As an eager new driver, it’s tempting to want to rush into the freedom of the open road. But driving requires immense skill and responsibility, built up through patience and diligence.
Making some mistakes is inevitable as you learn. But being aware of the most common errors new drivers make can help you proactively avoid them.
In this guide, we’ll count down the top 10 mistakes, explaining how they happen and – most importantly – how to prevent them through smart driving habits. With this advice under your belt, you’ll steer smoothly towards success and safety.
#10 – Not Checking Blind Spots
Fumbling blind spot checks is one of the first mistakes new drivers make. Eager to keep eyes forward, it’s easy to forget to glance over your shoulder before lane changes. But neglecting blind spot checks is dangerous – you could sideswipe another car or worse.
Get into the habit of visually checking over your shoulder in the direction you plan to go. Do this every time before lane changes, turns, merging, or passing. Be sure to check the rearview mirror too. Yes, it’s repetitive, but vital for awareness.
#9 – Misusing or Forgetting Turn Signals
Remembering to use turn signals seems simple, but it’s easy to forget in the heat of navigating new driving scenarios. Proper signalling keeps other drivers aware of your intent, preventing surprises.
Get used to flicking the signal lever up or down before every turn and lane change. Make your signals obvious and early. Use the mnemonic device “SMOG” – Signal, Mirror, Over the shoulder, Go.
#8 – Stopping Too Far or Short at Lights
Judging the proper stopping distance from traffic lights takes practice. Stop too close and you risk rear-ending the car ahead if it brakes suddenly. Stop too far and impatient drivers behind may honk or drive around you.
Use the “3 second rule” – stay at least 3 seconds behind the vehicle ahead. When they pass a landmark like a sign, start counting “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand…” You should reach 3 by the time you pass the same spot.
#7 – Hesitating at Stop Signs and Lights
New drivers may creep tentatively into intersections, inviting dangerous T-bone crashes. Or they’ll freeze up when lights turn green, risking road rage from other motorists.
Build confidence through practice accelerating smoothly from a full stop. Scan crossing traffic as you approach an intersection. Have a plan so you can proceed decisively when it’s your turn.
#6 – Hugging Curves and Turns
It’s common for new drivers to cling too tightly to the inside of turns and curves out of fear. But this causes dangerous crowding if vehicles are approaching in the opposite lane.
Practice wide, sweeping turns that maximize sightlines. Learn to modulate speed on curves. Guideposts can help position yourself correctly before turns.
#5 – Speeding on Unfamiliar Roads
When driving new routes for the first time, it’s easy to creep over prudent speeds without realizing it. But speeding on roads you don’t know jeopardizes your reaction time if hazards arise.
Make a habit of noting speed limits and set your cruise control. If there are no visible signs, stick to limits under 35 mph in neighborhoods and 55 mph on wider roads to be safe.
#4 – Distracted Driving
Today’s tech temptations pose constant threats to attentive driving. New drivers often struggle to keep hands off cell phones and eyes on the road. But distraction only takes a split-second to end in tragedy.
Lock your phone in the glove compartment to avoid temptation. Adjust mirrors, climate controls, GPS etc. before driving. Pull over if you absolutely must attend to something physical or digital.
#3 – Following Too Closely
Tailgating is a notoriously common mistake as new drivers learn to judge safe following distances from the vehicle ahead. Following too closely leaves zero margin for error if that car brakes suddenly.
Use the 3-second rule explained earlier. Pick fixed roadside objects like signs to gauge if you’re maintaining a safe buffer.
#2 – Not Looking Far Enough Ahead
New drivers tend to focus solely on the road directly ahead of the hood. But successful driving requires scanning much farther down the road to anticipate needs to slow or manoeuvre.
Actively work on raising your sightline to take in the full scene. Scan side to side. Read traffic flow patterns. Give yourself time to respond to far ahead dangers.
#1 – Intersection Confusion
Intersections require the perfect storm of hazard perception, navigation, and split-second decision making that new drivers haven’t mastered. The majority of multi-vehicle crashes happen at intersections.
Carefully scan all intersecting roads and avenues of approach. Cover brake pedal in case you need to stop abruptly. Double check right-of-way – just because you can go doesn’t always mean you should.
Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast
Learning to drive requires so much multitasking that errors inevitably occur in the beginning. You shouldn’t expect flawless driving right away. Strive for steady, smooth progress day-by-day.
By knowing the most common mistakes new drivers make, you can proactively develop smart habits to avoid them. With enough road experience under your belt, actions like scanning, signalling, and speed control will become second nature.
The keys are anticipating potential issues well ahead of time, actively practising safety techniques, and never letting frustration or ego impact your good judgement. Safety for yourself, passengers, and fellow motorists should