earning how to drive as an adult can be a daunting task, but it is much easier than one may think. Taking your time and really learning the ropes before you jump into anything is the most important thing when learning how to drive, especially as an adult. Everyone learns at a different pace!

Is it normal to wait to get your driver's license?

Yes, it is completely normal to wait until you are an adult to get your driver’s license. There are a variety of different reasons that people choose to wait, whether it is lack of time, as teenagers generally have a full schedule and a lot on their plate, limited access to a vehicle to use, access to public transportation, or even just being nervous. Whatever the case may be, you are definitely not alone.

Woman in a fuzzy white jacket driving a car
Although Driver’s Education courses are not required as an adult, they may be helpful to expedite the learning process.

Do I have to take Driver’s Education courses?

This can vary from state to state, but in most places, if you are over the age of 18, you don't have to enroll in Driver’s Ed classes to get your driver's license. You do, however, have to get a certain amount of hours of practice behind the wheel with someone over the age of 18 in the car with you before you take your driver’s test. You do not have to provide proof of this, but it is an important step in the learning process.

If you fail your first driver’s test, you may be required by your state to take online driver’s ed courses to get you back on track. Otherwise, although they are not required, these classes can be very helpful in learning how to share the road with others, learning what each sign means, and what the lines on the road signify. 

Many adult drivers say that they learned a great deal from Driver’s school, because not only can you take the in-class section online, but you also have a trained driving instructor to teach you how to drive rather than relying on a family member or friend. This can take a lot of stress off of you and gives you one less thing to worry about when you are starting to drive. 

Outside of a car driving on the coast
Before anything else, you need to find a trustworthy teacher and a reliable vehicle to learn in.

How do I start?

Before anything else, you want to go to your local DMV and get a learners permit. This will permit you to be on the road with other drivers as long as you have an adult who has a legal license in the car with you at all times. To get your learner’s permit, you first have to take a test on a computer at the DMV. These are just a few questions that will test your knowledge about being in and around cars. Don’t be afraid when some of the questions are things you may not know– they do that on purpose, and you will learn that in your actual learning process. 

The next thing you will want to do is decide who is going to be the person that you want to spend 60 plus hours in the car with. Whether that is a parent, a sibling, or a friend over the age of 18– try to choose someone who you know is calm in high stress situations. It can be extremely difficult to learn from someone who gets easily upset or angry. Even if you choose to enroll in a driving school, it is important to find this person who will help you outside of your classes. Next you will want to find a car. Whether you are borrowing someone else's for the time being, or acquiring your own, you will want to figure that out before you start the learning process. After you have found your teacher and your vehicle, you are ready to start learning. 

It takes 6 months to develop a new skill to a good learning proficiency. So, you will want to plan your learning process based on that. Most teenagers start driving when they are 15 and a half, and they get their license on or around their 16th birthday. So, start your process when you know that you will have time to devote the next six months to learning and perfecting this skill. 

A woman in a hat driving, leaning close to the steering wheel
You want to make sure that you are practicing as often as possible so that you can get comfortable behind the wheel.

How often should I practice?

Generally speaking, you want to drive as much as you possibly can. You will likely start in a large, empty parking lot, and then after your teacher feels comfortable, you will move onto roads with little traffic. You will build up brick by brick until you can get to highway and freeway driving, while also working on maneuverability back in that parking lot. If you do not practice everyday, or at least multiple times a week, it is going to take you a lot longer than 6 months to reach the goal of getting your license. You not only want to give yourself time to learn, but you also want to give yourself time to feel comfortable behind the wheel, because if you don’t feel comfortable, then the person conducting your driver’s test will definitely not feel comfortable. 

Two people in a car, driving with cowboy hats
Making sure that your car is free of distractions can help you to become more in tune to your surroundings.

Making sure your space is distraction free

Although you may think that listening to the radio will calm your nerves, when you are first starting out, you don’t need that as a distraction. Driving in silence for the first few weeks (at least) will also help you to be in tune with your car so that in the future you can realize early on if something sounds off, which comes in handy to fixing your car. 

Once you have your license and your car is fully your own, add all of the distractions you would like, as long as they are not dangerous. But, until you have got your license and feel completely prepared as a driver, keep things off of your dashboard, take the hanging stuff off of your rearview mirror, and turn down your radio. Those things do not matter right now. What matters is your safety!

Paying attention to your surroundings

Another big thing with limiting distractions is being aware of your surroundings. Making sure that you are aware of what is going on inside of your car, outside of your car (both near and far), and reading signs at the same time can be extremely overwhelming to most first time drivers. Eventually it will become second nature to you, but until then, you need to be hyper-aware of what is happening around you. You cannot always trust other drivers to have good judgment or to make good decisions, so you have to be a defensive driver in that way. But, you also do not want to be a “road rage” driver, which often can be a fine line between the two of those.  

Man in the drivers seat of a car with his window down
Although occasionally driving abilities decrease with age, that does not mean you should not learn.

How much does my age affect my driving ability?

You can learn to drive at any age. But, studies show that driving abilities can decrease with age because of things such as decrease in hearing and vision. For the most part, your vision and hearing are not decreasing until you hit your late 30s– but, there are ways to get around that if you still want to learn how to drive at that age. Many people drive until they reach their 80s and beyond, so do not let that scare you. You can always talk to your doctor about things that may work for you to help get around those physical barriers. 

What other things can affect my driving?

Certain medications are known to affect response time and can create cognitive impairment. This is why the side effects on many medications say that you should not be operating any mechanics while taking them. In addition to that, being sick can affect your driving a great deal. Whether you have a cold, allergies, or the flu– any type of illness has your body in high gear trying to fight off the bad. This means that you have a huge distraction within yourself, and you may not even know it. Be careful and take note of how you are feeling before you get into the driver’s seat, especially as a new driver.

Woman driving a car
Taking the time to become a good driver rather than rushing to become an average one makes a world of difference.

Ultimately, learning how to drive is not as difficult as it may sound– especially as an adult. All of the things mentioned in this article are simply to prepare you for what could happen, not to scare you or make you feel unprepared. As long as you take the time to learn and grow as a driver, and you do not rush into anything, you will be on the road in no time at all. Good luck!

Mar 8, 2023