Even if you’ve been tooling around in your own or your parent’s car since the day you turned 16, it never hurts to remind yourself about how to become a more confident driver.
Preparation is Essential
Get to know your car thoroughly before you go anywhere. On an afternoon when you aren’t scheduled to do anything, familiarize yourself with all the controls, lights, and safety features. Look around, and when you find yourself wondering what a button does, look it up.
Adjust rear and side mirrors to provide a clear view of the road behind and on either side. Take the time to set up radio presets, pair your phone with the car’s Bluetooth, and stow tissues, breath mints, pens, notebooks, and hand sanitizer within reach. Before you hit the road, think of all the things you might need to have in the car when you’re on the go.
Set a routine for getting ready to drive. Get in, fasten your seat belt, check mirrors, and stow your phone. Better yet, turn it off altogether until you become confident enough with your driving that you can safely converse via Bluetooth—with both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
Taking good care of your car off the road is half the battle. Knowing your car is well-maintained will boost your confidence before you turn on the ignition. Older cars need special care, and they’ll last many years if you attend to maintenance and repair when it’s needed.
Keep on Practicing
Practice, practice, practice. Take an experienced driver with you and find an empty parking lot. Practice going forward, slowing to a stop, using your turn signal, and those three-point turns you learned in driver’s ed back in high school. Practice backing up, using your mirrors. Practice parking, including parallel parking.
When you’ve mastered the parking lot, choose a quiet road with very little traffic to drive down. Gain a feel for curves and hills, and how your car responds to acceleration and braking. After mastering the winding back road, try it again in different weather conditions to get used to how you must adapt.
The next step is the four-lane road, changing lanes, and merging. This is another time to take an experienced driver with you to coach you through the steps. Don’t try it before you’re ready, but remember that these are invaluable skills you use throughout your life.
Stay in the Now
So, you made a few mistakes in the past—now is the time to let that go. Confident driving is safe driving, and safe driving is alert driving—not anxious driving. Leave emotion out of it and attend to where you are and where you are going right now. Don’t allow other drivers to push you beyond your comfort zone. No one can fault you for driving the speed limit in the right lane.
Confidence in any endeavor comes with practice and experience. The more you drive, the more you’ll become a confident driver.