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  • Writer's pictureVirginia L

5 Tips for Terrified New Drivers

I learned to drive when I was 15. I was a nervous driver. I have a distinct memory of stalling out my parents' stick shift in the middle of a busy four-way stop. Of course, my crush was in one of the stuck cars. So it was a relief to me when I moved to a city with great public transportation, where, for the most part, I didn't drive for 27 years. After moving to a different city, I had to relearn to drive. Now I am a confident driver.

Everyone who ends up being a good driver starts out nervous. If you're realistic, you’re aware of the damage a car can do. But you don’t have to just jump in a car and start driving. You can take tiny steps towards your goal.

  1. Pick a driving teacher who is patient and calm as well as being a skilled driver. Before you spend money on a driving course, check out its reputation. Ask if you can talk to the teachers. Also, find out if your driver's insurance offers discounts for this particular training course. If you are learning from a parent or friend, make sure they are skilled and reassuring.

  2. Practice in empty parking lots and on abandoned country roads. As my Dad would say, just "keep it between the ditches."

  3. Know where to look. As with riding a bike, you need to know where to focus your gaze (down the road a bit to the right). If you focus on the road just in front of the car your driving will be less stable and more things will surprise you. As you become more comfortable with driving, practice being aware of more cars in front of you, not just the car immediately in front of you.

  4. Crawl before you walk. Practice going 5 miles per hour until you feel like you have some confidence, then move it up to 10, then 20. When you graduate from empty parking lots, pick wide suburban roads to practice on, not narrow streets. When you feel you have that down, try some highway driving. Get out of the city. You’ll be surprised at how quickly highway driving becomes comfortable.

  5. Assess. Not comfortable yet? Drop back to a previous step. You’re in a minor fender bender or your car breaks down? Breathe. It happens to most of us. Be prepared by keeping relevant papers in your glove box, and someone you can call for roadside assistance on speed-dial.

Know that you will become a better driver with time and by varying driving conditions. Take your time, be patient and gentle with yourself, work on precision before speed, and know that millions of Americans just as nervous as you are now have become great drivers.

----orginially published on

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