After almost two years with my driver's licence, I've acquired some useful knowledge that makes driving a more enjoyable experience for myself and my passengers. I've chosen to spare you all the obvious (but, of course, incredibly important!) information regarding safety and the law--Driver's Ed does a great job of that--and instead share just my personal perspective on being a new driver.
Before the Test
1. Driver's Ed: Just. Get. It. Done. That is all.
2. Mandatory driver's lessons can be really helpful, especially if you get them done early. Schedule them all for the first month or two of having your permit, because you will actually get a lot more comfortable and confident. Also, if after your first lesson you would prefer to have a different instructor, don't hesitate to ask for a change! Most companies will be happy to accommodate you.
3. Consider going the distance to a better DMV. While the Santa Clara DMV may be the largest and most convenient, it is also the most crowded. And of course, the crowds can contribute to a stressful experience. If you have the option, I highly recommend scheduling your driver's test at a more obscure DMV such as the one in Capitola. Not only did I find the workers to be more friendly, but the driving route was easier and also pretty scenic. When I passed, we went to celebrate with a pastry from Gayle's Bakey in Capitola, making the day more of a memorable experience.
4. Before your test, Google the route so you can practice beforehand. For most DMVs, you'll be able to find the possible routes easily. Arrive at the DMV well before your appointment so you have time to practice the routes and take note of any tricky intersections or pedestrian-filled roads.
5. Read up on all the DMV requirements long before you show up for your test. More than one of my friends were prevented from taking their test (and forced to reschedule their appointments, which, trust me, you don't want to do) because they weren't accompanied by someone 25 or older or because they forgot the proper identification. While these can be taken care of right before, other requirements require more time to fulfill. Check that your taillights are working, that you insurance is up to date, and more with enough time that you'll be able to fix the problems before your appointment.
6. Practice using all of the buttons in your car. Your test examiner will ask you to use the headlight, defroster, horn and other functions. You don't want to fail for this reason!
You will learn more about driving in your first 30 seconds behind the wheel than you will from all of Driver's Ed. If completing the online course feels very hypothetical, don't worry. Your real-life driving experience will prepare you very well for passing your test and becoming a safe driver. Just try your best to power through the content with as little procrastination as possible; you'll thank yourself later.
Once you are licensed:
1.If you have a smartphone, try to take it with you when you drive. It's a great copilot. Below I've listed some of my favorite apps for driving.
Google Maps: Obvious but good. I've found it to be more reliable than Apple Maps, which comes pre-loaded on iPhones. It will also usually tell you the lane you should be in before turning or merging.
Waze: Waze relies on users to input data regarding traffic and potential obstacles and calculates more efficient routes.
Podcasts: Ok, so this one doesn't count since it comes pre-loaded. Podcasts make driving a great opportunity to learn something new. Browse the web to learn about Podcasts that might interest you and queue them up for when you travel.
Drive Safe.ly: This app connects to your notification center and reads aloud any incoming text messages so you can stay focused on the road.
Find My Car: Find My Car saves your location when you park, so you can use its GPS function to find your way back to your car when you're ready to go.
2. If you have a car, consider stocking it with some useful items and tools. Besides the obvious stuff like jumper cables, a flashlight, and a first aid kit (read more about the essentials here) I have a couple things that I keep on hand in my trunk.
Reusable Shopping Bags (which are now necessary to avoid the bag fees at grocery stores)
Snacks (I like those single portioned Goldfish for when I get hungry at school)
Extra shoes (a pair of spare tennis shoes have saved me on multiple occasions when I didn't have the appropriate footwear)
Agave nectar (I keep a bottle of the natural sweetener to add to iced coffee because it dissolves better than sugar. I could write a whole post on the glory of agave nectar)
Twister Mat (here me out, the Twister mat is the single most useful thing on this list. In need of instant entertainment? Twister mat. At a picnic and forgot a blanket? Twister mat. Sandy feet are getting your backseat dirty? Lay down the Twister mat and rest your mind.
Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant