Learning to drive in India :
I was already 30 years young by the time I decided to learn driving. This is quite late as the driving license in India can be obtained at 18. But during my college days I could not afford to join driving classes and I am not the kind of person who would ask around so that someone would lend their vehicle to me to learn driving. So this is how I went about learning to drive.
Step 1 :
First step is to buy a second hand car. I bought a second hand Tata nano. This was for several reasons.
- I did not want to spend a lot on a car on which I would be learning to drive. Learning to drive can punish a car, especially the clutch and the engine.
- It is a small car so it would be easy to judge distances.
- It is a very basic car which has no power steering, no ABS, and a small engine. Hence if you can drive this you can drive almost any other thing.
- It has very good mileage hence I can drive a lot for practice without making a hole in my pocket.
- It would be my second car of the house in the future when I buy a bigger car. I am wary of motor bikes.
Don’t postpone this step to a later date its always better to have your own car if you want to learn driving quickly. Get someone who knows about cars to help you out with this step.
Enroll into a driving school. Choose a driving school that is professional and teaches you dedicatedly for minimum 20 hours. I stress dedicatedly because some driving schools combine multiple pupils during on-road driving classes. You along with the instructor should be the only people in the driving school car. Learn in a car with lesser power like Maruti Alto or 800. Cars with powerful engines do not need to have good clutch/accelerator coordination. Learning the clutch/accelerator coordination early is always good. The driving school should arrange for you learners driving license (LL) and the coveted driving license.
Ask them to specifically teach you bumper to bumper traffic driving and uphill driving. These are very important skills.
Step 3 :
Driving you own car independently. This is much more challenging than it seems. In a driving school the instructor has controls and can brake/clutch the car in case of emergencies. There are no such arrangements when you drive your own car. Hence get to an empty flat ground along with someone who knows driving and practice the following.
- Getting off from a stationary position. This requires some practice in small power engine cars. A good Clutch/Accelerator coordination is requires. The normal technique is give press the accelerator gently until you hear the engine rev and then release the clutch very very slowly. The very very slow part is very very important. This makes the car move smoothly without any jerks. Remember try this on a flat surface and not on an incline.
- Learn to brake gently. Feel the amount of pressure required to get the vehicle to slow down and stop. This is very important. Practice this a lot. At slow speeds (First Gear) the clutch should be pressed completely while braking. Not doing this will stall the car. At high speeds first brake until the car slows down and then press the clutch completely just before the car stops. Also remember that there are different kinds of brake technologies and hence braking require slight adjustments when driving different cars. Hence always feel the brakes every time you drive a different car. The clutch connect the engine to the wheels. Pressing the clutch disconnects the engine from the vehicle. Hence while braking and shifting the clutch has to be pressed.
- Shifting gears upwards :Read the vehicle manual and find out the correct speed for each gear. Always start on the first gear no matter how powerful the engine is. Accelerate the vehicle to the optimum speed for the gear before and then shift the gear with the clutch pressed. Release the clutch gently.
- Shifting gears downwards: Slow down the car by gently applying the brake. Now shift the gear downward while completely pressing the clutch. Once the gear is shifted release the clutch slowly. Lower the gear slower should be the clutch release. If the car jerks then the clutch release is not slow enough.
- Steering control : Make markings on the ground and learn to steer the vehicle between these markings. Understand that the steering response is different at different speeds.
- Parking : Make markings similar to a car park and learn to park the vehicle correctly between the markings. Learn forward and reverse parking. Also learn parallel parking.
Practise the above steps until you feel comfortable while doing it.
The above steps should make you feel comfortable while driving on a flat road. One of the challenging aspects of driving is driving uphill (climbing). Find a place that has a incline and enough space before and after the incline for safety. Try to drive the car uphill on first gear and stop by pressing the brake when the car is on the incline. Do not let go the brake, doing so will make the car roll back. Now with the brake pressed slowly release the clutch partially until you hear the engine rev and the car vibrate slightly. This is called the clutch bite point. Now release the brake with the clutch still at the bite point and press the accelerator gently and release the clutch. The car should move forward. This step requires a lot of practice. The goal is to see that the car does not roll back. Once you have mastered this step you are good to drive on road.
Some safety tips:
- Keep adequate distance between vehicles on the road. This gives reaction time to avert accidents. The distance should be larger when it’s raining and during the night.
- Have patience. Be nice to two wheelers, pedestrians and other vehicles. By hurrying you only save a few minutes to destination. So do not risk yours and others lives for these few minutes.
- There is nothing called as a perfect driver. A person who claims this is a fool. Every situation on the road is different. Hence please do not assume that once you have mastered the mechanics of a car you can do anything on the road.
- The car is a big wild killing machine. Hence do not be complacent when driving one.
- If you like racing find a racing track. Do not do it on the roads.
- Do not jump traffic signals. This is very dangerous and cause most of the accidents.
- Do not honk unless it is absolutely necessary as in case of taking a turn and warning other drivers of impending dangers.
- Learn how to operate the wipers and the different lights.
- Signal well in advance before changing lanes and taking turns.
- Do not stop suddenly even if someone in the car says so.
- Do not make sudden and surprising moves.
- Always anticipate difference scenarios.
- When tired take rest. Do not drive continuously for more than 2 hours.
- If sleepy do not drive. All it takes is a fraction of a second.
- Do not get frustrated because of other arrogant drivers.
- Check the tyres before driving.
- Wear seat belts.
- Put the L board when learning to drive.
It takes months before you can drive naturally on the roads. Don’t worry if the car stalls. Be calm. There will be a lot of honking from behind but ignore them. The more you drive the more comfortable the driving will be. There is no substitute for practise.