How to Drive a Car for Beginners – Things to Know

January 18, 2018Car Driving Tips
Blake Shaw

Bostonian and residential moving and packing expert. Blake Shaw enjoys bar-hopping, music, and writing insightful content.

Did you know that almost 89% of all US citizens ages 16 and older drive at least occasionally? A few handy tips on how to drive a car for beginners might come in handy if you plan to join them and become a master behind the steering wheel.

If you’re wondering, “How can I improve my driving skills for beginners,” Start by getting to know the vehicle and mastering all of the basic controls. Take some time to learn about speeding regulations and rules. When you feel confident, taking the car on the open road should be fun and liberating.

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Get Comfortable With the Car Before Driving

Get to know your car before you take it out for a spin. Even if you are a fast learner, you should go over all the basics in theory before you get to the practical part. No matter if you’re buying a used car, a new luxury one, or buying a vehicle onlinegetting familiar with it has more than one goal:

  • It will help you relax before you hit the road
  • When you figure out how everything works in theory, you can easily apply the knowledge in practice
  • You will learn what all the symbols on the dashboard mean
  • You can adjust your seat so that you can reach the pedals effortlessly
  • You can put the seat belt on and let your body adjust to it.

All of these preparatory measures will ensure that your overall learning experience is pleasant and efficient, and an informative and significant step to becoming a good driver.

Embrace the Dashboard and Pedals Before Actually Driving

Every car has pedals, and an automatic one has two that control acceleration and braking. In most cases, the smaller pedal on the right is the accelerator, and when you step on it, the vehicle moves. The more pressure you apply, the faster your four-wheeler will go. The larger pedal, the one on the left, is usually the brake, and you use it when you want the car to slow down or stop.

Even if you are a lefty and feel more confident using the left foot, try using the right one exclusively to reach both the brake and accelerator pedals. It might take some time to get familiar with it, but using only the right foot is important because it is overall safer. Don’t reach with both feet because you can accidentally step down on both pedals at once.

When you sit behind the steering wheel, in front of you will be a dashboard with controls and symbols you should understand before hitting the road. The instruments show how much fuel is left, how fast the vehicle is going, how hot the engine is, as well as how many revolutions per minute (RPM) the engine is clocking. Each of these gadgets indicates the car’s performance, and paying attention to them will make you a better and more careful driver.

How to Drive a Car for Beginners 101 – Turn the Mirror So You Can See Clearly

Being aware of your surroundings is important; that’s why you’ll need to adjust the mirrors in the car so that you can see clearly, without any blind spots. A vehicle should have three mirrors, and each one can help you during a specific activity:

  • Rear-view mirrors should be positioned in such a way to allow you to see directly behind. This way, you won’t have to turn around to see while driving.
  • Aerospace company SAE recommends that you position your outside mirrors further outward so that you can avoid overlapping the viewing angle with the rear-view mirror. If you set the mirrors this way, you will notice that there are no blind spots.

Don’t Lose Control of the Car: Keep Your Hands on the 9 and 3 O’Clock Position

Keep in mind at all times that you are in charge of the vehicle, not the opposite. The car will go where you signal it, and that’s why you need to have a firm grip on the steering wheel. Even though there is no best way of positioning your hands, there are ways to give you more control, especially if you’re a rookie driver.

The most common way to hold your hands is a “9 and 3 o’clock” position. When you take the driver’s seat, imagine a clock in front of you. Put your left hand on the place where the number 9 should be, and place your right hand on the number 3. Using both hands is always recommended, especially for a person who is just learning.

Man driver hands holding the car steering panel
Start by learning everything you can about your machine before driving it.

Learn What the Clutch Is and Its Role in the Transmission

The clutch plays a vital role in the transmission system. When using a vehicle with a manual transmission, the clutch will sync the engine and the transmission system. With it, you can stop the machine without stalling the engine. This is one of the most used mechanical components in a vehicle, and that’s why you should make sure that it is in perfect condition even before taking your car on the street.

As an owner of an automatic, you won’t have to fret too much about the clutch. Nevertheless, if you are wondering if an automatic has a clutch, the answer is yes, but it is not exactly like the one in manual cars. Engines in manual and automatic cars are virtually identical, and they all have to deal with the same restraints. To solve the problem the way clutches do with manuals, automatics have a torque converter. Yet a certain type of clutch exists even in an automatic; it just doesn’t take the form of a pedal. The same role is played by clutch plates inside the transmission that are applied automatically.

automatic transmission inside
Manual or automatic vehicle, it still has some type of a clutch.

Avoid Distractions and Don’t Bring Your Friends Along for the Ride

You are in the process of learning, meaning you might face driving anxiety and insecurities. To lower your stress levels and focus better, get rid of all distractions. When you are behind the steering wheel, avoid chit-chats with friends and family.

