Ten Things Any Beginner Driver Should Know

Motorist with grimy hands 12 photos
Photo: Lyntha Scott Eiler for EPA/Wikipedia
Motorist with grimy handsUnder the hoodEngineering Explained's YouTube Channel is a good place to learnChanging tiresTwo cars are involved in a side collisionDriving in the rain and fogRoad Rage Biker Smashed A Car MirrorDrive sober or get pulled over campaignA participant tests a text-while-driving simulator at the Distracted Driving eventRear-view mirror showing cars parked behind the vehicle containing the mirrorYoung driver in traffic
Beginner drivers have numerous challenges ahead of them, and it takes years for most to get ahead of the game. In some cases, drivers never get properly acquainted with the automobile, and the least lucky of the bunch end up in trouble because of this.
So we decided to make a list of things any beginner driver should know after they get their license. The best thing about our list is that everything on it is free.

That is right. It costs you nothing to become a safer driver, who knows how a motor vehicle operates and behaves on the road.

However, there is a catch - you must care and be open to spending some time with the car and have an Internet connection. Because most of the things on our list only require online research.

The others just need the beginner driver to be a sensible human being, and to care about making minute improvements to their driving, so they do not end up on the news, or worse, in an accident-related obituary. So, let’s get on with it.

1. Which is which

Under the hood
Photo: Wikipedia/
On this point, we assume that you already own a vehicle, or have access to a car. It does not matter whether the transportation device is a car, a motorbike, or a pick-up truck. They all have some components in common, and these parts operate in the same way on every motorized creation on wheels.

By “which is which,” we mean that a beginner driver has the responsibility of knowing what each button and control of the vehicle will do if activated/operated. They should also know how to identify the major components of the vehicle, and we mean more than the ignition and tires.

If you ask us, a user must show common sense to themselves and others around by knowing the difference between a wheel and a tire, and being able to identify the significant components that make any motorized vehicle drive as expected. If the driver does not know either of these, what are they supposed to do when asking for help?

2. How stuff works

Engineering Explained's YouTube Channel is a good place to learn
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube/Engineering Explained
As we explained above, motorized vehicles work by following certain principles, which are common between cars and bikes of all kinds. In this tip, we advise beginner drivers to browse the web in search of tutorials, videos, and infographics that explain how automobiles work.

How Stuff Works is a great place to start, and Engineering Explained is also a good recommendation for those who want to understand what makes their cars tick. Once you have a basic understanding of how an engine works, how your brakes operate, and the difficult job of tires, things start to come into perspective for any user.

A bonus part of understanding these elements, even if learned in layman’s terms, is that you become harder to trick by any ill-intentioned mechanic, as well as gaining valuable knowledge in how your car works.

3. Basic repairs

Changing tires
Photo: Wikipedia/Kurt Nordstrom
Once you know how a car works, at least in the most basic form of each component, you will be able to diagnose issues. Nobody is telling you to get a wrench and get your hands dirty if you hear a strange noise from your car, but now you have the ability to explain to your mechanic what do you think is wrong with your vehicle, as well as the tow truck operator, should you have to call for assistance.

However, there are situations where a well-instructed beginner driver should handle problems without help. We consider that any driver should know how to deal with a flat tire, and we mean more than just calling roadside assistance. Unless you cannot chance it yourself, because of physical issues, you should learn how to do it.

Other minor things any beginner driver should know are how to check the oil level, as well as all the other fluid levels of your vehicle. It is a good idea to know how to inspect a tire. Changing your windshield wipers, topping up the windshield washer tank, and refueling go without saying, right?

4. What to do after an accident

Two cars are involved in a side collision
Photo: Wikipedia/ Shuets Udono
What’s worse has happened, and you have found yourself in an accident. What’s the first thing you should do? Well - turn off the engine and take the key out of the ignition. Make sure your vehicle is not on fire, and secure it with the parking brake to ensure it will not roll when you exit.

If you feel that you can get up from your seat, and that your body is intact, check the status of your passengers. Get out of the vehicle and move away from it while watching out for traffic. If another vehicle was involved in the collision, talk to the other driver and make sure they are all right. Give yourselves a few minutes to calm down, and then sort the paperwork regarding the incident.

Make sure you take pictures of the cars before you move them. If your explanation of the incident is inaccurate, or if the other driver tries to trick you to pay damages without being at fault, photos will be your best witness. Speaking of which, you should check if any bystanders saw the accident and are willing to help clarify the matter, if you still do not know who is at fault. If you still have doubts, call an experienced friend or a lawyer.

5. How to drive in adverse conditions

Driving in the rain and fog
Photo: Wikipedia/ MarkBuckawicki
So you got your license on a bright, sunny day. Good for you! Today is not sunny, and it looks like the weather is taking a turn for worse. What is there to do? At this point, you must make sure your tires still have enough thread, if they are suitable for the season at hand, and if your lights work as expected.

