The thought of driving alone for the first time is a scary prospect for many new drivers who have recently passed their test. During your driving lessons in Luton, you will have had the comfort of your instructor or parent/friend sitting next to you and correcting any mistakes. Tackling the roads for the first time alone can be pretty nerve-wracking, but you’ve got this! We’ve put together some bits of advice to help you before you take to the roads alone.
How to be confident driving alone
When it comes to driving after you’ve passed your test, it’s all about confidence. An experienced driving examiner has seen you drive and decided that you are a safe and competent driver; otherwise, they wouldn’t have passed you. Once you’ve got the first solo drive out of the way, you should start to grow in confidence with each drive, and as with anything, practice makes perfect! The following tips should help you figure out how to be confident driving alone.
Our top tips for driving alone for the first time:
- Get comfortable
- Invest in p-plates
- Choose sensible times
- Avoid distractions
- Don’t be intimated by other road users
Whether you’ve invested in your first car or are using a family car, you will want to spend some time sitting in the car while stationary and getting to grips with the controls and where things are positioned. The controls in this vehicle may be different from the one you learnt in and the gears may differ slightly. We suggest getting to grips with the gears with the engine off, shifting gears as if you were driving.
You will also want to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible before you set off anywhere. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in the driver’s seat, so it’s worth spending some time adjusting the seat and mirrors to suit you.
Adjust both the interior and exterior mirrors so that you can see as much of your surroundings as possible. The interior mirror should be positioned to allow you to see the entire view from your back window. Exterior side (wing mirrors) should be angled so that you see a small amount of the side of your car, with the horizon (where the road disappears into the distance) at the centre.
To properly adjust your seat you should try out different heights and positions while pressing down the pedals (with the engine switched off) to see what position is most comfortable. The best way to tell if the seat positioning is right for you is if you can push the pedals to the ground with ease and without having to move your body to do so.
Consider using P-plates
Many new drivers find using p-plates provides a bit of comfort while they build up their confidence with driving. There are differing opinions when it comes to the issue of whether new drivers should display p-plates. Some people say that it encourages other road users to overtake unnecessarily and draws attention to the newly passed driver. However, others say that it alerts other drivers to the fact that you’re a new driver and drivers are often more patient and give you space, making it safer for everyone. We suggest using p-plates to begin with, but if you feel comfortable without them then this is fine too!
You can use p-plates for as long as you want, whether that’s one week or one year – it’s up to you! You can also start using p-plates at any point, you may choose not to use them, to begin with, and a couple of weeks into driving decide to give them a chance.
P-plates are reasonably cheap to buy and stick to the front and back of your vehicle magnetically. You can find p-plates here: Halfords magnetic P-plates
Choose quiet times to drive
If possible, choose typically quiet times for your first few drives by yourself. The last thing you want after you’ve just passed is to be in the thick of rush hour driving times. It’s best to start with a couple of reasonably easy and slow drives; you could even drive around the block a few times before tackling main roads.
Of course, if you feel confident enough to tackle the issue head-on and take to the roads during rush hour, that’s great! Just be prepared to do lots of stopping and starting during rush hour traffic and try not to let other road users intimidate or pressure you.
We recommend avoiding anything that will be a distraction during your first few drive. Keep the music turned down or switched off and keep your mobile phone out of sight, so you’re not tempted to look down at any notifications popping up.
When you’re adjusting to driving a new car, one of the most useful things you can use to help you is the noises the car makes. The sound your vehicle makes will indicate things like the biting point and signal to you when it’s time to change gear. If you’re playing music, you will be unable to hear these helpful signs, so it’s best to have the music turned off to begin with.
Once you’re more confident and ready to play some tunes while driving, you should use a hand-free device and invest in a mobile phone holder (this is also great for using mobile phone sat-nav). If you’re streaming music from your phone when driving, you should set it up while stationary with the engine off—using your mobile phone when driving, including skipping a song or changing playlists is a serious offence and could end in 6 points and having your licence revoked in the first year.
Don’t feel pressured by other drivers
Last but not least, don’t let other drivers pressure you or make you feel intimidated. Unfortunately, there are always going to be drivers on the road who are impatient or inconsiderate to other road users; you will come across many of these during your time driving. These drivers may tailgate you to encourage you to speed up or pull out at a junction but don’t let them!
You should never drive over the speed limit or pull out a junction when you don’t feel comfortable, so try to ignore these types of drivers as best as possible. If you’re driving safely and following the rules of the road, carry on with what you’re doing.
Drive as much as possible!
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, and this is certainly true when it comes to driving. The only way to build your confidence up on the roads is to get as much experience as possible.
They say the real learning starts after you’ve passed your driving test because you will come across many different scenarios where you will have to use your judgement and make quick decisions on what to do.