Most people seem to think that driving is like riding a bike: It’s not something you’ll ever forget. For those that drive often and don’t take too many breaks from it, it’s easy to think this way. Avid drivers build up muscle memory and a lot of what goes into driving becomes automatic and unconscious. But the reality of it isn’t so simple.

Many people have to stop driving for various reasons. Sometimes your car has to go in the shop for a lengthy amount of time for extended repairs, and you’re left using the bus. Perhaps you live in a big city and it’s just more practical to utilize public transportation. Or maybe you just don’t want to deal with the hassles of owning and maintaining a car.

Whatever the reason you took a hiatus from driving, getting back behind the wheel after some time away can feel intimidating. Suddenly you’re faced with a plethora of controls and gadgets you aren’t familiar with and you’re second-guessing whether you’ll remember all the laws and regulations. It can be quite overwhelming.

What you’re feeling is actually quite common among people who take extended breaks from driving even if that break is for a couple of weeks. And there are some strategies you can employ to increase your confidence in driving once again.

Learning to Drive Again

You remember a lot more about driving than you think you do. The problem is that you’re consciously focused on all of the things that aren’t familiar to you, such as the area you’re in and the car you’re driving. The key to getting your confidence back is taking it slow and giving your brain a chance to put everything back on automatic.

Practice, Practice, Practice

A great way to build confidence is to practice. Don’t jump straight into busy rush-hour traffic where your mind can get overloaded. Instead, start with quiet streets in your neighborhood or empty parking lots where you can reacquaint yourself with basic maneuvers such as turning, braking, and parking.

Know Your Car

Being in a quiet and unhurried driving environment is also a great way to get reacquainted with your car. Be sure you know where everything is that you’ll need to access while driving such as your turn signals, headlights, wipers, and all of your vehicle’s gears.

Many new vehicles now include lots of modern technology. Backup cameras, blind spot detection alerts, lane departure warnings, and front collision avoidance systems are available. If you’re not familiar with these features and what they do, your stress level could skyrocket when the lights and sounds of these warnings activate while driving.

Also, double-check that you know where your trunk release is. And while you’re at it, make sure you have a jack and a spare tire in there.

Know Where You’re Going

As you start driving again, choose to drive in areas that are familiar to you. This will help you focus more on driving procedures and can reduce the stress of not knowing where you need to go.

If you need to go somewhere outside of your familiar zone, take the time to look at a map or use a navigation device, such as a GPS or smartphone, before you go. Knowing exactly where you’re going and what the route looks like is one less thing to worry about while driving.

Take an Online Defensive Driving Course

Many people who don’t drive for an extended period worry that they won’t remember important rules of the road. Proper following distance, right-of-way, and when to yield scenarios all require critical thinking.

To refresh your road knowledge and get up to date on the latest driving laws, consider taking a defensive driving course. DriveSafe Online courses are designed to help new drivers, experienced drivers, and drivers who want to improve their driving skills.

The good news is that a defensive driving course will increase your driving confidence and make you a better, safer driver. The better news is that you could get an insurance discount just for completing an online driver improvement course. Check with your agent to see if your insurance provider offers a defensive driving discount and ask how much money you are eligible to save.

Driving a car is a lot like riding a bike. You remember the basics, but unfamiliarity can but a damper on your confidence. With time, practice, patience, and a solid review partner like DriveSafe Online, your confidence will return and you’ll be driving again in no time.