Most teens anticipate getting their driver’s license with a sense of excitement and probably a bit of nervousness. Both of these feelings are understandable. The license means that you’re probably a bit more independent, but you’re also doing something new in a large, dangerous machine.
You will be taught many skills and rules of the road by your driving instructor, both in the classroom and as you practice drive around Chesapeake, VA. But even with excellent instruction, some things might slip your mind. Here are 7 things you should know about driving and cars as you become a new driver around Suffolk, Virginia.
1. It’s OK to be comfortable in the car
Before you set out, make sure the seat is set for you. You should be able to reach the pedals, hold the steering wheel and sit comfortable. Check the mirrors so that you can see clearly behind you.
Being comfortable is the first step towards being relaxed, and being relaxed will actually increase your confidence behind the wheel. If you are uptight and tense, you will actually respond more slowly in the event that a car runs the light in front of you, or some other situation.
So be comfortable.
2. Every road sign is important.
Drive the speed limit, and be aware of roads where the speed limit changes frequently. That may mean that the town stations officers near one of the speed limit changes to ticket people.
The signs which say “No Parking” and “No Standing” also are important. You may think you’ll be able to run in to a store to get something, but you’re still potentially liable for a ticket.
Parking in “No Parking” zones, especially for a long period of time, may get you a $25 ticket and a $200 tow. You do not want your car towed–it will put a damper on your whole night.
Your driving instructor will talk about “situational awareness”–signs are part of your situation. Pay attention.
3. Master the art of parallel parking
The ability to parallel park will make sure that you will be able to get closer to the movie, restaurant, or place you’re going. It’s also a skill that people are a bit scared of–because it involves so many steps.
In fact, you may hear of people who don’t parallel park after they take their road test.
Part of the nervousness may come from the fact that you feel like you’re putting on a performance, especially on a busy town or city street. You might feel like everyone is watching you.
Take your time. You know the steps, and just have to think through them carefully. Don’t be afraid to stop before turning the wheel as you begin to back, when your car is mostly in the space, and when you clear the car in front. While stopped you can turn the wheel in a power-steering car, and you will be the best parallel parker in town.
4. Backing a trailer
This skill is not required for the road test, which is a bit of a pity. But then, most people can go years without backing a trailer. Drivers near the water, however, might find they will be trailering boats for fishing or pleasure, so this should become part of the process of learning to drive.
The best way of backing a trailer is from the bottom of the steering wheel. Holding the bottom of the wheel while backing up will help you feel the trailer into the right position.
Backing a trailer is another skill that makes drivers feel like they’re being watched, and in many cases, you can hold up traffic, especially when backing into a driveway. Don’t worry. If you can let people pass, you’ll get the vehicle in.
5. Know how to check the important things in your car
In addition to keeping your eye on the road, you have to keep your eye on key items in your car.
Don’t run out of gas. It’s almost inevitable that if you do run out of gas, it will be at either a dangerous place or an inconvenient time. Most newer cars will tell you how many miles remain in your tank. Those are pretty accurate, but not precise–and you’ll notice that at some point–the mileage estimate vanishes and you’ll just be told that you are LOW on gas. That’s a hint.
Learn to check the oil, also. When oil runs out, bad things happen to the engine. Some recommend checking every time you fill the gas tank–which is not a bad way to do things, at least until you get to know your car.
In winter, or if you drive on a lot of dirt roads, you want to make sure your washer fluid is filled–so you can see. Carry a bottle in the car so that you can fill up anytime.
6. Don’t get tired of tires
Tires are important, but sometimes we forget them. One key is to know how many miles are on them. If you buy a used car, ask the previous owner when they put the tires on.
Keep track of the miles on your tires. Just because the manufacturer says they will last for “60,000” miles doesn’t mean they will in fact last that long.
Check the tire pressure regularly. You’ll get better performance and mileage if your tires are inflated properly. In the manual or on the sticker inside the driver’s door, you’ll find the recommended tire pressure. Remember to check the spare also, even if it’s one of the temporary spares. Keep a pressure gauge in the car.
Know how to change a flat. While you never want to change a flat tire, sometimes you will have to–and flats can happen any time, any where.
7. A safety kit is really not a bad idea
You can stow the safety kit in the truck or in the back of your SUV, but you should have some key things with you to make sure you stay safe in case the car breaks down.
Jumper cables are a necessity, in case you or someone else has a battery failure. Flares, a quart of oil (especially if your car is older and burns oil), and coolant will keep your car safe in some bad situations. You might want to add a can of tire inflator/sealant.
To keep yourself safe and sound, having a first aid kit, blanket, heavy-duty flashlight, tool kit, granola or energy bars, and bottled water can easily be stowed in the car.
These seven ideas–more in the realm of common sense–will help make you be a safer, more confident driver. Coupled with the instruction you receive from your Chesapeake driving instructor, this skills will help you get on your way.
As you drive, remember that you are on the road with hundreds of other people. Everyone depends on everyone else–the road is not place to think you’re the center of the Universe. And, while you can’t control other people, you can control yourself–and if everyone did that, there’d be no accidents.