Your first driving session consists of three core components:
- Emotional Activity
- Intellectual Activity
- Physical Activity
Emotional Activity: Nerves, panic and adrenaline galore!
It’s your first time in the driver’s seat and it’s completely normal to be nervous. Your heart will be racing, the adrenaline will be pumping and your panic button is on full throttle. Perhaps you’ll even have physical indications of your nerves with increased twitchiness, trembling and cold or sweaty hands. Everybody reacts differently to stressful situations.
- Breathing exercises. Don’t forget to breathe, inhale and exhale deeply. If you don’t breathe, oxygen won’t reach your brain which leads to further dizziness.
- Get some fresh air. Wind down your window, get out of the car if need be.
- Stretching. Do some arm and leg stretches either while sitting down or after stepping out of the car. Get rid of the tension.
- Keep reminding yourself that it is only your first lesson. You can’t expect to be an expert in your first try, or even your second, third and fourth tries. The 120 hours are there to give you the time to become an expert in a safe and controlled environment.
- Go at your own pace. There’s no need to rush. You don’t even need to drive in the first lesson if you don’t feel ready.
Intellectual Activity: Learning the anatomy of the beast
Before you attempt to move a single inch, you need to know how to identify and use the 5 different features of your car.
- How to start and stop the car. Where the key goes and even how much to turn it. There are different points your keys could turn to:
- Off – the engine is fully off and you’re ready to remove the keys
- Enough to wind down windows, turn on the lights and see the petrol indicator (if it’s a modern car)
- The engine running and ready to roll
- Too much turning = squeal!
- Brake & accelerator (and clutch if manual)
You need to learn where these are from your very first lesson. Your supervisor may ask you to press on the pedals for each of them so you can hear the sounds the pedals make and practice switching your right foot between each.
You will learn the importance of keeping the brake pedal pressed while pushing down and pulling up the handbrake. Perhaps your supervisor will get you to use the handbrake to get the hang of it.
- Gear stick
In your first lesson, you will learn what the letters and/or numbers stand for and will potentially learn how to shift the gear stick between gears to feel how they move. While you may think a gear stick is a stick with a consistent pattern, it isn’t. Different cars have differences in various elements of their gear stick.
- Position. Depending on the model and make of the car, the gear stick could be located on the side of a steering wheel, in front of the handbrake, etc.
- Type. Manual cars tend to have a gear knob whereas an automatic car usually has a lever – though this isn’t always the case.
- Shift pattern. This refers to the layout of the gears. Again, this differs based on the type of car you have.
- Dashboard Gauges
Every car has different gauges on their dashboard and I think it’s safe to say that the newer the model of a car, the more gauges there will be on the dashboard. You don’t need to memorise all of them in one go. Just the two main ones:
You need to know where these are and how to read them.
- Other key functions
Just as with gauges, different cars have different gadgets that a driver can use. In the first lesson, you only need to know the basic three:
- Windscreen wipers
- Headlights and hazards
The location of these three functions can vary from car to car so it is critical you learn where they are in each car you drive.
Physical Activity: Drive, drive, drive… Or not?
Depending on your level of confidence (and the confidence of your supervisor), you will only need to drive a few hundred metres on a quiet road. Perhaps you’ll also reverse a metre or two. But that’s it.