Learning to Drive: Is it Worth it?
June 21, 2012
By: Stephanie Liston
I used to be adamant I was never going to learn to drive.
My reasoning was: one, it was too costly for a student. Luckily for me both school and Sixth Form were located a measly fifteen minutes walk from home. Therefore, it wasn’t worth the bother when my money was better spent on more girly pursuits like clothes shopping. Secondly, I was determined to become an eco-friendly and super-fit cyclist instead, willing to brave the elements come rain or shine. At university, visions of myself perched daintily on one of those elegant lady bikes, nipping back and forth to the shops with my little wicker basket turned into the nightmare of slogging all the way back to Parkwood balancing a ton worth of Essentials bags on the handles of my dodgy old mountain bike. Despite being one of the first people in my year to reach seventeen, I never grasped the opportunity to learn to drive before everybody else and get it under my belt. This turned out to be a regretful decision as I soon discovered, on average, the older you get, the longer it takes to learn to drive. At twenty-one, I believed this was certainly going to be the case with me. To add to my misery, I am not a ‘practical person’ by any means. I boast terrible co-ordination and have the kind of spatial awareness that makes me dread manoeuvring into my first parking space. Worst of all, my nerves trembled at the prospect of handling, at speed, a potentially lethal lump of metal.
With such negativity, I forgot all about the benefits of driving. Namely, offering shelter from the great British weather, not having to suffer public transport rage and most importantly: independence. Driving gives you the freedom to do things like pick up a sneaky, late-night McDonalds at the drive-through, bundle your friends into the back seats and head down to the beach on a whim, or to simply get out of the house by taking a relaxing drive with the radio up. My first lesson was with a self-employed instructor who charged the top rate and had rubbish discounts, so it pays to shop around. Obviously prices that are too low are a warning sign, as is somebody who is never booked up. Naturally, much is dependent on your driving instructor when it comes to how successful your lessons are, how quickly you learn and how comfortable you feel during those one to two hours of lesson time. My worst fear was being stuck with an instructor who turned out to be a grump and had little patience when it came to my nerves. I would recommend RED Driving School ( http://www.reddrivingschool.com/ ) as they were the cheapest I’ve found on deals, with lessons working out at £22 per hour (compared to £25) when you book in blocks of five or ten.
Thankfully, the first instructor I had was calm, but a bit too serious and pedantic for my liking. He insisted on me switching gears in a certain way and that was the first thing to go when I got in the car with my current, more chilled-out instructor. Crazily, I ended up going up to 40mph for long stretches on my first lesson when I was still getting to grips with the mechanics of the car! My instructor claimed this was to give me confidence, although I would’ve been happier trundling along some quiet roads…Therefore, my advice would be to make it clear what you want out of the lessons, voice your worries and ask questions. After all, you’re paying a lot of money! Don’t be forced to tackle anything too early, take it slow and try to relax. Once you have found the ideal instructor, put your trust in them. I kept forgetting that the instructor had dual controls and stressed whenever a mistake was made, but I soon discovered the best course of action was to will myself to calm down. Try not to be concerned with what you think you can’t handle because the instructor can always jump in if necessary.
Since taking the plunge, it has been surprising how swiftly I lost my fear. After 6 hours worth of lessons, I am still nervous at times, with the clutch pedal being my worst enemy! I am however already impatient to hurry up and pass! Now my advice to anyone thinking of learning to drive would be: Go for it!