Ten things I learned in my first 18 months of driving
From becoming extra popular with her friends to stressing about other drivers, university student Sophie reveals what she learnt in her first 18 months behind the wheel on Melbourne’s roads.
1. You lose your parallel parking skills two days after the test
Everyone gets nervous about having to parallel park with an assessor watching. You worry you’ll hit the kerb or be too far away from it. If you have an instructor, you learn how to park in their car perfectly.
But once you have your license and you’re out of the instructor’s car, you forget all of their advice. Was it the other car’s front mirror you had to line up with? Or their back door handle? Do you reverse and then turn the wheel? Or the other way around?
These days, I do everything I can to avoid parallel parking, but I can do it if I must.
2. Other drivers are nicer to you when you swap your red P-plates to green
Not to say red P platers never do anything wrong (I’ve made mistakes where the other driver’s annoyance was justified), but many drivers assume you’re a bad driver.
They speed past you angrily when you’re doing the speed limit, choose against letting you merge when they easily could have, and get impatient when waiting for you to turn right, or park.
When I turned my P plates over to green, I instantly noticed a difference. Other drivers go from knowing you must be under 21 and in your first year of driving, to seeing you as someone who could be older and have three years of experience.
3. The ongoing costs of driving are hidden
When you first start looking at cars, it can seem like buying the car is all you really have to pay for.
But then you find out there’s annual registration, insurance, and roadside assist, regular servicing, and of course petrol. And that doesn’t include anything cosmetic, like getting a scratch painted over or a dent repaired. Cars are expensive, so make sure you’re ready for that when you buy one.
4. You won’t be the worst driver on the road
You hear it all the time: ‘It’s the other drivers you have to worry about’.
It is true though. You’ll question how some people ever got their license. And even good drivers sometimes make mistakes. The key is to always be aware of what’s happening around you.
And next time you’re at a red light, look around to see how many people are on their phones. It’s always the majority.
5. You might feel anxious driving with your parents
Driving with your parents goes from being all you know to a rare occurrence. Usually nobody is in the passenger seat to help you, but when they are, it can be stressful. You may question your driving ability or feel like your new-found independence has disappeared.
Naturally, parents can slip back into supervisor mode, giving you advice that feels like criticism – ‘You shouldn’t have turned then’, ‘You’re too close to that car’, ‘Both hands on the wheel!’
Try to stay confident, remember that you’re still young and learning, and that their hearts are in the right place.
6. The first few weeks may not be as euphoric as you imagined
Getting your licence is so romanticised! Whether you’re one of the first you know to get it or one of the last, it seems like it will instantly make your life easier and better.
It’s such a relief to pass your test but driving alone can feel strange at first. You might have a touch of imposter syndrome or realise that your expectations were too high. Don’t stress though, this feeling will diminish, and you will feel confident soon.
7. Police cars might make you nervous
Sometimes if a police car pulls up behind me at a red light, or one drives past me on the other side of the road, my mind starts racing – ‘Do I look too young to be driving? Will they think I don’t have a license? Will they pull me over?’
Every time I’m waved past a booze bus I feel an immense sense of relief, even though I know my BAC is 0.00 and I would have been completely fine. Try to see them as just other drivers who don’t care nearly as much as you think about a random P-plater.
8. People love designated drivers – and that you can pick them up!
Your friends will love that have your license, so they don’t have to catch public transport and Ubers as much. And you’ll be pressured while on your red Ps to take more than one person (stay strong and resist the temptation!).
I’ve found myself in random situations, like leaving home in the early hours of the morning to pick up a friend from a party. It’s great to be able to help and makes me happy I can drive.
And yes, this includes your parents! Be prepared to drive them to and from dinner parties.
9. You’ll finally understand how drivers just know where to go
Growing up, it always confused me how adults would get to places without maps, especially if it was somewhere we had never been before. They knew all the streets, and where they were in relation to any possible destination.
Now that I’m driving myself, I’ve found my directional skills and awareness of where I am has vastly improved, simply because I had to make decisions and ended up in the right, or the wrong, places.
10. You’ll wonder how you did anything without your license.
Driving makes everything a lot simpler. You no longer need to worry about catching public transport or organising a lift with somebody. If you recently got your license, congratulations! The long haul is over. Enjoy it and stay safe.
When it comes to insurance, we all have different needs and priorities, and young drivers are no exception. Visit the car insurance section of our website, or call us on 1800 999 977 to chat about your options.