Getting Behind the Wheel

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Getting behind the wheel for the first time? Here are some tips and warnings.

Before you drive, make sure you are comfortable with your physical, mental, and emotional state, your vehicle and the conditions in which you will be driving. If you have doubts about any of them, do not drive. Your ability to drive can change from one day to the next. Illness, fatigue, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, stress and your mental or emotional state can greatly diminish your ability to operate a motor vehicle. You should consider these factors before you begin driving, and you should not operate a motor vehicle when you are not fit to do so.

Take It Slow! Prepare yourself for the experience! Keep the following rules and suggests in mind when you start driving. You will be driving on the road with thousands of other drivers. You need to be courteous and respectful of everyone else on the road.

Be physically and mentally alert

You must be in good physical and mental condition to drive. Don’t drive when you are sick or injured or when you have been drinking alcohol or taking any drug or medication that may reduce your ability to drive.

Don’t drive when you are tired. You might fall asleep at the wheel, risking the lives of others on the road. Even if you don’t fall asleep, fatigue affects your driving ability. Your thinking slows down and you miss seeing things. In an emergency, you may make the wrong decision or you may not make the right decision fast enough.

Don’t drive when you are upset or angry. Strong emotions can reduce your ability to think and react quickly.

Know your vehicle

Get to know your vehicle before you drive it. There are many types of vehicles available today with many different characteristics, including fuel ignition systems, anti-lock brakes, 4-wheel drive, and systems for traction control and stability control. Check the vehicle owner’s manual. For driving in difficult situations and conditions see the section on dealing with particular situations.

Make sure you know where all the controls and instruments are and what they do. Check that all warning lights and gauges work. Watch for a warning light that stays on after you drive away; it could mean a serious problem with your vehicle.

Get to know the controls well enough to turn on wipers and washers, headlights, highbeams, heater and defroster without having to look. Learning to use these essential controls without taking your eyes off the road is an important part of driving.

Get into position

Make sure you sit properly behind the wheel. You should sit high enough in the driver’s seat to see over the steering wheel and hood. You should be able to see the ground four metres in front of the vehicle. Use a firm cushion if needed.

Be sure that you are sitting straight upright in the seat withy our elbows slightly bent. Adjust the seat so your feet reach the pedals easily. To check your position, try placing your feet flat on the floor under the brake pedal. If you can do this without stretching, you are seated properly. This keeps you in the proper, upright sitting position and gives you more stability when manoeuvring your vehicle.

If your vehicle has an adjustable headrest, you should make sure it is at the right height. The back of your head should be directly in front of the middle of the headrest to protect you in a collision. Check that you have enough room in the front seat to drive properly and safely. Do not overcrowd your driving space with passengers or property.

Keep a clear view

Keep a clear view when driving. Do not put anything in your windows that will block your view. The windows of your vehicle must not be coated with any material that keeps you from seeing out in any direction. Neither should the windshield or front door windows be coated to keep someone from seeing inside the vehicle.

Be considered. Thousands of people die in auto accidents every year. Be safe and follow all the rules and regulations. And if you see someone flagrantly violating the law, simply stay out of their way.

Be prepared. If you will be driving on the highway or on a bridge, make sure you have cash/coins for toll fees. If you’re going to be parking your car on the street, make sure you have money for parking meters.

Similarly, if you are driving in the winter, make sure your car is equipped with the proper tools for an emergency. The same goes for driving in the heat of summer.

Never be caught without a spare tire. Flat tires happen all the time. You don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road with a hole in your inner tube.

Make sure you have driver’s insurance. There are all sorts of insurance companies and different rates available. Pick one that suits your needs the best. And always carry proof of insurance in your wallet or purse.

Always be alert. Check the rear view and side mirrors; make sure you can see all traffic and pedestrians near your vehicle.

Watch out for trucks, buses, and semis that take up a lot of room on the road. These vehicles typically have visibility and maneuverability limitations that your car does not have. You’ll need to compensate for any awkward situations that arise.

Do not do anything that is very quick, or sudden. Keep calm and assess each situation as it presents itself. For example, don’t run yellow lights or merge into traffic unless the coast is absolutely clear. Driving can be a nervous experience (especially at first). It’s best to take your time and do the right thing and the right time.

Be safe. Following the rules of the road isn’t enough. You need to anticipate any situation that could put you and your car in jeopardy. “Safety First” isn’t just a meaningless platitude. It’s the most important rule for all drivers.

Always follow the rules of the road. Make sure you know all the rules before starting to drive, or else you or your car might be badly damaged.

If your car is equipped with ABS (Antilock Braking System), you must press the brake as hard as you can in emergency stop. ABS makes the car’s break pump much more rapidly than you ever could with your foot, therefore letting you still have control over where you want to drive. When you press the ABS as hard as you can, this will activate ABS and bring your car to a complete stop in the shortest distance while allowing you to retain control over your car. Do not ‘pump’ the brake nor loosen the force applied to the pedal no matter what. While ABS is active, you may feel vibration through the brake pedal but this is expected and completely normal. Just continue pressing the brake as hard as possible until your car stops.

Good habits (such as turning your head to check your blind spot) will stick…..bad habits (checking mirrors without turning your head) will stick as well

Since you just started driving, this is when all your driving habits will start, so do not drive recklessly fast, or accelerate suddenly or do sudden braking. Also, you should try to not weave in between vehicles on the highway, as it is very dangerous, and can cause a rear end collision, front end collision, or side collision.

  • Remember where you parked your car. Use landmarks to help yourself remember.
  • When you exit the car, do not forget to turn the lights off.
  • Be aware of any limitations of G1 and G2 licences, for example in Ontario you cannot drive on a highway without a full licence.
  • Make sure you practice uphill starts when learning to operate a manual transmission. Because starting a manual transmission from a stop requires letting off the brakes and engaging the clutch (essentially placing the car in neutral), the car will roll backwards until first gear is engaged. To stop this from happening, apply the hand/parking brake, then release it as you release the clutch and the car begins to move forward. Otherwise, you risk rolling into the car behind you. Practice this technique on a sloped driveway or parking lot where it’s safe to make mistakes.
  • Never shift into low gears at high speeds (i.e. 1st gear at 50mph). This will greatly damage or destroy your cars engine and transmission.
  • Street racing is dangerous and illegal. If you wish to race your car, then taking your car to a track day would be the best thing to do. These are usually well supervised.
  • Always fasten your seat belt!
  • Always use your turn signal, and use low beam headlights when there is an approaching vehicle or when there is a vehicle in front of your vehicle.
  • Make sure you are in the correct lane while driving.
  • If you drive below the posted speed limit, please stay in the slow lane.
  • Do not drink and drive. That is the worst thing you could possibly do. You could kill yourself or someone else.
  • While changing lanes, be watchful. Check all mirrors, put on your indicator and swiftly change.
  • Avoid parking illegally, your car may be towed, or you may be cited and have to pay a fine.

Happy driving!

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