Confidence behind the wheel is something that is often unreasonably inflated. We’ve all seen “righteous” behaviour of drivers during road rage incidents, all of whom are so confident in their driving skills.
The truth is, even those that are actually really good drivers were beginners once, filled with doubt, fear and lack of confidence. There is no shame in that, even though you may get that feeling. Regardless of your talent, you will need a lot of experience and kilometres under your belt before you can objectively be a good driver.
Luckily, we are here to help our novice drivers with some tips to keep them safe and get their confidence up faster. Here are some basic tips that will help you keep up with the traffic as a new driver and develop your skills and safety faster.
1. Be Comfortable
It cannot be overstated how important it is to set the car the way you like it. Even if you are not driving your vehicle, an extra minute or two for this will mean a lot. Get close enough to the steering wheel, elevate or lower the seat, angle the seatback to your liking, adjust the steering wheel reach and rake.
Make sure you also adjust all mirrors in a way that suits your height and sitting position. Almost each and every one of these points can have a list of tasks to perfect it, so we’ll leave that for another article.
In short, you need to be able to see all the mirrors with minimal head movement, you need to be comfortable and you need to be able to reach all the controls, including the pedals, without stretching too much. Adjust everything with three two points in mind.
2. Be Focused
Put your phone down, no argument about that. However, being a novice driver, you need to be focused as much as possible, so make sure you do the small things as well.
For example, find your favourite radio station and fasten your seatbelt before you start driving, not during. In short, make sure you are focused on driving alone. Many of these things are second nature to seasoned drivers, but they require conscious effort from beginners.
3. Use Mirrors
Yes, we’ve mentioned mirrors before, but we have to emphasize how important it is to be aware of your surroundings.
You will look at your mirrors 100 times for nothing, but the first time a biker swishes past you right at the moment you are about to turn, you will understand just how important it is to always know what is going on behind you and on the sides.
The sooner this becomes second nature for you, the better, so make sure you give it a bit extra conscious effort in the beginning until it becomes second nature.
4. Use Indicators
There’s nobody behind you, you can turn without the signals. Wrong! Always make sure you use your turn signals.
The fact that you don’t see anyone does not mean there’s nobody around, especially in the city. Maybe there’s someone driving very fast that’s not in your mirror now, but will be there in two seconds or maybe there’s a pedestrian getting ready to cross the street and has no idea you’re turning.
Maybe someone else is also turning in the same street but hasn’t indicated. All of these things are accidents waiting to happen that can be avoided with a simple turn signal.
5. Keep Your Distance
There is absolutely no reason to glue your car’s front to another car’s rear while driving and there are so many reasons why this is a terrible idea. The three-second rule is your easiest bet for developing a feel for being too close. Some cars also come with indicators that can tell you if you are driving too close and react, like the Mercedes Benz latest models.
Any closer and you won’t be able to stop in time if the car in front of you jams on the break.
Tailgating is dangerous.
6. Obey Speed Limits
Yes, we all know some speed restrictions, especially in the city, may seem too strict and you may rightfully feel you can drive faster through a particular straight and empty street.
What you cannot do while driving faster is stop in time when a child or an animal runs out into the street. Speed limits are not just about keeping control over the car. They are also about having enough time to react.
The first sudden scare will teach you this with ease, but why not prevent a potential accident before it happens. There’s a reason limits are the way they are even when that reason is not obvious.
7. Don’t Be Embarrassed
Whatever happens, take your time and make sure you do things with attention. You messed up gears and your car shuts down in the middle of a busy city intersection? Other drivers are getting nervous, they start using the horn.
You are trying to parallel park and it’s taking too long? Who cares? Keep calm, make sure you know what you are doing. Rushing and panicking in these situations is a recipe for adding more issues, not solving the existing one.
8. Don’t Risk It
You think you probably can, but you’re not sure you can pass the traffic light before it turns red? Stop.
You’re not sure your car will fit in the parking spot? Find another one.
You’re not sure you can overtake in time? Wait for the next opportunity.
Don’t put your life at risk just to shave off a few seconds.
9. Weather Is Important
So, you’ve driven through this road a bunch of times, you know you can go at a certain speed, sure it’s a bit faster and your car leans a bit while turning, but that makes it more fun and you know you can do it. You’ve done it a hundred times. But it wasn’t raining back then.
Wet roads can dramatically change your driving conditions in a split second. Make sure your tyres are in good condition and check out our tips on driving in wet weather conditions.
Whatever you recognize as your weak spot, find a safe area and practice. If you have to look at the gear lever while shifting, find an empty parking and practice shifting without looking.
There you can make a mistake. If you have problems parking, make yourself some soft borders that won’t damage your car if you touch them and practice. You’ll get good really quickly, just accept that you need practice.
11. Get to Know Your Car
Get the feel for the brakes, the length of the bonnet and the boot, the width of the car, throttle response, gearbox, body roll and similar. This will give you lots of confidence in everyday driving.
12. Make Sure Your Car Is In a Good Condition
This should go without saying, but somehow it escapes many drivers. A buffer between a save and an accident is usually very small and bad brake discs, broken indicators or a dead horn can make you cross that line in a second.
For us, driving is not just a necessity, but a passion as well. But it takes responsibility, care and experience to truly enjoy driving. We hope these tips will give you some ideas, maybe introduce some points you did not consider and help you grow well-founded confidence that is a must for every good driver.