What to expect at your first driving lesson

Your first driving lesson is all about getting comfortable behind the wheel and picking up basic and important driving habits. 

Safety is always number one with ICBC, and safety is also always number one with SenSen Driving School. In your first lesson, we’ll cover things that will set you up for success as you take on more driving lessons.


Good driving habits need to be built in from the start, that’s why we cover steering on your first lesson.

Hand-over-hand steering is the safest and most efficient way to steer the steering wheel. This technique ensures that you always have both your hands on the steering wheel.

Here’s ICBC’s instructions on how to do hand-over-hand steering:

Imagine that the steering wheel is a clock. Put your hands at an equal height at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock or 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position, whichever’s more comfortable. Remember to keep both hands on the outside of the wheel. If there’s an airbag in the steering wheel, the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock or even an 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock position may be better than the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock.

At SenSen Driving School, we prefer students place their hands at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions as this technique is more sturdy and provides more control.

Other tips about proper steering:

  •  The steering wheel controls the front two tires of the vehicle and it controls the direction of where the car is going.
  • In most cars, the steering wheel will be adjustable. Please make sure you properly adjust it before you start driving.
  • When steering, make sure you are smoothly steering the wheel. Cranking the wheel or abruptly steering will make for an unpleasant ride for your passengers.

Remembering to signal

Being a safe driver means being an expert communicator on the road. Signaling is a huge part of that as it communicates your intention with other road users.

On your first lesson, we’ll also cover the basics of the turn signal lever. Here’s an easy way to remember which is which:

  • Down is left
  • Up is right

Shifting gears

5843095046_e1e23924dd_bPhoto credit: brownpau on Flickr

In an automatic car, there are four gears available. You’ll find the gear selector lever  usually in between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, but some cars now place it mounted to the right side of the steering column. It will usually have a display showing the following gear indicators:

  • P – for park
  • R – for reverse
  • N – for neutral
  • D – for drive

Please note: At SenSen Driving School, we only cover automatic cars.

Turning on the ignition switch 

We teach every basic and important thing on your first lesson, including how to start your car. In most vehicles, you simply need to turn your key or push the start button to turn on the ignition. If you have your own car or are using a friend’s or family member’s car, please refer to the owner’s manual for instructions.

Understanding the emergency brake

If you’ve never driven before, you may not be familiar with the parking or emergency brake (or simply “e-brake”). Here’s a good explanation from ICBC of how the e-brake works:

This brake keeps the vehicle from moving when it’s parked. Depending on your vehicle, you may have a foot or hand‐ operated brake. Make sure you fully apply the parking brake when parking and fully release it before moving.

You’ll need to disengage the e-brake when in drive or reverse gear. This brake is sometimes a button in a car, but is most commonly a lever in between the driver’s and front passenger’s seat. We’ll show you how to engage and disengage this brake during your first lesson.

The basics of accelerating and braking

Real-life driving is nothing like video-game driving. Driving  requires applying the gas pedal and brake pedal smoothly.

Learning to apply the right amount of pressure can be a difficult task for new students. In fact, every vehicle you drive will feel different. Even the most experienced drivers will need time to adjust to everything when they get into a new car.

The gas (or accelerator) pedal is located to the furthest right, while the brake pedal is to the left of the accelerator pedal. Brake is the bigger pedal.

Applying the right amount of pressure to your brake pedal is also a skill you’ll need time to master. Put too much pressure and you’ll give your passengers a terrible, neck-breaking experience. Learning to apply what percentage of pressure at what time is important—and this is something you’ll learn with more practice. It’s worth noting again that every vehicle is different, so you need to adjust your braking technique accordingly.

Here are other tips on how accelerating and braking:

  • Always use your right foot to pivot between the two pedals.
  • Your left foot should be resting on the far left side of the driver cabin.
  • Plant your heel in the area between your brake an gas pedal and pivot (typically closer to brake pedal rather than gas pedal).
  • Don’t step side to side—instead, plant your heel and pivot so you can have better control of pressure between the two pedals.

Another reason to plant your heel is so you know where the pedals are without looking down. Sometimes, very new drivers would lose track and look down to find the pedals. You don’t want that because if you are looking down, then who is looking at the road ahead?

Other driving basics covered in your first lesson

In addition to the items above, we’ll also cover how to use the hazard lights, the wiper blades and how to honk your horn. We’ll also talk about other features of the car, including the heater, defroster and air conditioning.

These may seem like a lot—and some of the items here may seem basic and intuitive—but as I mentioned before, it’s important to create the right habits from the start. Our goal at SenSen Driving School is to ensure you have all the foundations required to become a confident and safe driver.

For more tips, check out our article on preparing for your first driving lesson.


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