There is an assumption that the moment you turn 17 you must already have your provisional driving licence in your hand, along with your first driving lesson booked and a driving test planned for a mere few weeks away.
Whilst this method works out well for many, there are a certain percentage who leave the learning to drive process for a later date. Reasons vary, though most are due to time constraints, or work and the fact that it’s currently unnecessary due to living in a city that has good public transport. Others may have started out learning to drive but were put off by a bad experience and didn’t continue.
WHY CAN OLDER PEOPLE LEARN TO DRIVE
As an older learner driver, you might start out feeling that you’re up against an impossible task, but that’s likely to change very quickly.
- Confidence- for most of us, the older we get our confidence grows. This allows a mature learner to relax and take in the process step-by-step
- Due to likely being a passenger for years, older learners will already have a good level of road sense and the ability to recognise potential hazards
TIPS FOR OLDER LEARNER DRIVERS
To be perfectly honest, advice for older learner drivers doesn’t really change too much compared to that of a young learner.
- Driving instructor – Don’t be afraid to be picky on your choice of driving instructors. It’s important that you find an instructor that you feel comfortable sitting alongside, that you understand their teaching methods clearly and that they motivate you and pick up on any errors you make. See how to find a good driving instructor for further information.
- Regular lessons – Infrequent or irregular driving lessons reduces your drive to succeed, plus you’ll spend longer at the start of each lesson recapping what you covered last time. If possible, aim for 2 x one and a half hour or 2 x 2 hour lessons each week.
- Experience – The more experience the better! If possible gain further driving experience from family or friends. Use it as experience only though and leave the teaching to the instructor.
- Manual or automatic – Give manual transmission a try and if you really can’t get to grips with clutch control and gear shifting, opt for automatic. If you pass in a manual, you can drive any manual and also drive automatics. Pass in a automatic and you’re limited to only automatic cars. To many however, automatics are significantly easier to drive and may reduce the amount of time required to learn.
Find the right car and any aids you need for safe driving
Choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. Keep your car in good working condition by visiting your mechanic for scheduled maintenance. Be sure that windows and headlights are always clean. An occupational therapist or a certified driving rehabilitation specialist, for example, can prescribe equipment to make it easier to steer the car and to operate the foot pedals.
In these days of cell phones, GPS devices, and digital music players, drivers are even more distracted than they used to be. This means you’ll want to take extra steps to drive safely, like leaving adequate space for the car in front of you, paying extra attention at intersections, and making sure you are driving appropriate to the flow of traffic. Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone while driving or trying to puzzle out a map, even if it’s a GPS on the car; pull over instead.
Make sure you allow sufficient braking distance. Remember, if you double your speed—say from 30mph to 60mph—your braking distance does not become twice as long, it becomes four times as far, even more if the road is wet or icy.
Know your limitations
If a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many older drivers voluntarily begin to make changes in their driving practices. For instance, you may decide to drive only during daylight hours if you have trouble seeing well in reduced light. If fast-moving traffic bothers you, consider staying off freeways, highways, and find street routes instead. You may also decide to avoid driving in bad weather (rain, thunderstorms, snow, hail, ice). If you are going to a place that is unfamiliar to you, it is a good idea to plan your route before you leave so that you feel more confident and avoid getting lost.