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Driving In The Rain

Good morning everyone. It is another rainy day in southern California. The Drive Happy car is on the road today in the cities of Murrieta and Temecula. We have been teaching quite a few rain driving lessons this week, a great and rare opportunity for southern California students. For those of you that have been unable to take a rain driving lesson this week we’d like to share our best tips for driving in the rain.


While it may sound obvious this is the single most important thing that you can do while driving in the rain. When the pavement is wet and visibility is reduced you should be travelling 5 – 10 miles below the posted speed limit. If you find yourself caught in a major deluge you should consider driving even slower. Always remember California’s Basic Speed Law states that you may never drive faster than is safe for current conditions.

Tip 2: Use your headlights with you windshield wipers.

Rain reduces visibility for you and all of the other road users. By switching on your headlights anytime your windshield wipers are on you will make your car more visible to others, reducing the chance of a collision. In California this not just a good idea, it is the law. An even better idea would be to make your next car purchase a model that has always on headlights. The Toyota Corolla has this feature and it is one of our favorites. Studies have shown that even on clear sunny days, cars with there headlights on are more visible and less likely to be involved in a collision.

Tip 3: Avoid driving in flooded lanes

Southern California does not have the best storm drainage systems. For the most part our water runs down the right hand curb, and eventually into a seasonal stream. Heavy rain will cause the right hand curb gutter, and often the entire lane to flood. You should avoid driving in this lane whenever possible. Be sure to change lanes carefully.


When driving through a puddle you should let your foot of the gas and keep both hands firmly on the wheel. Avoid braking while driving through. If you feel the need to slow down do it before entering the puddle. Most puddles contain enough water to overwhelm the tread on your tires. You will be either partially or completely hydro-plaining (water separates your tires from the road-way) through the puddle. This is why you should NOT brake or steer in the puddle. Allow the cars forward momentum to carry you straight through.


Always be extremely cautious when approaching water of unknown depth. If the water appears to have significant current (i.e. fast moving water or mud) you should consider an alternate route. Mud in particular has tremendous force when travelling at speed. Inches is enough to sweep a grown man off his feet. With enough speed mud can also lift your car, and carry it away. If you are not certain you can make it, do not attempt it.

Be careful out there today, and remember to. . .

Drive Happy!

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Senior Driver Success!

Last month we were contacted by a senior in the Murrieta area. Her license had expired, and while attempting to renew it she was faced with a DMV Driving Test. She took the test, and failed, as would 90% of the licensed drivers on the road today if they were faced with a similar situation. She re-took the test a second time, and again, failed.

At this point she contacted us at Drive Happy. She was upset, and confused. Having driven safely for many years she did not understand how the DMV could be telling her that she was unsafe. Her driving record is flawless. In fact, her one and only ticket was received in 1965.

We scheduled her for an evaluation lesson the next day. On the day of her first lesson I took the time to review her previous DMV Drive Test Score sheets. Her mistakes were all very typical of experienced and somewhat complacent drivers. We went out for 90 minutes the first day, and I observed many of the mistakes that the DMV saw.

What happened next is what makes Drive Happy different. I explained the mistakes to her, completely. I explained what was done wrong, why it was wrong, and what the correct way is. We then practiced the skills. . . and practiced. . . and practiced. By the end of the lesson we had made significant progress in correcting her driving behavior.

I recommended an additional three driving lessons to improve her driving skills, and she agreed. I should mention that I was not trying to “up-sell”. Failing the Drive Test three times puts a senior driver on very unsteady footing. The DMV policy is three strikes and you are out. Once a senior reaches this point it becomes very difficult for them to ever re-gain their license. It usually involves attorneys, depositions, and thousands of dollars.

Over the next few weeks we went out driving. Every lesson we worked on correcting her driving habits. It was not easy. Changing 50+ years of behavior rarely is, but she was a trooper. We focused on what she was doing wrong, why it was wrong, and how we could make it better. We worked hard, and her habits and skills improved.

On January 4, 2010 she went to the DMV for her third, and probably final DMV Drive Test. She passed with only a few minor errors. She was overjoyed, and so was I.

This is why I became a driving instructor. This is why Amber and I founded Drive Happy. Thanks for taking the time to read and. . .

Drive Happy!

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A Letter From One Of Amber’s Students

Good morning everyone! It is a raining day in Southern California. Be careful out on the roads today! Remember to slow down, turn your headlights on, and increase your following distance!

I’d like to share a letter that Amber recently received from one of her students. This adult student completed 12 hours of Behind-the-Wheel Training. She also took the Drive Test in our car last week, passing on her first attempt! 🙂

Hi Amber! I just want to thank you for all your effort, time and kindness. You are by far the best instructor/teacher I ever had. I
learned so much from you, how to drive and be a lot less nervous in the road. You are doing such a great difference…keep up the good work that you do everyday, because I can tell you enjoy it so much. You make driving so much fun even for me that I thought I couldn’t do it again. I will tell my husband’s assistant at Abbott to give a good word about your driving school. For whoever needs it in the company, including newcomers and expats. I will see you around, hopefully! Good job! It’s all thanks to you!


