Learning to drive can be a stressful experience. On occasion, the act of driving can even strike fear into the hearts of experienced drivers. No matter how long you’ve been driving, watching a big semi-truck barreling down the freeway at high speed while you’re trying to merge into the right lane is enough to make anyone grip the steering wheel a bit tighter.
Fortunately, with enough time and practice anyone can learn how to be a confident driver and develop more trust in their roadway skills.
How to Be A Confident Driver: New Drivers
Learning to drive a car requires mastering many different skills, ranging from smooth acceleration and braking to driving in the rain, making sharp turns, backing up, parking, and more. The first tip in how to be a confident driver starts with practice, practice, and more practice. The more time you spend behind the wheel, the quicker you will develop the skills needed to feel confident when driving a car. Other tips include:
Start by practicing in an empty lot. When learning the basics of driving a car, you don’t want to be distracted or intimidated by other vehicles around you. Practicing in an empty parking lot will allow you to develop starting, stopping, steering, and other driving skills without worrying about hitting another car.
Move up to uncrowded roads. Once you master the basic driving skills in a parking lot, the next step on how to become a confident driver involves moving up to street driving. Don’t immediately jump to busy roads crowded with rush hour traffic. Instead, find streets with a minimum of vehicles on the road (early morning on weekends is a good time) and gradually get used to dealing with other drivers. As you become a more confident driver, begin honing your skills on streets and highways with more vehicles on them.
Practice with another driver. Always have an experienced driver in the car with you when first learning to drive. They can offer advice on how to handle situations you encounter and help you avoid mistakes. They can help you stay calm if a certain situation unnerves you. Perhaps most important, experienced drivers can help you become a more confident driver by reinforcing when you do things right.
Have a planned route. Always have a clear route in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going or how to get back once you get there, it can cause you to become distracted or nervous. Looking for street names scanning a GPS screen can take your focus off the act of driving, which isn’t good for any driver – new or experienced.
Be patient with yourself. Depending on how much you practice, it can take a few weeks or even months to be a confident driver. Don’t put pressure on yourself to become a confident driver overnight. Instead, relax, learn at your own pace, and you’ll be driving with confidence and skill before you know it.
How to Be A More Confident Driver: Next Steps
The next phase of development in your quest to become a more confident driver consists of the following skills:
Practice driving on different types of roads. You never know what kind of road conditions you might encounter as a driver, so it helps to experience them in advance. Practice driving on everything from narrow alleys and two-lane state highways to twisty-turny roads, steep hills, meandering country roads, and poorly paved roads with potholes in them.
Drive in different weather conditions. It is especially important to learn to drive in heavy rain, as this often requires different steering and braking techniques. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow in the winter, you will need to practice on that as well. Start out in light snowfalls and work your way up.
Drive different vehicles. This may seem like an unusual way to become a confident driver. However, it’s a good skill to have when you rent a car or need to borrow one from a family member or friend. Even if you don’t have one now, it doesn’t hurt to learn how to drive a stick shift. You might have the opportunity in the future, and many people enjoy the act of manually shifting gears. It can also come in handy when shopping for a new car and test-driving different models.
Start driving at night. If you’re a quick learner, you may have done this already. If not, it’s time to start developing this skill. Start in well-lit areas with moderate to little traffic, then move to busier streets and eventually dark roads. Learning how to deal with bright headlights coming in your direction is one of the most important skills nor nighttime driving.
Practice driving solo. Early on, it’s reassuring to have another person in the car with you. But, sooner or later you have to get comfortable driving by yourself. As when learning other driving skills, start with short drives in uncrowded areas and work your way up. Make sure you have plenty of freeway experience with someone else in the car before attempting to zip down the road at 65 to 75 mph with all the other drivers.
How to Become a Confident Driver: General Tips
By now you should be driving on a regular basis, with and without other people in the car. But there’s more to learn in order to be a confident driver.
Develop safe driving habits. This sounds like common sense, but developing good habits makes it easier to handle your car in a safe manner. For example, keep within the speed limit, don’t tailgate, avoid sudden lane changes at freeway speeds, always maintain a “safety zone” between your car and others. When these driving skills become instinctive, you will naturally have more confidence in your driving abilities.
Get to know your car. Know where everything is in your car and how it works – especially all the knobs and buttons on the dashboard or console. Today’s vehicles have more options than ever in regards to music, navigation, and hooking up your cell phone so you can talk hands-free. Driving is not the time to be figuring out how to use these tools. You should also be able to turn the lights, windshield wipers, air conditioning, and heater on and off without looking at them.
Practice defensive driving. Safe driving leads to confident driving. This includes being aware of what other drivers are doing around you and reacting accordingly. For example, if the car in front of you is weaving from side to side, slow down and let it get far ahead of you, or move over a lane or two. If you’re at a stoplight and yours turns green, make sure cars crossing in other directions are stopping before you proceed into the intersection.
Take an advanced driving course. Developing advanced driving skills is another good way to be a more confident driver. A quick Google search will turn up a variety of schools and courses available for all levels of drivers. Advanced defensive driving courses are especially good for dealing with situations regular drivers education doesn’t cover, such as how to react to a skid on black ice. They also teach how to make quick decisions in a variety of situations.
Driving is more fun when you have confidence in your abilities behind the wheel. Practice these tips and over time you’ll be a more confident driver, and a safer one. However, even the safest drivers can get in an accident. If your vehicle gets damage in an auto collision, bring it to Fix Auto for safe, professional auto body repairs.