From Our Readers How I Learned (Why I'll Never Learn) To Drive From Our Readers

I have a disturbing little secret. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it’s not the sort of thing you reveal until at least the third date. I am 22 years old and cannot drive.

My top three biggest issues with  not having a license are: 1) you’re completely dependent on the kindness of your parents and friends to get you places; forget about ever feeling like a remotely competent human adult 2) you lose a boatload of money on cabs-conversely, you get to become friends with cab drivers, 3) you have to carry around your passport if you want to get into a bar; in case this was not completely obvious, alcohol and pocket-sized government forms of identification are a TERRIBLE mix.

However, I’ve come to realize that it’s not my fault that I can’t drive: it’s in my genes. The simple fact is I descend from a long maternal line of female non-drivers; we’re three generations of anti-feminist car jokes.

Let’s start with Grandma Hazel. Her husband, a World War II navigator who guided plans with failing engines over the Atlantic and safely landed them outside of Nazi territory, tried super hard to teach her how to drive, but to no avail. Grandma Hazel claims she was very close to passing her exam, but sped up and got nervous at the end because she really needed to go to the bathroom. I pretty much believe this, since the weak bladder has been passed down my maternal line, as well.

Then, there is my mom, who can actually drive, but prefers almost any activity less excruciating than a double root canal to the act of driving. My mother spent the first twenty some odd years of her life residing in places where she had no need for driving. Then, in 1987, she persuaded my dad that they should ditch their apartment in the Village and move to the suburbs (and what a swell idea that was) and her public transportation world caved in on her. She was a trooper, navigating the suburbs without the ability to drive and with two kids in tow – and let the record state these were two kids that did not like walking! I don’t know if this is the official straw that broke the camel’s back, and thereby paralyzed her last form of non-automobile transportation, but not being able to drive my dad to the ER when he fell down our stairs and broke his wrist was a likely factor in her learning to drive.

And learn she did! She practiced with my father and her father and she passed the road test. Yet, while New York State has faith in her driving abilities, she does not. My mother drives really well, but driving with her is like taking out a loan from Bank of America; there are lots of restrictions and hidden fees. She does not drive on highways, outside of Southern Westchester or in parking garages.  If you want to go to the mall, be prepared to park at least two kilometers away and hoof it.<

I am currently trying to reverse the female familial trend by taking driving lessons with a kind Portuguese senior citizen named Cyro who is encouraging, if dubious, of my vehicular potential. A person of average, baseline driving capacity could have passed the road test at least two to three times with all the hours and lessons of practicing I’ve had. However, the undeniable truth of the matter is that when it comes to driving, I am all thumbs.

Literally. Please, get out of my way if you see me attempting a three-point turn.

You can read more from Emily Suzanne Shire on her blog.

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  1. I am 28 years old and am TERRIFIED of driving. My mother has been gently encouraging me to take driving lessons with her on the country roads at our family cottage – I hads a panic attack my first time. I am determined to stick with it though, because I know what you mean, it’s hard to feel like an “adult” when you can’t even drive yourself to the mall…

  2. 30 years old, terrified of killing people.

    The responsibility of driving a 500lb weapon is too much for me to handle.
    My great gram Ena wouldn’t drive. Gram Billie was hell on wheels and mom Nancy has no interest in driving. My other gram Patty drives but gets major anxiety. Alas, I get further from it everyday. Plans on motherhood aren’t effected, if I am socially responsible and have one child to walk the world with me I am fine.

    As much as I do not drive I can say I will accomplish more in my time than someone on 4 wheels, My energy is directed to other things. I don’t think of the next car I want. I don’t pay insurance and I don’t shop at a whim.

    More than anything, I can convince myself not to drive.
    Anyone know a hypnotherapist in LA?
    Sigh.

  3. I feel your pain sweetheart! You can do it if you want to!

  4. I just got my license yesterday. If a sixteen year old can do it, you can do it too!

  5. I am 41 years old and will never drive. Don’t even know how to. I have recurring and variable nightmares about crashing cars, which puts me off ever trying to alter this status. Conversely, I love public transport, passenger seats, taxis, and my own two feet, and never ask for any lift that isn’t offered…. so, I don’t really have any transportation issues. Besides, who needs one more car on the road?

  6. Driving isn’t bad and everyone is horrible at first…some more than others. You just have to pay attention, be quick to react and just do it. I love driving, it’s probably the best part of my day. How are you gonna experience the arduousness of a road trip? Everyone feels anxiety about driving at first. I remember I use to quote car accident statistics all the time. I have weird neurosis that hold me back from doing things but I’ve been driving since I was 16 accident free. I’ve driven across the country multiple times. I’ve driven in other countries and i’m 25. I’m sure you can do it too! I’ll cross my fingers for you!

