Remember when you finally reached driving age? You might have felt ready to jump behind the wheel and drive yourself to freedom. 

Of course, it didn’t happen so fast. You had to take all the necessary steps and put in the time and practice toward learning how to drive. Fast forward to however many years and driving miles later, and driving might feel like second nature. 

In reality, though, sometimes the more we do something, the more we forget. We fall into poor habits or don’t bother to take the time for proper preparation. This is often the case for experienced drivers. 

New drivers, too, need solid time and attention to the basics before they can hit the road safely. At least 77% of crashes are the result of driver error, so every driver needs to exercise vigilance, no matter how experienced they are.

Whether you’re new to driving or have years of experience under your (seat) belt, it’s time to brush up on some driving basics. 

Basic #1: Get to know your car. 

Safe driving starts before you even start driving, right in your driveway or parking spot. 

The controls: One of the first things you learned was the difference between the acceleration pedal and the brake pedal, but what other features and functions does your car have? Some functions you’ll need to access while the car is in motion, so it’s critical to know exactly where these are and how to operate them, before you even start your car. These include windshield wiper controls (and varying speeds); headlights, high beams, and driving light switches; and turn signal levers. 

Get to know the other various buttons and controls that are accessible from the cockpit. If you have to, pull out the owners manual. You might be surprised at what you learn.

The seatbelts: Make any necessary adjustments to your seatbelt, moving the D-ring up and down where the belt is installed near the car door, so that it fits properly across your chest. Know where all the seat belts in your car are located so you can help passengers find them. 

Your seat: Your stomach should be 10 inches from the steering wheel, and you should be able to reach and depress the pedals easily with your feet. Adjust the base of your seat so that it’s high enough for you to have a full view out the windshield. Don’t forget the headrest: The top should be three inches below the top of your head for maximum safety.

Your mirrors: Check your rearview mirror and your side mirrors and make necessary adjustments. Your rearview mirror should enable you to have as complete a view as possible out the back window without moving your head or straining your seating position. Your side mirrors should give you just a glimpse of the sides of your car, so you have a sense of where your car is in relation to other cars and objects. 

The steering wheel: You should be able to hold your hands on the steering wheel in the “9 o’clock and 3 o’clock” position. (This is a change from the “10 and 2” position you may have learned if you started driving a number of years ago.) The steering wheel should be no higher than the top of your shoulders. 

Basic #2: Stick to Safe Driving Behaviors

Being a safe driver involves a number of consistent, timely steps and actions, and it takes practice to know what adjustments to make to adapt to different driving conditions and environments. 

Scan and pay attention: Being acutely aware of what’s going on around your vehicle is part of defensive driving. Even though you may be isolated in your car, your maneuvers impact others, and vice versa. Always pay attention to the total traffic scene, both what’s immediately around you and what’s in the visible distance. 

Maintain safe speeds: Know the posted speed limit for the road you’re driving on, and maintain a safe speed for whatever driving conditions you’re in. Driving too fast or too slow can cause problems and lead to a collision. 

Check your blind spots: Make it a habit to always check your blind spot by casting a brief glance over your shoulder in the direction you intend to move. Because 40 percent of your vehicle’s outer perimeter is hidden by blind spots, this one is essential for steering clear of collisions. 

Use your turn signal: Many experienced drivers skip this step when changing lanes or turning, but it’s critical (and it’s the law) to signal your intentions to other drivers so they can anticipate your moves. 

Maintain a safe distance: A three-second following distance is the rule of thumb. You may have learned otherwise in drivers ed, but that is today’s recommendation for optimal conditions. Increase this following distance if you’re driving in weather, traffic, or other conditions to allow for adequate stopping time. 

Brush up on your driving skills with the help of a driving instructor from Stop and Go Driving School. We’re here to make sure you have the know-how you need to stay safe on the road. Contact us today.