Saturday, 18 July 2015

What Is It About Driving?

Let me put you in the picture straight away; I don't drive. I have passed my test and have a licence but choose not to. Although it's not really much of a choice, as I was reminded only this morning during a conversation with two colleagues. 

They are intelligent, confident women, competent in every way except both confess an irrational fear of driving. Intrigued (partly I suspect because of my own secret sense of inadequacy at not being able to master something that others seem to take for granted) I dug a little bit deeper and, I have to say, I wasn't too surprised by what I learned. 

The first woman reluctantly confessed that she had passed her test but her fledgling driving confidence had never been able to flourish due to the constant criticisms of her then boyfriend and now husband. Yes dear reader, God knows why but she married him. Had we been playing poker, the second woman surely had the winning hand, which she revealed to our gasps of outrage. It seems that whilst on a busy road her husband had, in a fit of panic, reached across from the passenger side and pulled on the handbrake. Leaving her so shaken and traumatised that he of course had to take over the driving. 

I learned to drive in Brighton and according to my instructor and the official examiner was safe enough to be let loose on the roads and highways of Great Britain. Returning for a visit to my home town, I foolishly made the now quite obviously fatal error of driving with my dad. Warming to the role of unofficial driving instructor, he saw fit to pronounce me a driving hazard and subsequently destroyed what little driving confidence I had. 

I convinced myself that I preferred the freedom of public transport and banished driving from my thoughts, ignoring the queasy sense of failure I experienced every time the subject of driving came up. Until years later, when it reared its ugly head again. I got a job working for the fire service (a total debacle and surely a whole blog post of its own) and, on my first day they announced that I needed to be able to drive. 

I was sent out every day with a retired fire fighter, who had spent his career driving fire engines. By way of introduction, he proudly told me how he had put his wife off driving so completely that she hadn't driven for thirty years and none of his children would drive with him in the car. It basically went downhill from there and I have never driven since. In fact, when my driving licence recently needed renewing, I didn't even bother, I just let it expire. 

I had always deep down felt that it was something wrong with me. That there was some indefinable weakness that rendered me unable to get to grips with what essentially is a basic functional skill. More and more though, it seems that I am not alone and there are other women like me out there, women who have been bullied into feeling useless by perfectly nice men. Men who just happen to mutate into tyrants once they’re behind the wheel of a car.


  1. Since moving to the UK, I've met so many people who don't drive. After my first roundabout experience in London, I have to say—I get it!

    Of course, I grew up in California, the Land That Public Transport Forgot, where a driving license and a car are our birthrights. Parents have to drive kids everywhere. So the day I turned 16, my mother drove me to the driver's' license facility and basically warned, "Don't come back without it."

    1. I think that's the way to do it Barb, as a matter of course without even thinking about it. I don't tend to think about it much these days but when I do I really regret not sticking with it. Incidentally, I studied at university in Texas where everyone drove and there wasn't really much in the way of public transport. I had to either rely on the kindness of strangers or get taxis everywhere. Cost me a flipping fortune :D