New drivers can face a lot of personal and peer pressure to hit the open road and explore. However, it’s important for new drivers to take their time and master the basics of driving before they venture out too far on their own. One of the most important things new drivers need to learn is how to handle their vehicle in various situations and driving conditions, as well as how to share the road. In addition, new drivers need to be aware of the many dangers that exist on the roadway, such as dangerous objects and distracted drivers. By taking the time to develop good driving techniques, new drivers can help keep themselves safe on the roads.

In this article, we will discuss driving techniques and situational driving tips that all new teen drivers should be familiar with. 

#1: Hand placement

When operating a vehicle, it is important to maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel. The ideal placement is to have your hands at “ten and two,” meaning you should picture the steering wheel as an analog clock, and place your left hand at the ten o’clock position and your right hand at the two o’clock position. This allows you to keep the wheel steady and have maximum control over the vehicle. Of course, depending on the size of the steering wheel and your own personal preference, you may need to adjust your hand placement slightly. However, it is generally best to keep your hands as close to “ten and two” as possible. By doing so, you can easily use the blinker, be prepared if you need to make a sudden move, have a stronger grip, and stay less distracted. 

It may seem like a good idea or “cool” to drive with one hand. However, freeing up your hand can cause accidental overcorrections, sudden jerk movements, or lead to distractions such as playing with the stereo, grabbing your phone, or snacking. While driving with one hand may seem more comfortable from time to time, it’s easier to lose focus which makes driving more dangerous. 

#2: Turning techniques

One of the most important driving techniques to master is turning. Let’s take a look at some turning techniques every driver should master. 

Unprotected left-hand turn: 

Making an unprotected left-hand turn is relatively simple, but there are a few things you need to do to make sure you do it safely. First, approach the intersection slowly and make sure there are no cars coming from the opposite direction that might collide with you, or pedestrians crossing the road in your way. If the coast is clear, signal your intentions and then make a wide turn around the corner. Remember to stay in your lane and yield to any oncoming traffic. Once you’ve cleared the intersection, you can continue on your way. Just remember to always use caution when making any kind of turn, especially an unprotected one.

Turning at a stop sign:

When you approach a stop sign, you should come to a complete stop before entering the intersection. You should stop at the designated stop line or, if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk, you should stop before entering the intersection. Once you have stopped, you should check for traffic and pedestrians before proceeding. Remember, you must yield to all vehicles and pedestrians who have the right of way.

Using turn signals:

Using your turn signals when turning is a great way to let other drivers know what you’re up to. Here’s how to do it: first, signal well in advance of your turn – at least a couple hundred feet. Then, as you approach the turn, start slowing down, look over your shoulder (to check blind spots if needed) and complete your turn. After you’ve completed the turn, make sure to cancel your signal if your vehicle does not automatically do it for you.

Looking over your shoulder for blind spots:

Any time you’re changing lanes or turning right, it’s important to do a shoulder check to make sure there’s no traffic coming up behind you. First, signal in the direction you’re planning to go. Second, check over your shoulder – make sure you give it a thorough look in case there’s someone in your blind spot. Then, take your foot off the gas and ease your vehicle over to the other lane or turn lane. Once you’re in position, put your foot back on the gas and complete the maneuver. Shoulder checking is a simple but essential step that helps to keep you safe on the road.

#3: Freeway Emergency 

Driving on the freeway can be daunting for new drivers. Even more daunting is the idea of getting a flat tire, breaking down, or running out of gas on a busy freeway. If this happens, there are a few driving techniques all drivers should know.

  1. If possible pull over to the shoulder or an exit ramp.
  2. Once you’re off the road, turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers. 
  3. If you have a reflector triangle, set it up at least 100 feet behind your car so other drivers know to look out for your vehicle.
  4. If you are on the side of the freeway do not sit in your vehicle. Get to a safe area away from your vehicle (if possible) in case your vehicle is struck on the side of the freeway.
  5. Once you’re safely off the road, assess the damage. If you don’t know what is wrong, now is not the time to learn – call roadside assistance or a friend for help. And most importantly, stay calm.

#4: Motorcycles and Cyclists

Learning how to drive around other vehicles can be difficult enough. When adding in motorcycles and bicyclists, it can get even more stressful. However, with a few good driving techniques, you can ensure both you and the two-wheeled rider are safe. 

  1. Bicyclists: When sharing the road with a bicyclist, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. First, give the bicyclist plenty of space when passing. Second, avoid making sudden turns or lane changes without signaling first. And finally, be aware of the cyclist’s hand signals, which can indicate when they’re turning or stopping. By following these simple tips, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone on the road.
  2. Motorcycles: When sharing the road with motorcycles, it is important to be aware of their presence and give them plenty of space. Motorcycles are small and can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spot, so it is important to look carefully before changing lanes or making a turn. When passing a motorcycle, do so quickly and make sure not to cut them off. Although it’s illegal for motorcycles to split lanes, it’s not uncommon to see it in practice. So always keep an extra eye out for motorcycles as they are much less protected than drivers are inside the framing of a vehicle. 

#5: Passing Lanes

Although two-lane roads where passing is allowed is not all that common in most of California, it’s important to know the right driving techniques in this situation. If you’re driving on the highway and coming up on a slower-moving vehicle in your lane, you can use a passing lane to safely pass them. 

First, check your mirrors and blind spot to make sure it’s clear behind you to move over. Then, look ahead in the passing lane for oncoming traffic. Remember – when in doubt, don’t go out. If there are any turns or weather conditions blocking your view into the lane, it’s not worth the risk to proceed. If the coast is clear, signal and carefully merge into the passing lane. As you pass the other vehicle, return to your original lane and turn off your signal. 

Remember to use passing lanes only when it’s safe to do so; don’t use them to speed or cut off other drivers. If there’s no passing lane available, you’ll just have to be patient and wait until it’s safe to pass.