Wow, what a compliment! It is so nice to hear positive things from our students.

Have a great day, and remember to. . . Drive Happy! 😀

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Are You Ready For The Mountain?

One our favorite driving skills to teach at Drive Happy is mountain road driving. The lessons learned about the importance of driving with both hands, and how centrifugal and centripetal force affect the car are invaluable. We have also discovered that it is a great confidence booster for the student.

I would like to give you a glimpse at some of our favorite areas to teach mountain road driving.

The Ortega Highway

This road is by far our favorite. Every student that we teach in the Lake Elsinore or Wildomar area gets the opportunity to drive it. We start at the bottom of the mountain off of Grand Ave and take our students all the way over the summit.

This roadway is a great place to learn because we are able to start on an uphill grade. Maneuvering through turns going uphill is far more forgiving than downhill because gravity acts as a natural brake. The abundance of turnout lanes is also a plus as it allows students to pull over and let traffic pass if they need too.

By the time we have reached the summit the student is ready to handle to downhill section through El Cariso Village. As we leave the village the speed limit increases and the road gets windier. If time allows we take the students all the way to the parking lot of the Candy Store before having them turn and head back.

The long downhill stretch descending back into the Elsinore Valley provides a nice challenge of all the skills the student has acquired so far. We use this area to teach the importance of braking before entering a turn, and releasing the brakes while turning to maintain control and avoid over-heating the brakes.

La Cresta / Santa Rosa Plateau

This is another great area for mountain road driving. We drive it with our students from the Murrieta area. The route typically starts from Clinton Keith Road near Bear Creek.

Again, we start off with uphill driving to allow the students time to develop a feel for the mountains. Once we have reached the summit we cut across the Santa Rosa Plateau and head for the incredibly steep and narrow road, Via Volcano.

This part of the lesson is an amazing experience. The roadway is inclined at an angle of over 20 degrees. We use this section to teach the importance of braking before entering a turn, releasing the brakes to allow them to cool, and how to use low gear to control vehicle speed.

Once we have reached the bottom of the volcano we navigate the students through the De Luz area. The route ends by coming down Rancho California Road into the back of Temecula.

De Luz

Another excellent mountain road area. We use this one for our Temecula and Winchester students. This area is full of great roads making the route very flexible. We start the route on Rancho California road.

We take some of our students on the La Cresta / Santa Rosa plateau route, ending in Murrieta. Other students will travel exclusively in De Luz through a challenging set up hills and curves. One of my favorite routes includes an awesome downhill grade and a sweeping right curve that runs right alongside a private lake.

On routes that stay exclusively in De Luz we end the route by traveling back down to the Temecula Valley floor on Rancho California. This one is very fun because of the 2 massive downhill curves. These are also great teaching tools for the skill of braking before the curve and coasting through without gas or brake.


For students in Fallbrook every lesson includes mountain road driving. If you’ve ever driven in Fallbrook you know that mountain roads are pretty much all the roads. 😉

Now that you know how Drive Happy teaches mountain road driving the question is “Are you ready for the mountain?”

Drive Happy

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New Driver Handbooks Available On-line!

hb2009The California DMV has released the on-line version of the new 2009 Driver Handbook. Download a copy by clicking here.

Here is an excerpt, taken from the New Laws for 2009 section:

No-Texting Law Effective January 1, 2009

• Drivers may not use a wireless communications device to write, send, or read text-based communications, while driving a motor vehicle.

Administrative Per Se (APS) Zero Tolerance Law Effective January 1, 2009
• It is unlawful for a person who is on probation for a DUI offense tooperate a motor vehicle at any time with a BAC of 0.01% or greater. Violation(s) of the law will result in a 1-year suspension of your driving privilege. Refusal or failure to complete a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) or chemical test while on probation will result in a 2-year revocation of your driving privilege. Two or more prior DUI convictions within ten years will result in a 3-year revocation of your driving privilege. You will not get a restricted license for any of the above violations.

Effective July 1, 2009
• If you have a prior DUI conviction(s) and are convicted of driving with a suspended driver license, you will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for up to three years depending on your driving record.

• Many Californians are choosing bicycling as an alternative mode of trans-portation. Bicycling is beneficial in reducing both smog emissions and gasoline usage. It is environmentally sound and increases physical health. Both bicyclists and motorists must follow the rules of the road and follow safe driving practices. Motorists should be especially watchful for bicyclists to ensure every ones safety.

