First Time Behind the Wheel: Things You Should Know

First Time Behind the Wheel: Things You Should Know

Personal Growth

August 09, 2021

Ah, yes you received your learner's permit! Being that I received mine a little over a year ago, I definitely remember what it felt like to walk into the DMW and enter the room where I was supposed to test. Oh the nerves!

If my mom was not there, I don't think I would have the strength to walk there. Once the test, which was surprisingly not as difficult as I had expected, was over, I received my permit and I was ready to be given the keys to the car.

However, there are two different things when you dream about being behind the wheel of a four-wheel vehicle versus the reality of actually driving it. My absolute first time was nerve wracking to say the least. I had no knowledge of how to turn, much less to actually get onto the road.

Sure, I have seen my parents drive nearly 90% of the time, but like it often said, "Seeing is not doing". To help you better get those jitters out now, here are my 7 different pieces of advice to help guide you.

That being said, I recently received my driver's license two months ago, so I have only slightly more experience than you at the moment. My younger sisters may not understand it as quickly as I did or maybe they will be able to do a right turn perfectly the first time. Either way, all that matters is that you learn to drive well.

1. Breathe

I know this might sound basic, but it is absolutely necessary. The driver needs to be fully aware and bodily capable of handling the vehicle. Nerves are the enemy of any driver and this can be detrimental in the case of new drivers.

Anxiety is very reasonable, especially in a situation where you are venturing out into the unknown. However, when you are handling a vehicle where you could potentially harm another person, it is best that you practice any technique to help calm your nerves.

Personally, I say a prayer before I pull out of my driveway in order to calm myself. Putting my thoughts in order like that keeps me focused and calmer. It really helps me to know that I have a God who is always watching over me. If you are not religious, find an alternative to keep your mind as focused as possible.

2. Try to have a calm environment

Y'all know what I mean. As tempting as it is, jamming out to Shawn Mendes or Taylor Swift is not the best option when you are new to driving. For me, as a license holder, I practice not listening to the radio unless my sisters are able to switch stations if the music gets too distracting.

Speaking of siblings, it is not the time to bring the noisest ones. My first time, it was just me and my dad. As much as I love my family, my siblings and mom are very talkative and being related to them, I cannot resist having a conversation with them.

So this is all to say, it is best to not have the radio playing at all (at least for your first time) and make sure to keep the familial distractions down. Don't even consider bringing any of your friends along until you have received your license. It may seem like an alluring idea to bring several of your friends, but you will be tempted to be more distracted than you would with an older person.

3. Watch the Gas Pedal

I understand the incredible urge to push the gas pedal to just go a little bit faster. However, the gas pedal is not like a button on a game controller. It has power that can make the vehicle maneuver and drive in certain directions.

Self control is key to keeping one's driving safe for everyone. Your engine performs easily when being gently coaxed into optimal speed.

So, when it comes to stopping at a light, you need to wait 2 to 3 seconds before pushing the gas pedal. When you do, go from the full stop to a gradual roll to the proper speed for the highway. GRADUALLY increases pressure on the pedal; you lose control over the car once you slam on the gas pedal.

4. expect to make mistakes

Everyone does it when beginning to drive. If you didn't make mistakes, you would simply not be human. As frequent as mistakes can be for new drivers, don't let those mistakes define you.

You are definitely more than your errors. Doing the turn at faster than 20 miles an hour is not necessarily the worst thing you can do.

This does not mean that you should accept mistakes and continue a complacent attitude. Not only does it affect your ability to drive, it builds a lazy streak within you. Remember the quicker you accept and learn from what you do wrong, people are more eager to teach you.

5. Leave plenty of space

Always leave space. I know it may seem extra, but trust me it is. Not only is this helpful for avoiding collisions, it also provides enough area for error.

Of course, driving on a busier street might be the best idea for a new driver. However, if you leave enough space, then it will keep an unnecessarily wide turn from impacting another driver in a negative way. In more difficult weather as well, I definitely recommend leaving even more space for being able to drive safely.

6. Try to Avoid Rush Hours

As tempting as it is to drive around other people, hold off for a minute. When you drive at certain times, such as 8am and 5pm, there is typically traffic. If not that, there will be a large number of stopping and starting.

For a new driver, this means you have to have a lot of control over the brakes. In order to start and stop the number of times required by the traffic, you need to have precise skills to use the clutch.

It is also a good reminder that during these rush hours, people will be more anxious than ever to get home. That being said, angry tempers can suddenly flare up and, regardless of who was in the wrong, words can fly. So, as a new driver, this added distraction can cause more anxiety than necessary. So use this piece of advice and stick to driving in the late morning and early afternoon.

7. Know where you drive

You should not venture out on that new side road you spotted last Tuesday. Since you have never been on this road, there could be pitfalls that you did not anticipate. Just to avoid all that panic, it is best to stick to familiar areas such as your neighborhood, streets and the occasional parking lot. By doing this, you help out your driving partner and yourself by not having to worry about where or how to turn around.

This brings me to another thing: knowing the signs on the road. Of course, you should already know what a stop sign looks like. Yep, the big red octagon!

However, there are other signs that may not be as familiar. Spend some time learning these signs and it will save you a lot of hassle and mistakes. Remember, though not every sign will be something you can remember crystal clear and it is okay if you draw a memory blank. I strongly advise you to learn the signs before you go out on the road.

Here are the colors you need to associate with each kind of sign:

  • Yellow signs often convey a warning. Ex. Left turn, right turn, winding road, stop ahead, etc.

  • Blue signs are for services. We should all be familiar with that. Ex. Food, gas stations, hotels, etc.

  • White signs are regulatory.

  • Orange (the more commonly recognized one) is used for construction. It will warn and guide drivers to navigate safely in a work zone.

  • Brown signs show that there are parks and recreation centers nearby.

Hannah Lawson
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Writer since May, 2021 · 2 published articles

Hannah Lawson is a 17-year-old senior who enjoys journalism, reading Sherlock Holmes, singing karaoke and most importantly, spending time with her family and friends. She is currently set to attend Spelman College this fall and is excited to continue her writing career through college. If you don't find Hannah reading a book or baking wedding cookies, she's probably out trying to capture an aesthetic picture on her phone.