Hey everyone! I’m Saffron and I’m 23. I have been driving for over 6 years now, and whilst I like to think I’m a confident driver, an accident I had back in my first year of driving still affects me driving in the dark to this day! I want to share my reason why and how I deal with it, hoping that I can help other nervous drivers.
No one likes driving at night in the dark and anyone who says they do, well they must be mad! Me? I hate it with a passion and if I can avoid it I will, even if it means cancelling plans with friend’s id safely say it’s one of my worst fears. Having said that I never use to be nervous driving at night, in fact, I was the complete opposite, I was one of the mad ones -driving in the dark was fab because the roads were quiet and you could get from A to B easily without all the traffic.
Now that all changed for me less than 6 months after passing my driving test. I had passed my test the beginning of August after a few attempts and it was safe to say that once I did pass, I was loving the freedom of driving! I’d be the first one to offer to pick friends and family up and take them to different places – all so I could be behind the wheel enjoying my hard-earned freedom. During the summer and autumn months, it was great, whizzing around in my Vauxhall Corsa, out all the time making the most of my independence! Unfortunately, December hit me like a ton of bricks and I had no idea how different it would be to drive in the winter. It’s safe to say as a new driver you do not realise how dangerous the roads can get.
I was in a car accident
I remember what happened like it was yesterday, it’s etched into my mind. It was on the 27th December at around 10pm. My parents were out at a friend’s house and I had offered to go and to pick their daughter up from work, drop her home whilst picking up my parents – as I said, I was always offering people lifts because I loved driving! Unfortunately, none of that actually happened. I had left home as normal, checked my mirrors, checked my lights and felt ready to go. Knowing it was icy I had left a bit earlier than usual to give myself time to be able to drive slower.
Reaching the main A46 road, I pulled out as normal and began to pick up speed as you do, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I was happily driving along, and out of nowhere, an animal came running out of the bushes and into the road right in front of my car! As I swerved to miss it I hit the one thing all drivers dread – black ice! It sent my car spinning to the other side of the road, and the next thing I remember is opening my eyes upside down in the ditch at the side of the road, engine running and in complete darkness.
Panic set in almost instantly. I felt trapped, the doors wouldn’t open and all I could think about was how I was going to get out. In that instant, I didn’t know who to call, but for some reason, the police didn’t even cross my mind. I scrambled around to find my phone and instantly called my Mum! Trying to stay calm so I didn’t panic her, I remember saying ‘Mum, don’t tell Dad but I’ve had an accident and my car is upside down and I can’t get out. Unfortunately saying it out loud meant I didn’t stay calm at all – I was hysterical. She said nothing and the next thing I knew my dad was on the phone to me, calming me down as best he could.
His advice shocked me, it was something I’d have never thought of myself. ‘Turn the engine off, and then turn your key until your lights on the dashboard come on’ so I did. ‘Now try and open your windows once you have opened one take the keys back out’. IT WORKED, I could breathe again, I could get out of my car. Once out I felt slightly disorientated because I couldn’t work out where about I was. Luckily someone had seen what had happened and they had stopped to help. I had to climb over my car as there was no other way to get out of the ditch – to say I was shaking would be an understatement. As the police, fire engine and ambulance arrived that’s when it set in that I had actually just had a car accident! I was breathalysed (this is a standard procedure) and once id told the police what happened, puffed away and been given the all-clear I was checked over by the paramedics who told me I ‘was lucky to be alive given the state of my car, and that ‘someone must be watching over me’. Apart from a few cuts and bruises and being very shaken up I felt fine in myself. Little did I know that the next day I would be as stiff as hell!
After the accident
When you have an accident the police like you to hand your keys over to them for when they remove your car from the scene. I did this but unfortunately due to my window being left open to enable me to get out someone took advantage of my misfortune and ransacked my car, taking gifts I had received from Christmas and all of my beloved CD’s. Being in a shaken up state, you don’t think about things like this at the time, nor do you think about exactly what has happened.
My car had a black box which not only made my policy cheaper, but my specific policy also alerted my insurance company that there had been an accident. I got a call from my insurance company to check and see what had happened. They also asked if I needed the emergency services, but by this point, they were on their way.
They asked if I was ok and advised they would call me the next day to discuss the future steps and procedures following the accident. When the next day came I have to admit that dread set in, I felt so nervous about talking to them. What if they blamed me? What if they told me there was no money to give me for my car? Then the number popped up and they were calling as they said they would, they asked for an overview of what had happened and I told them everything, how I’d left my keys with the police by this time I also knew someone had been through my car so I informed them of that. Once I had told them everything they said they would need to wait to see if the car was going to be written off and as soon as they knew they would be in contact.
A few days after, I went to see my car and to collect what belongings were left in it before it was scrapped. It was heart-breaking to see my car that way, my first ever car that had done me so well. That’s when it hit me how lucky I had been and how bad things could have actually been. When my insurance company called they advised the car would need to be written off due to the time the engine had been left running whilst upside down, I didn’t know how long I’d been blacked out of but it must have been a while! They offered me what I would call a substantial amount for the car, but also advised there was nothing that could be done about the items that had been stolen which made sense. They told me this was due to the car being left unlocked by the police and that I would need to contact them.
I don’t know what I was worried about when it came to speaking to my insurance company, they were lovely. In fact, they were amazing!
Having a car accident affected my confidence
My confidence was rock bottom, and whilst my insurance company had been lovely the courtesy car they gave me was not. It was an older Citroen C1 and I just didn’t get on with it at all – I think it was just really different than what I was used to. About 5 days after my accident I felt ready to get back into the car, it started well until I got to a roundabout and I panicked I didn’t know what lane to be in, I didn’t want to pull out I just wanted to get out the car. I couldn’t breathe.
After that, I didn’t get back in that car, or any car for about 2 months. It wasn’t until I got a new Corsa which was very similar to the one I had previously, that my confidence started to build again. I took baby steps, small journeys, a trip around the block and then a drive to town and back and before I knew it I was back driving here there and everywhere… but still not at night.
Being able to drive again at night has taken me much longer. When I first got back into driving in the dark I always had to have someone with me. I was that nervous, I’d be driving over 10mph below the speed limit – it was horrible I felt so unsafe – but I kept at it! That’s the thing, you can’t just give up because in life you need to be able to get to different places at different times in the day. I worked out ways to deal with it, in the beginning, I tried driving just as it was getting dark, so not fully pitch black. From there, I went to driving when it was really dark but tried to stick to roads which had streetlights as this meant they weren’t as dark as a country lane for example. Now I am able to drive on unlit roads in the dark, I just tell myself that it’s something I need to do. If I want to go somewhere and it’s dark I give myself reasons as to why I should go rather than why I shouldn’t, reasons as to why it’s worth the drive in the dark and for me, it works well.
What did I learn?
I have learnt a lot from my accident – the first and main one being everything happens for a reason. It’s ok to be scared of driving in the dark, it’s ok to be scared driving in the rain or in icy conditions. You are allowed to take your time, drive that little bit slower when you feel it’s needed. Don’t let idiot drivers make you think you need to speed up… ever.
The other main thing I have learnt is that no matter what you shouldn’t slam your breaks on and swerve to miss anything that runs into the road. You should apply shorts bursts of slight pressure to your breaks and continue straight. Also, that black ice is as dangerous as they say it is, and you will never see it coming. So just always be safe and take time when driving in the dark especially during these winter months. Another thing I learnt from my accident is that your insurance company is never your enemy, they will always aim to do their best for you and look after you in any way they can. So yeah, take your time, don’t let anyone rush you and stay safe!