An In-Depth Guide on How To Drive
Driving is a cornerstone of American culture. Since our country is so spread out, practically everyone needs to know how to drive — whether it’s for commuting to work, taking family vacations, or moving from place to place.
Unfortunately, many schools offer lackluster driving lessons for beginners. Here, we’ll offer an in-depth guide on how to drive, plus driving tips that can help you go from a novice to an experienced driver.
Learn All Driving Rules
No matter where you live, the first step to learning how to drive is to learn all applicable driving rules for your area, state, and/or country. For example, people in the US drive with the road divider on the left-hand side, but people in the UK drive with the road divider on the right-hand side.
If you’re in the US, you’ll want to download a basic driving rules handbook from your state DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles). Driving laws can vary from state to state, but some common driving regulations and topics include:
- Driving at appropriate speeds at or below the posted speed limit
- Yielding the right of way, i.e., who should wait for whom at a four-way intersection
- Handling emergencies
- What to do at stop signs and red lights
- How and when to apply and release your parking brake
Learning the driver handbook is crucial for new drivers so you can obey the rules of the road and don’t cause confusion when you get behind the steering wheel. They will also help you counteract dangerous drivers and drive defensively if necessary.
Get a Learning Permit
If it’s your first time driving, get a driving learner’s permit. Minors will need a parent or guardian’s signature, and everyone — regardless of age — will have to pass a written test about driving rules and regulations before they can receive their permit.
Once you have a permit, you can practice your driving skills and clock hours behind the wheel. All states require you to have a certain number of hours of driving practice with a licensed driver present in the car with you before you can acquire your license.
Depending on your age, you can attend a driving school or take driving lessons at a public school to acquire these hours.
Take a Driving Test and Get Your License
After clocking the requisite number of hours, you’ll take a driving test and get your official driver’s license. This marks you as a knowledgeable driver who should know all the rules of the road.
Remember, though, that it’ll still take you some time to master driving, even after acquiring your license!
If you fail your driving test, you can still take another test after getting some more driving experience. Ask your driving instructor where you went wrong and where you should focus on getting better. For example, many people have trouble with parallel parking spots or remembering to use their turn signals.
Always Make Adjustments Before Driving
Once you have your permit or your license, there are some additional tips to keep in mind for safe driving.
First, you should always make adjustments when you get into a new vehicle. These adjustments include:
- Setting all the mirrors (rearview mirror, driver’s side mirror, and passenger seat-side mirror) so you can see behind your vehicle properly. Be sure to check the front mirror and both side mirrors to make sure you don’t have large blind spots.
- Buckling your seatbelt. It’s illegal to drive with your seatbelt off.
- Adjusting the seat of the car so your feet can easily reach the pedals, and you can see everything around you comfortably.
- Ensuring there aren’t any warning lights on the dashboard, which could indicate that the car needs to be taken to a shop for maintenance.
You should always make these adjustments and double-check things are good to go before putting your key in the ignition. That way, you won’t run into any accidents or surprises while on the road.
Don’t Drive Distracted
Never drive while distracted, and do your best to minimize distractions as you drive. This is especially important if you are still new to driving and learning how to handle different roadway situations. For example, you should turn the music off or keep it low, so you can react to audible signals on the road around you.
Similarly, never take out your cell phone and text or talk while driving. Not only is this against the law, but it opens you up to a much higher likelihood of getting into an accident. It’s impossible for humans to really multitask effectively, so don’t think you are the exception to the rule!
Although manual transmission cars used to be common, odds are you drive an automatic car today. While you don’t have to shift gears while you’re cruising down the road in an automatic transmission vehicle, you do have to shift when you’re moving the vehicle in and out of park.
To do so, you’ll push down on the brake pedal, then move the gear shifter up or down. The gear stick positions and meanings are as follows:
- P is for Park. It prevents the vehicle from moving, even if you push down on the gas pedal. You must always put the vehicle in Park before you turn it off.
- R is for Reverse. This will allow you to reverse your car to maneuver into and out of parking spots.
- N is for Neutral. In neutral, the vehicle’s wheels are not locked. This setting is typically only used if you need to manually move your car out of the way for one reason or another.
- D is for Drive. This is the gear you’ll stay in most of the time, and it’s what you have to put the transmission at if you want to move the car forward.
If you’ve got a manual car transmission, which can be common with older and luxury vehicles, you’ll need to do additional practice to make sure you know how to operate the clutch and shift gears while you’re driving around. Don’t drive manual transmission if you haven’t taken lessons beforehand and practiced in an empty parking lot.
Use Signals Appropriately
When driving, you must use all of your traffic signals regularly and appropriately. That means:
- Signaling with your blinkers when you’re about to change lanes. Do this even if you enter a lane where you can only go one direction.
- Signaling early, so other drivers have plenty of time to react to you. This is more important on the freeway when other cars are moving at high speeds.
Speed Up and Slow Down Gradually
To drive safely, be sure to accelerate and decelerate gradually. Never floor the gas pedal or slam down on the brakes except in an emergency. Accelerating and decelerating help to keep your movement predictable and allow other drivers to react to you without overreacting themselves.
You should also never “brake check” another vehicle. This toxic habit can induce road rage or lead to an accident if the car behind you isn’t paying attention. If the car behind you is too close for comfort, simply maneuver out of the way when you have the chance.
Use Lights and Wipers
Lastly, take advantage of your vehicle’s built-in lights and windshield wipers when needed. You should always have your lights on when driving at night to illuminate the road in front of you.
Your wipers should be used whenever you encounter excessive dust or debris and whenever it rains and snows outside. Lights and wipers can clear your view ahead and allow you to drive safely in inclement weather.
Contact Advantage Rent-a-Car Today
Driving isn’t as hard as it may seem, but it’s still important to drive safely and to obey all the rules of the road to avoid getting in unnecessary accidents. Learning how to drive is pretty easy, but truly mastering driving will take years — if not a lifetime.
Once you’ve got the hang of driving, you’ll likely want to keep it up. If you don’t have a vehicle of your own, Advantage Rent-a-Car has plenty of quality vehicles to choose from.
Whether you’re looking for a basic sedan, a truck, an SUV, or something else entirely, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today to learn more about our rental options.