Even with a parent/supervisor's guidance, unfamiliar or difficult situations – like driving in the rain or driving new roads – can be scary for everyone in the car.
It's ideal to get as much experience as possible, but there's a limit to the number of different experiences a learner driver can have on their L's - you also need to learn adaptability.
Here are some tactics for becoming adaptable and learning to handle different situations quickly:
1) Proactive tactics – tips for planning ahead when you know you could be driving somewhere new or difficult.
2) Responsive tactics – tips for on the road, when you have time to think things through.
3) Reactive tactics – tips for when you feel under a lot of pressure.
Proactive tactics – when you can plan ahead
- Plan and think through where you're going. Check a map and mentally practice the best route.
- Match the route to your ability. For example, take some quieter roads if you think double-lane highways and roundabouts will stress you out unnecessarily.
- Ask a passenger to help you navigate.
- Use navigation technology if you have it and if it helps.
- Give yourself more time than you think you'll need so you don't have to rush.
- Try to drive at the safest time - avoid peak hour.
- Practice in your mind how you will manage difficult situations before you get to them. For example, if you know you will have to turn right at a major set of traffic lights, mentally rehearse the each of the skills involved.
- Make sure you have a very clean windscreen and that your seat and all your mirrors are adjusted for your height.
- Reduce, or even better, eliminate distractions in the car - turn off your mobile, and don't eat, light up a cigarette or don't put on/change music while driving.
Responsive tactics - when you have time to think things through
- Look ahead as far as you can comfortably see - you'll have more time to respond to any hazards or challenges up ahead.
- Nearer the situation, respond earlier than normal - usually this means ease up on the accelerator.
- Make yourself breathe slowly and deeply, relax your neck, shoulders and arms; this will help you think more clearly and drive more smoothly.
- Keep extra space between you and the car in front.
- Take note of situations that look a bit different to those you have already experienced. Rehearse in your mind how you will manage the situation.
Reactive tactics - when you feel under a lot of pressure
- Keep driving with the flow of traffic.
- Avoid sudden use of the brake, accelerator, or steering.
- Ease up a bit on the accelerator, going slower gives you longer time to react.
- Politely ask noisy passengers to be quiet - you need to concentrate.
- Relax and breathe deeply and slowly.
- If the anxiety levels are really high, look for a safe place to pull over and stop. Before pulling over, though, look behind and signal for at least two seconds.