If you’re thinking of learning to drive for the first time this year, it can be an exciting yet daunting experience. Carzone’s 2016 Motoring Report findings recorded that almost a third (29%) of Irish motorists took to the wheel at the age of 17, with the majority (41%) learning to drive between the ages of 17 – 20.
You may know all of the theory and rules of the road, but getting behind the wheel for the very first time is a completely different story.
The first time you sit in the driver’s seat you’ll be nervous; it’s only natural and the only way to overcome this is through practice! Practice appeared to make perfect for over half (57%) of Irish Motorists who boasted of passing their test first time round.
Here are our top five tips on getting yourself in gear
1. X marks the spot - Plan your route
Know exactly where you’re going and the route you’re taking. Stick to quiet roads or car parks and stay away from main roads and the motorway. Keep to familiar roads so there’ll be no surprises on your journey. If needs be, get a bicycle and cycle the route first so your 100% certain of the route. This will not only get you familiar with the route but it’ll also help you to see how other drivers act on the road.
2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable – Feel confident in your own abilities
Sit in the driver’s seat and get used to your surroundings. Adjust the seat so you can easily reach the pedals, and adjust the side and rear view mirrors AFTER you adjust your seat to where you want it. It’s also important to know all the basic controls and where to reach them quickly such as the windscreen wiper, windscreen washer, indicators and lights. When it comes to your lights, make sure you know how to operate them and when you should change the intensity, e.g. dipped and full-beam.
3. Note to self: Stay Focused - Remove all distractions from the car
Turn off the radio, turn off your phone and kick everyone out of the car (except the person that’s teaching you). The last thing you need is an audience when you’re learning to drive. Set your route and stick to it, and make the trip as simple as possible. Don’t drive in bad weather if it’s your first time, but once you’re more comfortable try to drive in all types of weather. You’ll never know what conditions you’ll have during your driving test, especially in Ireland.
4. Keep calm and know the rules – Knowledge is key
Make sure you know all the basic rules of the road and what different road signs mean. If you’re not sure, ask the person that’s with you. Make sure you have “L” Plates and don’t worry what other drivers are thinking about you, they were just like you once upon a time! At some stage while you’re learning to drive, you will get tailgated or beeped at, but just ignore it and don’t proceed unless you are 100% certain it’s safe to do so.
5. Back to Basics for strong foundations – Focus on the ‘simply’ stuff
As a complete beginner, you should focus on the most important things; moving, braking, turning and looking around. To begin with you will probably stall the car or jerk it as you accelerate and brake. Focus on getting smooth movements and stick with the same car as you learn; even experienced drivers have difficulty accelerating and braking when they get in an unfamiliar car. Turning also needs a smooth movement, and practice passing the wheel through your two hands rather than crossing them over as you turn. Finally, don’t stare as you drive. Scan the area in front of you and look out for any obvious dangers like cyclists, pedestrians and animals. Constantly check your surroundings in your mirrors too.