Nearly every public or private high school in the country requires a quarter, semester, or year-long course in Driver’s Ed before any student hopes to obtain a permit or probationary driver’s license. And while these courses are certainly crucial to explain the basics and developmental skills of an aspiring driver, they tend not to go beyond the fundamentals of operating a car, and fail to address the real concerns and precautions associated with teen driving.
Disclaimer: this article is not intended to serve as a substitute to your parents who undoubtedly constantly go over safe rules of the road. However, I am here to share with you some of the most common (and perhaps obvious-seeming) mistakes in teen driving, and the ways to best plan for and prevent any serious driving mishaps.
1. Don’t text and drive.
Maybe you’ve done it, considered it, or have wanted to see if you’re “any good at it”; but, if you haven’t, don’t, and if you have, discontinue this bad habit. I’m not sure why some people believe they are above the laws or somehow better able to juggle the two tasks at once, but texting or doing anything on one’s phone while driving is incredibly dangerous, especially for new drivers. Road conditions can change within an instant, and it’s so critical to be alert 24/7 to provide the utmost safety for yourself, your passengers, and anyone else you might encounter on the roads.
2. Minimize distractions.
While it may be fun to ride in a car with a bunch of friends, all the commotion can serve as a huge distraction. As the driver, understand that you are able to turn down giving rides to friends, and as a passenger, please be aware of the driver’s requests and comfortability. In addition, try not to blast the music too loud or change the radio station while driving. Any of these diversions that could potentially take the driver’s attention away from the road should be avoided at all costs.
3. Map out your route ahead of time.
As a new driver, you may not have the best sense of direction. While GPS’s and other navigation systems are great and can certainly be used, these too can distract a driver from the task at hand. Additionally, being in an unfamiliar area and trying to read every street sign you pass is not ideal. If you acquaint yourself with the direction in which you are headed prior to driving, you are less likely to get caught up in confusion and are better served in driving safely.
4. Be a defensive driver.
Though we’re often taught the phrase “believe the best in people”, the road is one place where this doesn’t really ring true. Not all other drivers are constantly paying attention as they should be, understand road courtesy, or exercise defensive driving themselves, so it’s important for you to not always do things such as assume the right of way rules, or presume that you have the upper hand in a merge or lane change. Further, don’t be afraid to use your horn! It’s slightly intimidating for a new driver, but it’s often the best and only way to contact another driver on the road. The consequences (few and far between) of using your horn definitely do not exceed potential dangers should you choose not to sound it. Read more about how to protect yourself on the road by becoming a proactive driver.
Learning to successfully operate a vehicle is a tough task for a young driver, and even tougher is to do so safely and to be able to avoid distractions. Hopefully these tips have made you feel better equipped to tackle the roads, and while you’re at it, don’t drive anyone too crazy.