#1 START WITH DRIVER’S ED
There is no better place for new drivers to learn how to drive and learn the rules of the road than a proper driver’s education center. Driver’s ed is available broadly across the US and is offered to new drivers of all ages. These courses cover the essentials from the basic rules for driving to the fundamentals of the vehicle itself. It gives you the opportunity to learn and improve your driving in a controlled environment. This is essential to not only pass your driving test but also the foundation to being a better driver.
#2 HAVE YOUR LICENSE OR LEARNER’S PERMIT
No matter how good your driving skills are, all the police officer will care about is whether or not you have a valid license. To drive in accordance with the law, an individual must have a driver’s license. Getting pulled over without a license can lead to serious consequences, depending upon the circumstances.
#3 ADJUST THE VEHICLE SO THAT YOU’RE COMFORTABLE BEHIND THE WHEEL
Even a small tweak to your driving position makes for a much more comfortable, pleasant, and safe ride. It’s important that your backside and back are up against the seat, as this allows for better support of the body while you’re driving. Here are some adjustments for new drivers:
- Adjust the steering wheel
- Adjust the mirrors
- Adjust the seat forward or back
- Adjust the seat height
- Adjust the seat recline typically about 110 to 120 degrees
#4 GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, this includes talking or texting, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, changing your music or your GPS — anything that takes your attention away from driving safely. You should always avoid distractions, and if you find yourself being distracted pull over to a safe spot and don’t begin driving again until you can fully focus. Learn more about distracted teen driving statistics.
#5 CALM YOUR NERVES
Almost everyone has some nerves when they first begin to drive. Try and calm these nerves by taking a long, slow breath in through your nose and holding for three seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth and relax the muscles in your face, hands, jaw, shoulders, and stomach. Repeat these steps as many times as necessary.
When you first begin to drive, you’ll improve quicker the more you practice. Even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes. Make sure you practice: parking, driving in traffic, and driving at a specific speed. Bring an experienced driver with you for tips and guidance.
#7 STAY ON FAMILIAR ROADS
When you first begin driving, it helps to first go to places you feel comfortable driving to, and the places that you know the way. This allows you to focus on driving and avoid distractions like using a map service. You will also feel much more comfortable when you know exactly where you are headed.
#8 STAY AWAY FROM INTERSTATES AND MAJOR HIGHWAYS
Driving on major highways and interstates can be very stressful for new drivers. Avoid them when you first start driving. Once you get more comfortable driving on smaller roads you’ll gain the confidence to enter and drive on roads with more traffic and higher speeds.
#9 GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE VEHICLE BEFORE DRIVING IT
To feel comfortable and secure in your car when you first begin to drive you must know it inside and out and master all of the settings. You should walk around your vehicle and get a feel for its dimensions and size. This helps gain spatial awareness when you are around other cars or trying to park. Learn what all the buttons and switches do and how to use them. Here are some important car features that beginner drivers should know:
- Window wipers
- Hazard lights
- Air conditioner
- Car horn
- Gas tank opener
#10 KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
Maintaining a safe distance is the right policy for all drivers, however, it’s especially important when you are just getting used to being behind the wheel. Use the “3-second rule”, this is where you observe a car in front passing an easily visible landmark up ahead. When it passes, you start counting. If it takes you 3 seconds or more to pass the same landmark, then you are at a safe distance. When it comes to tailgaters, it can be difficult for you to keep your distance. Avoid them when possible by changing lanes. If you cannot change lanes, slow down slowly to encourage the tailgater to go around you. If this does not work, pull off the road when it’s safe and let the tailgater pass.
#11 AVOID SPEEDING
As a new driver, you may be tempted to see how fast a car can go. However, this can be very dangerous since the faster you go, the less control you have. One of the most crucial safe driving tips, especially for new drivers, is to slow down. This isn’t just about speed limits, but it’s more about reducing your speed to be safe and suitable for the road and the conditions at hand. If road conditions aren’t great, including if you’re driving in rain or snow, reducing your speed is the key to staying safe.
#12 LOOK BOTH WAYS AT INTERSECTIONS
The majority of intersection accidents occur only seconds after the light has changed. This is why it’s critical to keep an eye on your mirrors and scan the intersections ahead of you to proactively check for red-light runners. Anytime you’re the first vehicle at a stoplight and the light turns green, look both ways to make sure cross-traffic is stopping. Never blindly trust everyone will stop. Sometimes large and heavy trucks are unable to stop or someone can just not be paying attention.
#13 BE PREPARED
Your car should always have the supplies you might need in case you run into trouble. This includes:
- Proper driving documents
- Jumper cables
- Spare tire
- Tire gauge
- First aid kit