When fear comes before the wheel

When fear comes before the wheel

When the fear of driving comes

A driver's license for the car alone does not make it, driving experience is important – a report from NRW

When Claudia Sharif has to pull onto a freeway, she still gets nervous. "I find the threading difficult," says the 42-year-old. But otherwise things are going quite well. That is not yet for a long time. Sharif got her driver's license when she was 19, but then she didn't drive for years. So long, in fact, that at one point she didn't dare get behind the wheel at all. Until the teacher finally made up her mind and took driving lessons again.

"My parents don't have a driver's license, so I didn't have a car in the past," Sharif says. After moving from a small town to the big city of Cologne – with a streetcar stop on the doorstep – she didn't miss driving for a long time. Later her husband always drove, she always sat in the passenger seat. "I didn't trust myself to drive anymore," she says. "But that kind of annoyed me."Shortly before her 40th birthday. When Sharif celebrated her 75th birthday, she thought to herself: "Either I'll manage to drive again, or I'll never be able to do it again." And so she signed up with a driving school and booked driving lessons.

"This kind of thing does happen from time to time, although not on a daily basis," says Kurt Bartels, chairman of the North Rhine Driving Instructors Association. Statistics about it do not give it however. Often, the customers in question are older women in whose families it was customary for the man to drive the car. "If the husband dies one day or can no longer drive, the wife sometimes has no choice but to take action."In other cases, such as Claudia Sharif's, it was middle-aged people who had simply managed without a car for a long time and therefore rarely drove themselves.

This was also the case with Gaby Hürter-Krahl. She was able to use a relative's car for a few months after taking her driving test 25 years ago – but after that she never drove herself again. "I didn't have my own car and then I came to terms with it," the 48-year-old says. "I take the bus, train or bike, or my husband drives."A few years ago, she finally gave serious consideration to taking driving lessons again. "But in the end, I didn't do it after all because of fear."And that's probably where it will stay now, says Hürter-Krahl: "I get along fine without driving a car."

According to a spokesperson, people with little driving experience sometimes contact the German Automobile Club (ADAC) to brush up on their skills during driving safety courses. However, anyone who hasn't driven for decades usually needs individual instruction from a driving instructor, she says. "Traffic is much denser and more stressful these days than it was years ago," says Bartels, who is also vice chairman of the Federal Association of Driving Instructor Associations. "If someone hasn't ridden for a long time, he just doesn't dare to go in there, especially not in a big city."

Claudia Sharif was really nauseous with excitement before her first private driving lesson, she remembers. "I was wet sweat, I would have preferred to cancel again shortly before."Fortunately, the driving instructor was very understanding. "It started very slowly. In the beginning, I was only supposed to steer, and she operated the pedals from the passenger seat." Gradually Sharif felt more confident.

"You don't really forget how to drive, the knowledge is dormant somewhere – you just have to bring it out again," says Bartels. Most clients are ready to drive again on their own after five double lessons at the latest. This was also the case with Sharif. "The driving instructor, however, said: better drive a few more times together with your husband," the 42-year-old recalls. "But then I only did that once."

Claudia Sharif now drives regularly. "I am glad that I can do that now."Because soon she will be moving and will have to rely on a car to get to work.

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