Have you just passed your driving test and are now ready to take your first solo drive? It’s a moment all car drivers remember and one of life’s greatest milestones. However, it’s also understandably a nerve-wracking experience. Whilst learning to drive, you’ve always had someone there to support you and help you out in a sticky situation. However, driving by yourself means every decision is now up to you, from which turn to make to when to change gear. Although you are more than capable of it, it can be scary the first time you get behind the wheel without that safety net of having another person there.
We spoke to Geoff from Young Car Driver who told us: “They say that you only truly learn to drive once you pass your test. There’s definitely some truth to this!”
In this article, we take a look at the best tips for your first solo drive. But first, we want to remind you that your first drive after you pass your test doesn’t HAVE to be solo.
Many people are able to hop straight into their car and drive off after passing their test, and if you are confident enough to do this, that’s great! However, if you are still nervous, why not ask someone to sit with you for your first drive? You could even ask them to sit in the back seat where you can’t see them so you can feel as though you are driving alone until you feel confident enough to do it for real.
Sarah, from LearnDrive told us: “Just remember that it is natural to feel nervous without having an instructor in the car, but for the first drive at least it would be a good idea to have a family member (or friend) sit it with you if you feel this would be beneficial. Or even ask your instructor if you feel very nervous about driving a different car.”
Once you are ready to go it alone, remember these tips for your first solo drive.
Turn off your mobile phone and keep it out of your eye line
Mobile phones are an incredible distraction when driving and are illegal to use when behind the wheel, so your phone should always be out of sight and out of mind. For your first drive, we suggest going one step further and switching it off or on silent and keeping it way out of your eye line. Perhaps in your glove box or in the storage compartment behind your seat. This way, there is no chance of it distracting you neither will you be tempted to check it while driving.
Drive somewhere where you are unlikely to see people you know
Another distraction can be the people and things going on outside of your vehicle, and as you’ll know from the hazard perception part of your theory exam, you have to be on high alert when driving. Especially for those who live in smaller towns and neighbourhoods, it may pay to drive somewhere you are less likely to know the people walking along the side of the road.
Whether they try to flag you down for a quick chat, take the opportunity to ask you for a lift or even just offer you a wave, these are small distractions that you can try and alleviate for your first drive.
Show people you are a new driver with P-plates
Stalling at a traffic light or taking your time with a manoeuvre can often leave you feeling as though you are holding others up. And, although you are likely not in the wrong, you can feel as though all eyes are on you. A great way to show those around you that you are a new driver and may be slightly apprehensive on the roads is with P-plates.
You can pick these up at most roadside garages, large supermarkets and automobile shops and they are easily applied to your car as they are magnetic. This way, you can have some peace of mind that those around you are aware you are new to this and will know to give you extra space and consideration.
Equally, if your car has a black box, you can get stickers that indicate this to other drivers on the road as well.
Try to stay calm and keep your cool
This may seem like an obvious tip, but it can be easy to be rattled during your first solo drive. By keeping calm and cool you’ll be more focused and able to drive to a higher standard. If you find yourself getting more anxious than you’d like, you are always able to pull over, park up and take a minute to breathe and calm yourself before carrying on again. It’s not a race.
Geoff told us: “Perhaps the most important thing for new drivers to keep in mind is to stay cool, calm and collected. Driving without an instructor next to you can be really exciting, but don’t forget to keep your cool and stay safe! Don’t get into bad habits just because you can get away with it.”
Keep your trips short and sweet to begin with
It can be natural to want to take a longer drive when you first pass, after all, now you are free to drive for as long as you want and wherever you want. However, for your first few solo drives, we recommend keeping them short but sweet. Whether that means just circling your estate or taking a quick trip to the supermarket in your car, a simpler route that you know well means you can get used to driving solo and build up to those longer journeys.
Sarah suggests that new drivers: “Keep to a simple route to start with and don’t worry about making any mistakes. It could take a bit of time to get used to a new car and driving on your own. We all stall sometimes.”
Make it both fun and comfortable
The first time you drive by yourself can be scary, but it is also a great feeling. For the first time, you’re completely in control and as such, you can turn on the radio, wind the windows down and have complete control. Set everything up so it makes you feel both happy and comfortable behind the wheel.
Sarah says: “Put some of your favourite songs on (but not too loud) and treat yourself to a lovely air freshener as scents can be therapeutic.” These few small changes can help you feel more at ease and more natural.
Enjoy it, you passed for a reason
Finally, and most importantly, you should remember that you passed your test for a reason. You’ve been learning to drive for some time now and wouldn’t be here if your instructor and the examiner did not think you were ready. You have to trust that you know how to do this, and you can do this.
Geoff says: “Just remember that you passed your test for a reason. You’re clearly a competent and safe driver, so have some confidence in your abilities!”
Sarah also agrees with this: “Be positive, remember you have passed your test so you have already shown you can drive, and enjoy your newfound freedom.”
Tips for your first solo drive:
- turn off your mobile phone and keep it out of your eye line
- drive somewhere where you are unlikely to see people you know
- show people you are a new driver with P-plates
- try to stay calm and keep your cool
- keep your trip short and sweet
- make it both fun and comfortable
- enjoy it, you passed for a reason
We wish you luck on your first solo drive, although we are sure you don’t need it! As time goes by, you’ll suddenly become more and more comfortable driving and one day, you’ll wonder what all of the fuss was about. If you have just passed your test and want to take a trip or two in your parents’ or a friend’s car whilst you shop around for your own, check out our cheap short-term car insurance.
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