Like every other skill, driving skills take time to improve. You need enough hours behind the wheel to build muscle memory to help you stay in control and recognize potentially dangerous situations before they occur.
Getting your permit's the first step, but it takes time in the car to build skills in real life.
Best Places and Times to Practice Driving
One of the best places to start building driving skills is after hours in your school’s parking lot — when it’s empty. Many drivers start there to learn the basics of maneuvering a vehicle effectively. Once you’ve done that, you can move on to gradually increasing the difficulty.
For example, you can progress through various scenarios that all provide different experiences and challenges, such as:
Parking lots that are in use
Each of these can be stressful for new drivers, especially the first few times they tackle them, so it helps to build layer by layer before jumping into the more complex locations like busy city streets or high-speed, congested freeway driving.
Once you’ve gained confidence in each of these scenarios, you'll also want to practice other conditions you'll encounter, such as driving at night or driving during wet and rainy conditions.
Techniques for Practicing Your Driving Skills
As you practice your driving skills, you'll gain valuable experience in navigating different situations under different conditions. However, some overall techniques are essential.
Turn off cell phones, don’t fiddle with the radio, and make sure you maintain focus on driving. Make sure you're buckled up, too. According to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA), more than half of all teen driving fatalities involved a driver that wasn't using their seat belt.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
You need to be constantly scanning the road for what’s happening around you. Even if you drive perfectly, accidents can happen because of what other drivers do.
Anticipate Potential Problems
When you see what’s happening around you, you need to think about potential problems. For example, what happens if the driver in front of you suddenly stomps on their brake or the car next to you changes lanes and cuts you off? You need to think about what you need to do to avoid a collision. Is there enough space to stop safely? Can you safely change lanes to avoid a crash?
Know the Rules of the Road
When you’re driving, you don’t want to have to think about what a sign means or who has the right of way. You need to know the rules of the road ahead of time so you can react appropriately. You need to understand all of the traffic signs and how things like speed limits, roadway configurations, and intersections change as you drive down the road.
You'll likely make a few mistakes when you’re learning. That’s another reason why practice is so important. You want to make any mistakes when you’re driving with an adult or instructor before you ever drive solo. They can help make sure you stay safe while helping you learn how to correct mistakes.
Driving Skills Takes Practice
No matter how well you do in the beginning, driving is a skill that takes a lot of practice. Most states require a certain number of hours behind the wheel, ranging from 20 to 50 hours, before you can get your license. However, it takes more than that to become a proficient and safe driver.
The more hours you log, the better prepared you'll be when it’s time to start driving on your own.
DriversEd.com can get you started with online driver’s ed courses that let you learn at your pace and be better prepared.