8 things I have learned as a new driver

This year, I became a fully fledged, pink-license-wielding driver. Vroom vroom! Now I’ve stopped crying each time I actually use my car (I’m not what you’d call confident when it comes to this sort of thing), I’ve started to pick up a few things on my travels – here’s what I’ve learned…

1) No-one actually ‘feeds’ the wheel between their hands as they steer

Your driving instructor lied to you. Mine lied to me. HOW DOES THAT FEEL? I have come to the conclusion that I am the only person ever to take this silly rule as gospel and actually try to follow it through in ‘real life’ situations. Is the rest of the world laughing at me? Probably. Do you feed the wheel between your hands? No. No-one does. We’re all about the hand-crossing. We laugh in the face of danger. Hahahaha!

2) People will see your fear-stricken face but will still insist on beeping at you

On my first ever outing in my new car, I stalled at a very busy roundabout. Used to a diesel, I couldn’t grasp the fact that I needed to accelerate to pull off in this new, petrol-run car, and I stalled again. And again. We were sitting for a good two minutes – which feels like a lifetime when you’re constantly bringing your left foot up hurriedly and squawking “WHY isn’t it WORK-ing?!” – and I realised I was quickly losing the ability to breathe.

It was clear I was a new driver who was crying and screaming incomprehensible stuff at the passenger (sorry, poor boyfriend) but the man in the stupid Land Rover behind me still insisted on beeping his stupid horn and shouting stupid profanities. In many of the confusing and stressful situations life throws at us, I think a little compassion goes a long way. Sadly, I have noticed that not all drivers share this belief.

3) Cyclists are really confusing

Are you supposed to overtake them? Or give them room? Why don’t they SLOW DOWN when you overtake so you can actually get a bit of a head start on them? Is it really illegal for them to cycle on the pavement? Why do they (and motorcyclists, too) nip in between stationary cars at traffic lights? Isn’t that dangerous? Why do some of them refuse to wear reflective gear, even in 6pm December gloom? I’m sorry, cyclists. I admire your ‘come rain, come shine!’ attitude, as it’s certainly something I don’t possess, but I also don’t understand you, and I dread seeing you in my wing mirror.

4) People get cross at you for not driving as fast as they’d like, but they won’t overtake

Every time this happens, it takes me back to being in the car with my mum when I was a child. She’d begin to look more and more perturbed, before announcing “He’s right up my bum.” My brother and I would crane around in our booster seats, give the person in question a glare or a sticky-out-tongue and say “Why won’t he just GO ROUND?!” as if we were experienced drivers ourselves. I have now started saying “He’s right up my bum!” in this situation too. It’s twenty years later but the same feeling remains: overtake me or CHILL TF OUT.

5) You still won’t really get which way to turn the wheel when you park

Remembering what the steering wheel actually DOES while you’re parking up anywhere is the driving equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy – you sort of have to actively stop thinking about things to get any kind of a result and it always goes wrong somewhere along the way. The parking spaces at my work are PHENOMENALLY large, but can I drive into them each morning without needing to reverse out again and correct? N-no. I can’t.

6) There’s always someone waiting at the junction with you who revs their engine incessantly

What do you want? Why are you making that ridiculous noise? Drivers like these remind me of sitting in cars with boys at 17 years old and listening to their god-awful revs while thinking “They’re trying to impress me but really I’m just a bit scared and now I have an earache.” It feels like these people genuinely expect the traffic lights to suddenly turn into friendly, animated Disney characters, switch over to green, and say “Ever so sorry, do go on.” LOOK, Mr. Revver, we can’t drive anywhere right now. That’s just the way things are. Give your feet a rest and shuddup.

7) There are way more holes in the ground than you realised

Remember those darn potholes everyone’s always talking about? Well, now they’re your problem too. Hooray! Swerve to avoid them and narrowly miss another vehicle (TOOT TOOT!) but forget to move out of their way and it’ll feel like your car momentarily fell into a small cave. Why are there so many of these potholes? Why don’t they ever seem to get filled in? Why do new ones appear hourly? These are all questions that my parents have been asking for years. Now I have joined the angry club.

8) There will be certain things you just DON’T KNOW

A few days after I got my car, I called my dad to tell him my heater didn’t work while trying to de-ice in the morning. He was surprised, then concerned, then I cried, then he went through all the possible car-related ailments that could have led to a broken heater. “No…” I said, “…no, that’s not it.”

He was stumped. Just as we were saying our bemused goodbyes, he stopped. “You have had the engine on while you’ve been trying to use it, haven’t you?” he asked. WHO KNEW, RIGHT? Everyone, as it turns out. Oh dear. My car is fine, and mornings are a lot less fraught with stress now I know how to use my heater. But a heads-up would’ve been nice, I reckon.

Got any driving-related stories to tell? Comment and tell me all about ’em…

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