We spent a couple of sessions in my car, getting to grips with her driving on the 'wrong side of the road', and changing gear with the'wrong hand". And then there are the roundabouts, and judging the size of the car through gaps, remembering that the car is 'on the wrong side' of her.
M needed to be able to drive in the UK, she worked hard at getting to grips with everything, and then felt comfortable enough to move from my car, to driving solo in her car.
"M" very kindly send me a couple of emails about a couple of weeks later. She has described her thoughts and worries just as you (maybe), and definitely I would, and has agreed that I can use her words to help others understand that every new driver has concerns.
I have removed names and places, and added a couple of things in some brackets, otherwise I have just left it to "M"...
I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been practising my driving skills over last two weeks, with a friend and on my own, mainly the road to work and back (two different ways), to the allotment, to the surgery etc – short distances and that one needed every day. Today I drove to work and back on my own and apart from one moment that somehow I wasn’t sure who’s got priority (obviously I had but it wasn’t so obvious to me then), it went very well. Actually, I really CAN drive! And when I’m calm it’s quite fluent. I hope I don’t kill the clutch meanwhile (in those not-so-calm moments!)
What I’ve learnt so far
-watching the car in front of me and possibly copying it, by:
-Watching the traffic far ahead of me
-watching the traffic on the roundabout from left to right as I approach, to see if it’s safe to go when I get there, and at what speed
-the side mirrors are there for a reason – but I must make myself to look there as my head doesn’t feel it needs to move in those directions – it’s like looking down, quite uncomfortably. What am I doing wrong?? I think I can see well in both of them – I had to adjust them a couple of times to get them right. But still that move it’s not natural like others when I’m driving. Maybe just not yet??
-roundabouts are not that bad, but lines on the roads could be brighter – I’m getting used to them though and obviously there’s road signs.
-I stop and let cars go when my lane is blocked or there’s not enough space for both of us, and – it is tricky. All that manoeuvring…. And I’m still worried what the driver behind me might think and do.
-other drivers are too close to my car, and I’ve got to live with that! But I don’t like it. It feels strange, why do they get that close?? I know that island is not huge, but hey, I got a fairly small car with that in mind and don’t feel it makes any difference… But, surprisingy! I CAN manage the distance between me and other cars. I don’t know how though. I just drive, and keep looking right and left to see if I’m not too close.
I don’t like cyclists in front of me taking up 1/3 of the lane…. I always keep to the left side as a cyclist. So if I slow the traffic down not knowing what to do about them, not my fault, I’d rather not want to run over them…
By the way, cycling for 3 years and driving now made me think of how different your perception is and although it helped me initially, those skills are not 100% transferrable. There’s few bad sides of being cyclist first, like watching the space immediately around you rather than far ahead of you ( but this is what you have to do really, because of low speed and because of speedy cars trying to avoid you like a plague and because of potholes…. ) and also – I know you shouldn’t but it’s tempting sometimes to sneak in or not to wait for the car in hope you can both go at the same time. And usually, you can. But now I think that’s somehow stressful for the drivers….a random cyclist appearing out of the blue behind or next to you… Of course, we’ve got those side mirrors… And we would have looked in them and we would have observed the traffic…. But, still. So I wasn’t always that crystal clear either.
One good thing, the gear change is not that bad. It happens to me to play with 2nd and 4th, so sometimes I need to look, because I’m afraid I might get that wrong (again) but it doesn’t happen between 1 and 3 anymore. Well, hopefully… That right angled elbow really helps ;)
I talk to myself whilst driving, if someone thinks I’m insane, I may even agree but will continue to do so, I don’t care. It’s therapeutic.
I also think some drivers are insane. Especially when they don’t indicate. But maybe they are like me, so I forgive them, they have to practice.
Silly things happen to me though. I wanted to go back from my allotment the shortest possible way back home, but didn’t see the road on the right, so went all the way round, through another roundabout, carried on ,wanted to turn right on the small roundabout but then I saw that yellow something (bollard) separating lanes, so went around it and – surprise! - the roundabout was in front of it, not behind, just noticed it when I was passing by, so I had to go even longer way, and finally got back home. How silly. But actually the more I drive, the better knowledge of the roads and road signs I’ve got.
Anyway – just wanted to share that, but if you see me on the roads, remember that I might still “surprise” other drivers, so keep the distance! Just in case…
Best wishes and thank you for your practical advice and patience!
Learning to drive is a long process, and you just need to get in the car and drive, although it's not easy and I'm glad I was driving in a nice weather to start with. It really made a difference to me. Then I could build it up - I drove straight after it has rained, then in the rain, in the evening, in the morning when it gets busy, in a very rainy morning when the traffic was even busier and you move 2meters at a time and can't even use gear 2 at times... And you need to find a space to park safely and you are wondering if you've chosen a safe place and whether you are allowed to park there or maybe not...
Yesterday I had a tough time trying to get out of the jam packed car park. I parked as the last car 9in a long thin carpark), with possible space for one more. Some other people parked their cars too, actually 2 different cars, one next to mine, and the other one perpendicularly to mine and the last one. You know what I mean. Hardly any space for a not-so-experienced driver to manoeuvre. Especially that the second car after the one next to me was a van, (looking at the cars parked earlier) and the car next to mine was bigger and longer than mine. I don't know how much time I spent there playing with gear 1 and reversing, trying not to hit any car or the wall ( ah! The wall and bushes there too, nearly forgotten!) But I managed in the end and that’s what counts. I think for someone experienced and maybe more aware of the space left around, it wouldn't be that bad...but I was in the car and the mirrors didn't help that much. I hope my next car has the parking sensors (if that's the name).
It happened to me to be silly too or let's name it properly - irresponsible as a driver. Twice and it's enough for me to feel really bad about that. You probably don't know that feeling but it was that moment when you think "Did I really do it? ME???!! It didn't happen, did it!!??" Nothing terrible happened but it could have been something I'd regret. Never mind, I won't do it again but apart from getting into the car and driving, you've got to know AND FOLLOW the Highway Code. And just generally, remember what your instructor says about being safe and slowing down and changing gear to 2 and all of that. All matters but somehow in theory it sounds not as real as it gets in practice. It was so stressful that I now make sure I get everything right before I drive: I even think of getting enough sleep, wearing comfortable shoes, cleaning well my glasses, and of course having plenty of time to get to a destination. Every single thing counts, honestly.
I am still wondering what to do about those side mirrors ? Any easy way of using them? How often do I need to look in there? OK, I know that: mirrors, signal, manoeuvre but after that? I know, when I pull out I look into the left one- cyclists wise, when I'm waiting in a traffic jam I just look to see if anything has changed and how close the others are or when I park a car... But when I'm driving, how often do I check them? I really need to think of that but sometimes I'm just to busy with observing the traffic, especially when there's a roundabout ahead.
So far I'm just happy I am using the car as I intended to: to drive to work and back. Or to take something bulky or heavy to the allotment. Next step will be going to Morrisons, then taking children to their classes, visiting my friend, going to the town and finding a space to park! Oh, I know where else I can easily go, to Pick-Your-Own strawberry farm! It's quite an easy way there, as far as I remember.
It feels like a lot when I'm thinking now, but I know it's just everyday activities everyone else does without thinking of it. One day I will be doing that too.
Every New Driver is bound to experience these sorts of concerns when they first drive solo, so it was nice to get these emails from "M", so everyone knows what other people go through when they start.