Embracing your new found freedom on a road trip is a great way to build up your confidence, but you will also need to prepare before you get behind the wheel. As a new driver, it will probably bring a mixture of emotions ranging from excitement to intimidation! During your driving lessons you are taught how to drive, road law and etiquette etc… but none of this really prepares you for what it’s like to be a real road user.
Let Feet Do Travel help you plan a safe journey with our road trip tips for newly qualified drivers.
If you’re one of the first to get your license in your peer group, or if you have finally passed your test, you’ll probably have many friends shouting “road trip!” with glee. No doubt, you’ll also want to oblige.
There are a few important factors to consider when planning road trips. Driving long distances can be tough even for experienced drivers, which is why it’s good to make sure you have your route planned. Check out these tips for long road trips as there is some good advice here to help you plan for the journey.
When planning, check your car insurance to see if you are covered away from home, and make sure you have some form of road side assistance in case of breakdowns. You probably won’t need this but it’s best to plan just in case the worst happens.
It’s also good to ask yourself if you’re comfortable driving long distances as an inexperienced, new driver. A good idea would be to create a driving schedule and share the driving load with your passengers so you don’t have to over burden yourself. Remember, tiredness is dangerous on long journeys.
Once you have past your test, there is still so much more to learn, and some skills take a while to perfect. Even people with years of experience can stall their engine at a traffic light. Admittedly there will come a time when you can drive like it’s second nature, but practice makes perfect and that only comes from driving.
Safety, confidence, and comfort are all bound together, and should be perfected in that order. You need to be realistic about your comfort level so you can be safe, even if this means delaying major plans for a couple of months until you feel ready.
Being confident on the road before your road trip will mean you will have less stress. Don’t believe that everyone else on the road is a better driver than you, because you will be surprised just how many bad drivers you will encounter! Never assume other drivers know what they’re doing, that they can see you, or have the intention to follow the rules.
Some won’t indicate when moving into lanes, some might cut you off, some will tailgate you (don’t be intimidated by this), some will overtake on hills or corners, and some are just plain unobservant.
The only car you have control over on the road is your own, so remember your training, stay calm, focused, don’t let others irritate you and remain confident in your own abilities.
All cars are different, and it’s wise to familiarise yourself with all aspects of the car you will be driving. Start with the seating position and make sure you know how to adjust everything for your own size and comfort, which is super important on for a road trip. Check out the dashboard so you know where warning lights, fuel indicators and speed dials are. Make sure you know how to switch on the headlights and even familiarise yourself with the air conditioning system, stereo, windows, navigation system etc. This way you won’t have to fumble around controls whilst driving, removing another potential hazard from your long journeys.
If you are renting a car (especially in another Country), take time to learn where everything is and how it works, take the car for a short drive before you set off on your road trip. Make sure you are comfortable with the cars gear system, whether this is manual or automatic, so no mistakes will happen. This may sound obvious, but for a new driver, it’s better to be prepared in all cases.
Car safety is also of paramount importance, so make sure you take the vehicle to an auto repair store for a full service before you travel. They will check the brakes, change the oil and oil filter, check/change spark plugs if it’s a gasoline car, top up radiator coolant, check lights, tyres and other essential maintenance for travel.
If you don’t know how to check the tyre pressure, ask the mechanic to show you how it’s done so you can repeat this task if necessary during your trip. Correctly inflated tyres not only give you better mileage and prevent uneven wearing, but it makes sure the car can be controlled properly. Always check your tyre tread and make sure they are within the legal and safe limit. Your tyres are the only part of the car in contact with the road, so their importance should not be underestimated.
On a road trip, you will most likely encounter parts of the journey on a motorway/highway, and you may not have driven at such a high speed during your driving lessons. It is possible to take additional training specifically teaching you motorway/highway driving, alternatively you can practice yourself. You will need to be confident driving fast (but safely within the speed limit), but also changing lanes multiple times with indication, regularly checking your mirrors, and maintaining concentration for long periods.
Golden rule of motorway driving; if you feel sleepy or tired, pull into a service station for a break and a cup of coffee. As we said earlier, tiredness is a potential killer, so don’t ignore it! Other ways to beat the boredom or pep yourself up is to open a window for a blast of cold air or make sure a passenger keeps talking to you… maybe turn your music up and sing to it. Just don’t use these things as a replacement for a break.
Enjoy your first road trip, you will have a blast!