On Apr 15, 2018, at 13:25 PM, anonymous FI
> I am scared of driving. I am well into adulthood, so this has been an
> issue for a long time. I think knowing how to drive would be useful,
> but I have difficulty doing it.
> One issue is I can be kind of “spacey” and inattentive. I think it
> is a problem, but it is not that big a deal in many other contexts
> where there’s not constant split second life or death decisions you
> have to make. Inattention while driving is very dangerous. I have done
> driving lessons before and just blown past stop signs and that kind of
You blew past a stop sign *during* a driving lesson?
How did that work? Didn’t the instructor tell you to stop, or stop the
car themselves with dual controls?
This makes me question your driving instructor. If you were coming up to
a stop sign without slowing down, the instructor should have told you to
slow down & stop. When you are taking lessons, part of the
instructor’s job is to pay attention to everything on the road and
make sure you are driving safely.
> I think maybe I get a bit overwhelmed by all there is to pay attention
> to while driving and just start dropping stuff randomly.
> (Note: I shared some of this with Elliot off list and have included
> his comments below)
> Elliot’s comments:
> overwhelmed as new driver is totally normal. new drivers often run
> stop signs. that’s a *different problem* than spacey.
> overwhelmed thing u can 100% solve with practice, is not srs problem
> u will get more used to it
> if ur that concerned, what u do is break driving into smaller pieces
> and practice the pieces
> like practice getting into the car and doing all the pre-driving
> and then u get out and done
> do that 10 times and next time u go for drive u will have more
> same technique is used in PUA and good elsewhere too
> JP has said something similar with fear of elevator example
> and ofc driving in parking lot is breaking it into pieces
> lets u do some of driving without traffic
> and not going on freeway right away is pieces
> (back to my stuff)
I agree with Elliot.
Missing stuff when you are a new driver is not the same thing as being
spacey. You were overwhelmed by learning a new skill with lots of
You need to break it down and start slower. You should be *really*
comfortable driving around in parking lots before you try to go out on
the road again.
> Another issue is I can be bad at forming clear judgments in my mind
> about what is happening, what to do, etc. So in the moment I can get
> overwhelmed and scared and make a mistake. One example is an issue
> like when you’re in a situation where you need to judge if another
> car is far enough away for you to safely perform some maneuver you
> want to perform (like entering a roundabout or making a turn or
> whatever). Unless the other cars are SUPER far away or the coast is
> totally clear, I find it hard to figure out if I’m driving safely.
> But you can’t just wait till stuff is super clear when driving IRL.
> People will honk and get mad. You need to be somewhat aggressive.
> I’m not at all confident I could be competently aggressive.
Are you talking specifically about driving here, or do you mean this is
a general trait?
If you are talking about driving specifically, then it makes sense that
you have trouble figure out if you are driving safely, or that you
don’t have good judgement yet about what to do in certain situations.
You don’t know how to drive yet! It’s silly to use your *current*
lack of driving skill & judgement as a reason *not to learn to driver*!
There are ways to deal with some of the problems you brought up. You can
do things like avoid left-hand turns at intersections without left-turn
advance lights. You can plan your routes to take the easiest streets and
As you gain experience driving, you will also get better intuitions
about how big of a space you need, or how long it will take cars to
You could start paying attention to this now, even without driving. If
you are in the car with someone else, pay attention when they are
waiting for a gap to turn. See what *you* think is a big enough gap. Pay
attention to when they go, and pay attention to how much space they
actually had — how long did it take the other car to reach the place
where they were turning?
Or pay attention when oncoming traffic turns in front of the car you are
in — how much space do they really have? Do they complete the turn
before you even get close? Did the driver have to slow down at all?
You can pay attention to this kind of thing while you are a pedestrian
too. Just watch cars and try to estimate how long it will take a car
coming towards you to reach you. You can count the seconds. You can also
count the seconds it takes to, say, make a left hand turn. Then you will
have an idea of if there would have been enough room to make a left hand
turn in front of that car.
As you do this, you should get better at judging and estimating how long
it will take cars to get from one point to another. You will get better
at understanding how much space you would actually have to turn in front
of a car.
> Another issue is I am almost completely useless at directions,
> figuring out where stuff is in relation to other stuff, etc.
Do you ever try to follow directions when you walk places? You could
practice this. Look at maps and trying walking different routes to place
than you normally do. Follow your maps. Or look at the map before you go
and see if you can figure out the directions, and then follow them.
