Driving Lessons for Dummies

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Driving lessons for dummies
Photo by Samuele Errico Piccarini

Learning how to drive for the first time

"This too shall pass," is what I say to motivate myself to go back for the actual driving lessons tomorrow.

For first time drivers, we had to attend an orientation first. It was all theory. It was exciting to feel like going to school again, learning something, undergoing an exam and the glorious feeling of passing it. 

But the minute the instructor announced that we, ourselves, shall handle the wheel tomorrow and drive the car from its parking, I trembled like a leaf. I thought that I'll be watching him drive first. But NO, we have to drive the car in actual.

I looked behind and observed how busy the streets were outside and my heart sank. I felt cold inside throughout the rest of the orientation.

Is it scary to learn how to drive?

Everything that's first is usually scary. I never had experience in driving before so naturally, my fears were normal. My family always have had a car but I was always the passenger. It actually took me 29 years before finally deciding to learn how to drive.

Besides, there are inevitable risks and dangers in driving that could cause serious accidents. Study shows that a lot of car accidents are caused by overconfidence in drivers. 

So don't worry if you're scared (like me). Just a tiny amount of fear is actually necessary when driving. Just enough to make us cautious but not a lot to cloud our judgements.

How to overcome your fear of driving a car

If you are really scared to learn how to drive, I suggest that you take lessons from a professional driving instructor first. They will not only teach you the technical knowledge of handling a car but more importantly, the safety rules and precautions that you need to look out for when driving.

Professional instructors' cars also indicate labels and signs that the driver is just learning which help the cars around you to be more careful to avoid potential accidents.

This gave me a bit of confidence to start learning how to drive. Too confident in fact, I had to laugh at myself for even thinking about going for manual against automatic transmission. I heard it was easier to shift from manual to auto, than vice versa. Glad I was convinced to take the latter because manual transmission cars are way harder to learn. 

During the orientation, I learned that the main object that makes driving complex was the "clutch." This thing is no longer present in the automatic transmission cars. That was a relief!

You see, feet coordination, along with other physical coordination, is something I don't possess. I remember getting envious of my little brother who plays the drum as if he's eating cake and thought I could play the drums too. I was wrong. 

Trying out the drums gave me the realization that I probably lack the nerves connecting from the brain down to the legs and feet, or at least the glands to coordinate them. That was just drums. Say, what more with cars?

Minus the clutch, I'll only have to use the right foot. Whew! That's better. So instead of managing 3 pedals (with 2 feet), I only need to manage 2 pedals (with 1 foot).

But smart driving is a lot more than feet coordination. Let me just share what I learned this morning straight from my notes.

7 important lessons for first time drivers

First lesson: The right sitting position. 

Adjust the distance of the seat from the steering wheel as well as the back rest. The arms must not be too bent or too straight. Try leaning against the back rest and stretch your arms forward. If your wrists rest above the steering wheel, then you are at the right distance.

Right distance from the steering wheel
Photo by CDL Physio

Second lesson: Always put on seat belt.

Before even starting the engine, secure the belts on. Make sure that the belts are locked by pulling on it.

Third lesson: Turning the engine on.

For automatic transmissions, make sure that the shifting lever is on P (park) before turning the key from Lock to Acc. 

In some cars, you will need to turn the key counter-clockwise while steering the wheel upward first to undo the lock. Only then can you turn the key from Acc to On. 

With an interval of one second, turn finally to Start. Once the engine hums (about 3 seconds), let go of the key. It will settle back to On. Do not hold on longer than 3 seconds as this will cause the starter to break. (I wish I had more fetish for machines to appreciate this). 

Again, this depends on your car. Most modern cars are pretty easy and straightforward now.

Fourth lesson: Adjust the mirrors.

Everytime you drive, specially when you share cars with other people, always remember to adjust the mirrors first. We all have different heights and built so you must check if you can see your surroundings well through the mirrors.

From your driving position check if you can see the entire back windshield.  

Adjusting the rear view mirror
Photo by Autodeal

Side view mirrors are correctly adjusted if only 10% of you car's body could be viewed (how's that? only the handle at the back door could be seen and the rest are views of the surroundings).

Fifth lesson: Use turn signals.

Before leaving the curb of the streets, make sure that you are indicating with your turn signals. With the index and middle fingers of the left hand (or right hand for right-hand-drive cars), push the turn signal upward for right (left for right-hand-drive cars) or down when turning left (right for right-hand-drive cars). 

Get the feel of this first so you don't get confused because you can't look at your dashboard too much while driving. Eyes always on the road!

For city driving, at least 30m (or 3 cars) from turning point, the signals must be started. For highways, at least 90m (or 10 cars).

Sixth lesson: Hands on the steering wheel.

For frequent steering, which is for city driving, the hands are positioned like this:

Hands on the steering wheel
Photo by Halt.org

This is supposedly for easier steering. 

According to my driving instructor, most experienced drivers position their hands oppositely, at the lower part of the wheel, specially when they need to take greater turns.

Seventh lesson: Driving.

Last but not least, is the driving itself.

For manual transmission cars, the clutch thing made everything complicated. All I remembered was that you push on it when you start, shift gears, and stop. All the time gradually releasing the tension. It's like calculating the level in which the car will run smoothly. This is done in coordination with pressing on the gas or break, plus shifting gears with your right hand (or left hand for right-hand drive cars). 

