Learning to drive for the first time can be incredibly exciting for a teen, and pretty terrifying for a parent. To help new drivers reign in the excitement and stay safe behind the wheel, Christian Brothers Automotive has created a series of 10 important lessons for first-time drivers. This is a significant step in the life of every teenager, and we want to make the transition as safe and headache-free for as possible.
In the interest of safety, today's lesson will cover the best ways to practice driving. Once you've learned to operate the vehicle and know a few basic operations, it takes hours and hours of practice to become comfortable and careful driving on your own.
Here are Christian Brothers Automotive's best conditions for driving practice.
Who to practice with
While most states only require the passenger to be 21 years-old, this option is not always the safest for a first-time driver. Driving practice with an older sibling or friend may be more fun than driving with a parent or guardian, but it can be dangerous (especially in the beginning).
For the first few months after obtaining your learner's permit, make a commitment to drive only with someone who has at least 10 years’ experience. This is your time to learn how to operate a vehicle, how to handle an emergency or sudden situation and how to become comfortable behind the wheel. Make sure you choose a teacher who can cover all the bases and who fully understands the serious privilege of driving a car.
What to practice
Once you've learned a few basic operations, it's important to practice over and over those you will be using daily. Only through repeated practice will you learn to take your car into a smooth stop and accelerating without jerking. For the first dozen times you're in control, drive around a large, empty parking lot.
Practice coming to a complete stop and accelerating to a constant speed. Pull in and out of parking spots at different angles and under different conditions. Once you have a good handle on staying within the two lines, practice with two cars on either side (preferably those of a close friend or family member).
The goal is to get the hang of things in a safe space before practicing around other cars.
When to practice
To become an independent driver, it's important to practice driving under all possible circumstances. In the beginning, driving only in the sunlight is a good way to learn basic operations and get a feel for the vehicle. As you become more advanced and better able to control the car, you must learn to handle all kinds of weather and lighting.
When it's raining, practice driving. When there's snow on the ground, practice driving. When there's ice, practice driving (best to go back to the empty parking lot for this one). Unfortunately, you will not only have to drive when it's sunny and 75 outside. Easily handling a skid, safely accelerating over a pile of snow and stopping on a plate of ice will help you stay safe when driving alone.
Where to practice
Once you've advanced beyond the empty parking lot, practice in an industrial area at night. When the traffic has died down, industrial locations will give you a great feel for as many traffic situations as possible. These areas have gravel roads, railroad tracks, traffic signals, 4-way stops and other features you will face daily. Get a good feel for each situation.
As you gain more experience, move on to residential areas. Begin during a clear day when you can plainly see any neighbors outside. Form the habit of looking under and around parked cars for any children or small animals who may dart out in front of the car.
Next, have an adult drive you out to a location familiar to them, but foreign to you. Practice reading a map and a GPS and learn to direct yourself back home. It's important to become comfortable enough with direction that you don't have to depend on a GPS while driving alone.
Finally, once you’ve developed skill in low-traffic areas, begin to practice on highways. Start in the right lane and get a feel for merging from and exiting to the service road. Slowly work your way up to lane changes and maintaining a speed consistent with cars around you. Always remember – you do not have to break the speed limit to accommodate impatient drivers.
How to practice
Finally, practice driving with safe distractions. Once you know how to pay attention to sounds and events outside the car, develop a habit of listening to traffic above other noises. Invite siblings, pets and grandparents into the car to maintain focus despite external distractions. Make sure you are able to focus on the road and drive safely with only one passenger before bringing in other, safe distractions.
Obtaining your first drivers' license is an exciting milestone in a teenager's life. However, driving is a privilege that brings with it an enormous responsibility. At Christian Brothers Automotive, we want to make this transition safe and comfortable.
With an encouraging teacher, a good handle on vehicle operation and a lot of practice, you can become a skilled driver. Call your local Christian Brothers Automotive if you have any questions about safe driving, driving practice or getting your car ready for a first-time driver. Stay safe out there!