Driving, like anything else, is an activity that comes with certain little nuances you only realize after enough time and experience practicing it. With all the preparation accomplished in drivers ed and defensive driving courses, there are still so many things that no one ever verbalizes for you. These are the lessons that usually only come with experience, but it would behoove every new driver to be at least mildly aware of them before they start driving.
1. No One Knows How to Use a Passing Lane
On roads with multiple lanes moving in the same direction, slower traffic is supposed to stay to the right, while faster cars are supposed to move to the left to pass slower traffic until they can safely move back to the right and resume driving unobstructed at their desired speed. This tactic is particularly pertinent on multi-lane highways, where the traffic in the far left “fast” lane can be moving 25 MPH faster than the other 3 lanes. Yet, frequently, it seems the natural instincts of even experienced drivers is just to put as little space as possible between themselves and other cars, meaning that all available lanes end up with the same number of cars all moving at the same atrociously slow speed, and leaving you no room to pass.
2. You’ll Never Find Out What Half the Junk on Your Dashboard Does
I’ve been driving for about 8 years now. I’ve owned, driven, or ridden in a pretty impressive assortment of vehicles in that time. I still can’t tell you why the air conditioner has all those superfluous controls, or what most of the buttons and knobs surrounding the steering wheel are for. I hope it’s not important. I’m pretty sure at least one of them, possibly more than one, is involved with cruise control, which I never use (should I?). Occasionally I have to turn on my hazard lights, and most of the time I even forget how to do that. But I know where the headlights and windshield wipers are. That’s good, right?
3. Everyone Is a Bad Driver
With all the emphasis placed on defensive driving tactics, proper signaling, and following the laws of the road to the letter, it’s amazing how rarely people actually drive the way they were taught to. Everyone speeds and you will be looked down upon by other drivers if you don’t. They listen to blasting music, talk on their cell phones, arguing with passengers, or participate in some other kinds of major distractions while driving. Even though many of these things are not technically illegal, they are still dangerous and irresponsible.
4. Your Car Will Smell Like Anything and Everyone That Enters
Do you love the smell of week-old French fries? How about the stench of chronic smokers? Or maybe water rot? Now, imagine them all peacefully coexisting in the little space you occupy to get almost everywhere you need to go. While time may heal all wounds, it sure seems to procrastinate when it comes to getting smells out of your car’s upholstery.
5. Sometimes the Rules Don’t Make Sense
You can get a ticket for going over the speed limit on the freeway. You can get a ticket for not keeping up with the flow of traffic on the freeway. Spot the contradiction?
6. Your Parents Might Have Experience, but They Don’t Always Make Great Teachers
Have you ever noticed that there’s a pretty important difference between being able to do something and being able to teach something? Your parents, or whoever is teaching you how to drive, might have been driving for decades with a clean record. The problem is that they really have almost no experience verbalizing and explaining how and why they do things the way they do. They learned this stuff when they were your age and have just unconsciously repeated it since then. Now they expect you to just follow their example. Great. That should make things easy for you.
And of course, that’s assuming your parents are even good drivers and aren’t teaching you bad habits.
7. Everywhere You Go, People Drive Differently
Cities vs. suburbs vs. rural. Mountains vs. beach vs. desert. Upscale vs. lower class. There are a million permutations of environmental and cultural factors which will affect how people drive. Just because you’ve grown comfortable with the habits of the drivers in your hometown doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be prepared for how they change when you travel elsewhere. Ever try driving in Latin America? How about China? You’d be amazed at what passes for safety and efficiency in some places.