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Sessions 22, 23 & 24

City Driving

Sessions 22-24 focus on driving on crowded urban roadways. During these three sessions, have your teen examine the importance of scanning ahead, lane position, covering the brake, and the hazards associated with parked cars, traffic congestion, and distractions.

Decision Making

Decision making is the most important skill used in driving. A driver operating in city traffic flow makes 50-60 decisions per mile. Drivers need visibility, space, time, and adequate traction to perform all maneuvers in city traffic whether crossing, turning, passing, or adjusting speed and/or position. During these sessions ask your teen to focus on controlling space to the front and speed to enhance visibility, space, time, and traction.

Driving on congested roadways allows a very small margin for driver error. Effective searching skills and driver alertness are both essential. Every second counts in this driving environment.

Have your teen identify city driving hazards. Examples of city driving hazards include:

  • parked cars; cars entering or exiting parking places; doors opening, etc.;
  • delivery trucks; drivers racing to and from the trucks, stopping suddenly, etc.;
  • buses; loading and unloading passengers;
  • blind alleys; cars or bicyclists darting out of alleys;
  • pedestrians; moving to and from office buildings, stores, crossing streets, etc.;
  • limited sight distance and intersections spaced at shorter intervals;
  • aggressive, impatient drivers competing for lane space or a parking place; and
  • stop and go traffic flow.

When the new driver identifies a hazard, coach the driver to cover the brake to be prepared to stop or slow suddenly. Covering the brake involves taking your foot off the accelerator and holding it over the brake pedal. Remind your teen not to rest the foot on the brake pedal. This is called riding the brake, and will both confuse other drivers and add unnecessary wear to the brakes.

Lane Position

Have your teen position the vehicle in the lane to provide the greatest amount of space between your vehicle and a potential hazard. Ask your teen to identify the least congested lane. On a three-lane roadway, the middle lane usually has the smoothest flow of traffic. Hazards in the right lane include stopped buses, parked cars, bicyclists, etc. Hazards in the left lane include vehicles waiting to make a left turn, vehicles crossing over the center line, etc.


The dangers of passing in city traffic include:

  • intersections are spaced at shorter intervals;
  • cars may pull into or out of parking spaces;
  • traffic flow is irregular;
  • oncoming drivers may drift over the center line. Several times during each session, ask the driver to use commentary driving and identify potential risks 15 seconds ahead of the vehicle.



Distractions while driving can be deadly, especially for young drivers. Ask your teen to give examples of driving distractions. Typical driving distractions include:

  • changing the radio, CD or tape, dialing or talking on the phone;
  • passengers or pets;
  • eating, drinking, smoking or reading a road map;
  • searching for an item in a purse, glove compartment, backpack, etc.;
  • having books slide off the front seat or carrying other unstable items in your car;
  • engaging in intense or emotional conversations;
  • putting on makeup or looking at yourself in the mirror;
  • driving an unfamiliar vehicle without first adjusting the mirrors and seat, selecting entertainment options, or locating the lights, windshield wipers or other vehicle controls.

In heavy traffic, coach your teen to avoid distracting activities, to search the traffic scene and not fixate on any one thing, and to focus on keeping as much space as possible around the vehicle at all times.

Driving After Sunset

Driving after sunset presents a new set of challenges. The obvious challenges are glare and reduced visibility. The first routes your teen drives after sunset should be on low volume roadways that the new driver has had some driving experience on during daylight. The guided practice night driving sessions should be integrated with the 30 daylight sessions.

Vision is severely limited at night. The vehicle’s narrow headlight beams limit the driver’s view of the area ahead, and the off-road area may not be visible at all. In addition, the new driver will find it difficult to determine the size, speed, color, and distance of objects. Coach your teen to try to look at the outer fringes of his or her headlight beams to get the best picture of possible dangers ahead and to the sides of the vehicle. Emphasize the need to reduce speed and to increase following distance. In addition, dirt on the headlight lenses can reduce their effectiveness by as much as 75%. Avoid using a light inside the car because this will also greatly reduce your night vision.

Overdriving Your Headlights

Overdriving your headlights occurs when the vehicle’s stopping distance is greater than the area illuminated by the headlights. To determine whether you are overdriving your headlights, have your teen select an object the moment the headlights pick it up, and count off 6 seconds. If the object is still ahead of the vehicle, you are driving at a safe speed. If you have passed it, you are driving too fast. Remind your teen that posted speed limits are calculated for daylight driving and are often too fast for nighttime conditions.


When blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars, coach your teen to look to the right-hand side of the lane and to make brief, frequent glances at the target ahead keeping the oncoming cars in the corner of the driver’s vision.


Glare recovery is the time it takes your eyes to adjust after being blinded by bright lights.Oncoming traffic is the primary source of glare when driving at night. Glare is also caused by the headlights of cars behind you and a dirty windshield. Adjust your rearview mirror to the “night” setting and side view mirrors to reduce glare. Dirt on glass will reflect rays of light, either from the sun or headlights, and add to glare.

Checklist for Sessions 22-24

Evaluate the second half of session 24 by placing “S” for satisfactory as the following tasks are completed:

Approaches the vehicle with awareness

Enters the vehicle and makes appropriate checks and adjustments

Checks mirrors before slowing or stopping

Covers the brake when necessary

Maintains at least a 3-4 second space cushion at all times

Approach to Intersections

Sees and responds to open/closed space areas

Checks and responds to tailgaters

Establishes and maintains proper lane usage and speed control

Stops safely when necessary

Adjusts speed to arrive in an open zone (e.g., green light)

City Driving

Recognizes potential hazards

Selects appropriate lane position

Covers the brake

Maintains a margin of safety

Turns into the correct lane

Visual Skills

Looks well ahead of the vehicle

Looks into the direction of the turns

Selects targets

Recognizes signs by shape and color

Understands the meaning of pavement markings

Selects a target in the center of the travel path

Judges gap in traffic

Uses proper signals

Avoids hesitation

Controls speed

Commentary Driving

Lists the potential risks the driver identifies 15 seconds ahead of the vehicle

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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