Help is on the way
Over the many years that I’ve been a driving instructor for Young Drivers of Canada I’ve come across many nervous students. It’s not only my job to teach them how to drive safely, but it’s also my job to relax them and keep them calm behind the wheel. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. These new drivers often have a fear of failure, a fear of crashing or a fear of the unknown. Do you have any of these fears? Do you know anyone who has these fears while driving?
The first part of this process is route planning. Pick a time of day that has less traffic than other times of the day. The other vehicles may pose a distraction to the driver, which can also cause these fears to escalate. Once you pick a quiet time of the day, pick a location that also has less traffic. Show the new driver that there isn’t much traffic around them and let them convince themselves that if there isn’t anyone near them, they can’t crash into them. Once this new driver gets more confidence with their driving abilities, you can move into busier areas.
Part of the solution of keeping someone calm is to reassure them you know what you’re doing. Instead of telling them you know what you’re talking about, you’ll need to show them. You know the old saying that ‘talk is cheap’? Well it’s true. Actions prove louder than words. You may want to show this new driver how to do what you want them to do so they can see that it does work. Once they are convinced it does work, switch seats and let them try it. If you need to, relate what you’re having them do with things they’ve done in the past http://bit.ly/s4ueX3. This can help them better understand what they’re attempting to do. They’ll get to use long term memory to help them understand the task.
Now that you know where and what time to take them out to practice, you’ll need to know which words can and cannot help them. What I mean is that what we say can hurt or help their progress. Continuing to tell this new nervous driver what their mistakes are will only cause more anxiety because all they hear are negative words. Instead of reconfirming their errors, let them know what they should be doing differently. That way they can focus their attention on the solution instead of the error. You may also want to ask them what they did well. It’s more difficult to argue with yourself than it is with other people, so if they say what they’re doing well, they’re more likely to believe themselves.
On that note, we’ve often heard how we learn from our mistakes. That’s not always true. All I’ve learned is what not to do; not what I should do. I prefer to learn by my successes and from other people’s mistakes. In other words, I don’t have to show a new driver how to do a skill incorrectly before I show them how to do it properly. Keep your feedback positive and let them know, honestly, what they’ve done well and then what they should do differently the next time. Keep your voice sounding “up” so the driver can stay relaxed. Yelling at them has never worked and never will. It just adds to their nervousness and it can also become a huge distraction causing them to avoid staying focused on what they’re doing and need to do.
If the nervous driver begins to feel more anxiety with what they’re doing, stop what you’re doing and take a break. When all else fails, do anything else. You may want to have them do something they’re good at to get their confidence up before moving onto something that’s new or more challenging for them.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you help this new driver. Who knows, it may also help you stay more relaxed yourself when driving.