For automatics, just don't forget to shift the gear to D (drive mode), step on the gas gradually and break to stop. The pedals of automatic transmission cars are quite more sensitive apparently, so just light touches can make the car move. On a warning note, DO NOT STEP HARD ON EITHER PEDALS!😱

The procedure is simplified a thousand times but it doesn't stop me from getting nervous.

Tomorrow I shall start my first actual lesson. Just like the Physical Education subjects in college, I'd probably finish this course with... at most a satisfactory level I hope.


  1. me too, i just had my driving lesson this morning with my hubby =) my first time to be on the drivers' seat. Lesson one, he taught me to feel (pakiramdaman) how the gas/accelerator when you press it..
    As my first time, i press the accelerator too hard and the engine sound loudly that our neighbors look at our direction to see what is happening hehehe good thing the car is on P mode and the hand break are not yet release.. This lesson took me some time until my hubby is satisfied with my performance on the accelerator.
    Another lesson he taught me this morning is what he called "stop and go then reverse" According to him i need to learn on how to use the break smoothly and the need to be on the track. I failed this lesson..., 'cause instead of the break, i press the accelerator instead.. and i almost bump one of the pedestrian..But still i made the break on time before i clash with the person.. And my hubby said i should be more careful on pressing the break or the accelerator... I also failed on how to keep on the track straight, because its either I'm on the middle of the road or I'm on the side... So i just said to my hubby that i need to return to our house because our daughter maybe awake already hehehe just to skip his "sermon" to me..
    At least I'm not afraid anymore to be on the drivers' seat =)

    1. That's an improvement, getting rid of the fear. That will be my target for tomorrow. Hopefully, once I overcome this fear, I'll be able to perform well. I try to see this as just another test I took as a student. ;)

  2. Like I said if several hours or days is needed learning how to drive with manual transmission, you can learn in a few minutes with automatic transmission or perhaps an hour or so. That is why I advised you go for automatic transmission if you can afford it. Its good you did. That is what will actually serve your purpose. (dad)

    1. I drove from Antipolo Shopwise to Tikling this morning. Need more practice with the pedals and steering wheel. Automatic transmission cars just need a very slight push to move. I tend to press too hard out of nervousness hehe...

  3. Parang hindi ko na kakayanin hahaha Lalo na when you mentioned there's a need to have coordination between the hands and feet ouch!

    1. Haha... I enjoyed the driving lessons actually. Automatic transmission kunin mo if ever. ;)

  4. In most cases it moves by just releasing the brake while the shifter is engaged. Relax! Unlike manual your engine will not stall or stop even if you just push low on gas. You will quickly learn. Automatic is very much easier to operate than manual.(dad)

    1. I just learned how ignorant I was with cars to think that we've had one for more than 2 decades! Oh the irony. But I enjoyed the driving lessons. I felt secure because the car says BEWARE to other drivers hehe. Ewan ko na lang po kung regular driving na. Tinititigan ko daw yung side mirrors eh hehe glimpse lang pala dapat.

    2. Correct! glimpse lang pati sa back mirror ba yun yung nasa gitna taas ng windshield, glimpse lang din. If you only observed me while driving parang mata ng ibon malikot front, left, right, & back, laging nag gli glimpse pero pinaka maraming concentration ng tingin sa harap siempre, sa road. (dad)

  5. Hi,

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    1. Hello Harry! I will be attending the lecture one of these days and will share about it. Glad you appreciate the share. :)

      Thanks for link also. Will definitely check that out to pick something helpful up. ;)

  6. I tried imagining myself playing the drums, just now...I tried tapping with my right foot to set the base rhythm then I tried tapping with my hands pretending to hit different drums. Goodness! My foot lost the tempo lol! I think I have a better future with learning to drive hehehe. I have tried, but not a car. I can actually drive a forklift. :-) I always have a little difficulty with turning corners.

    1. Haha, I know what you mean. I don't even have to use the left foot for the clapper to lose the tempo myself. As for the driving, a forklift?! Wow, how did you get to drive one? I'm through with my practical lessons and am more confident now. Just don't let me drive a manual car hehe. ;)

  7. Practice makes perfect. Don't worry. All new drivers experience the jitters the first few times on the wheel. Later on, you'll miss it din. I know I do. It relaxes me, lalo na when driving along a stretch of open road. =)

    I used to almost stopped my driving lessons since I almost ran over a cat. But I saw a documentary about a paraplegic who could drive a car and also became a certified pilot. It got me thinking. If she with missing limbs could drive, why couldn't I with the complete set do, right? Never looked back since and I'm very thankful I do know how to drive a car. =)

  8. Quite right! Not everyone passes their driving test first time, infact I think on average it takes people 2 0 3 times to pass their driving test.

    Obviously it helps largely if you have the right instructor, make sure your happy with him/her and then thats half the battle!

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  29. Hi! Manual transmission naman yung inaral ko. Natapos ko naman yung driving lessons pero hindi pa ako super confident magdrive. Practice pa more ang drama ko. :)

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      Yan yung kwento ko hehehe. Sa ngayon pag nagddrive ako medyo wala nang kaba pero I don't really like driving kaya eto newbie pa rin hanggang ngayon. :)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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