Directions while driving are different that walking. I actually find
driving directions easier in general. The blocks seem shorter, and most
directions just involve turning at major/marked intersections. So you
don’t have to pay attention to all the landmarks and stuff around you.
You just look for the major intersections where you know you are going
to have to turn. You usually keep to main roads & intersections for most
of your drive. You only have to go into the side streets when you are
close to your destination.
> Another issue is I am bad at judging distances.
You can practice this too, without driving.
Figure out how long your pace is. Or how long your foot is. Then you can
measuring out distances by counting your steps.
Figure out how long a car is. Or how large of a space a car typically
needs to park in. You can look it up, or measure one by walking next to
it and counting steps.
Then you can try to judge small distances by walking them out and
counting your steps. You can try to judge if there is enough room for a
car in a parking space, then count your steps and see if you were right.
> Another issue is I am afraid of being in charge of something big
> moving at very high speed. I was even super scared of riding my
> hoverboard at more than a snail’s pace initially. The speed itself
> is something I find kinda scary. It makes me feel not in control, and
> in danger.
Do you feel that way when other people are driving you around in the
Or do you just feel that way when you are the one in control of the
> Another issue is I have a poor spatial sense of like how big the
> vehicle is, how close other stuff is, etc., and so I get scared I will
> hit stuff/cyclists/cars/curbs/people (not to mention damage whatever I
> am driving!)
This is something you should put effort into practicing when you start
You can stop next to stuff, try to park next to lines in a parking lot,
or try to pull up next to a curb and then get out of the car and check
how close you really are.
Do this in a parking lot before you start driving on the road.
There are ways of looking at it in your particular car - figure out what
point on the windshield a curb or will line up with when your tire is
right next to it.
> Another issue is I have had multiple bad experiences with driving
> lessons. (That is a common issue people have when they haven’t
> learned to drive for a long time.) Getting yelled at for making
> mistakes by a driving instructor, winding up in a ditch when being
> taught by a friend, etc. And I don’t have any IRL
> friends/relatives/significant other with saintly patience I can impose
> upon for a ton of supervised driving time.
Try to find someone willing to just let you driving around a parking lot
until you are really comfortable.
You could call driving instructors and just explain what you want to do,
and ask if they are OK with that.
You could also try posting on your local subreddit or craiglist and
asking for someone to help you in exchange for pay. Make sure you
explain exactly how slowly you want to start. Some people will get
impatient if you literally spend multiple sessions only in a parking
lot. But talking to them about it beforehand should help you to find
someone who is OK with starting slow.
Also, when you start driving, you can start without using the gas pedal
at all. You could just spend the entire first driving session taking
your foot on & off the brake (assuming you are in an automatic, which
you definitely should be). You don’t need to use the gas to drive on
flat ground. You can drive really slowly around a parking lot just by
taking your foot off the brake. You can practice steering, practice your
braking, stop next to things and then get out and see how close you
(And before that you could just spend time sitting in the car and
getting used to the controls, as Elliot said above.)
> Another issue is that I live in a city where there’s lots of
> ridesharing and transit so it hasn’t been a huge issue. I don’t
> need to drive to go to work or run errands, and I don’t have a kid I
> need to pick up and take places. These are things of the type which
> wind up motivating people who are older to learn to drive. In fact
> it’s gotten *significantly easier and cheaper* for me to not drive
> over time. It used to be more of a constraint than it is now. Oh and I
> grew up in another city where it was even *easier* to not have a car
> than my current city (where it’s pretty easy and where a significant
> percentage of people don’t have a car), so I didn’t have the
> motivation when i was young either. Also it seems like we will legit
> get self driving cars in like 1.5 years maybe?
> To be clear, not driving has been more of a constraint than I’ve
> wanted to admit. But *as my life is set up right now*, getting around
> to stuff I need to get around to is pretty fast/easy.
You set your life up in a way to make it easy without driving. That
limited some of your options. It’s possible that if you could drive,
you would have made different decisions that you would have preferred.
> Another issue is that I find the difficulty of driving lessons scales
> really fast. You typically go from driving around a parking lot to out
> on the real, dangerous road pretty fast. I’ve tried a couple of
> driving instructors before, and it seems like they’re okay with you
> doing maybe one hour of easy stuff in the parking lot and then
> they’re pushing you to get out on busy streets.
You need to discuss this beforehand. Find someone who is willing to go
slowly. And it should be parking lots first, then really empty mostly
unused residential streets. You shouldn’t go from parking lots to busy
streets. You need to drive around empty streets first.
