Tips for nervous new drivers

Some people adapt to driving almost immediately; for others, however, it can take a little while to get used to being behind the wheel. If you fall into the latter category, here are some tips which should help you to overcome any fears you might have and become a confident driver.

Learn how your car operates and how to look after it

If you're not very 'car-savvy', you may find the large number of seemingly complicated controls inside your vehicle to be somewhat overwhelming. Feeling as though you don't understand how these controls work can add to your stress levels when you're driving and could even result in you becoming dangerously distracted; for instance, you may end up taking your eyes off the road for too long whilst you try to work out how to switch on the correct lights.

The solution to this is to spend time learning how your car operates. Park your vehicle, sit in the driver's seat and spend an hour or so memorising the location of each of the controls, paying close attention to the ones you feel you are likely to use regularly (for instance, if you live in a warm climate, make sure you know exactly how to operate the air conditioning).

In addition to mastering the use of your dashboard controls, it's sensible to spend some time learning the fundamentals of car maintenance. Whilst the vehicle tune ups carried out by your mechanic will address the most important maintenance work, it's still worth familiarising yourself with your car's inner workings and figuring out how to do the more basic tasks yourself. You should for example, make sure that you can change a flat or worn-out tyre, and that you can recognise the location of and are able to refill the engine coolant and brake fluid reservoirs.

This knowledge will give you confidence in your ability to operate your car, and thus make you feel more secure and comfortable when you're out on the road; you won't, for instance, panic because you can't find the button for the windshield wipers during a sudden downpour or worry that you'll be left stranded if you get a flat tyre.

Practice driving in difficult conditions

Many nervous drivers have a tendency to only use their cars in 'ideal' conditions; for instance, on a quiet, sunny afternoon when there's very little traffic and visibility is perfect. However, if you want to improve your skills and become more secure, you need to get out of your comfort zone and practice driving in more challenging environments. For example, if there's a storm predicted in the coming days and you usually hate driving in this type of weather, try deliberately taking your car out during this period. It may be best to choose a route which is relatively quiet, so that you don't have to cope with heavy traffic as well as tricky weather conditions. During your drive, pay attention to how grip and braking distances are affected by the wet road and wind, and adjust your driving style accordingly. Whilst this will probably be quite a nerve-racking experience, ultimately, it will help you to become a more confident driver.