Gransnet forums

Ask a gran

I know i've got to do it...and i want to......but

(73 Posts)
bytheway Tue 28-May-19 20:15:44

i'm just so anxious about it. Getting back behind the wheel of a car after 30 years.

I passed my test at 21. I never enjoyed learning or driving but knew that, with a baby coming, i would want to get out and about. I bought a car and drove for a short while...hating it...if i went anywhere i would worry about the journey home. I even had a small accident, hit a stationary car whilst pulling out (no one in one hurt but a dent in someone else's car)

Then i moved to the suburbs of a big city. We could only afford 1 car and my OH (now ex) wanted it...fine by me....the transport links were good and i just never bothered again.

Fast forward 30 years, one divorce and re-marriage later and my husband who is 12 years older than me has some health problems and he/we worry that he may have to give up driving....which to put it plainly, will put me back in the driving seat or how will we travel to hospital appointments, to visit family and friends.

So we have decided i should take some refresher lessons but honestly i feel sick to the stomach. I know know know I've got to do it. But how do i go about finding an instructor who will be patient with me.

Would i better to drive in an automatic, would that make it easier for me? Its all the small things really..not the driving per se...but parking in small spaces, entering and leaving main roads...right across a busy section. all those little things.

Can anyone give me some advice?

Sara65 Tue 28-May-19 20:20:32

Yes yes yes!
Definitely an automatic!

aggie Tue 28-May-19 20:24:37

Go for it , get some lessons booked , I never drove and I am isolated , depending on lifts , busses and trains are rare so regret not learning when i was young , too hard at 81 to start now !

crazyH Tue 28-May-19 20:24:42


Septimia Tue 28-May-19 20:29:01

I suppose the only thing is to ask them if they have appropriate experience. A single instructor rather than a big driving school might have more sympathy, I don't know.

Maybe there's a driving school near you which can take you onto private land for a lesson or two while you get used to the car without having to worry about traffic. When I started to learn my father took me onto some open access MOD land where there was a stretch of road and it was great for my confidence.

I heard a story about a lady who would only turn left - obviously she didn't like crossing oncoming traffic - and asked for a route to somewhere miles away that meant she only had to turn left throughout the journey!!

So... my point is, when you do need to make a journey, plan ahead using you own knowledge as well as Google maps and Google earth so that you can make it as easy as possible. I still do that after nearly 50 years.

Good luck.

leyla Tue 28-May-19 20:35:27

Yes to automatic. Go for it - you'll be fine! Agree with the advice to plan journeys carefully. Start as soon as possible.

Alima Tue 28-May-19 20:36:48

Hope it goes well, I have heard that “confidence builder” lessons can be very good. If not, put by what you would spend on a car to use for taxis when public transport isn’t available.

Grandma70s Tue 28-May-19 20:45:01

Like aggie, I don’t drive. I’m glad I don’t. It seems to be constant stress, everywhere is choked with cars, and they cause massive pollution. I did have some lessons once, took one test which I failed, and then just decided it was not for me.

I use a lot of taxis, expensive but not as expensive as owning and running a car, and I don’t have to park them. It depends where you live, though. I’m in the suburbs of a city, and it’s easy to get taxis or suburban trains. My children walked to school, or got two buses. At least they never put on weight!

chocolatepudding Tue 28-May-19 20:46:25

I suggest you phone a local driving school and sound them out about some refresher lessons. Also ask a few friends if they have heard good stories about any particular school

I had not been a particularly confident driver - one of the consequences of loosing my first little girl.

I realised when DD2 learnt to drive that she had been taught a different style of driving to me. Less gear changing up and down the gears, and instead braking and changing from 5th to 3rd gear etc. Her instructor (a retired police officer) took me out for an hour and at the end of it said I was a safe driver but I was knackering the gearbox and was lacking confidence.

Cut a long story short I had a series of monthly lessons and after 6 lessons took my advanced drivers' test and passed at silver level. (The examiner was only the Chief Police Driving Instructor for the local constabulary!). This has given me a lot more confidence including driving on longer journeys and motorways. DH was certainly surprised when I told him about the test etc as it had been kept a secret from him!

Final point - A few years later I wanted to drive a 40 ton articulated lorry - and did so for an hour on private land with a local driving school.

Please go ahead and find a suitable instructor - good luck.

DoraMarr Tue 28-May-19 20:46:28

My mother started driving again at the age of 83 after my father died. She lives in a rural area with two school buses a day, so knew she would be stuck if she didn’t. She’s now 90 and still driving. She bought a tiny City car so she didn’t have to worry about parking. It’s automatic. She limits her driving to short distances, doesn’t drive after dark, and avoids driving in snowy or icy conditions.

M0nica Tue 28-May-19 21:20:34

A lot of driving schools, including the AA run 'Drive Confident courses. Here is one example.

Do one of these. However the most important thing to do is keep driving regularly after you have done it, even if your DH is still driving. My DF ruined my mother's quite adequate driving because after he retired he always did the driving. DH and I have very determinedly not let that happen to us and we always share the 200 mile drive to see DS and family so that I keep my long distance and motorway driving skills up to date.

Tangerine Tue 28-May-19 21:25:30

As other people have said, an automatic may be easier for you. Try to get a small car.

