Part 2 of 4: Getting the Basics Down
Always start your car with your foot on the brake. When you turn it on, a car will move forward automatically if your foot isn’t on the brake. With your foot on the brake in starting position, you’re ready to start driving!
Put on your seatbelt. In most places in the world, driving without a seatbelt is illegal. Seatbelts greatly reduce the possibility of serious injury or death if you happen to get in an accident.
Turn on the engine and release the parking brake, if necessary. Put your keys in the ignition, which is usually to the right side of the steering wheel, and turn clockwise. Note that in some newer vehicles, provided the keys are actually inside the car, all you need to do is push the “Power” or “Ignition” button for the engine to start. Fancy!
Learn how to back your car out. If your car is parked in a lot or a driveway, chances are you’re going to need to back your car out in order to begin driving. Although it may seem intimidating, there are only a couple of things for you to remember:
- Put your car in Reverse and double-check. If your car isn’t in Reverse, your car won’t go backward.
- Look over your shoulder and turn your head to get a good view of where you’re going.
- Gently remove your foot from the brake pedal and do not put your foot on the acceleration. For your first couple times backing out, don’t worry about putting your foot on the acceleration. You can move your car simply by removing your foot from the brake. Your car will move slowly, but you won’t risk accidentally running into something or someone.
- Remember that the steering wheel is “reversed” in Reverse. When driving your car forward, if you turn the steering wheel to the right, your car will also turn to the right, and vice versa. This is because your wheels turn that way. When going in reverse, turning the steering wheel to the right will make your car turn to the left, while turning the steering wheel to the left will make your car turn to the right. Keep this in mind as you back your car out.
- Use your brake whenever you need to slow down. Press your foot gently but firmly on the brake pedal to slow the car down.
When you’re ready to move your car forward, come to a complete stop and shift the car into Drive. Put your foot on the brake pedal, shift your car into Drive so that it can begin to move forward, and then take your foot off the brake pedal. Slowly press down on the acceleration pedal with your foot to get the car to move forward. Accelerate until you’ve reached the speed limit, and then take your foot off the acceleration, hovering it over the brake pedal in case you need to start breaking.
Hold both hands on the steering wheel at the “9 and 3” position. Image that the steering wheel is a clock. Place your left hand where the 9 would be on a clock, and your right hand where the 3 would be on a clock. Especially for beginners, do not try to hold the steering wheel with only one hand.
Use your blinkers. Your blinkers are flashing red lights on either side of the car’s rear, next to the brake lights. They are really important in driving. They let other cars know that your switching lanes or turning. The blinker switch is located on the left side of the steering wheel. Press it up to turn to activate your right blinkers (for turning or switching lanes to the right) or press it down to activate your left blinkers (for turning or switching lanes to the left).
Learn how to turn the car using the hand over hand method. Turning is quite easy once you get the hang of it. Like most things in driving, it’s very intuitive. If you only need to turn the car slightly, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to turn but try keeping your hands at the 9 and 3 position.
- If you’re making a harder turn, use the “hand over hand” method. Say you’re turning right. Turn the steering wheel clockwise, leading with the right hand. When your right hand gets to the 4 or 5 position, release it and cross it over your left hand. Re-grip the wheel and continue your turn.
- To straighten out the car after a turn, simply loosen your grip in both hands and the steering wheel will automatically begin correcting itself. Apply more pressure to slow down the correction; apply less pressure to speed it up. Your hands should stay stationary as the steering wheel moves back to its original spot.
Learn how to switch lanes. At some point in your driving, you’ll need to switch from one lane to another, sometimes quickly. Doing so is easy, but you have to remember to indicate with your blinkers to let other drivers know that you’re planning on switching lanes. Here are some things to keep in mind while you switch lanes:
- Indicate with your blinkers for at least two seconds before beginning to switch lanes. This lets other drivers know what you are planning to do.
- Quickly scan your mirrors and look over your shoulder to check for any cars in your blind spot(s). Don’t just rely on your mirrors to tell you where other cars are; use your eyes to quickly look for yourself before actually switching lanes.
- Slowly move the car into the other lane. Turn your hands on the steering wheel ever so slightly in order to change lanes. It’s a very slight movement. It should take anywhere from 1 to 3 seconds for you to change lanes. Any less and you’re doing it too quickly; any more and you’re doing it too slowly.
Stay a healthy distance behind other cars (don’t tailgate). How far you should stay behind the next car in front of you depends on how fast you are traveling. You want to give yourself and your car 2 to 5 seconds to react, depending on your comfort level. If the car in front of you were to abruptly come to a halt, at your current speed, would you have enough time to both react and calmly slow your car down without rear-ending the car in front of you?
- To judge this, watch as the care in front of you passes a fixed object on the road, like a billboard. As soon as the car passes that object, begin counting: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand…. How many seconds does it take for your car to pass the same object on the road?
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