Nervous Drivers

Everyone feels nervous to some degree, but if you are concerned that your nerves will impede your performance, there are different measures to take to try and help you relax, have confidence, and pass your driving test smoothly

Passing Your Test
It is natural to feel nervous about taking your driving test. Everyone feels nervous to some degree, but if you are concerned that your nerves will impede your performance, there are different measures to take to try and help you relax, have confidence, and pass your driving test smoothly. Taking your lessons with an instructor who specialises in helping nervous driver is advisable, as they can work with you to calm your nerves from day one right up to the test.

A little nervousness can kick start your adrenalin and help you stay focused and aware. When driving, you should always be more alert than during normal activity. Excessive nerves however can demonstrate themselves as:

  • Increased Breathing and Heartbeat
  • Clammy Palms
  • Trembling
  • Feeling Sick or Stomach Ache
  • Dry Mouth
  • General Feelings of Panic

Nerves are a way for your body to prepare itself; you just have to stop them taking over and instead make them work for you. Remember, there is nothing wrong in feeling nervous. The examiner will understand and try to put you at ease. After all, they were once a learner too.

Don’t take your driving test until you are ready. Rushing it so that you can get a car or avoid paying for any more lessons will only be counter-productive. Ensure that you are well prepared and have had plenty of practice so that you feel more confident when it comes to the test.

Try and get an early morning appointment for your test. You will feel more alert and fresh, and the roads may be clearer. It also means that you won’t spend all day worrying about it and getting in a panic.

Check your dates. Try not to book the test at the same time as anything else that might cause stress, i.e. exams or moving house.

Getting the right location can be equally helpful. If you are used to driving in a certain area it will help your confidence if you can book your test there. Obviously you should be able to drive on any UK road, but to take pressure off your exam nerves it is best to stick to what you know.

Once booked, don’t tell everyone. However helpful they may try to be, discussing it with friends and even family can make you nervous and feel pressured to live up to expectations.

Calming Your Nerves
Ignore the horror stories of other people’s tests and instructors. Anecdotes are usually exaggerated in some way, and anyway, you should be focussing on the test ahead, not those in people’s past. Keep a clear head and ask friends to keep their thoughts to themselves until after the test.

Don’t take pills for your nerves as these will slow your reactions. Also avoid stimulants like caffeine as it can provoke an anxiety response.

On your approach to the test centre, start to try and control your breathing. Count your breaths in and out, taking slightly longer on the out breath.

Take a walk around the test centre a little. This may help you relax and focus, as well as waking your whole body up. Instead of pacing and worrying, focus on why you are taking the test and what you are going to achieve.

During the test, don’t panic if you make a mistake. If you start worrying about whether they noticed or how serious it was it will distract you and can lead to further mistakes. Keep a cool head and concentrate on the current situation. Form a running commentary in your head if necessary to keep you focussed on the immediate surroundings.

Above all, think positively. You are more likely to achieve something if you really believe that you can do it.

Be a Confident Driver

The RAC Foundation has conducted research across the 10 million of UK drivers who suffer “Driving Anxiety Disorder”. This is an extreme reaction to the stresses of driving, causing unease and anxiety in the driver resulting in symptoms like:

  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Erratic Breathing
  • Panic
  • Feeling Sick

This reaction to driving can be caused by the daily build up of general driving stresses, by getting lost or having a bad day’s driving. It can be a more obvious trigger as the result of an accident or a road rage incident. Sometimes there is no obvious specific cause, but could be sparked by general low confidence and pressure. In any case, the stressful feelings it causes means that the affected driver may avoid certain driving situations, or avoid it altogether.

Particular stimulants for driving anxiety are motorways, busy city centres, and bad weather or the night time darkness. For both men and women, tailgating is the main cause of anxiety on motorways. A large proportion of women also fear breaking down on the motorway, while around a quarter added that trucks and lorries overtaking make them feel nervous.

According to the RAC Foundation’s research, younger and older females are the most prone to driving anxiety.

The research conducted by the RAC Foundation identified three basic categories of anxious drivers:

Stressed Survivors:
These find driving extremely stressful, but still continue all their driving activities. Getting lost, tailgated, abuse, breaking down or hit makes them stressed and prone to emotion whilst driving. However, they do not change their routine or their plans.

Anxious Avoiders:
As the name suggests, they will try and avoid driving situations that trigger anxiety by any means necessary. For example, a fifth of UK women drivers avoid motorways altogether.

Phobic Forsakers:
Having developed a full phobia of driving as a response to the stresses that arise during everyday road travel or due to a particular occurrence, Phobic Forsakers give up driving altogether. In some cases it may be that they will no longer drive a certain route or drive at a certain time of the day.

When drivers begin to feel anxious, the situation is worsened as the panicky feelings cause them to make mistakes. This makes a bad journey worse, and can put them off from driving that particular way. However, as they feel anxious and make mistakes on other journeys the driver is left with fewer and fewer places they can drive and are forced to rely on other people or means to transport them.

Try to remain calm and not get emotional when driving. Look at it as a necessary task to get you from A to B, and try not to take to take it personally when other drivers behave irresponsibly around you. If someone starts driving close behind you, control your breathing and let them pass. On the motorway stay in the left hand lane except when you are overtaking slower cars. When changing lanes, stay focussed and change in good time.