Even the best driver's started out with the basics.
It doesn't matter if your motoring hero is the king of the drag strip or an Indy 500 champion, they all started out once upon a time as beginner drivers looking for tips on how to improve their skills. We all started out as learners in driver's ed classes, but even when your driving is in its infancy, there are certain driving tips for beginners that can help hone your driving and teach you the best possible habits. Learn them early and they'll benefit you forevermore, but settle into bad habits and it's virtually impossible to learn how to be a better driver later on down the line. Whether you drive a manual or an automatic, these are our tips to be a better driver.
Quite simply, there is no better place to learn than a proper driver's ed center. Driver's education is available broadly across the US, offered to students around 16 years of age. These courses cover the essentials from the basic rules for driving to the fundamentals of the vehicle itself and allow you to learn how to get better at driving in a controlled environment. This foundation is essential to not only passing your license test, but becoming a functioning driver in the USA.
We live in a day and age where if something goes wrong with our car, we send it to the shop. But the best thing you can do is to look after your car well enough that it doesn't need to be in the shop at all. We're not talking about being a full-on mechanic, but knowing some basic automotive mechanics is always important.
On every car you drive, know how to:
By ensuring your vehicle is in top condition every time you drive it, you reduce the chances of a breakdown, or worse, an accident caused by a mechanical failure.
For more information on car maintenance, read our comprehensive guide HERE.
There are many things to learn when it comes to driving a car, but here are some of the most important tips for a new or beginner driver:
One of the best tips for a first-time driver is to make sure you set your seat and mirrors up correctly. Ideally, you want to be sitting upright, not too close to the steering wheel, but not too far away either. Many modern cars have steering wheel adjustment to make this process easier, but ideally, the wheel should be far enough away from you that you can rest your wrists on the top of the rim without having to stretch forward or strain. Additionally, you need to be close enough to the pedals that when you have fully pressed in the clutch or brake, your leg is still slightly bent - in an emergency situation, you need to press hard on the brakes, and that power is at its most with a bent leg.
Next, mirrors. There are many schools of thought on positioning your mirrors to avoid blind spots etc, but we're of the opinion that your wing mirrors should just show a sliver of your own car so you can see things in relation to where you are on the road. Your rearview mirror needs to aim directly behind you so that, in your natural driving position, you can see straight back between the back seats. Positioning your three mirrors correctly is vital as it improves your visibility, allowing you to detect problems behind you before they become accidents. Always remember, however, that checking your mirrors does not mean you don't have to look in your blind spots - they're called that for a reason.
It doesn't matter whether your vehicle is fast or slow, diesel or gasoline - becoming a good driver means being a smooth driver. How do you do this? Smooth inputs are the key, but they come in many forms. You can make sure that steering inputs are gentle, but crucially, you have to ensure that how you behave with the pedals is as smooth as it gets. Sudden erratic acceleration and braking are not only bad for your gas mileage, but they're dangerous traits, too. It makes it difficult for drivers ahead of and behind you to predict what you're doing. When it comes to braking, always brake gently before coming to a halt, rather than jumping hard on the brakes at the last minute, and when accelerating, or even maintaining speed on the road, a measured input on the gas pedal will ensure a smooth journey.
If you're a few minutes late for an event, it's not the end of the world; it's better than rushing to be on time only to end up in a severe accident from which you might not recover. One of the most crucial safe driving tips we can give you is to slow down. This isn't about speed limits, but it's about reducing your speed to be safe and suitable for the road and the conditions at hand. If road conditions aren't great, including if you're driving in rain or snow, reducing your speed is the key to staying safe. But it goes the other way, too, sometimes, you need to speed up. A slow driver in fast-moving traffic is just as hazardous as someone speeding through slow-moving traffic. Read the road, read the traffic, and adjust your speed accordingly.
When you're traveling at 60 mph on the freeway, you're covering the equivalent distance of a football field every 3.4 seconds. Take your eyes off the road for just a second, and you've missed out on a whole chunk of what's going on. When you're piloting a hunk of metal and glass that weighs upwards of 2,000 pounds, what happens in that time can be devastating. That's why it's important to always pay attention - even in cars with claimed self-driving modes. Make sure that before you start any journey, you've chosen your music, set your navigation, and finished talking on the phone, and most importantly, put your cell phone away somewhere you won't be distracted by it.
There are other less-thought-of distractions, too. Driving with a child in the car or having a conversation with a passenger are also distractions, as is drinking from a soda can while driving. Obviously, these things will happen, but by minimizing the number of possible distractions, you reduce the chances of something bad happening.
