Advice for new drivers
I passed my test nearly 6 months ago now and I still remember how it felt. After 13 months of supervision, I was suddenly pushed out the door into the cold. Expected to navigate roads I'd never seen before and somehow not crash.
According to the road safety minister Andrew Jones, a third of drivers say they didn't feel prepared for driving alone when they passed their test. That's pretty scary, and part of the reason the government is trialling a new test that includes motorway driving and navigation.
How to get comfortable with driving alone
Go easy on yourself
You don't have to drive to the other end of the country the day you pass your test. Get used to driving around the roads you know by yourself before taking on the challenge of further afield.
If you're going to be driving to work or college, hopefully you tried out the route with your instructor. If you didn't, ask someone to go with you the first time, then try alone on a day that you don't have time against you.
Don't do your first ever commute on a day you have an exam at 9am. Try it out on a free day to avoid crying in Homebase car park.
Set yourself small challenges
You've learned your stuff - time to test it out. Try to go through all your manouevres without someone sat next to you. Trust me, the sooner you do it, the better. I wish I'd made myself do some parallel parking practice right after I passed. Six months on, I still avoid it. :'(
You might have done a bit of driving with your instructor with the radio on, which is excellent practice. Music can be seriously distracting but an expert in driving psychology - Professor Warren Brodsky - recently said 98% of us do it and it's "part of the driving experience."
So it would be a bit silly of me to tell you not to listen to music. My advice is to ease yourself in, get comfortable with using the stereo while you're driving on quiet streets and maybe keep the volume down.
I listen to Radio 1 constantly while I'm driving but I always turn the volume RIGHT down for the first few minutes of any drive, so I can get in the zone without distractions.
This is something you probably did with your instructor or during private practice with your mum or dad, but if you're new to your car, get your first experience of filling up with petrol out the way.
Everyone in the ingenie office laughed at me for writing this but here's a guide to using a petrol station. It was a personal phobia of mine!
Get to know your car's bells and whistles
A lot of the time you're learning, your focus is 100% outside the car. That's exactly where it needs to be - but it means you probably haven't fiddled with all the controls. If you just got a new car after only ever driving in your instructor's, that's going to be a huge change.
Sit in your parked car and have a go with the temperature controls and the radio. Mess about with the seat adjustments. Figure out what all the dashboard lights mean - your owner's manual will tell you everything you need to know.
Don't leave working out how to use your fog lights until the day you drive into thick fog for the first time. Get to know all your controls before you start driving alone.