New behind the wheel? No worries. This area of TeenDriving.com has been created to help you go through the basics of driving. Here you’ll learn about driver’s education options and graduated license programs, as well as the general rules of what you should be doing when you’re on the road. We also have what you’ll need to know when it comes to getting your driver’s license, and plenty of other great tips.
Learning to Drive
Being a new driver is exciting and opens the door to a world of independence. With this new found freedom, of course, comes responsibility. Many people lose their lives or are seriously injured due to teens driving recklessly, driving while fatigued and/or distracted, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or simply not having enough experience. That’s why it’s so vital to know the rules and obey them carefully. Driving is a privilege – treat the road with respect.
Driver’s Education Options
Each state or district has different requirements for getting your license. Most require a combination of classroom and behind-the-wheel training. Online Driving schools such as Driversed.com allow you to take courses online at your own pace and graduate with the certificate required to start in-car driving lessons . DMV.org is another good resource for checking out the requirements for each US state.
Getting Behind the Wheel For the 1st Time
Whether it’s with a parent or a certified instructor, you’re probably going to be nervous. There may be a natural instinct to shift right towards the shoulder on two-lane roads. It’s ok, take it slow (make sure you put a Student Driver decal on the back of your car if you’re on public roads). When getting ready to switch lanes, check your mirrors and manually check over your shoulder before turning the steering wheel. Merging onto freeways is especially tough for new drivers – this takes practice and it’s probably best to stick to side streets until you build up the confidence to tackle the freeway.
Are You A Safe Driver?
Small habits make a huge difference. Look over this checklist (recommended by the State of California DMV) and ask yourself if you really do all of these things. If you don’t, make a conscious effort to begin doing them.
When starting your car, do you:
- Put on your seat belt and make sure others are buckled?
- Make sure your mirrors and seat are adjusted properly?
- Know where all the controls are located?
When moving forward, do you:
- Turn on your signal?
- Check your mirrors and look over your shoulder before pulling into traffic?
- Use both hands on opposite sides of the steering wheel?
When stopping, do you:
- Check traffic all around?
- Stop behind crosswalks and limit lines?
- Stop without keeping your foot on the gas?
When turning, do you:
- Slow down?
- Yield right of way when necessary?
- Begin and end turns in the correct lane?
- Accept legal right of way when safe?
- See and react appropriately to hazards?
When backing up, do you:
- Check your mirrors?
- Look over both shoulders?
When changing lanes, do you:
- Signal and check your mirror?
- Check over your shoulder to see your blind spot?
- Change lanes safely?
- Maintain your speed?
When driving on the freeway, do you:
- Check the traffic flow?
- Time your entry onto the freeway?
- Check your mirrors and over your shoulder before merging into traffic?
- Signal early and slow on the exit ramp?
- Adjust your speed to the current road conditions?
When it comes to defensive driving, do you:
- Keep a lookout all around, including way up ahead?
- Check your mirrors before braking?
- Follow at a safe distance?
- Check cross streets before passing?
- Check for signal lights and hand signs?
- Keep a “space cushion” around your car?
Getting Your License
Getting your license is an exciting time, but taking the test can also cause a lot of anxiety. Remember, it’s totally fine if you don’t pass your written or driving test the first time. All you have to do is try again. Plenty of people don’t pass the first time – don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Below are some helpful reminders.
- Check with your state to see what documents you’ll need to have with you when it’s time to get your license. The last thing you want is to have to go home to get something you didn’t think to bring with you.
- Make sure you’re well rested and wearing your glasses or contacts before taking the vision test.
- Check to see what the fee is to get your license before you go. Costs vary from state to state, so make sure you know exactly how much you will need to pay.
- The written test can be tricky, but the best way to prepare is to closely study your state’s DMV driver’s guide. Many DMV websites also provide practice tests for you to take. Try all of the practice tests before you attempt to go get your license. When it comes time to take the written test, don’t try to rush—take your time and think carefully about each question.
The Driving Test
Before taking your driving test, it’s a good idea to practice with a parent or an instructor. Find out exactly what you’ll need to do for the driving portion of the test, and have your parent or instructor ask you to judge you on those things. This will help make you feel more confident for the actual test. Below are some tips for that.
- Before you even go to the DMV, make sure your car is in good shape: tires inflated correctly, all lights working, and windshield wipers functioning. Have your paperwork handy and the radio turned off. Make sure mirrors are adjusted. It doesn’t hurt to make sure the car is clear of any clutter or trash, too.
- When it comes to the driving part of your test, remember to stay calm. Although you’ll be nervous, it’s important to also be confident.
- Make sure the car is completely off before you begin. If your car is on, it can sometimes result in an automatic fail. When the examiner says for you to turn the car on, that’s when you should.
- Be sure that you listen carefully to the examiner to make sure you’re hearing any instructions.
- Remember to use your signal when appropriate. Small details can make or break your driving test.
- Don’t go over the middle lines in the road, be aware of all signs and lights, and don’t let the steering wheel “slide” through your fingers.
- Come to full stops at stop signs, and stop before the stop lines on the road. Even if you can’t see around a tree or another car, stop at the stop line first, then creep forward until you can see.
- When doing your parallel parking or three-point turn, remember to properly use your signal, to watch for other cars and/or pedestrians, and check your mirrors and blind spots.
- When reversing, don’t forget to look out your back mirror.
Graduated License Programs
These types of programs were created to ease new teen drivers into full driving privileges gradually over time in low-risk environments as they develop their driving skills. Basically, no nighttime, freeway, or unsupervised driving is allowed in the initial stages of the program. By requiring more supervised practice, the goal of these programs is to save lives, prevent injuries, and emphasize a good driving record. Typically, graduated license programs begin with a learner’s permit, then move on to a restricted/probationary license, followed by a full driver’s license.
Practice makes perfect. Don’t worry if you make mistakes—there is no such thing as a perfect driver. New drivers are especially vulnerable to messing up here and there, but here are a few tips to help you get started.
- Know your car and how to do basics, such as pumping gas, changing a tire, jump-starting the car, and adding windshield washer fluid.
- Always let your parents or guardian know where you’re going, and when you’ll be back.
- Try to make short trips when you’re just starting out driving. Little by little, you can increase your distances, but don’t try too much too soon.
- Don’t try to speed up at yellow lights or get away with a quick call while you’re driving. These type of risks are never worth it—especially when a new and inexperienced driver is at the wheel.
- Walk before you can run. Before you take a long road trip, make sure you can handle driving to school or work. Before you begin driving at nighttime, make sure you have daytime driving totally down. Before you start driving friends around alone, practice driving them around with a responsible adult in the car, too.
Awareness is Vital
- Although it’s very tempting to drive around with your friends, try to limit your passengers in your first year of driving. They can be very distracting.
- Limit your nighttime driving. Darker means harder to see, and drunk drivers tend to drive more at night. You’re also more likely to be sleepy at the wheel at nighttime.
- Never forget to use your signal, mirrors, and seat belt. Be very aware of the drivers around you, from the car right in front of you, to the cars way up ahead on the road.