To celebrate the fact that I’ve held a driving license for one whole year I thought I’d post about my experience as an older learner driver.
Learning to drive is one of the most horrible things you will ever have to do in your lifetime. Fact. Learning to drive as an older learner is even worse. It’s also, unfortunately, one of the most useful.
I’m not good when told I have to do something. Call me stubborn, but I like to make up my own mind about what I want to do and when I should do it. So it’s no wonder that when all of my friends started learning to drive at 17, I chose to stand my ground and be the odd one out. Eventually I caved in when my parents gave me driving lessons for my 18th birthday (I think they were getting board of driving me everywhere) but I managed to take a few and then escape to university where all was forgotten.
Years passed and boyfriends with cars came and went, meaning I could always get where I wanted to go. Living in a city for most of my twenties meant plenty of public transport, and eventually came the other long list of competing expenses like getting married, buying a house and then taking a belated gap year, so driving wasn’t a top priority.
Finally, aged 32, and expecting twins, I’d reached the end of the line; there were no more excuses to make. Although there were plenty more other ways to spend my money, none were as important as allowing me to be mobile with my babies.
Then morning sickness took over my life. When I came out the other side I was heavily pregnant (two babies = one huge bump) and completely exhausted. Not an ideal time to go through the stress of driving lessons.
After my gorgeous boys had arrived I was a full-time mum, up all hours of the day and night feeding, changing, washing and sterilising. I had no inclination to leave them and quite frankly I didn’t possess the energy to get through a driving lesson either.
Eventually, when they were six months old, I decided to bite the bullet. 15 years of avoidance is quite a time to build up a sense of dread, but I knew that I had to do it so decided – like pulling a plaster – to get it over with as quickly as possible by taking two hour lessons two or three evenings a week.
It was awful. I hated every minute of it, from the moment I booked my first lesson, to the moment the examiner told me I’d passed my (third) test.
I hoped driving would get less scary with each lesson, but each one got more terrifying, with faster roads and bigger roundabouts. And to make things worse, just as I thought I’d got the hang of something, the next lesson I’d have lost the ability all over again. I lost count of how many times I stalled that car.
I hated the clutch, could never find the right gear and always panicked when I approached a roundabout. Yet, slowly things did start to fall into place. Manoeuvres started to get easier and then the actual driving part seemed a bit easier too. I still never lost the sense of dread though.
Something I realise now is you will never feel 100% ready for your driving test; you’ve just got to give it a go and hope for the best. I stalled while pulling into the test centre for my first test (with my instructor in the car, not the examiner luckily) – the test went perfectly apart from one major fault on a roundabout (oops). The second test was terrible – after a couple of minor problems I completely lost all self confidence and made far too many mistakes – including speeding on the road back to the test centre. On the third test everything was in my favour – the roads were quiet, the examiner patient, the route was easy and, other than a few minors, I sailed through. It was purely down to the luck of the day rather than skill.
So the moral of my story? Make the most of being young and fearless and learn to drive when you hit 17. Although you may not feel you have the cash to do it, you’ll have even less spare cash when you get older. And the whole process is far more terrifying when you have more life experience and understand that accidents can really hurt.
I always laughed when people used to tell me that learning to drive as an older learner is much harder, but it turns out it was true all along. Damn it, I hate being wrong.
Thank you so much for posting this! I know it is an old post for you but I just discovered your blog and was scanning through your archives.
I am (very!) soon to be a mum to twin girls, our first children, and at 33 I am now kicking myself for my skillful avoidance when it came to learning to drive, especially as we are now in the process of replacing our (presumably easier to park) compact car for a larger people-mover that can actually fit a twin pram in the boot. Like you, I spent my teens and twenties blissfully making the most of long-suffering parents, boyfriends with wheels, and the irrefutable convenience of public transport when living as an urbanite for university and work. I am terrified of the idea of driving, and the thought that I would put my two girls in the car with me at some stage does more than triple that fear.
It is clear you were not relishing driving a year ago, but you have proven to me that I am not completely alone and that it can be done. Is it any less scary a year later?
Learning to drive was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but you only have to get through the lessons once in your life. I did as many lessons as I could in a week – having two hour lessons every time which was exhausting but I wanted them out of the way as quickly as possible as it’s very stressful. I found it easier to learn while the boys were younger as they had more daytime naps which meant I could rest before having an evening lesson. I now drive our giant Toyota Granvia (the size of a camper van) and it’s an automatic which makes it much easier. Going out the first few times after passing was really scary but now I quite like it, although I’m still a bit of a nervous driver as I don’t get to drive as often as I’d like because I don’t have my own car (Husband takes it to work most days). I think because the car is so big I don’t worry about taking the boys out in it like I thought I would and I feel secure as I’m much higher up than the other cars – I’m more scared of parking it!! But that really is due to lack of experience in busy car parks. Being able to drive to twin club is the best feeling in the world.
I’m writing a book about twins from pregnancy to birth at the moment but I’ve only just finished drafing it so am now looking for an agent and publisher. If you’re on Twitter you’ll find loads of twin mums like me to chat to for advice or just have a moan to – it’s fab. I’m @TalesofaTwinMum so come and say hi and I’ll introduce you to some as it’s a great support network. Good luck – having twins is AMAZING (I loved it so much I risked having another set by getting pregnant again with a 1 in 14 chance of twins – this time I’m just due one baby in Sept!) Take care. xx
I am 51 years old and learning to drive, had 6 lessons so far and I am scared silly each time I get in the car, roundabouts scare me to death and I sometimes wonder if I will ever master this. Reading about your experience though has helped me to plod on, maybe I can do this after all.
Keep at it! It’s a horrible thing to have to do but once you’ve passed that’s it (although driving without an instructor is scary too – at least you never have to take the test again!) Good luck. x
I just fineshed reading your experience as a older driver. I will be 27 in october and am on my 3rd permit :S I like you put it off and allowed everyone to cart me around all while feeling guilty….to make matters worse I am a military spouse/SAHM to 3 children one of whom is in first grade. I am always terrified at the aspect of my husband having to be shipped off and left stranded, thankfully in 7 years no deployments yet, lucky I guess. I just renewed my permit for the 3rd time today, my husband is my primary teacher since we cannot afford lessons. Its been difficult trying to find time to practice with his work schedule and the demands of 3 children aged 6,4, and 2. We however are doing our best to make it work with trips to grocery store,library,school, parking lot, etc. It is mentally harder for me than being pregnant,going through labor, being a new mom all combined into one. I have severe anxiety about driving. You have inspired me to not give up….just today I was driving home from the dmv after renewing my permit clutching the will crying yelling at my poor husband ” I cant do this”.
Keep at it. At least you’re willing to drive with your other half – I couldn’t learn with him and even now hate driving with him in the car! It really is an awful thing to go through, but you will get to the other side. Good luck and let me know when you pass your test! xx