By Pamela Rice Hahn
You've completed your driver's education course. You now know the importance of driving "defensively." You know that when you drive, your objective is to do so as safely as possible so that you (and the precious cargo you carry with you—your passengers) "arrive alive." You've passed that milestone birthday. Now you're ready to take your driver's test. Or are you?
Here are some suggestions so that you can make sure you'll pass that test.
Even if you've already passed the written portion of your driving test, it's a good idea to refresh yourself on these official rules for the road. The person administering the test may throw some questions at you while you drive.
Be observant when you're a passenger, too. You can practice the skills you'll be using once you're a defensive driver yourself. Don't worry about getting a label of "backseat driver." If you notice anything that you believe you should point out to the driver ("It looks like that child in the yard over there is about to run into the street."), do so. It's always better to err on the side of caution.
Now is the time to start developing your safe predriving habits. Each time you get in the car, remember to:
- Adjust the seat so that you're in a comfortable position that makes it easy for you to reach the gas and brake pedals
- Fasten your safety belt
- Adjust the rearview mirror
- Verify any "blind spots" in the car you'll be driving
- Disengage the emergency brake
Once you've completed these steps, you're ready to take this "show on the road." With a licensed driver in the passenger seat beside you, drive to a location where you can practice the skills you'll need to pass the driving portion of your test. Start by parking around "cones" set up for that purpose and then, after you've mastered those trial runs to where you're confident you won't dent any fenders in the process, drive to where you can park in actual parking spots.
Begin driving in areas with light traffic. As your confidence and skills grow, graduate to pulling onto the freeway or driving to the mall.
Slow down if you see a parked car's backup lights come on; just because you always remain aware of your blind spot doesn't mean that the other driver does.
Once you know the important, official rules necessary to pass the written portion of your driving test, your job isn't quite over. Driving is a skill that requires some commonsense rules to keep in mind as well.
- Leave adequate space between you and the car ahead of you
- Check your rearview mirror frequently
- Get in the habit of "look left, then right, then left again" before you pull into an intersection or make a turn
- Assume the child you see on a bicycle is going to "break a traffic law" and slow down, allowing yourself adequate time to avoid an accident, if necessary
- Likewise, make sure that pedestrians see you; slow down so that you can safely keep your eye on them and the road
At all times, try to know what is going on in front, on both sides, and behind you. Safe driving revolves around split-second decisions. Road factors can change in the blink of an eye.
Make sure you're familiar with the vehicle you'll be using for the test. (It needs to be one that passes all safety inspection standards.) Clean the windshield. If a smoker uses the car, empty any ashtrays and air the car out for a bit. Don't rely on perfumes or air fresheners to mask that odor; nowadays, as many people are sensitive to fragrances as they are to cigarette smoke. Dress sensibly. Your goal for the day isn't to make a fashion statement; it's to show the person conducting the test that you're dependable and ready to accept the responsibilities that go with a driver's license.
Congratulations! You've passed your driving test. However, your job isn't over yet. There's one more important thing that you must remember to do: Smile for your license picture.