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How Long Does It Take to Learn How to Drive? Basics & Types

man driving car

Learning to drive is a rite of passage for many people. It’s a crucial step for becoming independent and securing a job. Roughly 64% of the US population have a driver’s license. While the legal age varies by state, many, such as Minnesota, have a graduated licensing system to help individuals hone their skills to make the process easier and less problematic.

You can expect it to take about 45 hours of behind-the-wheel experience to get your sea legs. However, the process is more involved than simply learning how to drive a car.

Usually, one starts with a permit, where it is only legal for someone to operate a vehicle under the supervision of a licensed driver. The minimum age for unsupervised driving varies from 14.5–17 years, depending on the state. The differences rest with the typical driving conditions and needs. For example, rural states often have younger limits since many youths will work on family farms.

car and road divider

Learning the Basics

man driving automatic transmission car
Image By: Alexander Tolstykh, Shutterstock

Many adolescents may get their first taste of driving with a riding lawnmower, golf cart, or ATV. The experience often involves off-road use without traffic or other distractors. It’s a reasonable way to learn the ropes in a non-threatening environment with no time pressure. It’s probably the main reason parents will give their teens their first lesson in an empty parking lot.

Nurturing Anticipation

Gradual licensing systems recognize that it takes time to learn how to act instinctively. People are often predictable in how they’ll react in specific situations. Ideally, drivers always follow the laws and adjust their speed accordingly. We’d love to drive in such a place, but accidents happen.

It’s also a matter of getting acquainted with your vehicle. Anyone who has a daily driver knows that their ride has its quirks. They learn how to account for them when on the road by anticipating how their vehicles will react to certain actions. That’s a good thing, too, since it can empower you to make smart decisions when it matters most.

Defensive Driving

Ride Sharing Driver Uber
Image By: bobtheskater, Pixabay

We’ve talked about how learning to drive is a process. It begins with the mechanics of operating a vehicle and knowing how it works. We can further subdivide it into automatic vs. manual, new vs. old, and city vs. highway driving. Each one is a different learning experience that taps into various skill sets. The next step in your education is defensive driving.

It’s a proactive approach that anticipates the challenges you’ll likely face in specific situations. The crux is awareness of your surroundings because it gives you the intel to act. It’s mentally taxing to stay in tune with everything going on around you. However, it’s imperative if you’re driving in places where the dynamics can change on a dime.

You can take a defensive driving course, which can provide more tips about honing your skills to maneuver your vehicle safer and reduce your risk of accidents. Too often, people dismiss how vital awareness is with driving. Despite advances in technology, vehicular fatalities continue to rise, with 42,915 deaths in 2021.

Therefore, it’s imperative for new drivers to realize the gravity of their task when they take to the road.

car and road divider

Final Thoughts

Learning to drive isn’t a long process. However, it’s a lifelong experience of honing your skills and fine-tuning your awareness to keep you, your passengers, and other drivers safe on the roads. Perhaps the best way to view it is as a responsibility. Even if it’s just a run to the grocery store or a sightseeing trip to the American Southwest, you must take your role seriously during your 45-hour learning experience.

Featured Image Credit: EZ-Stock Studio, Shutterstock


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