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Driving tips for learner drivers

Learning to drive is an important milestone in your life, but there are a lot of things to learn and remember. These tips will help you get the most out of your driving sessions and help you become a safe driver.

Before you get behind the wheel

Before starting your driving sessions:

  • review your knowledge of the road rules
  • put your L plates on your car
  • store your learner logbook in your glove box or another safe place (you will need to fill it out after every drive)
  • decide where you are going to keep your learner licence (you will need to have it on you every time you drive).

Finding a supervisor

You can drive with anyone you choose, as long as they have held an open licence for at least 1 year for the class of vehicle you will be driving.

It is a good idea to combine professional driving lessons with regular practice sessions with your parents or friends.

Driving practice

You must hold your learner licence for at least 1 year—this gives you plenty of time to practice your driving skills in a variety of situations.

You should spread your driving practice out over the entire learner licence period, instead of waiting until just before your practical driving test.

Weekly practice in different places is important for developing good driving skills.

Make sure you drive in different conditions—in the dry, in the wet, during peak hour, at dusk and at night.

When deciding to practice driving with a supervisor, make sure you are alert and focused.

Do not drive if you:

  • are tired
  • have had alcohol—as a learner, you must comply with the no alcohol limit
  • are affected by medication—either illegal or prescription drugs.

Safe driving tips

Getting your car ready

Before you start your first drive:

  • check that the tyres have at least 1.5mm tread and are inflated properly
  • make sure you have enough fuel and that the oil and water is full
  • adjust your seat so you have good visibility and control
  • adjust the headrest so the top is at least as high as your eye level
  • adjust the steering wheel height so you are comfortable and have a good view of the instrument panel and the road ahead
  • make sure your feet can comfortably reach the pedals
  • ask your supervisor to walk around the car and help you do a mirror check to find blind spots
  • ask your supervisor to check that the indicator and brake lights are working correctly
  • take note of where important controls, such as the handbrake, demister, windscreen wipers, indicators and horn are located and make sure they all work correctly.

If you are learning to drive in more than 1 car, take the time to adjust to the different cars—some may have power steering, different brakes or mirrors.

See maintaining your car for more tips on keeping your car in a good, safe condition.

On your first few drives

On your first driving sessions:

  • turn the radio off so that it doesn’t distract you or your supervisor
  • think about other road users and how your driving might affect them.

Driving at night

When you drive at night:

  • Turn your headlights on between sunset and sunrise or when visibility is reduced—not only do you need good visibility to drive, other drivers also need to be able to see you.
  • If a vehicle comes toward you with its lights on high beam, slow down and look to the left edge of the road until the vehicle has passed you.

Driving in rainy, foggy or smoky conditions

When you drive in rainy, foggy or smoky conditions:

  • reduce your speed
  • increase your following distance behind the vehicle in front
  • avoid sudden braking, accelerating or turning to reduce your risk of skidding
  • turn your headlights on
  • use your air conditioning or demister so the windows and windscreen do not fog up
  • obey all road closure signs
  • never drive on a road or street covered with water.

Driving on country roads

When you drive on country roads:

  • look out for wildlife and livestock on roads, roadsides and near water crossings—particularly at sunrise and at night
  • watch out for tractors towing farm machinery
  • don’t stop on or near bridges, floodways or narrow sections of roads
  • be wary of long or heavy vehicles on narrow roads
  • if it is safe to do so, pull over to the left and stop off the road completely when a road train or long vehicle is approaching you—this prevents damage to your windscreen
  • don’t overtake a road train on a crest, curve or bridge—you should only ever overtake on flat, straight ground if you have a clear view.

Driving on mountain or range roads

When you drive on mountain or range roads:

  • adjust your speed and take note of yellow warning signs as these roads are often steep and have lots of bends
  • pay extra attention to choosing the right gear to drive in, this will help to reduce over-use of your brakes
  • allow extra following distance, in case some vehicles struggle to maintain their speed up steep climbs, and only overtake if it is safe and legal to do so
  • take extra care if you are following large vehicles on up-hill and down-hill sections of roads.

Driving on unsealed (dirt) roads

When you drive on dirt roads:

  • remember that different surfaces have different gripping characteristics (for example, gravel is very different to sand)
  • slow down, increase your following distance and adjust your driving techniques to the conditions
  • be careful—in dry conditions dust clouds can conceal ruts and potholes, and in wet conditions, dirt roads can become muddy, slippery and boggy.

City driving

When you drive in the city:

  • always have your route planned and make sure you are in the correct lane to avoid any sudden changes and stress
  • be extra aware of road signs, signals and road markings, such as one way signs, no entry signs, shared zones and pedestrian crossings
  • watch out for reduced speed limits in areas with high pedestrian traffic.

Driving on local suburban streets

When you drive on suburban streets:

  • keep your eyes open when driving near parked cars—children and other pedestrians can be hard to spot if they are crossing the road from behind parked cars
  • take extra care in areas where children are likely to be around, such as schools and playgrounds
  • stay alert at stop and give way signs, and at unmarked intersections
  • you should never drive faster than 50km/h unless there is a sign indicating otherwise.

Driving on main roads

When you drive on main roads:

  • Increase your following distance behind the vehicle in front of you. Because you drive faster on a main road, you need to allow for a longer stopping time. In good conditions, there should be at least 2 seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle you are following.
  • Drive to the conditions and to the speed limit.
  • Approach intersections with care—even when you have a green light.
  • Pay attention to what other road users are doing.
  • Look for hazards ahead of the vehicle you are following—this will allow you more time to react.
  • Plan your moves in advance and give plenty of warning of what you intend to do. Indicate these intentions correctly, such as when you want to change lanes or turn.

Find out more about specific rules for learner drivers, such as logbook requirements and mobile phone restrictions.

How close should you be to the steering wheel?

When you are sitting in the driver seat, stretch your arms out in front of you. Your wrists should reach the top of the steering wheel.

If not, adjust your seat until you're in the right position.

Last updated
22 July 2013
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