Being distracted is never a good thing, and on the road, it can have serious consequences. That’s why you should also put away your cell phone, roll up the windows so that the traffic jam doesn’t bother you, and turn off the radio.

Not having people around to distract you doesn’t mean that you have to be in the four-wheeler alone. It is always advisable to bring along an experienced driver who will provide helpful tips about safety in traffic.

happy couple man and woman in car
Don't bring your friends with you; they might be a distraction.

Wisely Abide by Speed Limits

Statistics from the education platform DrivingTests show that crashes related to speeding cost Americans around $40 billion each year, while the price in lost lives is immeasurable. National data also shows that increasing speed by even ten mph can elevate the risk of accidents by 9%.

Being aware of your surroundings and sticking to the rules are traits of excellent drivers. By abiding by the speed limit shown on the sign, you are saving your life and not putting anybody else in harm’s way.

Although some US states have stricter laws than others, nearly three-quarters of them have an absolute speed limit, and exceeding it is a valid ground for a conviction. Reckless people who get a ticket should expect to spend at least a day in jail for the first violation and three days for their second strike.

Most states have a point system, meaning you won’t have your license suspended after the first violation. Nevertheless, almost half of the states use speed cameras that will automatically catch you and fine you if you break the limit.

Speeding doesn’t pay off even from a solely pragmatic standpoint. The average maximum cost of the fine is around $850, and this kind of activity also impacts fuel consumption. The faster you go, the more fuel your vehicle will consume. That’s why abiding by the traffic rules will keep you and your machine safe, and leave you with some money in the pocket.

The speed limit sign
Look for a speed limit sign and don't break the rules.

You Will Have to Switch Lanes at Some Point

When you hit the road, it is only a matter of time when you will have to switch from one lane to another, no matter the reason. This is not something to stress about’ just don’t forget to indicate with blinkers that you are planning on switching. Before you actually do it, use mirrors to gain an insight into the position of other traffic participants. Turn on blinkers at least two seconds before you move, and then slowly cross from one lane to another, without abrupt movements.

While you’re in the car, be aware of the space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. You will want to have at least two to five seconds to react if the trajectory of the vehicle in front of you changes suddenly. Ask yourself – would you have enough time to react if the car ahead of you came to an abrupt stop? Would you be able to avoid impact? If the answer is yes, you are keeping the appropriate distance.

Being constantly aware of your surroundings will come naturally to you after a while. But in the beginning, you will have to remind yourself to be careful and vigilant. This is important when the weather is acting up.

Being on the road during heavy rainfall can make your tires slippery. The same goes for winter conditions when the asphalt gets all icy due to low temperatures and snow. In those situations, you should pay extra attention to speed limits and the space between cars.

Master the Art of Parallel Parking If You Want to Become a Real Pro

Aside from switching lanes, many people find parallel parking intimidating. Still, with enough practice and will, you can easily master it. You need to find a space a few feet longer than your machine and make sure it is legal to park there. There are a few tricks to parallel parking you can learn that will make the whole process easier. Study them, and finding a spot in a busy urban area won’t be a problem anymore.

Switching lanes will become easy after a while.

Additional Tips on How to Drive a Car for Beginners

When hitting the road for the first time, you will probably take all the help you can get. No matter how much you get to know the process of driving, there is always something new to learn:

  • Drive defensively, and you will save some money and stay healthy. This way, you won’t just assume that other drivers will obey the rules; you will spot a potentially dangerous behavior and avoid it before it occurs.
  • When you get on the highway, remember that the leftmost lanes are usually for faster traffic. Rightmost lanes are, on the other hand, for slower traffic participants, and it would be rude to tailgate slower drivers on the right side. You can always pick the lane that suits your speed and stay in it until you need to take the turn or leave the highway.
  • Be well-mannered while you are on the street. Use your horn when somebody breaks the rules, but don’t honk when the traffic gets chaotic, and you become agitated.
  • Have fun while learning. Even though it can be dangerous and there are so many rules to remember, operating a vehicle shouldn’t be difficult – it is important for you to enjoy the ride.
Driver in the car controls the navigator
Use additional tips, and you will master the new skill that much faster.

Consider Auto Transport Services

You mastered the theory of driving, and now you should get the car you can take for a spin around the block. You can buy a used four-wheeler, an exotic car if you feel like spending money, or buy a machine online.

If you find a perfect vehicle that is not located near your home, you will probably end up having to contact an auto transport company to ship it for you. Then you can choose to move your machine using an open trailer or even an enclosed one. The important thing is that your vehicle reaches you as soon as possible so that you can put your knowledge to good use. If you already have a car but don’t want to drive it when relocating to a new state, focus on all the moving hacks and leave your car to professionals.

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