Well, you’ve done it. You finally decided you’re going to learn how to drive. Some may consider you a “late bloomer.” After all, you aren’t exactly learning how to drive in the traditional timeframe of 14 to 16 years old. Rather, you’ve managed to put it off until later in life.
There are plenty of good reasons not to even bother learning to drive in densely urban areas. Public transportation is well-established and easy to use for the most part. Owning, parking, and insuring a car can be really expensive in comparison, especially when you consider the risks associated with having property that is relatively easy to break into or steal. Plus, driving is consistently one of the most dangerous things people do on a regular basis.
But, you’re doing it and you’re probably not alone. Learning to drive opens up hundreds of opportunities whether they involve packing up and hitting the open road for the vacation of a lifetime or you’re just capitalizing on a personal dream.
As you pursue a driver’s license and proceed to drive around your city, there are still plenty of things to be aware of and take into consideration in order to keep you and the people you love safe and sound.
Being a Defensive Urban Driver
As you begin your learning-to-drive adventure, you’ll likely hear over and again that you need to prioritize being a defensive driver. But what does that really mean? Broadly, a defensive driver is one who proactively takes precautions on the road that will help prevent accidents and put them in a position to safely respond to unexpected road hazards.
Some of the big defensive driving strategies include things like:
- Focusing on the road by avoiding texting, eating, putting on makeup, and a myriad of other distractions
- Keeping your speed within the legal limits
- Avoiding drowsy driving
- Remaining ready to react to unexpected actions of other drivers
- Staying aware of other types of vehicles (such as motorcycles and bicycles) and pedestrians on the roadways
- Following at a safe distance from other vehicles, giving you a safety bubble
Cities offer their own set of challenges when it comes to being a defensive driver and making sure you and yours stay safe. For instance, rush-hour traffic can be insane and present a plethora of opportunities for a serious accident. Typically following distances are much shorter, bicycles and pedestrians are weaving in and out of standstill traffic, and emotions can be running high as drivers run out of patience.
Reading the Road
Understanding the potential actions of other drivers is a difficult thing to learn as you begin driving, yet it is a critical aspect of reading the road and staying safe. A light break tap could turn into a rapid stop in the blink of an eye. Other drivers could be bringing a whole host of other factors to the table, especially if they aren’t taking defensive driving seriously. Most young drivers who are first learning quickly realize that other drivers are the real dangers on the roads.
Another thing to consider is the road itself. Weather conditions can change a usually safe road to a treacherous travel route. Heavy rains, snow, ice, and high winds — among other things — can greatly limit your ability to react effectively and may cause your vehicle to move unpredictably across the surface. In these situations, it is critical that you respond by increasing your safety bubble and moving more slowly so that you have more time to react if something goes sideways (hopefully not your car).
Finally, if you are traveling in more rural areas, you should take into account the possibility of animals on the roadways. Every year hundreds of people and animals are injured and killed in collisions with animals attempting to cross the road. Always take extra precautions when traveling at dusk and dawn when animals are more active, especially if you are seeing road signage indicating that animals could be present.
Keeping up on Maintenance
Owning and driving a car is a lot of fun, but with it comes a considerable amount of maintenance to keep your car in working order. Things such as regular oil changes, fluid checks, and tire rotations can improve the longevity of your vehicle and keep you on the road longer. It is reasonable to expect to spend somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 per year on routine maintenance checks and small fixes that will keep you on the road.
Many people choose to do minor car maintenance themselves in order to save some money. With a little bit of practice, it is absolutely something you can accomplish as a new driver too. Things to consider learning how to do yourself include tasks like:
- Changing your oil
- Checking your fluids
- Rotating tires
- Changing brake pads
- Replacing wiper blades
- Changing out spark plugs
- Fixing head and tail light bulbs
Learning to drive is an opportunity that could open a lot of doors for you over time, especially in an urban setting. As you learn the skill, be sure to take defensive driving seriously. Play it safe, read the road conditions, and eventually learn how to do some minor maintenance yourself