In Summary

When it comes to driving a vehicle, you can never be too safe. The more you hear the basic driving tips, the sooner they are going to become second nature to you, and you will end up being an excellent driver.

Going on the road as a first time driver is exciting. However, did you know that your experience may turn into a nightmare, especially if you do not take care to prepare yourself for the journey?
According to Akim Muhwezi, a driver in Entebbe, though you learn the rules governing proper road use and proper driving techniques in most driving schools, there are still a few things to consider for your first experience behind the wheel.

Know your vehicle
According to Conrad Musiime, a driver in Seeta, though most people who are driving for the first time give more attention to things such as how to start a car, change gears and controlling brakes, there are some small things that may be disastrous if ignored.

“Before you drive any vehicle that you are not used to, familiarise yourself with all of the controls. Learn where the signal lights are, check to make sure that all of the lights are working before heading out, especially if you are going to drive at night. It is also advisable to understand the dashboard and its symbols,” he says.

Musiime adds that before getting on the road, it is advisable to familiarise yourself with all the buttons in the car as well as learning all their functions. “If you do not know some of these buttons, you can mistakenly use one that could cause an accident,” he adds.

According to Muhwezi, while a first time driver might rush to get on the road, it is advisable to adjust the vehicle so that you are comfortable. “Before you start the car, make sure that you can see out of all mirrors and that the seat is adjusted to your height. Being comfortable will help you relax and you will drive safely to your next destination,” he says.

Avoid major highways
According to Muhwezi, it is not advisable to drive on highways as a first time driver. He advises first time drivers to wait until they are confident enough and can handle busy traffic and technicalities on a highway.
“Although you will need to learn how to drive on these types of roads, the first time you get behind the wheel is not a good time. Wait until you have some experience controlling a vehicle before putting yourself in difficult driving situations,” he notes.

Keep checking your blind spot
Ojangole says though mirrors do a good job of showing you what is behind you, they cannot show you what is just outside of your marginal vision.
“Your blind spot, as it is popularly known is a pretty large area, big enough for motorcycles and cars to wait undetected, until the moment you turn right and collide with one. Do yourself a favour and always check your blind spot every time you change lanes or turn right,” he advises.
Musiime says first time drivers tend to give attention to things such as talking on the phone, concentrating on a heated conversation in the car with friends or playing loud music. To him these can take your attention from the road leading to accidents and related effects.
“It is great hitting the road for the first time but just make sure that you are not too busy with other activities apart from driving. Do not play loud music or allow to get distracted by conversations with your friends. Also, avoid using your phone until you have safely parked the car,” he says.
According to Muhwezi, a first time driver needs to be confident while on the road. “Though it is your first time to drive, avoid doing things in panic. If someone hoots at you for some small mistake you have probably done, do not panic, correct your mistake. Confidence on the road will help you avoid accidents,” he says.

Drive with a safety kit
According to Peter Ojangole a mechanic in Seeta, it is advisable to travel with a safety kit as you drive for the first time.
“You never know when you are going to break down somewhere or have an accident, and if you are not on a highly travelled road, it may be some time before you can get help. You should include flashlights and batteries, road flares, jumper cables, a spare tire among others, he advises.

No mobile phones
According to Christopher Ssemakula, a driving intructor at Prestige Driving School in Wandegeya, you should not use your cell phone while driving. This is dangerous, and even if you think you are the best multi-tasker in the world, there is no way that you can keep your concentration on more than one thing at a time. You need to make sure that all of your concentration is saved for your driving. “Not only should you never talk on your cell phone while driving, you also need to remember never to send or read text messages,” he says.

How to overcome the fear of driving for the first time

Being afraid of driving for the first time is not unusual, but there are things you can do to feel more confident. Prepare yourself by learning how to take care of things that might come up on the road and by learning more about the car you will be driving. Adjust car settings before driving and make sure there are no distractions. Relax yourself by having a supportive friend to ride in the car with you, and drive during the day to make sure you have the best visibility.

According to Christopher Ssemakula, a driving intructor at Prestige Driving School in Wandegeya, the excitement and anxiety that most first time drivers experience sometimes lead them into committing a number of mistakes.
“New drivers often make mistakes while driving. While some of these mistakes can and should be avoided, others result from naivety and lack of awareness. The most common mistakes are easily corrected, but can also be the deadliest and should be addressed as soon as the driver or anyone notices that they are being made,” he observes.

Learn driving-related tasks
Before you drive for the first time, make sure you learn all the driving-related tasks that might come up when you are behind the wheel. Being prepared for these possibilities will reduce some of the worry and uncertainty about driving. These tasks include fuelling your car, changing a tire and jump starting a car among others. According to Conrad Musiime, a driver in Seeta, many first time drivers are always on pressure which makes them commit several mistakes. “When another driver hoots at you, do not panic, too much panic might lead you into committing another gruesome mistake,” he says.

Ask friends and family for advice
Ssemakula says to reduce your anxiety about driving for the first time, ask your friends and family to tell you about the first time they drove. Ask them if they felt nervous about the experience, and how they dealt with it. Request advice for how to best handle your first time driving.

Drive a familiar car
Ssemakula adds that it is advisable for a first time driver to go on the road with a car that he or she has been practicing with. He says different cars have different functions that can tease you especially when you are a first time driver. “When you are a first time driver and you hit the road with a car you are not familiar with, you risk making a mistake that might cost you,” he observes.

Plan your journey
According to Musime, to save yourself undue stress while you are driving, plan out a route before getting behind the wheel. Choose areas that you are comfortable with and know very well. Aim for streets that have minimal traffic so that you can drive carefully without dealing with impatient drivers.