Learning to drive can be both thrilling and downright terrifying. You’re excited for the freedom of having a driver’s license, but getting behind the wheel for the first time is a big step.
If you’re taking advantage of the convenience and affordability of an online driving school (whether for teen drivers or adults), you may not have access to a designated practice driving course. But you can still find safe environments to practice driving. Start easy in places with zero traffic, and as your confidence grows, you’ll feel comfortable moving up to busier areas.
Here are the seven best places to practice driving.
1. Big Empty Parking Lots
For your very first time behind the wheel, there’s no better place to practice driving than a big empty parking lot. You’ll be able to get a feel for driving with minimal risk of hitting anything.
Stadiums, college campuses, and industrial parks are all excellent options; you just need to time your practice session when the parking lots will be empty. Even in cities that use parking garages rather than lots, the top levels of above-ground garages are often completely empty.
Take advantage of this time to practice accelerating, braking, turning, and yes, parking.
2. In-Use Parking Lots
Once you’ve mastered the empty parking lot, it’s time to upgrade to parking lots in use. This will give you practice watching for pedestrians and other vehicles. And because of the low speeds in parking lots, there’s still very little risk.
3. Suburban Streets
Time to get into the real world! Suburban streets are an excellent place to practice driving because you get to experience real-world driving conditions with the safety of comparatively little traffic and wide streets.
Here you can practice following posted speed limits, using intersections, and changing lanes.
3. Rural Highways
Rural highways are a good introduction to driving at higher speeds. Like the suburbs, rural highways offer comparatively little traffic, so you get the benefit of learning to share the road without being overwhelmed with other vehicles.
Rural highways are a good place to practice maintaining higher speeds, passing slower vehicles, and driving at night (when you can practice using your high-beam lights).
5. Small Towns
The “downtown” areas of small towns offer a solid introduction to some real traffic. These areas can get quite busy, but with speed limits of around 30 mph, they give you some time to react to the traffic around you. And, unlike large cities, the pace of life in small towns is typically slower, so other drivers may be a little more patient with you.
Small towns give you a chance to get the complete day-to-day driving experience in a comparatively low-risk environment.
6. City Streets
If you live in a city, you need to get comfortable driving around your city. City driving can be stressful because of the amount of traffic, the pedestrians and bicyclists, the narrow streets, and an excess of one-way streets. So invest some time in practicing your driving in the city while you have an experienced driver in the passenger’s seat.
Even if you don’t live in a big city, it’s worth taking a practice drive through the nearest city. Many drivers in rural communities put off driving in cities, and with each passing year, the idea of driving in a big city becomes more daunting. Tackle city driving early so you can get over that mental hurdle.
7. The Freeway or Interstate
The freeway or interstate may not be your first choice on a list of places to practice driving, but it should still make your list. Just like with city streets, interstates or freeways are a good practice spot because you’ll very likely need to drive there at some point.
Former driving instructor, Andrea Wilder, says that practicing driving on freeways is one of the most important things a student driver can do.
“Driving on the 10 (a busy freeway in Los Angeles) can be intimidating, so we want their first experience to be with the safety net of an experienced driver in the passenger seat," said Wilder.
Because of the intenseness of the experiences, Wilder says that driving on the freeway is one of the last practice driving sessions she takes students on. However, she also recommends that students continue practicing on the freeway or interstate with their parents to get comfortable before going out on their own.
Enroll in your online driver's ed course today and enjoy your driving practice!