These tips and notes, in no specific order, are here to help you make a positive step forwards in improving your driving confidence.
We offer bespoke confidence driving courses for drivers who are looking especially at tackling anxiety issues they face. More about our confidence courses can be found here.
These tips have been produced from the many thousands of on-road courses we have run over the years, designed to help drivers like you move forwards.
Learning to Unlearn – Having a fear of driving is a learned fear. This means you can unlearn it too. There would have been a time in the past when you didn’t fear driving – you can return to that through confidence training. Sometimes other things like NLP, counselling and hypnotherapy can also help. Some clients often do this alongside driver training or before they start on-road driver training.
Other Life Events – Quite often, other things are going on in someone’s life when they find an event (such as a road traffic collision, road rage encounter, near-miss etc) has triggered a driving phobia. These ‘other things’ can vary, such as going through a messy divorce, starting a new job, having a baby, caring for an ill relative. The list goes on.
Positive Affirmations – Write a list of positive words which work best for you and remember them. Say them often, and also before you start to drive and also when in an anxiety-provoking situation. For example: “I love driving, I’ve driving confidence, I’ve become a more confident driver, Driving is fun.”
Discover Your De-Stressors – Before you drive, do something which you enjoy. Run, go to the gym, have a slice of that cake you love, call a friend, dance, sing, meditate, do all these at once if you need to! Then, when in your car, play the music you love, and drive somewhere which excites you, and don’t forget to use Sat Nav if you need to. This is all about linking driving with happy thoughts. Do it, and see how it changes how you feel. Even a slight improvement is a great move forwards.
Speed Awareness – Be aware when you’re going too fast and also too slow! Many drivers find slow drives (i.e doing 40mph in a 60mph limit when the weather is fine, for example) an irritant and so are more likely to tailgate, beep their horn or act in an intimidating way. Totally wrong, of course, but it happens. Be aware of this, and if you can, and you feel happy to, keep your speed up. This will reduce the number of angry drivers. Keeping well within the speed limits at all times. You may find this will boost your confidence. Be speed aware, both too fast and too slow.
Motorways – Many anxieties related to motorway driving is a fear of getting lost and “stuck” on a motorway for miles and miles. Let technology help you here – get a Sat Nav and let it set the route for you, so you will know when you will be getting off at a specific junction. No more last-minute panic! Sat navs are also very useful if you have a fear of generally getting lost, whether that be on busy motorways or just more local routes.
Copy Confident Drivers – A fear of driving manifests from a combination of experiences and life history + stress. Look at confident drivers. They love driving, and they like driving to different places, they are in their own space, they enjoy the miles rolling away, they see friends far away, they get to choose their own music. The list goes on. If you’re anxious about driving, one good idea can be to put your favourite music on; it will help you relax. Go and visit a friend you want to see or a place you want to visit. A place that will excite you! Just these small things will show how you can enjoy driving. Even if it’s not the drive, it’s the music or the person you will meet at the end. And remember to use your sat nav too – it will help you and further boost your confidence.
Distraction Techniques – Distracting yourself can be a helpful way of dealing with anxious thoughts. Commentary driving is one method – talking about your driving environment and what you can see. Also noticing colours you can see, the registrations of cars, counting cars, pedestrians or both! It’s all useful.
Things You Can’t Change – A fear of driving, as mentioned, is a combination of experiences and life history + stress. You can’t do anything about the past, that’s history, and you can’t change it. Stress, however, is something you can change. Be aware of these differences. Be aware of the things you can change and the things you can’t.
Stress is the here and now – You can change it, stop it, or manage it more usefully depending on your personality and who you are. Feel the fear – and then drive. If you wait to have no anxiety, you will probably never drive. Remember, a little anxiety is good!
Visualise Success – Visualise yourself as a confident driver. Visualise yourself at the junction or busy roundabout you hate. Visualise yourself navigating them with total confidence. Do this lots and lots of times. You are helping visualise success and confidence. People spend too much time visualising their fear, and what does that do? It helps reinforce the fear. So continue doing exactly the same – just replace visualising fear with visualising confidence/success. Does it work? Of course it does. You’ve visualised fear, and anxiety is the result. Now visualise confidence. Visualise it well enough, and success will happen.
Listen to your inner voice – What is it saying when you drive or think about driving?
“I’m going to mess this up”, “I can’t cope here”, “The driver behind is getting angry”, “I’m going to cause a collision”, “where do I get off the motorway”, “the cars are going too fast”, “when can I safely move off at this junction”.
Look for similarities in what you hear. This can give you an excellent indication of where your anxieties sit. What you hear is very useful to know when receiving driver training.
Your nearest and dearest – Don’t drive with people who make you anxious, at the start at least. This is often a loved one or family member. Tempers can easily fray. Having someone so emotionally close to you who makes you anxious when driving can often make things worse. This is because there is less of a filter (for both of you) – you feel more compelled to voice feelings, so either of you are more likely to shout, argue, scream or do something else negative.
Sat Nav – Sat navs are often referred to as one of the best devices for helping nervous drivers. They tell you what time you’re likely to arrive, a lot of them show where there are traffic jams. They tell you when you need to get off or join a motorway, what exit you need at a busy roundabout, and much more. They take the stress off you, eliminate the fear of getting lost, and help you plan in advance.
Positive Self Talk – If you suffer a panic attack or severe anxiety when driving, stop the car if needed and if it’s safe, take a breather and start talking positively to yourself; become your own coach!
‘I can do this, I’m going to do this, I’ve done it before. I’m going to move off, checking mirrors, looking and planning far ahead.’
Commentary Driving – Filling your mind with the task of driving will leave less room for anxiety to creep in. Use advanced driving tips, such as commentary driving – this is one element we often teach with our advanced driving courses. Commentary driving is a way of helping you concentrate on what you can see around you, the long, middle and close distance to which you are driving. Keeping your eyes on “main beam” so you’re actually seeing, not just looking and running on auto-pilot, is very useful. Not only will this keep your mind occupied, it will also make you a far safer driver, as you will be anticipating hazards much sooner than before.
If you found these tips useful do please share them with others!