We already mentioned that it's important to learn basic car mechanics, but even if you don't, you have to learn to check on the condition of the car. A healthy car is a safe car, after all, for a number of reasons. These are the things you should check once a week as a precautionary measure:
Additionally, it's important to regularly check the condition of your tires - look for cracks in the sidewalls and bubbles as well - signs that a blow-out is impending. Make sure to regularly check for windscreen chips and cracks and get them fixed, and make sure that your car's shock absorbers are in good condition.
Remember the figure above about crossing a football field in 3.4 seconds? What if we told you that it can take you up to a second to process danger ahead of you and jump on the brakes? That means, by the time you realize you need to break, you're already 30% closer to the danger than you were when it first presented itself. That's why maintaining a proper following distance is so important. By staying far behind the car ahead of you, you can respond appropriately in the event of an incident, be it by braking early or simply steering out of the way. When there's bad weather, following distances should be increased, too, to circumvent slippery road conditions and poor visibility.
The golden rule for driving in the USA, after keep right and pass left, is to make sure you remember and follow all road signs and rules of the road. It should go without saying, but law and order is important - following the rules makes the roads a safer place to be, and if everyone follows the rules, it makes it easier to predict how people will behave, making your own life behind the wheel far less stressful.
One of the most important things you can do after getting into a car, after setting your seating position and adjusting your mirrors, is to put on your seatbelt. Seatbelts are simple, but are one of the most important safety measures in a modern car, securing you in place in the event of a collision. In conjunction with other safety systems like airbags, they prevent broken bones and fatalities, and particularly for children, they can be lifesavers. They act by slowing down the negative G-forces felt in an impact instead of allowing you to meet a solid object at speed.
Did you know? The current 3-point seatbelt design was originally patented by Volvo in 1959. After that, the Swedish automaker gave the manufacturers of the world free license to use the technology because of how vitally important it is.
It seems to be a lost art, but learning how to parallel park is important. It's a daunting task at first, but in the long run, it'll mean that no parking lot is your master, and you'll never not be able to find a spot. It's also important to learn how to reverse park - yes, it might be easier to drive straight into a parking bay, but reverse parking is a safer bet as it means you have clear visibility when you need to leave and don't have to worry about reversing into the path of an obnoxious driver who refuses to slow down.
This isn't just one of those basic driving rules or safe driving tips, it's the difference between life and death or a lifetime spent in prison. Alcohol impairs your judgment and reduces your ability to respond to emergencies quickly, turning a one-second response time into a... you've crashed before you can finish the sentence. Just don't do it. A night of fun isn't worth taking a life or losing yours.
Driving is about more than just seeing where you're going. If you smell something burning or hear tires screeching, these are all vital inputs that can help you make a split-second decision to save your own life in a tricky situation. Be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of your car. If you smell anything funny or feel any vibrations, trust your instincts that something may be wrong.
As important as it is to be responsible and obey the traffic rules and regulations, it is important to remember that you are not the police and it is not your responsibility to enforce the law on others. Mind your own business, and if someone else is driving recklessly, move out of their way. There's no point making them angry, aggressive, and even more reckless, as they'll either lose their temper and you'll get caught up in a road rage incident or you'll get caught up in whatever accident they cause.
Learning to drive is an exciting and daunting feat. There are many rules of driving one needs to learn, and of course, you have to get used to the car you're driving and the world around you. But becoming a confident driver is a process that requires dedication and commitment. A driver's license may be a gateway to freedom, but it's also a license to wield a high-speed weapon, and this fact should never be forgotten.
When wondering how to become a better driver, there are a few key points to remember: always look to improve your driving, always pay attention, and never get too complacent. By continually learning and understanding that you don't know everything, you'll be one of the best drivers around in no time.
Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, so it's important to spend time behind the wheel, getting used to how a car responds, how it feels, and getting comfortable with what it feels like to pilot a moving vehicle. There are other ways to improve, too, like taking advanced or defensive driving courses, which we highly recommend.
Long-distance driving is one of the trickiest challenges you'll face when you get your license because it's difficult to concentrate for extended periods of time and easy to lose focus. Importantly, stay hydrated, make sure you stop to rest frequently, and where possible, try to drive during the day to make the experience as stress-free as possible. Sharing driving responsibilities with another driver is always advisable, too.
Firstly, we'd advise you to take advanced driving courses annually to improve your skillset. Secondly, follow the basic rules - don't speed, listen to the rules of the road, keep a safe following distance, and always be aware of your surroundings. Follow the basics and you'll be fine.
Simply put, don't do either. Both are equally dangerous as they impair your judgment and can lead to you falling asleep, getting distracted, and ultimately, causing a severe accident. Just don't do it.