I am a nervous driver. I always have been. When I passed my driving test, everyone was surprised, and I mean really surprised. Like I phoned my mum immediately from my driving instructor’s car as he took me home and she actually said: “Never mind, there’s always…WHAT?!” Because she hadn’t considered that I might actually pass!
I apologised my way through driving lessons, being sorry for every little (or big!) jump the car made as I tried to set off without stalling, but I’m a big stickler for the theory behind things, learning every possible thing I can from what I read rather than practice, so when it came to my driving test, I relaxed and stuck to what I’d learned in my head and passed with only a small number of “minors” – in fact, the same amount as Ben who claims to be an awesome driver (he’s not bad ;P).
I knew that I would need to drive in my everyday life. We live in North Yorkshire so your only option for getting around is your car, public transport isn’t exactly an option for daily travel – one bus a day in most places, if that, some only have one a week! And I knew that I would need to drive on roads that I wasn’t keen on. One of the first things I did when I passed my test was to get Ben to take me to Sutton Bank, a road near us that climbs a steep hillside (cliff edge!) with a hairpin bend on it. Our area of North Yorkshire is situated on one side of this, and to get to the other side, I would need to tackle that hill.
But one thing I was terrified of but knew I needed to do was motorways. My mum doesn’t drive on motorways – she’s too scared of them. She’s a nervous driver like me. I spent a few years watching as Ben drove us to and from Newcastle to uni on the motorway, learning how to use them, finding out how they work, and finding that most people don’t actually stick to the rules of the motorways…Eventually, I had to tackle them myself. I mentioned in 2012 that I had to drive on a 3 lane motorway for the first time, and that I’d only just started driving on 2 lane roads, as in only a few weeks earlier – and that was a big deal for me. It took me from 17 to 21 to drive on 2 lanes than had to quickly move up to 3 lanes to get to work!
My journey to work now is far easier and only consists of about 2 miles on a motorway which I much prefer. The rest is country roads and I don’t tend to come home with too many “car stories” as Ben calls them (he groans when I start a story: “When I was driving home…”!). And that’s the reason for my driving nerves: other people.
My mum was recently in a minor incident where she was tailgated then overtaken in a dangerous place on the brow of a hill, so when a car came the other way, the overtaking one clipped the front of her car and drove her off the road. Tailgating is a frequent occurrence around us (probably everywhere in fact) where I’ll be driving the speed limit and someone will still do it. I’m not a slow driver, but I don’t like to break speed limits. Ben’s dad was a fireman and I’ve heard enough incidents where people have been injured and killed because of people not adhering to speed limits or driving dangerously.
And this whole rant post? That was initiated this morning because of a dangerous driver. I was driving to work as usual – I leave myself loads of time so I don’t need to rush and because I’m constantly panicking that I’ll be late, in fact, I’m always early. On my 2 miles of motorway, I pulled off the slip road and behind a lorry driving at 50mph, so I pulled out around it. All good, all fine. Usually, it’s really easy to pull back in and come off at my junction that appears within 2 minutes. But today, the left hand lane was a queue of slow moving lorries and cars right up to the junction. So I drove alongside it, about 6 or 7 lorries nose to tail, until I came to a gap between a lorry driving at about 50mph and a car in front that was driving just slightly faster meaning the gap was safe enough to drive into just before the 3, 2, 1 signs for my junction – my first and last opportunity to get into that lane. I came alongside the lorry, driving about 60mph (due to the traffic in front of me), checked my mirrors, indicated to move into the gap – then the lorry swerved at me. I can only imagine that he put his foot down to his maximum speed as the car in front was continuing at the same speed but the gap began to close – then he leaned on his horn and flashed his lights, over and over. He tried to swerve at me into the right hand lane, then followed me back into the left hand lane, pushing the car behind me almost into the barrier and absolutely terrifying me as he continued to beep the horn and flash his lights. I then pulled off the slip road and phoned Ben in floods of tears. I’m nervous enough of motorways as it is without lorries trying to drive me off them!
I’m absolutely certain I’d done nothing wrong. Lorries were nose to tail in the left hand lane for 2 miles with no opportunity for cars to get in between them between the two junctions I come on and off at until that gap. Cars should be able to pull into the right hand lane knowing that they can get back into the left hand lane safely within 2 miles – otherwise, what is the point of the two lanes?! The gap I pulled into was the only available one in 2 miles and had I not pulled into it, my small motorway then merged into a large one with several lanes that I wouldn’t have been able to leave for another 3 miles. And most of all, the gap was a safe distance and I didn’t cause the lorry to brake or slow down – he accelerated at me because he didn’t want me to go into that gap for all of 10 seconds before I left the motorway. He was an aggressive driver, one of many that I see on the roads.
It’s less now on my normal drive to work, but in winter, I have to drive on the motorway for about 7 miles. I am competent driver, I know the rules of the road. I drive everyday and I can drive long distances. I’ve worked hard to build confidence to be able to do that. Driving is a means to get from one place to another and I’m trying to do that safely. I’m not perfect – we all make mistakes when driving sometimes, but that might be pulling out in front of someone when you misjudge how fast they going or how far away they are – that happens.
But driving aggressively to scare other road users is NOT okay. Tailgating someone because they’re going slower than you is NOT okay. Trying to swerve someone off the road is NOT okay.
I can’t understand why these lorries were nose to tail in that lane driving at 50-55mph and not allowing other road users to get into that lane. And I honestly can’t understand why this lorry driver decided that it was okay to try and swerve me and another car off the road for driving the speed of the motorway and trying to leave at my exit. It doesn’t help when aggressive drivers turn on nervous drivers. The rest of my journey to work was probably then unsafe because I was so shaken by the incident that eventually I had to pull over. I’ve always thought they were a bit silly, but I’m now going to look into a dashboard camera to buy to record incidents like this. Because I was too busy trying to stay on the road, I didn’t even note what company the lorry was from, but a video would record that and anyone could see that the incident was entirely that driver’s fault.
Okay, nothing really bad happened – I wasn’t hurt and neither was anyone else. But my drive to work is supposed to be a safe place for me. I worry about a lot of things and driving is a minor one that has moved up to a major one today. I really don’t need to add an hour of additional worry into my life! I’m scared to drive home on that road but I have no option unless I want to go a really long way round. But I will have to, and I will most likely have to deal with another situation like this again, and another, because I am a road users and there will always be aggressive road users out there.
Right, I’m off to do some yoga to calm down. I’m still addicted.