Just passed your test? 10 Tips for driving alone for the first time
Get on top of those post-test nerves
No matter how confidently you passed your driving test, that first drive afterwards, alone in the car for the very first time, can be a nerve-wracking – even terrifying – experience.
It’s true that one in five drivers has an accident in their first year of driving, but those accidents aren't all caused by over-confident new drivers going too fast. The fact is, the over-cautious approach of some new drivers can be a hazard in itself!
So how can a new driver overcome their nerves while they gain experience behind the wheel? We’ve got some tips.
- Don’t go it alone straight-away. You’ve spent the last few months with an instructor sitting beside you. Even if they didn’t need to intervene, that comfort blanket was there, telling you where to go and what to do. Try to arrange it so that your first few drives after passing your test aren’t on your own. Ask a more experienced driver such as a parent or friend to accompany you on some short journeys. They won’t have the dual controls on their side of the car, but just having someone beside you, ready and willing to give advice, can be soothing to first-time nerves.
- Put magnetic “P” plates on your car. Motorists should always be considerate to other drivers, but green P plates help to make them aware that you’re inexperienced at the moment. When you need a bit more space to complete a manoeuvre, or a little more time at a junction, P plates buy you some breathing space. They’re really cheap to buy, and you can keep them on the car as long as you feel you need them.
- Keep your first journeys simple. Until you’ve gained confidence, stick to easy routes that you know like the back of your hand. This will help you to focus on driving the car and observing other traffic rather than trying to follow a new route on the sat nav. Navigating from Bournemouth to Birmingham can wait a while!
- Pick off-peak times for your first drives. Nothing is more likely to send you into a tail-spin than driving in rush hour, with its heavy traffic, busy junctions, and other drivers at the end of their tether. If you can, time your first drive alone when the roads are quieter, perhaps in the late morning or early afternoon.
- Get to know your car’s controls. You may only ever have driven your instructor’s car up till now, and there’s a good chance you didn’t need to use all the controls. When you buy your first car, spend plenty of time getting to know where everything is before you even turn on the engine. Fog lights, hazard warning lights, screen-wash, sat-nav, even the radio – groping around for an unfamiliar control while you’re driving will sap your confidence, and it’s a dangerous distraction.
- Drive in decent weather conditions. Until you’ve driven down a dual carriageway with a strong wind buffeting you, or felt the car struggling to gain traction on an icy road, you really have no idea what it’s like. For a first-time driver, however, this is not the time to find out. Experience will give you the skills you need to drive in less-than-perfect conditions, but for the first few drives on your own, don’t risk your fragile confidence – or your safety.
- Keep driving distractions to a minimum. No matter how comfortable you were driving with your instructor beside you, it can seem very bewildering when you’re suddenly in charge. Having a car full of noisy passengers is a distraction you can do without. Give yourself plenty of time driving alone to get used to life behind the wheel.
- Take the Pass Plus driving course. This will take you into situations you may not have encountered in your driving lessons, such as motorway driving, night-time driving, busier roads in larger towns etc. This is great experience that should help you feel like a better prepared driver, and completing the course might also reduce your car insurance
- Remind yourself how competent you are. You passed your driving test! Your driving instructor knew you were ready, and the driving test examiner obviously agreed! This is no small thing that just anyone can do. Changes were made to the driving test in December 2017 to make sure that the test prepared new drivers for today’s challenges on the roads, so have faith that you are ready for this.
- Not getting a car straight away? Many young drivers have to wait a while after passing their test before they can buy their own car. If you don’t drive at all during this period, you’ll be even more nervous when you eventually take that first drive on your own. Ask a family member if you can become a named driver on their car insurance, so you can keep practising and developing your driving skills (you should offer to pay any increased premium this involves), or go back to your driving instructor and ask for a few refresher lessons to keep your confidence high.
We can’t close without reminding you how important it is to make sure you arrange insurance before you drive. No matter how prepared you are, even the most experienced drivers have accidents sometimes and the right insurance cover can save you time and money.
Released On 18th Feb 2019