Feel confident back in the driving seat

The nation’s cars have never seen so little action as they did in the first half of 2020. Petrol dropping to below £1 a litre was a sure sign that no one was driving as much as they used to. Now things are returning to normal, it might feel a little strange heading back out on the roads. Here are a few things that might help if you’re feeling a bit reluctant getting into the driving seat.

Lots of things other than a four-month lockdown can unsettle drivers and shake their confidence – getting a new car or moving to a new area can be challenging for anyone until they get used to it. The secret, like most things in life, is practice. And you don’t need to go at it full pelt, just build up gradually, starting with a 10-minute turn around the block. Try to go out every day to keep your hand in, heading out for a little longer and on different routes when you feel ready. Remember to vary when and where you go so you can experience different volumes of traffic.

While the roads have been quiet this year, the highway maintenance teams have been making the most of it. You may find that in the last few months junctions have changed or new traffic lights have been installed. If this has happened near you, there will be a proliferation of signs accompanying these changes, along with new road markings or some colourful new road studs that could take you by surprise. If, like most people, it’s been a while since you leafed through the Highway Code, you can brush up online – or be impressed at just how much you remember!

Grab a cuppa and settle down with the Highway Code, free and online!

Driving requires a lot of concentration, so the more you can focus on the road ahead the better, and it will make you feel more in control. If you’re thinking about other things or running through numerous ‘what ifs’ in your head, your confidence and control may be taking a back seat. Use this checklist to keep your attention on the road ahead:

  • Plan your route. Even if you’ve got a sat-nav, knowing where you’re headed will help you keep track of where you are and where you can divert if you want or need to.
  • Fill up with fuel as soon as you set off. Watching your fuel gauge plummet or have warnings light up and buzz does not make for a relaxing drive!
  • Take your phone with you – hopefully, if you’ve got it, you won’t need it. And get a cheap charging lead so it can charge while you’re driving.
  • Check your oil and water. Cars do seem to look after themselves these days, but it’s worth a quick check before you set off. There’s nothing worse than your wiper bottle running dry on a wintry salty road or on a dusty summer’s day.
  • Get breakdown cover. At least you know if something does happen, someone can come and get you out of trouble.

If there are other things that are making you feel less confident in the car, there could be ways to improve the situation if you do want to keep on driving. An up-to-date eye test and the advice of an optician might be all you need (and remember you can flip the rear-view mirror switch to reduce headlight glare at night). If fatigue or muscle strength is an issue, why not go automatic? As a nation of manual drivers, we often forget they even exist!

For invaluable tips and advice for mature drivers, visit the RoSPA website

Ultimately though, you might do all these things and still not feel entirely comfortable being back behind the wheel. But you could find that having a professional by your side gives you the confidence boost you need. Driving schools don’t just teach new drivers, they offer advanced lessons, refresher classes and confidence courses to people of all ages – get in touch with your local instructor to see how they can help. Driver confidence courses can be so beneficial that Saga Car Insurance offers them to all customers who have Legal Protection as part of their cover. This means that if a situation or incident has made them feel unsettled at the wheel, Saga will pay for a two-hour course with the AA driving school to help them feel more assured on the road.

If you’d like to add Legal Protection to your Saga Essential policy or upgrade to Saga Car which includes Legal Protection as standard, call 0800 302 9735.

These suggestions will hopefully help you feel better about getting in the car again. And do bear in mind that as things get back to normal and life finds its familiar rhythm again, it’s more than likely your driving will too. 

Saga’s optional Legal Protection cover is underwritten by AmTrust Europe Limited.

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