Some say driving phobia is a phenomenon, often grounded in witnessing or experiencing something traumatic and then developing avoidance to doing anything related to the previous experience.
I have always had a healthy fear of driving even though people maintained I was lazy than scared because I enjoyed being driven around in air-conditioned comfort of a fine car than drive. On the contrary, driving scares the living daylight out of me just by mere listening to a story of how my mum ran into a tree on her first trial …….
On a lighter mood, someone once said “Learning to drive is easier than learning how to eat Okro soup if you can succeed in keeping your leg from shaking on the throttle………………hmmmm I think it’s the reverse.
Driving and owning a car is what most women will jump at; as for me it wasn’t the case! Before I started driving I used to be so scared of cars and driving. It was so bad that whenever I’m being driven, I would cringe and almost have a heart attack. I wondered how they would navigate at bends and especially in congested traffic. Believe me; I would cling so hard to anything in sight should you drive too close to another road user! Yes, that bad!!
I had a car for 4years and never drove it! Yeah, yeah…call me a coward if you like! I only washed and admired the car then take hours trying to figure out who I can beg or pay to drive me. Riotously, I would call someone from the Mainland to come all the way to drive me to same location and back and then take public bus back to his house. Sometimes, I will prefer to go under the sun with KEKE Napep than drive!
I renewed my ‘learners’ permit’ four times, registered with a driving school twice and never completed any. Just the thought of driving creeps up on me for no obvious reason and renders me a quivering wreck at the wheel.
On one of the days I agreed to drive, as I got into the driver’s seat, I totally and completely froze! I have to mention at this point that the instructor assigned to me wasn’t entirely inspiring. In fact, his look, at best, is life threatening! (Okay, I exaggerated but mehn you need to see this guy!). I can still hear him say to me, “there are many things you must remember to do when getting behind the wheels ………. Bla bla bla whew……he ended up confusing me. How on earth can one person be expected to control the steering wheel; use the pedals ABC i.e. Accelerator, Brakes and clutch; not forget the handbrakes; keep an eye on the rear and side mirrors etc and still be expected to enjoy driving??…..One too many!!!
I had some friends teach me. The first was patient and taught me the basic essential skills (Thank God for that); the Second was a bit crass and used to spend some additional time insulting me especially since I refused to go beyond 40mph speed limit on the expressway (now I understand his frustration)! I avoided cars like they were all out for me and coming my way!
One of those days I wanted to prove to my dear “teacher” that I was getting better, so I hit the expressway. For a while I drove just fine. The feeling was extraordinary. I was beginning to enjoy myself but as the road came to a dead end, it was time for me to take my first ‘U-turn’. My teacher asked me to slowly reduce speed by gently applying the brakes, bring the gear to a neutral position and make the U-turn; slowly! Too scared to grasp all the information at once, I ended up doing the exact opposite…to my Teacher’s horror! I forget to change the gear and pressed the accelerator with all my power. All I remember after turning the wheel was that the car took a full circle into a fuel station in front of us. I have never felt so terrified than I did in that brief moment.
Everything happened in a flash. I was so frightened that I didn’t know what to do! At that instant, I either didn’t even remember the car had brakes or completely forgot which of the pedals down there was the brake!
Buh God was on my side as I put my feet on the one I taught was the brake pedal and halleluiah!!! The car came to a halt right in front of their diesel pump and then I heard this sharp sound …..my two rear tyres had busted.
This horrible experience took me back to the scratch! In the interim, I decided to scout for a driver, the first asked for half of my salary while the second maintained he would be taking my car to his place l. I eventually got one after a long search. OMG!! This guy was so unruly on the road and when I cautioned him, he would challenge me like he is reminding me am of no use on the road. On this fateful day, I asked him to come pick me up, not only did he arrive very late, but he came dressed as if he was going for a party. He had the audacity to inform me that he had a party to attend and that we must be back by noon or else he would leave me at the venue. That was the last straw, so I resolved to crack this frustrating and, in my opinion, embarrassing condition I was in.
I’m sure you want to know what I did and how??
I started out having friends in the car with me at least on the highway. My first experience on the express brought physical reactions such as sweating, headache and “jelly” legs then the feeling that the car is unbalanced and that it’ll tip over me as I drive around a corner. I applied brakes at will without considering any car behind me. I only go through longer routes, in order to avoid dreaded busy roads, roundabouts etc.
I drove out on my own to the convenience store down my street then stores in the surrounding area, not more than 10 minutes from home. And gradually I grew in confidence! I started going farther and then to the highway. I’d always make it into something fun, like a shopping trip or going out to eat. Listening to my favorite music also helped a ton to make it enjoyable.
As time went on I got more and more comfortable driving. Ever more I cared less about hooting of horns and shouts from other motorists. My dad would say, pick up some defensive techniques and assume you are the only sane person on the road.
When I pause to consider where I started from and where I am, I still find myself asking; how did I get me here?? It’s amazing and sometimes I still can’t believe I drive the way I do, but I sure believe if I can, then you too can!!! Things happen for a reason. This ‘life experience’ gave me the motivation to face my fears headlong as well as a big dose of encouragement to slowly build up my confidence and become more open to explore. I know every challenge won’t be like ‘driving’, but I definitely have a “trial template” to confront it…boldly!