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More Details On The 12 Hour Program

Since we announced the program yesterday many people have been asking us for some examples of Advanced Freeway Driving. Here is an example of one of the areas that we would like to take students during the new program.

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The I-15 / I-91 Interchange is a main artery for travel in southern California, and an excellent experience for novice drivers. Driving through an interchange of this size is something that cannot be duplicated in our Basic 6 Hour Program. The largest interchange within driving distance is the I-15 / I-215 Interchange, which pales in comparison. Let’s use Google to give us an idea of what a typical student will experience with our new 12 Hour Program.

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Starting from the I-15 Northbound, the student must identify the road signs move the vehicle into the proper lane to merge on to I-91 East. Once completed the student then takes the vehicle onto a very long banked left turn overpass that rises almost 100 feet above ground.

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As the student nears the end of the overpass they must negotiate a tricky merging lane down to a narrow one lane on-ramp to the I-91 East. Once completed, the student then takes the 1st off-ramp, and switches to the I-91 Westbound to travel through the Interchange again.

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This time the student stays on the lowest level of the interchange and continues on I-91 East. Once completed, the student takes the 1st off-ramp, and switches back to the I-91 Eastbound.

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The final pass takes the student back on the I-15 South.

If you would like to enroll in our new 12 Hour Behind-the-Wheel Training program, click here. You can also contact us if you have questions or concerns by clicking here.

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Miley Cyrus Has A Lousy Driving Instructor

I ran across this article over the weekend.  Check out this excerpt.

Cyrus explains, “My driving instructor scares me. We’re driving along and he’ll say to me, ‘What’s going to happen if you make a left turn?’ I’ll say, ‘I dunno’ and then he’ll go, ‘Bang – that’s going to happen to your brand new car’. He just starts hitting things.”

Wow,  even the rich and famous end up with lousy driving instructors.  There is an unfortunate group of driving instructors in the world who believe that teaching means scaring the crap out of students.  Here at Drive Happy, we take a positive approach to teaching.  We believe that a new drivers early experience behind-the-wheel shapes the rest of their driving lives.  Those who learn to enjoy driving,  and have the knowledge to drive with confidence, are safer than those who are frightened of driving.

Special message to Miley:

It’s not too late to change driving schools! Drive Happy would be happy to teach you,  and we have appointments available this week! 😉

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What Is Going To Happen On My First Driving Lesson?

Everyone is a bit nervous before their first driving lesson.  We understand your fear,  and we wrote this article to help reduce your fear by giving you an overview of a typical Lesson #1:

The NO List

  • NO freeway driving on the 1st lesson
  • NO angry instructors
  • NO cheating you out of lesson time


Your driving instructor will arrive on time.  If your instructor is delayed for any reason,  we will contact you to explain the situation.  Please be ready to go when we arrive.  You should bring the following items with you:

  • Your Instruction Permit
  • Corrective lenses in necessary (ie. glasses or contacts)
  • Sunglasses (If your lesson is scheduled during daylight hours,  especially early morning or late afternoon)
  • A comfortable pair of shoes (Heels, platforms, and sandals are not advised)

If you have a cell phone,  we would appreciate you turning it off,  or onto silent mode.  You don’t want your Arianna Grande ringtone going off in the middle of your first U-turn,  do you? 😀

The first time you get in the car with your instructor, you will be in the passenger seat.  We never start a student driver out in their own neighborhood.  Why?  Because having your family and friends snapping pictures, and peeking out from windows as you get behind-the-wheel will make you nervous.  Your instructor will drive you a short distance to a quiet residential street.

Getting In The Driver Seat

Our training car is very customizable,  to allow students of all heights to control the car comfortably.  Your instructor will help you to adjust the seat, steering wheel, mirrors, and seat belts.  If you have never driven a car before, don’t worry!  Your instructor will also identify the basic control for you.

Start Your Engines!

Now, onto the fun part.  Your first driving exercise will be a short trip around the block.  The purpose of this drive is to allow the instructor to evaluate your starting skill level, and to give you a chance to get a feel for the training car.  This is not a graded assignment.  It’s OK if you don’t know what you’re doing, your instructor will not allow you to hit anything, or damage the training car. 😉

Circles And Circles

The next driving exercise will be completing basic right and left turns.  Your instructor will teach you how and when to use the gas, brake, and steering wheel to make the car go where you’d like it to go.  You will also learn how and when to use the turn signals, understanding and following the speed limits, and visual search/hazard avoidance techniques.  The amount of time spent on this exercise varies, depending on your starting skill level, and your ability to learn and retain new skills.  At some point during this exercise you may begin to realize that you ARE DRIVING A CAR, AND IT IS FUN!  Smiling and laughing may occur. Your instructor will smile and laugh with you.  Congratulations, and welcome to Drive Happy 😀

Big Roads

The next exercise will introduce traffic and main roads.  You will be leaving the quiet area and practicing right and left turns at major intersections controlled by lights.  You will also learn how to locate and obey posted speed limits higher than 25mph.  With more cars on the road, you will also how to measure and maintain a safe following distance, sharing the road with bicyclists and pedestrians, making protected and un-protected left turns, and how to make a right turn on a red light.  Advanced students may also basic lane changes.  

