I hadn’t already seen. I saw so many places I didn’t even know existed on these road trips and visited old historical sights on the weekends. My grandfather saw it as more of a day out for him as he had the Rolling Stones playing on the radio and would occasionally have the odd nod off!
This was all great but when it came to my driving lessons it wasn’t the ideal start. I struggled immensely with gear changing and quickly became overwhelmed with having to change gear, check my mirrors every twenty seconds while also attempting not to drive the car onto the footpath. In hindsight I really should have tried to start off with and get insured on a manual car from the outset.
Forget the automatics, drive a manual...
I eventually got through my twelve lessons and the daunting day of my driving test arrived. I remember barely being able to let my foot off the clutch - my leg was shaking so much. But in the most ungraceful fashion I managed to pass first time. All the road trips paid off. They really helped with road awareness and confidence. So I think a lot of the practice I did before I started taking formal lessons really stood by me. Yes, there were things I would do differently- ideally driving a manual from the get go. I’ve mentioned that twice so far- so you get the idea!
Stick with less busy roads at the very beginning
I would also advise at the start to begin driving on long roads with little to no lights or junctions. This helped me get a good feel for being on the road – it allows you to change gear in a less pressured environment. As you start to become more experienced you can target more congested and busy roads with more traffic lights, junctions, and roundabouts.
Being able to drive is a crucial life skill- start as early as you can
It will always be to your benefit to get behind the wheel as soon as you can. With the current pandemic it can be difficult to get lessons but practice will always stand by you in regard to simple things such as spatial awareness, changing gears and just getting a feel for what it is like to be behind the wheel of a car. Things like how steering, braking and acceleration feel and work. And of course mirrors, mirrors, mirrors!
Move onto busier times as soon as you can
Although it can be really daunting for learner drivers, I think once you feel confident you should try and drive the car at peak times, early in the morning, and between five and six o’clock in the evening. The reason I say this is because this is when the roads are most busy, as people are coming to and from work. The more you practice in a pressured environment the better. Your confidence will grow day by day.
A patient granddad is worth his weight in gold!
Of course it goes without saying that the bottom line is all about doing the theory test and taking your lessons with a qualified instructor- all aimed at developing the skills and experience you need to pass the test and become a competent driver.
But, the early on the road experience with my grandfather helped with confidence big time. It’s something all new drivers need. And that’s an important point- think about who is the right person to accompany you on those initial but oh so important trips close to home! Best of luck!