Taking a driver's education course can be lots of fun, especially if you opt for an online driver's education class that lets you learn the rules of the road from the comfort and convenience of your own home.
But once you complete the in-class educational component of driver's education and learn everything you ever wanted to know about road safety, the next step to being comfortable with road safety and applying your driver's education knowledge is obvious: Get behind the wheel to practice everything that was preached.
But where do you start? Is it safe to just get behind the wheel and drive?
That's where parents come in. Once you have your learner's permit, you'll be eligible to get behind the wheel as long as someone with a driver's license and years of experience is in the front seat with you. Here are some tips on some great places to start learning how to drive.
Start in an Empty Parking Lot
Empty parking lots can help simulate a real-world road environment while minimizing the dangers that come with actually being out on the road. One of the best places to start learning how to drive is in a school parking lot after hours. Wait until it is the weekend, later in the evening or over a holiday and the school parking lot will likely be empty. You can also typically find an empty parking lot by going to a closed shopping center.
The first time a driver's education student gets behind the wheel could very well be with his or her parent. Having never been behind the wheel of a car before, the last thing you want is to be out in the middle of a busy intersection without being comfortable operating a motor vehicle.
A wide open parking lot can help you get comfortable with steering, stepping on the gas, braking and turning. Sure, you've heard how to properly make that left turn in a driver's education class. But talking about it and actually doing it are two completely different things. You'll be able to get a feel for how a vehicle actually responds to human control in a safer environment.
What's more, with all those empty parking spaces, you've got the perfect opportunity to practice parking. Make a right turn into a spot. Make a left turn into a spot. Back into a spot. Do a three-point-turn to turn around. The possibilities for applying your driver's education knowledge are endless.
You can even turn that parking lot into a simulated main street. Set up pylons and simulate parked vehicles, pedestrians, curbs, stop signs, traffic lights and other things that you'd experience out on the road. This will help you prepare for your in-car driver's education class before you get out on the road in a real-world environment.
Move up to More Crowded Parking Lots
Once you are feeling comfortable with the basics of driving (steering, braking, turning, reversing, parking) move up to a larger, more crowded parking lot. You can go to a mall or a shopping center during business hours.
Take the skills you are learning and start using them around other drivers. Now, instead of parking in an empty lot, try parking next to an already parked car. Then reverse out with another row of cars behind you.
You can circle around the parking lot and pretend they are actual streets. There are several areas in parking lots that act as small intersections. The important piece is to start feeling comfortable with other vehicles on the road.
Practice on Various Types of Road
Make sure that you practice driving on different types of road such as asphalt, dirt, and gravel. The car will handle differently on different types of roads so it's important to get a good feeling for each. You may notice the steering and accelerating will vary depending on the road.
Find back roads that aren't as commonly traveled to practice your driving skills on these different road types.
Find Roads with Different Speed Limits
Drive on roads with varied speed limits so you can start to get use to how it feels to travel at 25 mph versus 35 mph, versus 40 mph. Once you have enough practice you'll be able to get a good sense of your speed without even looking at the speedometer.
For now, just practice at one speed until you get comfortable with it and then move to a faster speed until you get comfortable with it. Remember to move back to the slower speed afterwards so you can get a good sense of how it feels at each speed.
Drive on Roads with Different Weather and Visibility Conditions
Practice driving in different weather and visibility conditions. Try driving in rain and snow. The road is much different when there is rain or snow, especially if it is the first rain of the season. You should also make sure you can put on the proper snow equipment such as cables or chains.
You should also practice driving at night. Driving at night adds new challenges because of the decreased visibility and the need to be extra cautious of other drivers and pedestrians.
Once you are feeling comfortable with driving in the rain and driving at night you should combine the two. Though it is more difficult to drive at night in the rain it is an important skill to have and a situation you will likely come across often.
Practice Using Freeway On and Off Ramps
Once you have mastered the basics of driving on varying road types with varying speed limits and in different weather and visibility conditions you should move on to the freeway. Start by getting use to entering and exiting the freeway. Enter the freeway and then take the next exit, you can loop back around and do the reverse. Make sure you feel very comfortable with getting on and off the freeway and getting up to freeway speed.
Remember, when it comes to applying everything you've learned in driver's education, safety always comes first. Even when practicing in an empty parking lot, always exercise caution and be sure that you are obeying the rules of the road and the laws in your area.
Drive safe, no matter where your car may take you.