How To Drive a Car: A 9-Step Guide to Driving on Your Own

teenage boy driver holding the car's steering wheel

Last year, in 2019, according to Statista, there were approximately 276 million vehicles on US roads. Driving has become deeply rooted in our culture and for many of us, driving is necessary to keep up with the transportation demands of our modern lifestyle.

If you are a new driver the first thing you need to know about how to drive a car is that it isn't always as easy as it looks. Take the time to develop your skills and knowledge to become a good driver. We put together this step-by-step guide to help you become a better driver right from the start.

How to Drive a Car

Driving a car has many advantages including freedom of movement and the ability to help others with their transportation needs. Along with the advantages come risk and responsibility towards the others on the road and in your vehicle. Follow these steps to not only know how to drive a car but to learn the best way to drive a car responsibly.

STEP 1: Always Do While Driving

Like everything in life, driving has room for personal preference and style, but there are some things all drivers should do while driving to keep the roads safer for everyone.

Wear a Seatbelt

Seatbelts save lives, but only if you wear them. Front seat passengers should always wear their seatbelt and wear it properly. Drivers and front-seat passengers that wear a seatbelt reduce their risk of serious injury by 50 percent and risk of death by 45 percent.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Keep your eyes and ears focused on the road and everything that is around your car at all times. Defensive drivers avoid accidents by staying out of situations that are high risk.

Keep a safe distance from other cars and pedestrians. An emergency situation can happen in a fraction of a second so be ready for a sudden unexpected movement of cars, bikes, and pedestrians around your car.

Perform Checks and Make Adjustments

Before you head out on the road, take some time to properly adjust your seat. Check your rearview and side mirrors and adjust them if needed. It is a good idea to do a walk around the car and check if your tires are low.

Check your tire pressure and make sure you have enough oil, water, windshield wiper fluid, etc. Most break downs can be avoided by regular checks and proper maintenance of the vehicle.

If you find anything out of the ordinary take your car into a mechanic immediately. A car is a complicated piece of technology and many things can go wrong, but if you take care of your car, it will take care of you.

STEP 2: Know and Follow the Laws of the Road

Ignorance is no defense for breaking the laws of the road. Study the local traffic laws and be sure you are always following them. The laws are there for everyone's safety, and breaking the rules could lead to fines, jail, suspension of your driver's license, or worse, death or injury of yourself and others. 

STEP 3: Know Your Car

There are two main types of cars you might drive. There are automatic transmission cars and manual transmission cars. The automatic is, by far, the easier of the two to learn how to drive. A manual transmission, often called a stick-shift, requires the driver to manually change the gears and adds a layer of complexity to driving the car.

Although you don't have to be a professional driver or a car mechanic to drive, knowing the basics of how a car works will help you to drive better and safer. Does your car have anti-lock brakes? Does your car have a 4-Wheel drive? What are the warning lights and the gauges for your vehicle?

Taking the time to become familiar with all the functions and parts of your car will give you a sense of confidence and comfort while driving. The last thing you want when driving is an unexpected situation like rain and the confusion and loss of focus looking for the windshield wipers while you're driving would bring.

STEP 4: Practice

As they say, practice makes perfect. Every drive is an opportunity to gain valuable experience and hone your driving skills. It is normal for a new driver to be nervous at first and the only way to get over this feeling is to gain experience through practice.

Don't be so proud as to not ask for help and guidance from more experienced older drivers. It may take months for you to feel comfortable behind the wheel without someone with you to assist if you need it. Driving is one of the most dangerous things we do in life so best to error on the side of caution and there is no shame in acknowledging that your inexperience puts you at a higher risk for car accidents.

STEP 5: Use Your Horn

Always keep in mind that just because you are following the traffic laws doesn't mean that other drivers always will. Keep your eye out for other drivers that might unexpectedly change lanes or ignore traffic signs. When a driver is unknowingly putting yourself or others in danger honk your horn to warn them.

STEP 6: Be Polite

We all need to share the roads with each other. In civil society, we are courteous to our neighbors and we expect to be treated with respect in return.  Avoid unneeded arguments and confrontations on the road.

If someone needs your lane, let them in with a nod and a smile. Always be willing to communicate your intentions when you are driving and be willing to ask other drivers of their intentions.  Polite communication between drivers on the roads goes a long way to a safer and better driving experience for us all.

STEP 7: Learn the Roads

Roads are like fingerprints, not one the same as another. Learn which roads have potholes, speed bumps, blind curves, and sudden rises or falls. The more familiar with your routes and the roads you drive on the more comfortable and enjoyable your driving will be.

One of the biggest pressures we face when driving is how we get to where we are going with the least amount of time and effort. Study the roads and routes you drive frequently. Learn alternative routes in case of traffic or detours. 

STEP 8: Be a Legal Driver

Driving is a privilege and not a right. There are rules you have to follow to get and keep your driving privileges.

Driver's license

If you don't already have a driver's license you will need to get one to legally drive a motor vehicle in The United States. In order to qualify for a driver's license, you will need to show you have the knowledge and ability to drive safely and responsibly. A written exam and a driving test are standard procedure for getting a driver's license.   

Registration

The car you're driving must be registered with the appropriate government agencies and the title and tags in proper order. Make sure that the car you drive is legal to avoid any costly fines and inconvenient traffic stops.

Insurance

Car insurance is not only a smart policy of being prepared for unfortunate accidents resulting in costly damages but in the case of liability insurance, it's the law. Teen driver insurance is more expensive so it pays to shop around and get the best rates.

STEP 9: Never Do While Driving

Step one was what all drivers should do. Step nine is the things drivers should never do. 38,800 people died in car accidents in the United States in 2019. Learning how to drive should start with safety and end with safety. That is how important it is.

Never Drive Tired

Drowsy driving is a leading cause of car accident fatalities and the leading cause of single-car accidents. Falling asleep at the wheel is as scary as it sounds. If you feel drowsy don't risk it. Pullover and get some sleep.

Never Drive Angry

It can be frustrating and irritating when other drivers disrespect you or the laws of the road. Road rage is a real thing and can happen to any of us. An angry driver is more likely to lose patience and make dangerously rash decisions. Never drive angry.

Never Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

Alcohol and drugs dull the senses and make driving an extremely dangerous proposition. Driving while intoxicated is considered a crime in every state in the country. If you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, never drive. 

Never Drive Distracted

All drivers fight the temptation to multitask while driving. Life has a way of getting busy and there are many things you might want to do while you're driving to save time, but please don't drive distracted.

Anything that takes your attention off your driving, even for a second, has the potential to cause an accident. Every day in The USA, 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers. Many of these accidents take the lives of the distracted drivers themselves.

Avoid these common distractions to stay safe:

  • texting or instant messaging
  • talking on the phone
  • watching TV, movies, or videos
  • putting on makeup
  • eating food
  • talking with passengers

You Are Driving Now

Learning to drive is a lifetime undertaking. Be in the mindset of safety and respect for other drivers and pedestrians on the road. A responsible driver gains the freedom and convenience of their own transportation and the satisfaction and confidence that freedom brings.

Don't take driving for granted, stay safe, don't abuse the privilege, and take the time to enjoy the ride. Now that you know how to drive a car, what else do you want to know how to do? Read more articles on the site and learn how to do anything your heart desires and learn what your mind wants to know.

 

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