Teen Drivers: You just got my license, now what...
You're officially part of the club. You have joined the millions of new drivers
already behind the wheel. You're probably feeling excited, nervous, or possibly
scared — you may even be feeling a combination of all three. Don't worry,
these feelings are normal. Here are a few tips to keep you both sane and safe.
you were a kid and first learned how to ride a bike, you probably started out
with the basics. You knew your limits — you kept both hands on the handlebars,
your butt firmly in the seat, and you limited your trips to your neighborhood.
After some time, you gained experience and became more comfortable with your
bike; you probably ventured further and took longer trips.
a car can be similar. As a new driver, the key is to make sure you are
extra-careful and fully aware of all of your driving habits. You might notice
older friends and relatives doing something risky — like speeding up instead
of slowing down at a yellow light. But when a driver who doesn't have a lot of
experience on the road does it, that kind of behavior can be even more
you take a long road trip, make sure you're completely comfortable going to and
from school and work. Before you begin driving at night, when reduced visibility
makes driving more complicated, make sure you have daytime driving down. Before
you start driving your friends around, if your state's GDL program allows it,
practice driving with a responsible adult riding shotgun and on your own — so
you aren't distracted by the company.
are some tips for developing safe driving habits:
Obey all traffic rules. This includes wearing a
seat belt at all times, coming to a complete stop at all red lights and stop
signs, obeying speed limits, knowing when to yield, etc.
Avoid distractions. When you first start driving,
it's a good idea to avoid taking friends along with you. Besides being illegal
in some states while you're a novice driver, driving with friends can be
distracting. Remember, passengers can be very distracting even for an
experienced driver. With more experience, driving with friends can become less
stressful. Other things that can distract any driver include talking on the
phone, eating, putting on makeup, and listening to loud music.
Keep alert. Keeping alert doesn't simply mean
paying attention, it means eliminating any factors that might detract from
reaction time. Alcohol has been shown to reduce judgment, driving ability and
alertness. Driving while sleepy leads to similar effects. Mixing driving, drugs,
and drowsiness can be deadly.
driving can also help you save money. A good driver is less likely to fork over
money for car repairs and increased insurance premiums than a risky or bad
aren't the only person you have to be responsible for on the road — there are
aggressive and inattentive drivers of all ages and driving experiences. Their
presence on the roads means it's not enough to make sure that you follow all the
rules of the road — you also have to watch out for people who don't.
important to be aware of your surroundings. For instance, when a light turns
green, make sure the intersection is clear before you go; someone may run a red
light and be headed for you.
ways to be better aware of your surroundings include:
Maintain a safe following distance. If you're too
close to someone else you won't be able to react in time if they lose control in
front of you or slam on the brakes. If someone is tailgating you, don't freak
out — just get out of the way and let them pass. If they're making obscene or
threatening gestures, don't respond with the same kind of behavior and try to
avoid eye contact. Some states even advise you to call 911 to report these
See the future. Driving isn't just reactionary; a
lot of it is seeing situations develop. If someone three cars ahead of you
brakes, know that you'll probably also have to stop and start slowing down.
Don't simply wait for the driver in front of you to slam on the brakes — that
car's brake lights might be out!
Check those mirrors. Make sure your mirrors are
in position to give you the best view possible — be aware of your surroundings
and check your rearview mirror every 5 to 7 seconds.
training shouldn't end with driver's ed — consider taking a defensive driving
course to learn even more tips to protect yourself on the road. Not only could
this help you to gain valuable driving skills, and possibly save you some money
on car insurance, but could also show your parents you're serious about being a
good, safe driver.
care of your car ensures that it's in good condition and functioning properly.
Many breakdowns occur because drivers neglect routine maintenance. To avoid
being stuck in one of these situations, try getting familiar with:
keeping track of maintenance schedules
checking and changing oil
checking the car's coolant and brake fluid
learning how to check tire pressure and adding air when they are
jump-starting the car
adding windshield washer fluid
knowing where the jack, lug wrench, and spare tire are and how to
your car means that you won't be that person who runs out of gas in the middle
of nowhere because he drove around with an almost-empty tank, or the one whose
tire blew out because she forgot to check the air.
accidents and breakdowns are unavoidable, no matter how responsible you are. You
should keep some emergency items in your car at all times for use in such
list of phone numbers to call
insurance and registration cards
tools (wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, socket wrenches, etc.)
disposable camera (to take pictures of your car after an accident)
self-igniting flares and a lighter
bottled water and nonperishable food
flashlight and extra batteries
blanket, white rags
Practice makes perfect. So get out there and drive, keeping safety first.