The months of uncertainty and fear surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent national lockdown has meant that since March many British people have only left their homes for necessities and exercise, leaving the roads quiet.
Understandably, almost four months without driving has impacted driver confidence significantly, particularly for the relatively inexperienced, or drivers that rarely needed to get behind the wheel prior to lockdown. With restrictions easing and a lot of people consider going back to work, we look at how to get yourself back into driving mode.
What do I do if I am too anxious to return to the road?
It’s important to note that anxiety at the thought of driving your car and having to navigate through busy roads again is totally normal and you are not alone in feeling this way.
In a snap poll we’ve recently conducted, as many of 9 out of 10 Britons have felt some form of anxiety during their time isolation, with three-fifths experiencing anxiety about the prospect of post-lockdown driving.
With 25% of the motorists experiencing anxiety at the thought of driving again admitting that they have avoided the roads completely during lockdown, it’s easy to see why so many are now experiencing nerves.
While you may fear forgetting how to drive, you have the knowledge in you to do so. It’s important to remind yourself that you have driven before and you have not lost this ability in the last few months even though it may feel like it.
Start by reassuring yourself that your car is in good working order after its break from the road. Spending some time reacquainting yourself with the car and carrying out some routine checks may well make you feel a bit more normal about driving. Here are some quick tips on what to check.
First and foremost, it’s important to make sure the essential fluids in your car are topped up and that you keep spares in the boot should you require them. Things like brake fluid, coolant, oil and windscreen wash require vigilance to ensure your car operates to the best of its ability.
Don’t underestimate the importance of regular tyre checks. Already crucial ahead of a long journey, with the introduction of the MOT holiday, it’s even more important to keep on top of the tread and condition of your tyres.
There should be no cuts, nicks or cracking visible on the tyres, and they should have at least 2mm of tread as the legal limit is 1.6mm. There will be a marker in your tyre’s tread pattern to show the minimum level is. Quick tip, you can use a 20p coin to check tyre tread as the border of a 20p piece is exactly 1.6mm deep – if you can see any of the border then they’re below the legal limit. Also check your tyre pressures as it’s likely they will have gone done if you haven’t driven for a while.
If you aren’t driving regularly then your battery is at risk of going flat. To ensure this doesn’t happen, get into the habit of periodically starting the engine and leaving it running for a little while, with you in the car for safety. Another option to consider is investing in a trickle charger to keep your battery topped up. Trickle chargers plug into the mains and ensure a steady stream of power while your car is off the road, maintaining the battery charge, even if you’re not driving regularly at the moment. They are available online but do require proximity to a mains plug to work and if this isn’t an option for you now might be the time to order some jumpstart cables.
Check your lights
It goes without saying that lights need checking regularly, and should you find yourself on the roads after dark, they are crucial for not only yourself and your passengers’ safety, but also for the safety of other motorists and pedestrians. Check your high beams, dipped and indicators, should any of them need changing then you will need to buy bulbs to replace them before taking to the road again.
Made all your checks and are still struggling with the idea of post-lockdown driving? We’ve partnered with psychotherapist and member of the Institute for Advanced Drivers, Steven Richard, who as a former policeman with experience as a Class 1 pursuit driver is well equipped to offer up practical advice to those with apprehensions.
I still don’t feel ready – what do I do?
If you have had real trouble with anxiety during lockdown, remember you are not alone in these feelings. It’s been a truly testing time for many and there are professionals out there to help you if you still do not feel as if you are ready to return to the road.
We found that 23% of those who have experienced driving anxiety before have seen a professional to assist with their issues and a further 38% are now considering booking an appointment post-lockdown.
Refresher lessons or advanced training with a driving instructor to regain some of the confidence and knowledge you might feel you have lost over the last few months are a potential option to get used to being back on the road if you are comfortable with the measures they have in place for social distancing. In the snap poll, we found that 16% of those who are now experiencing anxiety about returning to the roads would consider getting a refresher course to help them build their confidence so you would certainly not be alone in doing so.
Do not rush yourself into anything you are not comfortable with; speak to someone if you think it will help you and don’t suffer in silence. We are all in this together.
Read more: Buying a car after lockdown