By: Lime Green Giraffe Photography Editor, Meghan K.

*DISCLAIMER: This photo was taken while the car was parked. Don’t take photos and drive, kids.*

The one thing I was waiting for on my fifteenth birthday was my learner's permit. Admittedly, I was stressing out about the permit test and I didn’t actually get my permit until the day after my birthday (who wants to sit in the DMV for three hours on their birthday, though?), but I think you get the general idea. However, while I was super hyped about being allowed to drive, I had absolutely no idea how hard it would turn out to be; there is so much that you learn while driving that people just don’t talk about—or in some cases don’t remember. After all, when you’ve been on the road for multiple decades, you get used to certain things, and you kind of forget how overwhelming it can be for new drivers.
While I don’t have a lot of friends that drive—some are too young and some just don’t drive for various reasons—and so don’t have anyone to commiserate with, I do have some things I learned very early on that I wish someone had told me. So if you’re preparing to get your permit or you already have it but need some advice from someone who’s been there, here are a few of the things I feel that new drivers need to know that nobody seems to tell us.

1. The permit test is actually pretty chill. I assumed that the permit test was going to be some huge, sit in a room with some paper and a timer, SAT kind of deal; it’s not. This may just be the area where I live, but as long as you study enough and remember all the weird laws that seem to go against logic, you’ll be fine. Just stay calm, keep your head, and everything else should be pretty easy peasy.

2. There is a ton of input on the road. When you’re driving, there is a lot of information coming at you at once—you’re paying attention to so many different things when you’re behind the wheel. There’s really no way to gradually increase the amount of input you’re getting so that you don’t get totally overwhelmed; in fact, the first couple of times you drive, you probably will get overwhelmed just by the sheer number of things you have to pay attention to. But don’t run away from the car screaming just yet; the more you drive, the easier it gets.

3. Just because you can drive and not hit anything doesn’t mean you can drive across the state—in fact, it’s probably not advisable. Like I said before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re driving. So even though you might be capable of driving across town or across the state without hitting anything or anyone in theory, it’s probably not a good idea to put that to the test. Stick with short drives when you’re just starting out and work your way up to longer ones so that you don’t totally fry all of your neurons.

4. It’s okay to only drive one way the first few times. While you do need to learn to drive both to and from a place eventually, if you can only manage to drive to the grocery store but getting back would be completely exhausting in the beginning, that’s okay. You have an adult with you; they can get you back.

5. Assume that no one knows what they’re doing. While it’s an unfortunate and cynical piece of advice (and that’s why a lot of people won’t say it out loud), it’s true. People are going to do incredibly stupid things simply without thinking, and it’s unfortunately your job to compensate for that; stopping when people back out without looking, not hitting pedestrians who step out into the road even though they have a red hand at the crosswalk—like I said, people don’t always think. Your goal is to avoid hurting people as much as possible.

6. But be patient with other drivers. Drivers come in all stripes—some are cautious, some are a bit too aggressive, and some seem like complete space cadets—but the one thing they all have in common is that they all have the capacity to be quite frustrating. Don’t spend all of your time on the road shouting at people, though; give them the same courtesy that you would expect for yourself.

7. Be patient with yourself too. So you can’t drive a car with a manual transmission yet; so you’re still not driving on the highway; so you’re still having difficulty getting your mirrors exactly right—that’s okay! You’re still learning. That’s what having a learner’s permit is for. Driving isn’t something you learn overnight. So don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard.

8. Practice makes perfect. So many people will tell you that you’ll never learn how to drive if you don’t do X, Y, and Z. The only statement that fits that category that I can safely say is true is “You can’t learn how to drive if you don’t practice.” And it’s true; driving is something that you only learn if you do a lot of it and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.

I know it seems like you’ll never get past pulling up the driveway or driving around empty parking lots. I know driving can be frustrating, overwhelming, and exhausting. But it’s okay, I promise! You just have to keep driving and keep practicing as much as you can, and sooner or later, you’ll be rolling like a pro and you can take those student driver stickers (if you have them—I know I do!) off your car. Driving is hard, yes, but if you’re losing your motivation, just think about all the things you want to do when you get your license. Driving is fun, and it’ll be a breeze once you do it enough.

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