This list of driving tips for beginners was written by a certified driving instructor who is well versed in the dangers new drivers face. Here are 16 rules to safe driving that all teen drivers need to know.
#16 – A Safe Driver Is A Confident Driver
It is natural to be nervous when you are first learning how to drive. In fact, it’s GOOD to be a little nervous. Driving really is a dangerous activity, but we take the risk because it provides us with a level of freedom that nobody is going to give up anytime soon. You’re about to get a taste of that freedom. However, a nervous driver is an unsafe driver. From day one, you need to learn how to keep your emotions under control. There will be many times in your life where you will need to control your emotions, so practice now. Be confident, listen to your instructor (or parent), and try to enjoy yourself. Driving is fun!
#15 – Get Comfortable With The Vehicle Before Driving It
All cars are different and you should be comfortable with understanding the controls in each vehicle you drive. This includes the seat controls, radio, air conditioning, defrosters, heaters, windows, locks, how to clean the windshield, where the brights are located, what the gauges mean, etc. It is actually my recommendation that you read the owners manual before driving your family vehicles, but I know most won’t go that far (really, you’ll learn some cool stuff about your car in that manual). The last thing you need while driving down the road as a new driver is to be searching for a switch or lever as you’re going down the road. So get comfortable with your car before you start driving it.
#14 – Stop Worrying About What Other Drivers Think
As long as you believe you are driving safely, it doesn’t really matter what some other stranger on the road thinks about you. Say, for example, you’re doing the speed limit on a two-lane country road and some jerk behind you is tailgating and flashing his lights. Do you worry about it? You shouldn’t. Even if you sped up, that same driver would probably still be tailgating. And in the end, do you really care what some stranger thinks about your driving? Ask yourself, “what is that person’s name?” If you don’t know, there’s really no reason to worry about it. If you do know, you can yell at them for tailgating you later! But for now, just keep driving safe.
#13 – You’ll Get Confident And That’s When You’re Dangerous
Learning to drive is always a bit scary at first, but after a while, it’ll be like riding a bike. You’ll be able to handle all sorts of different weather conditions, traffic, expressways, merging, and even parallel parking. All this talk about safety this and good habit that seems to fade away as the music in your car gets turned up more and more. Being a confident driver is healthy, but don’t let that confidence turn into complacency. Driving really IS a dangerous activity, but you can make it safer just by how you drive.
#12 – Choose Your Friends Wisely
There is a good chance one of your friends will be a dangerous driver. You either need to be honest with your friend and get them to change, or be sure you find alternate transportation. Lots of high schoolers get killed in vehicles when they were just the passenger. Stand up for yourself and your well being. If someones driving isn’t within’ safe limits, do not put yourself in that dangerous situation.
#11 – Choose Your Friends Wisely – Part 2
When you and your friends get your drivers licenses, some people will start to change. The newfound freedom allows you to follow a few different paths. Just remember, you generally become the people you hang out with most of the time. If you hang out with people drinking, being chased by the cops, and experimenting with drugs, statistically you are extremely likely to end up just like them. If that’s really the life you want to live, who am I to stop you? But you’ll always know deep down when you’re hanging out with the right, or wrong, crowd.
#10 – Seriously, Alcohol And Driving Is A Bad Combo
I know, you’ve already heard this, but drinking alcohol and driving isn’t just unsafe, it’s selfish. And, if you do kill someone with alcohol in your system, you’re going to prison for sure. Drinking and driving is still such a massive problem that it is extremely likely someone you are in high school with right now will die as a result of an alcohol-related accident. I’m an old geezer and graduated high school 14 years ago. Unfortunately, since that time, 5 people in my graduating class have died as a result of alcohol-related crashes. This is serious stuff and it will happen to someone you know. Don’t be with them when it happens.
#9 – Look Far Down The Road
Did you know the human body was only designed to travel at speeds of around 15mph? When we are driving faster than that, we actually have to fight our own instincts. Naturally, people tend to look directly in front of their vehicle when driving or right at the car in front of them. This is a big mistake and a very bad driving habit. You should always look as far down the road as possible and keep your eyes moving. That’s what they mean when they tell you to “get the big picture.”
#8 – Safe Driving Means Using All Your Sense
When you’re driving, you should be using all of your senses. Most people instinctively use their vision, but what about your sense of smell? Are you noticing the smell of burning oil or brakes? Are you listening for problems with your vehicle or sirens from emergency vehicles? It’s so common for brand new drivers to get their license, hit the road solo, and blast their stereo as loud as it will go. I get it, driving and music does seem to go hand in hand, but just remember, by turning up your music you are removing a very good sense and increasing your risk of a crash. So do so with caution.
#7 – Distracted Driving Comes In Many Forms
Sure, talking on a cell phone or texting while driving are common forms of distracted driving, but there are other forms of distracted driving that could be even more dangerous. Did you know having a passenger in your car is one of the most dangerous distractions you can have? What about drinking a soda or eating while you’re driving? Technically, doing anything other than paying attention to your driving is distracted driving. It is up to you to control the level of these distractions. If you just can’t stand not answering your phone when it rings, shut it off while you’re in the car. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re not THAT important!
#6 – Two Skills To Learn Now: Parallel Parking & Proper Merging
Most beginner drivers do not want to learn these things because they are difficult and a bit frightening. It is very important that you learn how to do these things right now. When you feel ready, ask your parents or your mom and dad to help you with these things. The first couple of times you do these things, it might not go perfectly. But within’ a few attempts, you’ll have it mastered and these are both excellent skills to have, not to mention knowing how to merge properly makes everyone safer.
#5 – Learn Basic Automotive Mechanics
You don’t need to be a master mechanic or anything, but you should absolutely know how to change a tire, pop the hood, change a light bulb, jump a battery, add oil and coolant to the car, and understand what the different dash warning lights mean. Cars have a way of breaking down in the most inconvenient of places and you can’t always assume roadside assistance will be available when you need them. Know the basics.
#4 – Speed & Following Distance Are Equally As Important
The experts agree that speed is the #1 reason for fatal accidents, but improper following distance is also one of the main causes of major accidents. If everyone is traveling 60mph but they have 20 seconds of space between each other, it could be argued that they are safer than cars traveling at 40mph and 1 second away from each other. Always keep a safe following distance, especially during adverse weather conditions.
#3 – You’re Going To Get Tailgated A Lot, Just Ignore It
Being tailgated is just a part of driving. If you live in some areas like in the metropolitan areas of New York City, or Chicago, it will likely be a daily occurrence. Just ignore it. Tailgating really does seem to work by intimidating others to speed up. Don’t be intimidated. If you get a speeding ticket or are in an accident, nobody is going to care that you were intimidated by another driver. The only thing you can do is ignore it.
#2 – Clear All Intersections
Most people who get seriously injured by red-light runners could have avoided the accident with a little proactive checking. Anytime you’re the first vehicle at a stoplight and the light turns green, look both ways to make sure cross-traffic is stopping. Never blindly trust everyone will be stopping. Sometimes large and heavy trucks are unable to stop or someone just isn’t paying attention. The majority of intersection accidents occur only seconds after the light has changed.
#1 – Have Fun!
Yes! It’s ok to enjoy driving! After so many years, I still love getting into my car and doing something as simple as driving into town. It’s fun, it makes me feel free, and you should feel the same. Learning how to drive is one of the most memorable experiences you’ll have in your entire life. So relax, be safe, but also enjoy the experience!