  7. I’m 33. And this piece is an enormous comfort! My grandmother didn’t drive and my mother didn’t learn until her twenties and it was out of necessity. She’s still uncomfortable behind the wheel partly because of a traumatic accident she had with me in the car when I was 7, although it was in no way her fault, it was pretty devastating. And then when I was 19 or so I had practiced a lot and thought I was ready and ended up crashing myself into a tree. Again, no one was hurt but the psychological damage is pretty present. I feel like such a freak and I know I won’t feel like a “grown up” till I do it. Some times the pressure leads to awful anxiety, It’s really super nice to know I’m not alone.

  8. I’m almost 19 and I just got my license less than two weeks ago. I always felt like I was literally the ONLY one without a license, but I didn’t mind that much because my parents or friends would always drive me places. For a long time I was terrified and convinced that I would actually kill people if I tried to drive. However now that I do have a license I find that it is really kind of convenient to not have to rely on other people. Then again, I also don’t have a car so I can only drive if my parents let me take theirs…

  9. I’m 23 and a non driver but not by choice, I just can’t afford the lessons let alone the car.

  10. Christina Martinez – Me too. 31 and cannot drive. For me, it started with one very bad lesson in which my mother screamed and grabbed the steering wheel from the passenger seat. But I learned in that moment that I didn’t see things the way other people do. At that stage in my life my poor vision had been misdiagnosed and inaccurately labeled a dozen times, with a different prescription for each. What it all, essentially, boiled down to was I have horrible depth perception and even with (what I think is finally) the right prescription I can’t see where the car is in relation to everything else, mostly the lanes. This creates a very unique problem of no one knowing quite the right way to teach me HOW to see that. And living in the deserty no whereness of Western Colorado, being a non-driver… sucks a lot. But it’s comforting to see other non-drivers who don’t think I’m some kind of oddity.

    • Des Jensen we should be friends. I live in a metropolis so there a ton of drivers out there that freak me the hell out, I start to get tunnel vision. It’s more anxiety than anything and it sucks to not be able to just go out and do something. I think that’s why I have a ton of home based hobbies….I feel ya homie.

  11. I just turned 21 and do have a license and technically know how to drive. But like you I am all thumbs about it. I know the concept of driving, but alas when I do it I freak out and fumble all over the place…
    So, yes you are not alone. Part of it is that I’m terrified of it…I know how dangerous of a weapon a car is and while I trust myself, to some degree, I don’t trust the other drivers on the road…

  12. I’m 22 and don’t have a license! I know how to drive, I just don’t have a car and therefore have no need for a license right now. But I understand about the whole issue of having to rely on the kindness of others for rides. However, to help me cope with this, I just thank God for his provision and love through others’ kindness. So good has come of it! I’m surprised though to see how all of you around my age don’t have one either. This makes me feel much better! lol

  13. Can we start a club?? I finally had to give in and get one in the last few years, but even WITH a license I never drive unless I absolutely have to. I was in Los Angeles for three years and only drove to the grocery store! I feel like I should have gotten it at 16 so it wouldn’t scare the living daylights out of me today. I always think something is going to go wrong … and still do. I’m even going to a hypnotherapist to help my fears. It will take time, but we will ALL do it with pride.

  14. Oh I love your mom already. : ) Got my license at 18, and today, a few years later, I choose NOT to drive if I can. And when I have to, I also avoid freeways and tight parking spots because I’m not a great parker. Thankfully I still live at home, so my parents and friends are gracious enough to give me rides. But don’t think you HAVE to drive; don’t feel pressured b/c that’ll make it worse. Instead, let’s embrace our non-driving and enjoy our healthier driving alternatives and the fact that we’re not helping to burn off our ozone layer.

  15. We’re actually the same person!! But I’m 21. I have the same issues by not having a license. (especially the carrying around government forms of ID to get a damn beer) However, i signed up for drivers ed in 2 weeks. Looks like we’ll be taking this journey together! Good luck!

  16. While I got my license out of necessity at 21 (had to drive 40 minutes away to student teach!), my mom is 50 and still hasn’t gotten hers. No need to worry!

  17. I totally feel for you. I know what’s it’s like to feel totally dependent and incompetent. I just got my license at 21. And it’s not fair to assume that driving is for everyone. It ought to be considered some kind of handicap. Don’t pressure yourself.

  18. It’s hilarious that “a kind Portuguese senior citizen named Cyro” is teaching you how to drive right now. You really need to get your license! Life will be so much easier! Good luck!!

  19. 25. My uncle traumatized me when he tried to teach me, I live in places with good public transport to avoid learning.

  20. I’m 19 and it took 3 tests for me to pass. Driving is hard, man!

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