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Learning to drive properly was mortifying. But it probably saved my life.

Learning to drive isn’t just about practicalities and mechanics.

It’s not just a bid for freedom by teens and by their parents, who are sick of driving them around to hundreds of activities each and every year.

It’s also a status symbol, as in, “Hey, look at me! I’m learning how to drive. Future grownup bringing up the rear…”.

This is why your teenager will be quite eager for one of those official driving instructor cars to pull up at the school gate and take them for a lesson that ends at their home. Because their friends will SEE them get into that car and know that they will soon have their licence.

There’s just one little problem…

Driving well in front of your friends is quite a challenge. Each afternoon when my driving instructor picked me up for my lesson I would get behind the wheel and try and drive as well as I knew I could, as a crowd of people watched.

But I never quite managed it.

Being a bit of an over-achiever, I was learning to drive on a manual car. No auto for me! And so what should have been a smooth and easy drive away from the school gate and along the road looked a bit more like one of those rapper’s cars that bounces in time to the music.

 Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Nissan Pathfinder. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words. 

Except my car was dancing to nothing.

“You never can get that take off right, can you?” my instructor teased. He was well aware that I had a particular problem driving when people I knew were watching, but was perfect when nobody I knew was around.

Then he said, “Jo, I’m not sending you for your driving test until you can drive well in front of anybody.”

And he was true to his word.

As my driving improved, he started forcing me to do laps of the school so that I would pass everyone not one time, but several times. He would ask me to perform a three-point-turn in front of the bus bay and then drive right past that front gate again. He made me REVERSE PARK in front of the school.

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Cold, heartless man.

But he was right. He was absolutely right. I needed to learn how to drive when distracted, embarrassed, self-conscious – as well as when it was sunny, windy, raining. He took me on one-way streets, around the shops, down wide roads, down narrow roads. He took me on motorways and into shopping centre car parks, where more of my friends would see me and my attempts at parking a car. In time, I became a really confident driver, with no bunny hopping whatsoever.

In fact, www.keys2drive.com.au (which is an excellent resource for parents of learner drivers, by the way) recommends that learners should be aware of their emotions and how they can affect their driving. So driving in front of my friends when I was utterly mortified? It was actually hugely beneficial.

I began looking forward to executing those trick manoeuvres in front of the entire student body, because I knew that when I had my licence I would have to focus on driving well under all sorts of circumstances.

One of my first jobs out of high school was at a radio station on the Central Coast of NSW, which required me to drive up the freeway from Sydney each weekday morning at 5am in darkness, then fog, then light and all while being overtaken by very large trucks.

Thankfully, a cool head prevailed.

Because nothing is more valuable than doing those things that horrify and mortify you, over and over again, until they horrify and mortify you no more.

Do you have any learning to drive horror stories?

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