A couple of weeks after passing my driving test, I bought myself my first car, with guidance from my parents. I think my dad was a bit jealous as my car is bigger than the family car (which is a little 2001 Fiat Punto, and is very cramped when 5 of us sit in it at once), has central locking (unlike the family car), and apparently drives better as well. It’s great to have my own car and to have the freedom to go places without having to rely on other people for transport. My savings would have covered insurance costs, an MOT, road tax, and possibly petrol, for another year, but I was worried about not having enough money if anything went wrong with the car. This is another reason that I’m so thankful to have finally gotten myself a job. I’m so glad that I don’t have to rely on public transport anymore. To get to uni, I used to have to take two buses, which would take about an hour and three quarters. Now that I have my own car, it only takes me 30-40 minutes to get there.
Driving without anyone else in the car for the first time was terrifying. At one point, I was waiting in a queue of traffic and my leg was shaking so much that I could barely keep my foot on the clutch. My hands also ached from gripping onto the steering wheel so tightly the first few times I drove on my own. I’m still a very anxious driver (and impatient idiots who have forgotten what it was like to be new to driving – and also fail to realise that making me anxious is only going to make things worse – certainly don’t help…). A couple of months ago, my youngest sister and I had been at a shopping centre, and on our way out of the shopping centre car park, I accidentally stalled the car, and was also driving quite slowly because there was a no entry sign but it wasn’t clear whether the sign applied to the road I wanted to drive down, or the one next to it. After I stalled, the woman behind me would not stop sounding her horn at me, even once we were waiting at a red light at the exit of the car park. I kept looking for things that could be causing her to do that. Was there a filter on? Nope. Was I blocking anyone or anything? Nope. I could see no reason for her to continually do that and it was making me so anxious that I felt like I was approaching a panic attack. I will admit that I was getting so pissed off and stressed out with her near-constant use of the horn that I decided to give her a “helpful hand signal” (which certainly wasn’t a wise or polite thing to do, and certainly isn’t something I’d normally ever do, though it did help me to calm down slightly and focus less on her). I felt really bad about this later. Obviously, I can understand her being annoyed about me stalling the car in front of her and then driving slowly, but her reaction was ridiculous, especially as I have a ‘P Plate’ clearly displayed on the back of my car. Her behaviour got me into such an anxious state that I ended up in the wrong lane at the traffic lights, and had to take a detour around a busy junction that I wasn’t familiar with, before finding a side road to turn around in, which put my anxiety levels through the roof. Even once we were home, I was anxious and on edge for hours. I felt like such a terrible driver and kept going over what had happened in my head, trying to find something I had done that could have caused her to react in such an extreme way. But I could find nothing. That event made me reluctant to go back out in the car because it caused me so much anxiety. I’m worried that if I come across someone like that again, I’ll make a serious mistake because my ability to drive (and even to think) is impaired when I’m highly anxious.
Thankfully, I did manage to go out driving again and my confidence has been growing with experience. My SA still very much affects me while driving though. I struggle to make eye contact with other drivers, and I feel really awkward when I wave at someone else to thank them for waiting for me to finish reversing out of a parking space and so on. I also sometimes feel anxious when I’m the first car in the queue at traffic lights, or when there’s another car next to me at traffic lights.
Although my confidence has grown, I still feel like I’m the worst driver ever. I think I should apply for the ‘Shittest driver of the year’ award. My mum assures me that there’s nothing wrong with my driving, but every time I make a minor mistake, I ruminate about it afterwards and feel awful about myself. I also managed to bash my car when driving into the driveway after work yesterday, and have scraped the side of the car before, when reversing out the driveway in the morning, on the way to work, which just makes me feel even more awful about myself and my driving. I’m just thankful that my first car is a cheap car that already had a few scrapes on it. Sometimes I still feel half-asleep after having driven to work in the morning, which is a bit worrying, though scraping the car has been my only mishap. Never mind operating a vehicle at that time in the morning; I can barely operate myself at that time in the morning. Speaking of the drive to/ from work, I nearly ran someone over on the way back from work yesterday, because they stepped out about 2 feet in front of my car without looking (who was then immediately followed by another person who also didn’t bother to look, and sauntered across the road as if he had all the time in the world). I don’t know why but bizarrely, perhaps because it’s a one-way street, no one ever seems to look before they cross that particular street, so I always get quite anxious when driving down it. Thankfully for the person who stepped out in front of my car, I’ve learned to turn into that street very slowly. Anyway…this post was probably even more dry and boring to read than the last one, so I’m just going to apologise and end it here. I just hope my driving skills and anxiety improve with more practice.