It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and today gave me the perfect reason to renew my association with this tome.I have a trainee who was giving me genuine reason to question my techniques. Until today. Let’s call her Nicki – not her real name, obviously. Nicki is 33 years of age, and hails from the sub-continent where certain cultural norms exist surrounding the fairer gender. I’ll not say any more than that. Suffice to say, driving is not considered a ‘must-do’ activity for women, but Nicki is not typical of most women in her culture. She wants to drive and I admire her spirit.
Like some new drivers, and especially those who come to driving at a more mature age than your average adolescent teenager, Nicki, when I first met her, had never sat behind a steering wheel. Never steered a car, never touched a brake or accelerator. Her understanding of driving was, and remains, a very healthy level of respect for the weapon she takes charge of everytime we meet. Initially, she was thrilled and petrified at the same time. Steering was a mystery, the car, a disobedient monster unwilling to bend to her physical commands. She would over-steer constantly, which led in turn to coming very close to kerbs, parked cars, trees and telegraph poles. But training cars come complete with dual controls and an accompanying supervisor. Me. Nothing bad was ever going to happen, but all the soothing words on my part, all the encouragement, guidance and psychological entreaties to not fixate on what she feared hitting seemed to be to no avail.
Five times we’d been out before today, and five sessions which wound up with very little progress. The abject fear of hitting something or having something hit us was stymieing Nicki’s desire to get into the ‘driving’ part of her learning. Combine that ‘collision anxiety’ (which is what I call it) with infrequent opportunities to practice, and I feared that progress would never occur. That was, until today. Last evening, Nicki and her husband, went for a drive around the block. That was all, just a drive around the block. Today, it was as if someone new was sitting alongside me in the car. Yes, we still had the odd moment of fear but there was a potent and tangible sense of determination on the driver’s side of the car today. We actually ‘drove’ today, further than we’ve ever attempted to date. Through two huge roundabouts, in and out of numerous suburban streets, onto main roads with other traffic. In fact further than I’d ever thought possible until now. She even drove us into her driveway and up to her home. Something I’d never have asked her to do previously.
There are numerous lessons from today for me, principally that my approach is correct, but persistence does pay off eventually. For Nicki, I believe she now understands that if she is afraid of hitting something, she will tend to fixate on that something to the detriment of her true focus which must be the road ahead. It is a well understood paradigm that road ‘accidents’, or collisions occur because the driver(s) fixate on the object they wind up hitting because of the momentary stress of NOT wanting to hit that something. In other words, if you’re afraid of hitting something, staring at it in abject fear will only ensure that you DO hit it. Staying focused on the job at hand, on the road ahead……far ahead…….will ensure that as a driver you are as informed about conditions, environment, the car you’re driving and all the other traffic around you, as you can possibly be. Distractions are a part of the environment. Learn to deal with them, put them aside, and focus on what is most important and you WILL succeed. This goes for life in general, not just driving.
Kudos Nicki!! Now, stick to it, get out and practice. I’m looking forward to driving further with you when we next meet.