Tips for new drivers to boost confidence
Remember your basics
You should try and hold onto the information your driving instructor passed onto you, as the basics will see you in good stead for your future driving. A good place to start is remembering your cockpit drill (doors, seat steering, seatbelt and mirrors), mirror signal manoeuvre (MSM), clutch control and parking procedures.
Getting settled behind the wheel and making sure you are comfortable before you set off is essential. Your seat should be pulled far enough forward so you can fully extend the clutch pedal while maintaining a slight bend in the knee. While the backrest should be slightly tilted back but your shoulders should keep contact with the seat even when turning the steering wheel. As well as making sure your seat is the best position, you should ensure your wing mirrors and rear-view mirror are set correctly. You should be able to see out of your mirrors without having to alter your position behind the wheel.
Have a plan
Having a plan and knowing your route will help to ensure your journey runs smoothly, which in turn should help you feel more relaxed. Using a satnav will help to keep you on the right path for the entirety of your journey and can also be useful should anything unexpected crop up, in which case the satnav will re-route you.
You should make sure you have plenty of fuel for your journey, so you aren’t worrying about where to fill up or trying to find a fuel station in unfamiliar surroundings.
To ensure you’re driving is at its best, you should avoid distractions. Keeping all your attention on your driving which should help improve your confidence.
One of the best things you can do is turn off your mobile phone when you get into your car. However, if you don’t want to go to those lengths you could instead put your mobile somewhere out of reach, so you’re tempted to have a look while you’re on the move.
You should not play your music too loud as this can distract your attention. Some people find that listening to an audiobook or a podcast can be less distracting than music, but this is down to personal taste and preference.
Panicking will only make a situation worse, so learning how to stay calm even when you are nervous can be a great help. Taking long deep breaths helps to reduce your heart rate and can make you feel more relaxed. It is a good idea to practice this technique at home first before using it on the go.
When driving if you do feel the panic rising, it is a good idea to pull over if safe to do so. You can then take a short break, and employ the breathing techniques mentioned, or if safe to do so you could try taking a short walk to calm your nerves.
Another tip when it comes to staying calm is to avoid caffeinated drinks which can increase your anxiety.
Stick to what you know
While it can be tempting to run with your new-found freedom, for the first few weeks after passing your test, it is a good idea to stick to routes you are familiar with. Doing so gives you the chance to develop your confidence before you tackle roads further afield.
Remember you should never feel under pressure to travel further than you feel comfortable with.
Avoid peak times
For many new drivers, avoiding peak times is easier said than done. Let’s face it, many of us learn to drive so that we can drive to and from our place of work, which means avoiding rush hour traffic is unavoidable. However, if you can, it’s a good idea to attempt to avoid the worse traffic if you still feel nervous behind the wheel. If your work are flexible, you may be able to reach an agreement with work where you come in and leave a little earlier to avoid the worst traffic.
However, if this is not possible, you could try and look at alternative routes that may be less congested or could just set off earlier and enjoy a coffee before you start work.
Give yourself plenty of time
One of the simplest tips for new drivers to implement is to give yourself plenty of time. Leaving yourself extra time to get to your destination will help reduce stress should anything not run quite to plan. There are many things that can increase your stress levels on a journey, including hitting traffic and getting lost, and feeling like you will be late will only add to this. So don’t risk it leave earlier than you need to and try to enjoy the drive.
Take someone experienced with you
Driving for the first time on your own can seem daunting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to travel with a car full straight after passing your test, as you may find this too distracting. Instead, try taking just one experienced driver with you as a passenger. Just their presence can help bolster your confidence, but they may also be able to give you helpful pointers and tips on your driving.
Check the weather
Make sure you check the weather before you set off on a journey. Travelling in poor weather can make your journey more difficult, and in really bad conditions you should avoid travelling unless necessary.
You can make sure you’re prepared for different weather by carrying some essentials in your car, take a look at what we wouldn’t travel without.
Have confidence in yourself
Remember that you have passed your test, so give yourself a break. You have already shown that you are a capable driver, so the only thing left to learn is to have some faith in your abilities. If you are really unsure, you can always book some refresher lessons to boost your memory and increase your confidence with an instructor back by your side.