Driving in the rain or snow does not compare to a sunny day. Not by a long-shot, but you still have to get through it. First of all, leave a larger distance between your vehicle and the one in front. Avoid any sudden movements, and try to be gentle with all of the controls.

Be aware grip will not be as it is on a sunny day, and that aquaplaning is a real danger. So just leave room for error for whatever maneuver you do. The best way to do this is by slowing down. Put extra caution into every move. Before next time, consider following an advanced driving school to learn how to control your car if it slides.

6. Avoiding road rage

Road Rage Biker Smashed A Car Mirror
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
It is easy to get angry and blow off steam on the others around you. Everyone has probably done this at one point in his or her lives. Drivers and riders must keep calm no matter what. Because road rage, as it is called, never brings anything positive to a situation. Learn to be calm no matter what happens, and you will become a better driver.

If you feel the urge to scream at another driver, just refrain. Think that they might be right, and try to empathize with what they might be feeling. Maybe they are not right today, but they have had a rough day at work or home and are trying to vent by driving like a douchebag. Instead of enrolling in a vicious circle of rage, let them vent it out, apologize, and move on.

If you are the victim of road rage, let the other driver pass you. Do not leave your vehicle, and avoid rolling down your window. Say you are sorry and mean it - if you did something wrong. Screaming will not bring a positive end to the situation, and violence will not help anything. Be smart and try to deflate the conflict before anyone gets hurt.

7. Never drive under the influence

Drive sober or get pulled over campaign
Photo: Connecticut Department of Transportation
Drugs or alcohol do not mix with the road. Never drive after drinking or consuming controlled substances, no matter how experienced you are and how short the ride will be. There are no excuses for 99% of DUIs, and the rest of them could also be avoided with proper precautions.

You must also remember that driving after a night of drinking is just as dangerous, even if you have slept a few hours. A night of partying takes a toll on a human body, and your judgment might be clouded the next day, resulting in a possible accident. You do not have to feel hungover to be a “buzzed” driver, so make sure you take at least eight hours of sleep after a night of drinking before even thinking about driving.

In the case of drugs or prescription medication, do not even think of driving after you have taken them. The second category includes many kinds of pills and substances prescribed by doctors, and some of them might impair your driving abilities. Ask your doctor if you are allowed to drive after taking your prescribed medicine.

8. Leave your phone alone

A participant tests a text\-while\-driving simulator at the Distracted Driving event
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Public Domain photo from Wikipedia
Modern cars are available with Bluetooth systems, which allow connecting your phone to the vehicle’s audio system. Thanks to these connectivity options, you could use your mobile safely while driving. There are also hands-free kits or headsets to aid drivers that want a presumably safe way of using a phone and driving.

However, we do not advise beginner drivers to use any of these solutions. Just refrain from using your phone. You are doing enough important things while driving to be able to take a call, no matter how important it is.

If you are expecting an important call from someone, pull over when and where it is safe, and take the call. You do not have to reply immediately, and can call them back when the vehicle is stopped, as we live in 2016 and cell phone rates are not that pricey. Your safety is worth more than any phone call, remember that.

9. Look where you want to go

Rear\-view mirror showing cars parked behind the vehicle containing the mirror
Photo: Wikipedia/Dcoetzee
This advice is a fundamental rule of defensive driving which even applies to racers. It is easy. You just have to look where you want to go, not in alternate directions or places. If your car is sliding, you must never look at an obstacle, because you risk hitting it.

Unfortunately, the human mind has a pesky habit of looking where it should not, and this is called “point fixation” in the case of drivers and riders. Once you unintentionally fall into this “trap,” you risk crashing your vehicle because you diverted your entire attention on a particular element, which was not even important.

Instead, try to follow a corner with your eyes, and never focus on obstacles on the side of the road or any other vehicles on the road. By the way, mind your mirrors, and make sure you make a habit out of checking them regularly. This will help avoid accidents, trust us.

10. You have nothing to prove, just be an adult

Young driver in traffic
The final advice from us is to behave like a responsible adult. Naturally, this tip is for teen drivers, which have been given control of a motor vehicle even though they are not old enough to vote in their countries.

Make sure you show those that trusted you with a driver’s license that you did deserve the privilege, and do not become a negative example on the road. Try your best to replicate this behavior in society, and you will have a lovely time on Earth.

At the end of the day, remember that you have nothing to prove to other road users, and that it is best to stick to your driving. Racing is not for the road, and your friends will not be impressed if you crash your car while attempting to prove your skills. This lack of being impressed can also be linked to death or serious injuries in some cases, so do not be one of those people.
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About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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