I think it might be a very good idea to book refresher lessons.

I don't know your lifestyle but it isn't compulsory to drive hundreds of miles on motorways etc. Stick to roads you know if possible.

It may mean you have to take different holidays but I know plenty of people who only drive within about 40 miles of their home.

grannyqueenie Tue 28-May-19 21:57:43

If like me you struggle with a poor sense of direction then get yourself a sat nav. I’m not an enthusiast driver but find it so much easier if I’m not preoccupied with the fear getting lost!
Good luck!

tanith Tue 28-May-19 22:19:43

Agree with all the advice given also I find the reversing camera in my car a marvellous aid to parking my car I have an arthritic neck and find it hard to turn my head far, so if you can have a car with that it would help.

M0nica Tue 28-May-19 22:28:24

Why not get some counselling to help come to terms with your anxiety and fear. If you can be more relaxed you wll make better decisions when driving.

Nana3 Tue 28-May-19 23:22:17

Definitely automatic, you're never in the wrong gear 🚘 good luck.

BradfordLass72 Wed 29-May-19 05:18:18

One of my friends, in her late 70's was like you after quite a bad accident.

She asked her instructor on the refresher course, to take her to one of the very large car parks and then to a Sunday-quiet industrial estate.
Here she became fully conversant with the controls of her new car and met very little traffic at all (Instructor drove to and from).
After 6 lessons, she was confident to be taken to a quiet suburb - and worked up from there.

nonnasusie Wed 29-May-19 06:59:30

Yes an automatic. When my 1st DH died I sold the family car and bought an automatic as I was the same and hadn't driven for years.
I don't drive now as I moved to Manchester with 2nd H and it was very busy🙁. Now I live in Italy and no way would I drive here, they are all mad drivers!!

teabagwoman Wed 29-May-19 07:22:14

You don’t say whether you live in town or a rural area. I would check how much the car is costing you to run and work out whether that would cover the cost of taxis when you need them. Is there a volunteer car service in your area which would get you to hospital appointments? Can family come to you rather than the other way round? If you feel that you must take over the driving then definitely an automatic with reversing sensors and sat nav. Whatever you decide you’ll find support here.

Grannyknot Wed 29-May-19 08:01:24

I'm another fan of automatic cars, all you do is operate the accelerator and brake. It's a bit like driving a toy car.

I'm not the most confident motorway driver (town driving is fine) but armed with a GPS and an early start, have done just fine on long trips.

You can do it!

As an aside, I often think of how Uber would have changed my mother's life - she never drove and would dream of "having my own driver". On the estate where I live, I see Uber drivers come and go all day long. I had a hospital appointment recently that would have meant catching 3 buses, didn't want to faff with parking, so I caught an Uber. What a pleasure! I've since used them many times, very convenient, no cash involved, lovely drivers, all immigrants. Most recently I was driven by an Iranian man who used to be a criminal barrister where he comes from. He was waiting to confirm his qualifications to work here as the same, and in the meanwhile he said chatting to customers improved his spoken English. Passengers and drivers rate each other, so I can select 5 star drivers, and they me! My passenger rating is 4.93 smile

shysal Wed 29-May-19 10:08:32

Another fan of automatic here. You will never stall the car, nor will you find that you are in the wrong gear.

If you really don't feel up to driving again, it has been proven that it is cheaper to use a taxi wherever you go than to keep a car on the road, A friend tried this and found it just meant a bit of planning but worked well.

bellarosie Wed 29-May-19 10:17:21

You CAN DO IT bytheway. Once you have had your first lesson you will feel SO much better. An automatic will make things as simple as possible - I know - I have one myself and never regretted it. Like you - I think that being housebound and dependent upon other people would change life for ever. You can do it - for your Husband's sake as well as your own. I will keep my fingers crossed for you that you find a kind and compassionate instructor - and let us know the outcome please.

lovebeigecardigans1955 Wed 29-May-19 10:24:24

Why not drive a semi-auto? My little Smart car has a 'gear lever' - you press a button on its side, the number of the gear displays on the dashboard so you can pull it down (towards the back) to go down a gear when you approach a steep hill. Likewise to go up a gear you push the gear up towards the dashboard. Dead easy. Then press the button again and an 'A' shows on the dashboard to say that you're back in fully automatic mode. I drive in fully auto all the time except when I see a hill. An 'R' shows when you're in reverse. Even an idiot like me can cope with this.
If I were you I'd go out early Sunday mornings when it's quiet to practice and you'll get your confidence back. Good luck.

Jan51 Wed 29-May-19 10:28:44

I hated driving. Passed my test over 30 yrs ago, drove for about 3 months and never drove again because I felt I was too nervous to be safe.
My husband has health issues but still drives at the moment although prefers to use a cab for hospital appointments as parking is so bad. The car gets used once a week for main shop and about twice a year to drive to Cornwall.
Once your DH can't drive you could get rid of the car and use all that money you save to take cabs.

nipsmum Wed 29-May-19 10:31:31

Definitely go automatic. All you have to do is steer. I would say Take note of phone number of local driving school cars if you see any, and phone them. Have a few refresher lessons and it will help to regain your confidence.