The combination of being cash and time-poor, while also having an innate fear of failure, is creating a whole new generation of twentysomethings who don’t drive but I finally overcame my fear
I’m 28 and only just got my driving license.
But it’s totally fine because I live in public transport-friendly London, my two best friends have cars and besides, I’ve got a 4.78* rating on Uber. Except, it’s not really fine anymore because I used to do the school run for my niece and neither she or I are impressed with the two buses it takes either way to get her from A to B. If being a driverless aunt on the occasional pick-up duty is this problematic, what happens when I start having my own children?
Driving is a skill I attached to an ideal of being a fully-fledged adult and since I certainly don’t have the disposable income to blow on cabs everywhere; I decided to tackle it once and for all. 10 years since I took my first driving test, failing twice thanks to extreme nerves leading me to make mistakes I’d never dream of doing in lessons or IRL, I finally passed. (Automatic, mind you.)
By 20, I had given up, resigned to the fact that my ego and wallet were taking too much of a bruising. I tried again last year but I happened to get a driving instructor who spent my lessons telling me I was unnecessarily inquisitive, asked too many questions and probably was a person who didn’t have conviction in my own choices in daily life, too. I didn’t need a toxic life coach; I just wanted to learn to drive. The whole experience left me anxiety-ridden, £250 and 10 hours of my life down. All I wanted was my license so I could finally have a Zip Car membership – and all the endless flexibility it would bring – but alas, it was not my time yet.
According to the NHS, having a fear of driving is the fifth most experienced phobia in the UK, and it’s mostly experienced by women. The CEO of RED Driving School, Ian McIntosh, tells me that men tend to blame others if something goes wrong, while women are more cautious, ask more questions and will mostly blame themselves in the event of a mishap. I had to strongly ignore the urge to call up my old instructor to tell him my constant curiosity was in fact totally normal and not a reflection of my flawed personality.
And car insurance company esure state that women’s mileage is marginally less than men, so women are driving less anyway. But, I didn’t want to be a nervous driver any more. And, I certainly didn’t want to be a stereotype.
So, I rented a 5-door Cooper SD, because if I was going to get back on the horse, I was going to do it in style. And I made myself drive it alone.
Immediately feeling like I was breaking the law, I sat there in disbelief, figuring out all the fancy high-spec buttons and getting used to sitting on the driver’s side with no L plates and no chaperone next to me.
Flicking the mirrors out and reversing back (using the back camera naturally – apparently it’d been a while since I’d been in a car), I drove off. Laughing to myself, I felt liberated and finally, like a fully fledged adult since I’d put such value on this specific milestone.
I also took the five-door MINI hatch on a road trip with me. Having only been on dual-carriageways during my lessons, I convinced my dad to sit in on my first ever go on an A-road and motorway.
Considering my driving style is somewhere between short-sighted grandma and #20splenty, I was convinced I’d spend my time on the slow lane on the motorway but there’s something incredibly confidence-boosting about driving at a high speed and still feeling in control. And, yeah, I was driving at 70 mph in no time – I even switched lanes to overtake!
‘Who am I right now!?’ I thought to myself. Not a gender stereotype any more, that’s for sure.