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Confident driving

6 tips to reduce the nerves and increase confidence behind the wheel

Repeat after me: “I am a strong, confident, driver”.

ARE YOU A nervous driver? Does the thought of driving make you feel anxious? Well, you aren’t alone. According to a survey by Liberty Insurance, nearly two-thirds of Irish drivers still feel underprepared for driving after passing their test.

It really can take a lot of time and practice to get confident behind the wheel. To become more confident and beat the nerves, it is important that drivers know how to handle different roads and weather and know their way around their car.

Here are six tips to help you reduce driving anxiety, calm the nerves and increase your confidence whilst driving.

Know your car inside out

In order to feel comfortable and confident in your car you need to know it inside and out and master all of the controls. Familiarise yourself with all the switches and buttons and what each of them do. Know exactly where your lights are and where each setting is and when you should use them. Where is the horn, the air-con, the radio, the button to open the boot, bonnet and fuel flap?

You also need to walk around your vehicle and get familiar with its size and dimensions. This will help you judge distances and parking spaces better.

Once your car becomes familiar, you’ll start to feel more and more comfortable in the car and this will make you feel more confident being in the vehicle.

Make use of driving aids

Most modern cars come with plenty of safety kit and driver’s aids as standard. Make clever use of safety equipment such as Blind Spot Monitor or Emergency Collision Autonomous Engine Braking by turning them on and using them. These technologies play an important role in minimising the chances of an accident. Knowing that your vehicle is helping you be a safer driver and is making the roads safer for you should go a long way to improving your confidence especially if you are nervous about having an accident.

If you car isn’t fitted with technology like this, you can buy and install some items yourself like a hands free kit, a reversing camera and parking sensors.

Get in the zone

In order to combat the nerves and anxiety around driving do all you can to make your environment as relaxing as possible. Set up your driving position so that it is comfortable and you can see clearly out of all the windows. Make sure your mirrors are in the correct position so you can see the other cars on both sides. Clear all the clutter from your car. Download a calming classical music playlist or your favourite songs and play them whilst driving – research has shown that this helps drivers to calm down.

Don’t wear bulky jackets when driving, these will restrict your movements and if you are nervous you will probably start feeling very hot very soon. Make sure the air-con is nice and cool to keep you chilled.

Practice makes perfect

Like most skills, the best way to become more confident at anything is to practice as much as possible. With driving you need to just get out more and drive in as many different scenarios as possible and be conscious of your driving.

Get out on to the motorway when it is quiet, and then again when it is busier. Find a quiet roundabout in an estate and practice getting in to the correct lane. Drive at night. Find the one driving situation that makes you the most nervous and practice it as much as possible.

You should also get out and practice in all types or weather. This helps you become familiar with how you need to adapt your driving style depending on the conditions.

Just remember, driving is a skill that we learn and it can always be improved.

Get more lessons

Just because you have passed your test doesn’t mean that the lessons have to stop. Nervous drivers can benefit greatly from extra lessons that cover motorway driving, defensive driving techniques and other skills not covered in learning to drive lessons.

Having professional advice and someone to show you what to do in a safe and controlled way will hopefully put you at ease and make you more relaxed when trying out the new skills.

Remember, mistakes happen to everyone

Just because someone beeps at you for stalling at a roundabout or because you took too long to perform a manoeuvre doesn’t mean you are a bad driver and you should try not to let it affect the rest of your drive. Motorists love to beep and make out like these things never happen to them. They do. They happen to everyone.

If you make a mistake just take a deep breath and start again. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t let one mistake or one aggressive driver dent your confidence. Acknowledge the mistake, and then move on. Making mistakes is how we learn.

READ: Review – the Ferrari 488 Pista is one of the finest supercars of the modern era >

READ: Here’s why driver visibility matters – plus 10 cars that get it right >

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