Top Driving Tips for Beginners

Are you new behind the wheel? It can be an intimidating experience for sure. Whether you’ve already learned the basics in driving school, or you’re getting ready to drive a car for the very first time, these tips will give you a head start on becoming a confident driver. 

Study the rules of the road

Experienced drivers know that driving laws are there to keep everyone safe, and part of learning how to drive comes before you even sit in that driver’s seat. The Arizona Department of Transportation has put together this guide to help you learn everything beginner drivers in our state need to know, and our courses also teach this important information in a classroom setting (in person or online). 

Set up your “cockpit” properly

Nope, you’re not flying a plane, but just as a pilot needs to access all the controls to properly operate the plane, a driver in a vehicle also needs to be in the optimal position. Adjust your seating position so that you can reach the brake and gas pedals and the steering wheel. Adjust your rearview mirror and side mirrors, as well. 

Hold the steering wheel correctly

The safest way to grasp the steering wheel is in the 9 and 3 position with both hands and with your elbows slightly bent. If your arms are straight, then you should move your seat up until it allows for that slight bend. This positioning will help you keep the steering wheel steady. 

Be a courteous, considerate and communicative driver

Even though you’re inside an enclosed vehicle, courtesy to others matters. Show courtesy by passing appropriately, being patient, and by using your turn signals to communicate your intent to other drivers on the road when you’re turning or changing lanes. 

Pay attention to what other drivers are doing

Distracted driving isn’t safe driving, but defensive driving is. Even if other drivers neglect to use their turn signals, watch for other signs that they may be about to make a turn or do some other maneuver. Be aware of cars in front of you and keep an eye out for braking. 

Drive a safe speed

Often, a safe speed means driving the speed limit, but some situations (including weather, traffic and construction) call for driving much slower than the posted speed limit. On the other hand, driving much slower than the speed limit can sometimes be a hazard. As you gain more experience, you’ll learn how to “read” conditions and understand how fast (or slow) you need to go to be safe. 

Maintain a good following distance

Even when it can be tough to do so in traffic, keeping an adequate distance between you and the car in front of you is important for ensuring proper reaction time, allowing you to respond by braking, slowing down or steering safely to avoid a collision. Start with the three-second rule and extend that if conditions call for a greater distance.

Obey all road signs

You’ll need to be fluent in road signs to get your driving permit, but your responsibility doesn’t end there. Always obey all road signs, safety signals, pavement markings, and other things that tell you what the rules of the road are. 

Know that parking will come with practice

It’s not just parallel parking that is tricky for beginning drivers (and even some experienced drivers). The maneuvers you have to perfect to pull into any parking spot are different from those you will use on the road. As with anything involved in driving, practice is the key to successfully performing those skills. 

Never drive impaired

Drinking and driving don’t mix, and the same goes for drugs and driving. Substances impair the judgment, alertness and reaction time you need to drive safely. Even if you think you’ll be ok to drive after drinking, just don’t do it. 

Here’s our final tip for beginning drivers: Complete a course offering in-car instruction with certified, experienced instructors. Learn more about what we offer at Stop and Go Driving School.