As a new driver, you see the world in a new light, especially the roads and highways. Driving can be exciting, frustrating, and scary. We’ve created a guide of the essentials you’ll need to know to be successful on the road.

Practice, Practice, and More Practice

As a new driver, you can never practice too much. The more you drive, the more comfortable you will become with how driving feels and you’ll learn how to predict drivers better, allowing you to determine potential hazards better.

Since you’re a new driver, you may not have a lot of confidence when you’re driving, but as time progresses, you’ll find that driving can become easier. Many things, such as checking your mirrors, looking at signs, signaling, and other must-dos while driving will become second nature.

Be Mindful of the Speed Limit

Always keep the speed limit in mind. If you’re worrying about being late to your destination, leave the house at least 10-15 minutes earlier to account for traffic and possible detours. You can be ticketed for going 5 mph over the speed limit, so be mindful of your speed. Speeding increases the risk of accidents and jeopardizes everyone’s safety, so don’t speed! Even if people around you are speeding, don’t speed.

If you’re traveling at the posted speed limit, let other drivers get a speeding ticket. Stay in the middle to right lanes when you’re traveling on the highway. The left lane is known as the fast lane, and some drivers take it seriously! Your best bet is to stay out of their way.

Maintain a Safe Following Distance

Maintaining a safe following distance is essential for avoiding potential hazards and preventing accidents. Keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you gives you enough time to react, so you can minimize the risk of being involved in a rear-end collision.

Wear Your Seatbelt

Every driver is familiar with the rule, but we thought we’d mention it anyway. You’d be surprised at how many drivers don’t wear their seatbelts. Since you’re a new driver, everything that accompanies driving hasn’t become a habit yet, like wearing your seatbelt. So, get in the habit of putting your seatbelt on before you start the engine.

Maintain Your Focus

It’s easier than you realize to become distracted while driving. Texting, changing stations or songs on the radio, and eating are common distractions that a lot of drivers engage in. However, you should never text and drive. Distracted driving causes many fatalities each year. The CDC states that distracted driving causes over 2,500 fatalities each year. The call, text, and song can wait!

Use Your Mirrors

Using your mirrors is important because it helps you see your blind spots. However, you will have to perform a shoulder check to view some blind spots. When you’re driving, being aware of your surroundings is a must, so stay aware and alert.

Understanding Traffic Rules

Right-of-way traffic rules are confusing for a lot of new drivers. Make sure you yield correctly at intersections and follow all traffic rules. When you know who has the right of way, you can prevent a lot of accidents.

Never Drive Under the Influence

This is another rule that drivers know about, but some choose to ignore. Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, and other substances affects your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. If you plan on drinking, plan to stay at home or have a designated driver.

Stay Calm in Stressful Situations

Staying calm in stressful situations, such as traffic can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. When there’s traffic, there are a lot of cars on the road, and it can become hectic. To stay safe on the road, one thing you should avoid doing is panicking. When you panic, you aren’t able to think clearly and make sound decisions. Take deep breaths and relax so you can think rationally.

Review and Perfect Your Driving Skills

Being a good driver takes time, and when it comes to traffic, your success depends on you exhibiting what you’ve learned, such as correctly merging into traffic, changing lanes, and maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. There are a lot of rules to remember, so don’t hesitate to look through books or look up specific traffic rules to help you become a better driver.

Avoid Traffic When Possible

If you can, avoid being in traffic altogether. You can you a navigation app to provide an alternate route that does not involve traveling on the highway. Navigation apps are also great for helping you travel through detours. Since looking at your phone while driving is considered distracted driving, if you’re already on the road, pull over to find the best route to take to avoid traffic. If you know there’s going to be traffic, you can set your route before leaving the house.

Going With the Flow of Traffic

When people talk about traffic, they’re often talking about stop-and-go traffic, such as a traffic jam. However, sometimes the flow of traffic is consistent, but congested, which means there are a lot of people on the road, but vehicles are not at a standstill. Having cars in front of you, behind you, and on both sides of you can make you feel boxed in or trapped.

The important thing to remember is to go with the flow of traffic. To do this, maintain the speed traffic is going. If everyone in your lane is going over the speed limit, there’s a good chance you’re in the fast lane, which is the far left lane. As a new driver, stay in the left or middle lanes so you don’t feel pressured to speed.

Create and Maintain Your Bubble

It’s not uncommon to become frustrated with stopped traffic. Frustration often sets in quickly and drivers like this will stay almost on top of your bumper. These drivers will scoot up 1 inch from your bumper if they feel it gets them somewhere, and honestly, it doesn’t. Closely following the vehicle in front of you is never a good idea. When you closely follow behind vehicles, you’re cutting the time you have to react by more than half, which means you’re putting yourself at risk for a fender-bender accident.

While these types of accidents may seem minor, authorities will still be called, a report will be made, and your auto insurance premiums will increase. Always maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you. When creating a bubble, ensure you have space in front of and behind your vehicle. This “bubble” will act as a safety net to minimize the risk of a rear-end collision.

Stay Alert

Staying aware of your surroundings and being alert is one way you can stay safe on the road. When you’re driving, it’s easy to become distracted, or “space out”, especially when you’re stuck in traffic. Traffic conditions can change suddenly and you need to make sure you are aware of the changes and drive accordingly.

Keep an eye out for flaggers on the side of the road. Flaggers will often wear neon orange or yellow vests that resemble construction worker uniforms. You will see flaggers if traffic is caused by an accident. These flaggers will help you maneuver around debris and the accident itself. Emergency workers may also direct traffic to help you travel around the accident site safely.

Traffic may seem like it’s never going to move. However, it will, and you need to be aware of what’s going on around you, so avoid being glued to your phone. Once traffic begins to move, other drivers will want to get going after sitting for a while, so make sure you aren’t the cause of more congestion on the highway.

Avoid Eating in the Car

Eating in the car seems to be something a lot of drivers do, but did you know that it’s a type of distracted driving? Although you may be stuck in traffic, you now know that traffic patterns can change at any time. If you’re not aware of the change because you’re eating or cleaning up a mess you made from eating, you’ll become the cause of congestion on the highway, which is a problem.

Eating in the car may not seem like a big deal, but when you have food and drink in your vehicle, trying to steer, and pay attention to the road, and other drivers becomes more of a hassle. Not to mention the steering wheel becoming more slippery due to grease and other residue coming from the food you’re eating. You can easily avoid this hassle and safety risk by not eating or drinking in your vehicle.

The Bottom Line

Traffic isn’t fun for any driver, but it’s a part of driving. It’s best to learn how to handle different traffic conditions to be a safe driver in all situations. Becoming a confident and skilled driver is a milestone! Whether you’re brushing up on your driving skills or mastering these skills as a new driver, it’s something to celebrate. Be safe, stay alert, and happy driving!