It’s your first driving lesson! Driving can be exciting and frustrating. Remember to be patient and go with the flow of things. Your parent(s), guardian(s), and driving instructor can help you on your driving journey! Let’s discuss what to expect during your first driving lesson.

Learning the Basics

In your first driving lesson, you’ll learn the basics of vehicle operation. Every instruction is different, which means they’ll have their way of doing things, but you’ll likely cover the following in your first driving lesson:

  • Starting the car and getting ready to use your gears
  • Checking your mirrors and blind spot
  • Locating and using your turn signals
  • Properly changing gears
  • Smoothly bringing the car to a complete stop
  • Curb-side parking

When you’re learning to drive, it’s a lot of information to take in at once, so take things one step at a time. There’s no need to rush!

Start with a Vehicle Tour

Touring the vehicle will help you learn where all the car’s parts are. While you’re touring the vehicle, you can also adjust things, such as the seat, mirrors, and steering wheel to accommodate your needs.

When you’re touring the vehicle, it’s also a good time to learn how the vehicle’s controls and other features of the car work, including the following:

  • Dashboard controls
  • Mirror adjustment
  • Steering wheel and seat adjustment
  • Headlights
  • Turn signals
  • Safety features (airbags, seat belts, etc.)
  • Windshield wipers
  • Emergency lights (hazard lights)
  • Parking brake/how to release the brake
  • Starting and turning off the engine
  • Gas and brake pedals (especially if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes)
  • Dashboard warning indicator lights (low fuel, oil, and temperature indicator)

While you’re touring the vehicle, make sure you know where the vehicle’s registration insurance card and vehicle manual are located.

Getting Comfortable and Familiar with the Vehicle’s Controls

The first thing you need to do is get comfortable and learn where the vehicle’s controls are. If you need to, adjust the seat and ensure your feet can comfortably reach the accelerator and the brake. Remember always to use your right foot for both pedals. You may also need to adjust the rearview and side mirrors before you start driving. Your rearview mirror must allow you to see directly behind you. Your side mirrors need to cover your blind spots.

Get a “Feel” for the Vehicle

When you’re getting a feel for the vehicle, you’re noticing how well it handles and feels while driving. It’s best to start driving in a small, simple location that doesn’t have a lot of traffic, such as a parking lot.

Practice applying the gas and using the brakes. You’ll also want to practice driving straight, turning, and reversing. As you become more comfortable with the basic driving techniques, you can gradually increase the complexity, such as practicing pulling into and out of parking spaces.

Take Advantage of Low-Speed Traffic Areas

Alright! You’ve mastered the basics. Now, it’s time to move on to more advanced driving techniques. You’ll need to practice driving on backroads and other low-speed, low-traffic areas. Since you’re still mastering your driving skills, it may be best to stay away from neighborhoods because children are unpredictable, and often don’t look both ways before crossing the street.

However, side streets may work best in this scenario. Practice staying on one side of the road while paying attention to road signs and following traffic laws. Paying attention to your surroundings is essential. As a driver, you have to be aware of your movement and the behavior of other drivers. You need to remain alert and continuously check your surroundings for potential hazards to avoid them.

First Driving Lesson with an Official Driving Instructor

Your first driving lesson with an official instructor will likely differ from your first driving lesson with your parent or guardian. However, this is an important and exciting milestone! It’s normal to feel nervous but take a deep breath. You got this! Here’s what you can expect during your initial driving lesson with an official driving instructor:

  • Meeting Your Driving Instructor

You’ll meet your driving instructor once you book a driving lesson with the DMV or similar transportation authority branch. Your instructor will want to know a little about you and will review the things they observe while you’re driving.

  • Knowing What to Bring

You need to make sure you have the following at your driving lesson/appointment:

  • Provisional license: your instructor will likely ask to see your provisional driver’s license to ensure you’re legally permitted to operate a motor vehicle.
    • Comfortable shoes: comfortable shoes are a must-have for your driving lessons, which means no high-heeled shoes, or shoes that would make it difficult for you to easily operate the pedals.
    • Glasses or contact lenses: if you need glasses or corrective lenses to see, wear them! Your license will have a restriction that allows you to operate a motor vehicle ONLY if you’re wearing your glasses or corrective lenses.
    • Bottled water: it may sound strange, but staying hydrated is important. Water can also help calm your nerves.