Winding Down

As you approach the last 30 minutes of your first driving lesson, you instructor will begin directing you towards your home.  You will get to drive in your own neighborhood.  We may also cover the skill of curb parking,  and backing in a straight line.  Very few new skills are introduced in the last 30 minutes because you have already absorbed an enormous amount of information and are starting to fatigue.  At the end of the lesson, you will learn how to park in your driveway.


Having returned safely to your own driveway, your instructor will congratulate you on your progress and re-cap your lesson.  Please do not ask your instructor if you are the worst driver we have ever seen.  The answer will always be no.  You are not a bad driver, you are a student driver!  The instructor will then take the time to meet with your parents/guardian/spouse/etc.  Your mom probably wants to get a picture of your sitting in the driver seat.  Make mom happy,  and don’t worry, this happens all the time!  😉

If no one is home,  we will schedule a phone call or e-mail update.

Homework & Sceduling Your Next Lesson

Your instructor will probably give you a homework assignment.  Don’t worry, it will be something fun (ie. go out and drive often,  practice those right turns,  watch the videos on our website, etc.)  We will also try to schedule your next driving lesson. We are very flexible, however we suggest lessons to be no more than 2 weeks apart.  If you are not able to practice in-between lesson we suggest that your lessons be as close together as possible.  Repetition is the way to build good habits, drive often and you will drive safe.

This is what you can expect from your first driving lesson.  Please remember that every student is an individual and there are slight variations from lesson to lesson depending on a multitude of factors.  If you have any questions or comments,  share them in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading,  and Drive Happy! 🙂

Driver Ed

  • Step #1 for students ages 15 - 17 1/2
  • Online Driver Ed is better than dusty old classroom Driver Ed
  • Fast & easy Online Driver Ed available 24 / 7 wherever you are
  • Quick local certificate pickup available at no extra charge

$55.00Select options

Combined Package

  • Discounted price for Driver Ed & Behind-the-Wheel together
  • Everything a teen 15 - 17 1/2 needs to drive
  • Sign up today and start today with easy and secure online enrollment

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  • 90 minute private driving lessons with the same instructor every time
  • Easy to learn structured Driver Training curriculum
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Teens Must Hold Their Permit for 6 Months

The licensing process for a teenager can be confusing,  to say the least.  Here is an example of one of the most misunderstood rules for teens.  From the DMV website:

Before being eligible to take your driving test you must:


  • Have held your permit for a minimum of six months

This means that a teenager has to wait 6 months from the date the permit was issued, until they can take the Behind-the-Wheel test.  The intent of this rule was to ensure that students had adequate time to practice before obtaining a California Driver License.  Sounds reasonable, right?

Unfortunately, it has not worked.  Teens are not using this 6 month period to practice and perfect their driving skills.  What they are doing, is procrastinating.  The mandatory 6 month waiting period has allowed student drivers to put driver training on their mental back burner.  Students and parents commonly tell us that the reason they are not practicing often or scheduling regular lessons is that they “have a whole 6 months to do it”.

To a teenager, 6 months is an eternity.  Imagine that you are a teacher,  and you assign a term paper to your students that is due at the end of the school year.  When do you think they will begin to work on that paper? The day before the end of the school year of course!  The same logic holds true with learning to drive.

Procrastination has become the norm in the industry, and the DMV is encouraging it with their well meaning but poorly planned rules.  When will we realize that these arbitrary time limts are not making our drivers safer.  Only better training and thorough testing will make them safer.

Agree?  Disagree?  

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Unlicensed Drivers are Dangerous

I’ve got another article to share with you this morning.  The topic is the danger of unlicensed drivers on our roadways.  Here is an excerpt:

. . .a full 20 percent of 14- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006 did not have a license. This means unlicensed teens are significantly over-represented in fatal crashes.

I think that this makes a strong case for professional driving schools.  Unlicensed drivers are un-trained drivers.  It seems obvious that an untrained driver is more like to crash and die,  doesn’t it?

The article goes on to discuss some of the other finding of the study.  You can read the full text from here.

I’m still not comfortable with the focus on “teen” drivers.  I think we need to be talking about un-trained drivers,  regardless of age.  Many studies have shown that the age of the driver is not an indicator of their ability.  The most significant indicator of a driver’s risk is their training and experience!

We need to be requiring driver training for all new drivers,  not just teens!

Share your thoughts below.