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Psychology and Learning to Drive

 In ADI, Driving Lessons

When a young person turns 17 there is a feeling in the UK that this is a right of passage to learn to drive. Many feel that a driving instructor has one job, and that is to teach them to drive. This, however, is just a small part of an ADIs job. Yes of course we are there to facilitate them in their learning to drive. There is a syllabus to do this as we need to make sure all technical aspects of learning to drive takes place. From the 1st lesson, teaching them the cockpit drill and how to move off safely to latter lessons of going to different places following road signs or sat nav we are there to provide drivers will all the technical skills to become competent, safe young drivers. Teaching these skills is extremely important but during lessons we are there to help them with so much more.

Approved Driving Instructor (ADI)

As an ADI I feel that it’s important to understand how each young driver thinks, learn to understand how they learn best, learn to understand how they cope with pressures in their day-to-day lives and to get them to understand what I call the psychology of driving.

We are not there to change their personality but it’s important to help them navigate through all the difficulties and pressure they will encounter during the learning experience. We need to detect when they are feeling nervous or scared and give them techniques on how to counteract this. Teaching them to breath, to talk through difficult situations and to understand the how?and why? of each situation. If the student understands their trigger moments (ie the moments when they feel the nerves coming on) then they can start to find a way around them. Only then when they recognise this they can learn to work through this adrenaline rush. An increased heart rate and therefore increased amounts of adrenaline in their system will cause them to hold their breath and make to situation worse.

Adrenaline in life always kicks in when we feel we are not going to like something in advance (ie pre exam nerves) and happens again when the event is over (something I call the ‘thank God that’s over moment!’). A great example of this is when we pull them over and explain we are going to do the emergency stop. This causes a rush of adrenaline as they prepare to do it. Once they have done the manoeuvre there is another spike of adrenaline. If they don’t learn to control this then they are likely to shake and panic and pull off rapidly without properly checking its safe to do so. Keeping calm in adrenaline fuelled moments is vital to keep them and everyone around them safe.

Keep a learner driver calm during lessons

There are many techniques to keep a learner driver calm during lessons. Fundamentally it’s making sure they continue to breathe. We all hold our breath when we get nervous. How many times have you held your breath when you go through a tight gap a little too quickly for example. It’s easy as a driving instructor to recognise this but getting the student to realise they are doing so is another matter. When they do realise they are not breathing we can help them breathe through each situation. Techniques such as chewing chewing gum keeps the jaw moving and thus keeps them breathing, or getting them to hold a normal conversation will have the same effect.

Some students find talking our loud and doing a commentary driver have the same effect. Each student is different but when you can tap into their brain and work out their trigger moments then between you you can find a solution that fits them well.

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