Driving with anxiety

What is the best way forward when somebody says they want to learn to drive but are extremely nervous? Some people would say “you need to find out why”. But what if you don’t know the reason behind your anxiety? I can still help…

Firstly, I don’t need to know what makes you anxious: I can find that out for myself as we go along. It is more important for me to ask the following question: How will I know when you are anxious? Will you tell me? Will you go quiet? Maybe your body language will change? If it helps we can agree on a system of traffic lights Red Amber Green to make it easier to know how you are feeling.

Red means “I’m not coping with this situation a nd I need help to get out of it immediately”.

Amber means “This situation makes me feel slightly anxious but it doesn’t stop me from functioning.”

Green means “I’m feeling entirely comfortable and not feeling anxious”. Green is nice but if you are feeling totally green and stress free then are you actually learning anything?

My job is to keep the lesson in the amber zone for as much as possible. If we agree, I will take you to the red zone; just a small step outside of your comfort zone, to see how it feels. And then back to amber.

Secondly, we need to agree that making mistakes is ok; in fact I encourage it, and I won’t shout at you. If I see you are about to make a mistake but it will be safe, then I’ll let it happen. Then we can talk about why it happened. If it won’t be safe to let the mistake happen then I will tell you what to do or, if necessary, step in and take control.

The only rule in the car is that you work with me to analyse these mistakes and find a way to stop it happening next time.

I create a calm environment in the car and, by teaching you defensive driving, I help you keep the outside world calm too. If you want to bring music, just pop it on a memory stick. If you want me to tell you jokes, I can do that too! I even have teddy bears in the car (James and Pooh), and they have been known to help with certain topics.

And that’s it … I struggle to understand why all driving instructors don’t teach the same way.