LEARNING to drive is the best thing and the scariest thing ever.
Well, not ever, but hey, when you’re 16, everything is measured in extremes.
Being able to drive yourself around is a freedom most of us take for granted.
When you first get your red P-plates, that freedom is a newfound sensation, an overwhelming feeling, and is just super awesome.
I remember the day my licence rolled over to green P-plates, (which have no midnight to 5am curfew like red plates do), and the first thing I said to Mum was: hey Mum, can I go for a drive at 12.01am just to prove I can?
The answer was no, obviously, because I wanted to take her cool car and I was meant to be in bed, but hey, if I needed to, I could drive after midnight.
Obviously late-night driving isn’t the ultimate aim of getting a driver’s licence, but it is certainly one of the perks.
One of the best things ever after getting my licence was being able to go out and stay out late, because I didn’t have to rely on my parents to pick me up.
Of course, that also meant I became a free taxi to my mates, but that’s another story.
At the moment, my younger sister is learning how to drive.
It has brought back all the nostalgia of my trips in the car with Dad or Mum, and the memories of learning how to not crash the car.
I got my manual licence – best decision ever.
Despite kangaroo-hopping for the first few weeks of my L-plates, I got the hang of the clutch eventually and I was off.
Once I got my P-plates, I could drive any car, which meant I was never restricted to what wheel I could get behind.
This also meant saving a lot of peoples’ butts when they were, ahem, unable to drive.
But before you can become a superhero driver, you have to do the hard yards.
I know a lot of 16-year-olds out there don’t particularly fancy listening to their parents or driving instructors and hanging on to their every word, but really, it’s totally worth it when they are teaching you how to drive.
They do actually know what they’re talking about; most of them have been driving longer than we’ve been alive.
Before my Ls, the closest I had been to behind the wheel was the passenger’s seat, and until you switch sides of the car, you won’t believe how different everything is.
You are on the opposite side of the car, so you have to get used to the car’s road position from a different perspective.
You are also closer to the oncoming cars, and that’s a bit daunting when you pass your first road train.
You literally have to keep your eyes on the road the entire time you are driving, because one second in real time is like, 10 seconds in driving time.
A split-second look away can mean the difference between waving at the cyclist as they go past, and sending them head-first into the ditch.
Driving is a privilege, not a right, so making sure you are safe on the roads and are respectful of other drivers is super important.
Yes, you will get the odd person pull out in front of you, or flip you off as you go around the roundabout, but the main thing to focus on is your car and the passengers within it.
Being behind the wheel means being responsible for other peoples’ lives, so make sure you look after them.
Don’t be tempted to go that little bit faster to pull out in front of that truck so you can get to Maccas before they close.
Take your time, enjoy the ride, and enjoy the privilege of riding solo.