Over 30 and learning to drive — here’s what it’s like for the driver and instructor

When Caroline Michie moved to rural South Australia three years ago, it gave the former Melburnian—an avid user of public transport—a reason to get her driver’s license.

At first, driving along the country roads was nerve-wracking for the then-32-year-old, however, Ms Michie said a “super patient” driving instructor helped her feel more comfortable.

“It’s a very liberating and empowering feeling to be able to get up and go anywhere you want to go,” she said.

“But, at first, driving at night, on country roads, I was really nervous about potentially hitting kangaroos.

“However I’ve since driven hundreds of hours between South Australia and Victoria and my confidence has grown and grown from there.”

Caroline Michie now has her full license at 34.(ABC Central Victoria: Sarah Lawrence)

Ms Michie came off her P-plates last month and has been living in regional Victoria.

She said making new friends while on her P-plates had its challenges, such as having to stick to the zero blood-alcohol concentration limit.

“Some of my peers presumed I’d actually lost my license, which has been kind of humiliating because it isn’t the case,” Ms Michie said.

“People certainly don’t expect that you’re just a late bloomer.”

VicRoads has found the percentage of people over 30 passing their driving test is increasing.

In the 2021/22 financial year, 28,000 people aged over 30 accounted for about 23 per cent of those who passed their driver’s test — a 2 per cent increase from the previous financial year.

Older drivers ‘take longer’ to learn

Bendigo driving instructor Elham Akbari said there was a huge difference when teaching mature-age students.

“More than 50 per cent of my students are over 30,” she said.

“It’s totally different. If they start as a teenager, they only need a few lessons to get up and running before they can safely drive with their parents without my supervision.

“While someone over 30 will have at least 26 lessons. They seem to take longer to coordinate and can’t multitask as much as those of a younger age.”

Ms Akbari found people who were learning to drive at an older age also had “more fear”.

“The younger ones are more risk-takers,” she said.

“But when the older ones don’t like to take as much risk, so many factors make them a slower learner.”

women with brown hair and rainbow top, friendly face, sitting in her car
Driving instructor Elham Akbari says mature-age students generally take longer to learn than teens.

A rewarding experience

When her older students passed their probationary driving tests, Ms Akbari said it was satisfying for her as a teacher.

“After they pass and are driving around, they toot the horn at me,” she said.

“I feel so overwhelmed and it’s rewarding to see them.”

Similar to Ms Michie’s experience, Ms Akbari said many of her older students had moved to a regional area where public transport was less accessible.

And for those looking to learn to drive later in life, Ms Akbari has some advice: “Find the right instructor who is comfortable with your feelings.”

“If you don’t like the way the instructor treats you or they are pushing you too hard, choose another person, but don’t give up,” she said.

“Nothing is impossible, even if you want to start thriving at 90 years old.”

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