More scared of driving instructor than driving

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

After the first lesson I had with my driver instructor, I cried in my room for a long time. I’m not usually I crier, but after that lesson, I never felt more ashamed of myself. My instructor did not seem at all welcoming. Before we even started the car, I could tell by her attitude that she did not want to be there. While I was driving she made many remarks about how I was going to slow at 15mph. I agree that I was going to slow and was trying my best to speed up, but she seemed very irritated. She directed me to drive into an area I had never been to and at the stoplight she asked me to turn left. However, I was confused by the many lanes of traffic that I didn’t really know which direction to go. As I was trying to follow her instructions, she got more frustrated and even yelled “are you lost!?”, in a condescending tone. For the whole lesson I remained very quiet hoping that she wouldn’t yell at me anymore. Near the end of my lesson, she told me pull up near a curb and back up 50 feet. Since the car was moving very slow, I asked “should I put some gas on it”. She immedately stomped her brake on the car and sternly told me “No, these cars weren’t made to fast in reverse”. The way she said it seemed like I shouldn’t have asked the question in the first place. I continued to feel more and more nervous about driving around her. Even though after every lesson she said I did a good job and improved, I could help but feel sad. I’ve had 6 lessons with her and she’s always had to yell at me when I made a mistake. I wish she could just find a gentler way of asserting her point to me without being so hostile.

The real problem is that I’ve been feeling more anxious and stressed out even when I don’t see her. Every now and then I remember flashbacks of our lessons and how she scolded at me or made a sarcastic comment about my driving. I’ve even had reccuring dreams about her yelling at me.

The truth is that I do enjoy driving; I love to drive with my dad. In fact, I think I’m getting better and better each time. However, whenever I drive with my instructor, I always tense up, I fear she’s going to lash out at me. I would quit lessons, but I already put a large deposit for 10 of them. What should I do?

A: What you should do is fire the instructor and stick with your dad. You are the customer. You hired her to teach you. Whether she is too judgmental or you two are simply a bad student-teacher match, it’s not working. You have a right to end lessons with her and to ask for a refund. If yours is a state where you get a break on the cost of insurance if you have gone through a certified drivers’ ed program, then ask for a different instructor. Learning to drive is scary enough without being scared of the teacher. You need to be focused on the road, not on your feelings. If you can’t be assertive about this, ask your dad to help you. You don’t want to waste more of those lessons in this situation.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Oct 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). More scared of driving instructor than driving. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/10/20/more-scared-of-driving-instructor-than-driving/