> Another issue is that the city I live in is often cited as one of the
> worst places to drive. There’s massive constant traffic, parking is
> expensive and often hard to find, the police are very aggressive about
> ticketing, and the cyclists are particularly numerous and aggressive.
> So even if I got my license, I think I’d be avoiding driving as much
> as possible here (especially given how much knowledge I already have
> about how to get around without driving).
You can learn to drive even if you aren’t planning on driving in your
current city. You could try driving in other places, or at least have it
as an option. Maybe you will want to change jobs one day, or your job
will require you to do something that driving would help with. In that
case, it would be good if you already had a license.
There are lots of things where it doesn’t make much sense to do them
ahead of time, just in case. But driving is not actually hard, it is a
relatively easy skill to learn, and it is starting to take longer to get
a license in many places (graduated licensing). Also, having years of
accident free driving experience will make it easier to rent a car or
use car sharing. And it will give you cheaper insurance rates. (And
years where you had a license but never actually drove will count
If you think you might want to drive at any point in the future, it
would be better to learn sooner rather than later. Driving isn’t
something that you can just easily pick up at the last minute when you
need it. Not being able to drive will just make some options unavailable
> I don’t wanna try to drive when I have major unsolved issues and
> wind up having an accident and maybe dying.
You don’t have to actually drive on your own while you have unresolved
issues with driving itself.
The point is to learn to drive. Take lessons *until you feel
comfortable*. Not to go out and drive alone while you feel that you are
still an unsafe driver.
Also, when you do drive, there are different levels of difficulty. You
can *choose* to drive only in less difficult situations. You can plan
your routes to avoid the things that you find most difficult.
For example, it is really common for people who have been driving for
years to entirely avoid the downtown core of large &/or unfamiliar
> But I also don’t wanna be timid and scared about something that lots
> of people manage to do. (Though note that lots of people are bad
> drivers. I don’t wanna drive to *their* standard…)
> I also don’t wanna repeat the cycle of spending some money on
> driving lessons and then having stuff go kind of miserably.
I think talking to your instructor beforehand should help with this.
Give them a clear idea of what you want, and make sure they at least say
they are OK with it.
And it might help to use a non-professional instructor. Just find
someone online who would agree to let you drive their car around a
parking lot. Maybe they won’t have as much of an agenda as a real
instructor. I think there are a lot of people who own cars who would
consider that easy money.
> I looked online for advice but there wasn’t much.
> Mostly just “practice practice practice, hehe!”, or getting
> therapy, or having a family member or spouse take you out to a sleepy
> area to practice a bunch.
Practice will help. You just need to start with slower practice. You
need more driving in parking lots, and then very sleepy areas or unused
> The nice thing about the hoverboard is it self-balances and you can go
> verrrrrry slowly. So you can just focus on controlling the forward
> movement and turning. I literally spent like 2 hours going in a very
> slow circle in a park (like slower than walking speed) before I
> started to feel comfortable with hoverboard. For those two hours a
> snail could have lapped me ;p
That’s what you need to do with driving a car too.
Maybe you can tell that story to potential driving instructors/helpers.
You literally spent 2 hours driving your hoverboard in a circle slower
than walking speed. You want to spend even *more* time doing basically
the same thing in a car…
> One indirect approach I’ve been trying a bit is to just be very
> observant when riding Uber (esp when i am in front seat). Like trying
> to figure out what’s going on, what I would do if I was driving --
> like when i think it's safe to turn. Does that match up with driver?
> Since I already use Uber a bunch, this method doesn't cost me anything
> extra, so that is nice. It doesn't lend itself to getting external
> crit, though!
Right, that’s what I was suggesting above.
You could see how your judgements match up to the driver. You could also
see how long you *think* it will take a car to reach a certain place,
then compare to how long it *actually* takes. You can look behind you
after completing a turn to see how long it actually takes the other car
to cross your path.
> I don’t like feeling pressured, so I think if I focus on working on
> subskills and don’t try to make myself achieve a certain outcome in
> a certain timeframe (especially when there’s nothing particularly
> urgent requiring that I learn this thing in a specific time frame),
> that will be helpful.
Right, it would be good to be at least working on it.
Write down the things that you think are issues, and some possible ways
to work on those issues. Then try to do those things regularly. Make a
file or a spreadsheet or something for this, to keep track of it.
You don’t need to have a timeframe for when to learn to drive. But you
shouldn’t just neglect it and forget about it either. You need to
either actively work towards it, or actually decide that you aren’t
going to do it. (And you should have reasons for your decision.) Don’t
just end up neglecting it and never learning it without actively have
*chosen* not to learn it.