After spending hours on written and behind-the-wheel testing, new drivers are eager to exercise their independence. But in the first month of independent driving, teens are most vulnerable to having an accident, and this risk stays elevated through their first two years of driving. To reduce the chance your new driver will become a statistic, follow these seven safety tips.
1. Buckle up for Safety
At least 13,000 lives are saved each year because drivers and their passengers buckled up their seat belts. Always wear a seat belt and require all occupants to do the same. Adjust the lap belt across your hips and below your stomach. Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
2. Establish Your Settings Before You Drive
Before you shift the transmission into gear, place the audio system on your preferred setting. If you need directions, input that information into the navigation system ahead of time. All seat, mirror, and other setting adjustments should be completed before you move forward. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel.
3. Never Text or Talk on the Phone and Drive
Texting while driving contributes to distracted driving, and any type of distraction increases the risk of an accident. In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that at least 3,000 people were killed and 430,000 injured as a result of distracted driving. If the phone rings and you must answer it, let it go to voicemail. Then pull off the road and find a safe place to stop and return the call.
4. Consider the Road Conditions
The speed limit may say 55 MPH, but you should always adjust your speed to reflect the current conditions, including rain, fog, ice, and snow. AAA recommends that you allow at least double the usual distance between vehicles when roads are in poor condition or when visibility is greatly reduced.
5. Don’t Drive at Night or if You’re Tired
Become accustomed to driving during daylight hours before you try nighttime driving. According to State Farm Insurance, 90 percent of a driver’s reaction depends on vision. That explains why the nighttime driving accident rate is approximately three times that of daytime driving. Never operate your vehicle when you’re drowsy. Fatigue impairs your reaction time, makes it difficult to process information, and can lead to an increase in aggressive behaviors.
6. Practice Situational Awareness
When you’re on the road, always be aware of your surroundings. Anticipate what pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers will do. When approaching an intersection, always look to the left and to the right before proceeding. Never assume that other drivers are paying attention. If your car is equipped with safety features such as lane departure warning or blind spot monitoring, use them – but remember, safety features are never a substitute for situational awareness.
7. Make Sure Your Car Is Ready for the Road
Keep up with the maintenance schedule as outlined in the owner’s manual. Oil changes, air filter replacement, wiper blade exchange, and battery checks are among the basic maintenance requirements for all cars. When it comes to your tires, rotate them regularly per the owner’s manual. At least monthly, check all four tires as well as your spare to ensure that they’re properly inflated. When it comes time to replace your tires, invest in a new set.
As you gain confidence in your driving skills, you’ll be ready to take on longer trips and drive under a variety of weather and lighting conditions. But never become complacent – seasoned drivers understand that safety must never be minimized, and that defensive driving is always the best approach when taking to the road.