Getting Started

Every driving instructor is different, so don’t expect to start driving right away. Some instructors may prefer a more suitable driving location rather than starting you on busy roads, so initially, you will start off sitting in the passenger seat until you reach the teaching location.

This is likely the time you will learn the cockpit drill, which means you’ll adjust the vehicle’s seat, mirrors, and controls to suit your needs, which are vital for your safety and others. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the car’s controls, such as the windshield wipers, turn signals, and headlights.

Driving Practice

Now it’s time to drive! Your first lesson will primarily focus on the following standard elements:

  • Starting and stopping the vehicle and safely using the pedals
  • Using your turn signals
  • Switching gears
  • Properly checking your mirrors and blind spots
  • Smoothly turning the steering wheel
  • Basic road awareness

Beginner Driver’s Checklist

You’ve probably had a lot of guidance from your parent(s) or guardian(s) on your driving journey. As you’re practicing, make sure you vary your routes to practice the following:

  • Turning: slowing down and using your turn signals
  • Braking smoothly by gradually slowing the vehicle to a stop
  • Accelerating smoothly by steadily increasing the vehicle’s speed to a safe speed within the posted speed limit
  • Safely approaching intersections that are controlled by stop signs or traffic lights
  • Determining the right of way
  • Driving on single-lane and multi-lane roadways at low speeds
  • Properly and safely changing and merging lanes into traffic
  • Maintaining the appropriate speed
  • Continuously checking your surroundings and identifying hazards
  • Keeping a safe following distance from other vehicles
  • Correctly sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists, and school buses
  • Correctly driving in a school zone
  • Reacting to an approaching emergency vehicle
  • Properly using turning lanes

Since you’re a new driver, it may seem a little hectic, but the more you drive, the more comfortable you will be and will eventually master these skills. As you become more comfortable, you can continue to take on more advanced driving challenges, such as driving at different times of the day, different levels of traffic, and weather conditions on roads you’re familiar with.

Driving On the Highway

The thought of driving on a multi-lane highway can be intimidating. It’s best to practice driving on the highway when it is less busy. Learning to drive on the highway during rush hour or other times when there is a lot of traffic isn’t ideal for a first-time driver.

When you’re driving on the highway, practice staying in your lane and merging into traffic. It may sound like an easy thing to do, but you must remember to use your signal and maintain speed. When entering the highway, you must increase your speed and properly merge into traffic.

You must also remember to keep a safe following distance between you and other vehicles and avoid traveling in their blind spots, especially larger trucks. If you’re the parent of a new driver, make sure they know the following before heading to the highway:

  • Higher speeds require longer stopping distances
  • The importance of checking blind spots before switching or merging lanes
  • How to drive safely amongst semi-trucks and avoid driving in their blind spots
  • Reading traffic and road signs, and driving accordingly
  • How to create a “safety space” in case they need to pull off the road due to another vehicle or debris
  • How to spot stopped tracking or traffic slowing ahead and how to drive accordingly

Advanced Driver Checklist

Once you master the basic driver skills, you can proceed to more advanced driving practices. These driving practices require you to be able to operate a motor vehicle at higher speeds in high-traffic conditions. You can use this advanced driver checklist to help you along the way. The advanced driver checklist includes mastering the following skills:

  • Correctly merging into traffic
  • Properly identifying road signs and exits
  • Properly navigating toll booths
  • Maintaining proper speed
  • Being courteous to other drivers
  • How to keep a safe following distance

Advanced Driver Challenges

Difficult and unfavorable driving conditions can be dangerous for all drivers, but for a new driver, these conditions are extremely hazardous. Once you’re comfortable driving during the day in sunny weather, it’s time for you to practice driving in various scenarios, such as bad weather, driving at night, and with passengers.

The following driving experiences will help you be better prepared when you encounter specific driving situations:

  • Inclement weather: Ask your parents to help you navigate driving through inclement weather, such as fog, rain, windy days, sleet, or light snow. You don’t have to drive for long periods. The purpose of these tasks is to help you gain experience in certain driving conditions and see if the car feels different. Driving on snowy roads is different from driving on a clear road on a sunny day.
  • Changing lights: When the sun angles up or down in the sky, the light can become a hazard for drivers as it shines directly into their eyes. During the hours that are closest to dawn or dusk, the light level is reduced, so you may want to have your parents accompany you if you have permission to and are legally able to drive to school or after a school event.

If you have questions or concerns while driving, your instructor will guide you through this process. Remember not to panic and stay calm. Even if you get frustrated, embrace your driving journey!