As a new driver, you’ll be faced with the weird, the wonderful and the plain awkward while out on the road.
American Poet Peter Davis once said, “This might make for an awkward situation. I have a talent for awkward situations.”
And as a new driver, you’ll probably encounter some awkward situations.
Those first couple of weeks out on the road are nerve-wracking; you’re putting everything you’ve learnt in books and lessons to use.
Your concentration levels are sky-high, but what can you do if you don’t have the same talent as Peter Davis for awkward situations?
Here are four awkward situations you’ll most likely face.
1. Stalling your car.
You’re driving along and trying to switch gears and then…. “OMG” – you’ve stalled.
It’s a fairly common thing to happen but in those seconds after stalling you wish the ground would swallow you up and you’re thinking every other driver and pedestrian has noticed it and are secretly chuckling at your expense.
As a new driver, you’ll probably be driving in a car you just bought and when you switch cars – regardless of driving experience – it sometimes takes a little time to understand it.
We’re happy to tell you that the embarrassment you feel is mostly in your head; everyone is too busy with their own lives to notice it.
If you stall your car, often it means you need to improve your clutch control.
And stalling your car means you’ve probably either not used your accelerator enough (or at all!); attempted a hill start, or select a high gear when driving at a low speed.
Stalling can also be caused by moving off in high gears, raising the clutch quickly from moving off, or not pushing the clutch pedal down enough while slowing down.
But don’t fret, the more you drive your car, the more your driving actions will become intuitive, and you’ll understand ‘biting points’ and how to drive your vehicle with ease.
Practice makes perfect, and eventually, you’ll be cruising without stalling.
2. Putting fuel in your car for the first time.
You’ve had your new car a couple of days, but you glance at your fuel gauge, and the pin is moving dangerously close to the big ‘E’ – your fuel tank is nearly empty.
Oh, hello awkward situation number one: “Which side is my fuel tank on?”
After you’ve worked that out what side your fuel tank is on, awkward situation two arrives and you’re now thinking to yourself, “Hmm, is this car petrol or diesel, aargh I can’t remember!”
Awkward situation number three arrives as you try to open the fuel tank door.
You frantically try to work out how to open it, asking yourself do you use your car key or pull some little latch under the steering wheel.
You catch a couple of awkward stares from drivers waiting behind you and think to yourself, “I should have just stuck to public transport!”
But don’t worry; chances are after a couple of fuel top-ups you’ll be in auto-pilot and know which side your tank is on, what fuel it takes, and how many euros it takes to fill the tank.
3. Parking in a busy car park.
Car parks are the bane of a new Irish driver’s life; there are lots of cars, pedestrians and signs everywhere.
You arrive at your local Supervalu or Dunne’s car park, and the place is packed.
You crawl over a couple of ramps and spot a parking space.
Your mind frantically searches for that lesson three months earlier where your instructor taught you how to reverse park.
But as you attempt it you look in your rearview mirror, and three cars are waiting to get past, and it feels like the spotlight is firmly on you.
You slowly reverse and don’t feel your angle is right for the parking space.
But you’re a decisive driver, so you do what all decisive drivers do; you abort the attempt and find a more accessible space to drive into.
Who cares if it’s three miles away from the supermarket?
You mumble to yourself, “Sure, I enjoy a wee stretch of the legs every now and then.”
4. Driving with other people in your car.
When you’re a new driver, you’ll want to keep distractions to a minimum.
And you’ll probably find having company in the car to be off-putting.
New drivers often feel like they’re being watched by other motorists and feel like every little mistake is being judged.
Your dad jumps into the passenger seat, puts on his seat-belt, holds on to the car handrail on the roof and makes a little joke about holding on for dear life.
As you pull off, he whispers “slow down just a wee bit, keep an eye on where that red car over there is going.”
You feel yourself getting agitated as he politely reminds you, “don’t forget your indicator when we come up to this junction.”
You give a weak nod and smile and vow to yourself “Never again will I have people in my car!”
Keep up to date with all the Northern Ireland driving news, tips and tricks on the New Driver NI website.