by Amy Mattinat
You have learned how to drive a car, you have passed your Driver's Education course, and passed your State Motor Vehicle Test. You finally have your drivers license. Now you can legally drive a car on the road, by yourself. You have passed a rite of passage and you're one big step closer to being independent and doing what you want to do, whenever you want to do it!
But, and this is a big but, this whole new world of independence and freedom comes at a high cost. The cost is responsibility. Your most important responsibility is not to not harm yourself or anyone else while you drive the "big moving automobile" down the road. Accidents happen fast and are not a do-over. You need to constantly balance this new found freedom with caution and risk-based decisions.
There has been a ton of research done on new drivers. Unfortunately, the results aren't so good. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
• New drivers are more likely to have an accident in the first two years of driving than any other time in their lives.
• Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds. This accounts for 40% of all teen deaths.
• Only about 20% of 16 to 19 year olds drive at night, but 50% of the fatal accidents occur during these hours.
• 43 percent of teen motor vehicle deaths occur between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
• 54 percent of teen motor vehicle deaths occur on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
• About 36% of crashes that kill young people involve alcohol.
You can choose to not be one of these statistics. With a responsible, mature attitude you can accept that it takes practice and experience to develop the skills you need to spot all the hazards that come with driving. The quicker you agree to accept this responsibility, the easier it will be for you and your parents.
The 10 Essential Tips to Preventing New Driver’s Accidents:
1. Always wear your seat belt, and refuse to move the car until all your passengers have buckled up.
2. Slow Down! Speeding is the number 1 cuse of accidents amoung teen drivers. Remember, the faster your are driving, the longer it takes to stop. The faster you are driving when you hit something, the greater the impact and the greater the damage done.
3. Adjust your driving speed for weather conditions. If it's icy, snowing, raining or foggy, you may need to drive below the speed limit to be safe, or postpone your travels until the weather conditions get better.
4. If someone is tailgating you, find a safe place to pull over. I always ask "the car gods" to give them the gift of a speeding ticket as they zoom by.
5. Don't multitask when you are driving. Don't eat, drink and drive at the same time. Don't talk on the cell phone while driving. If your phone rings, don't answer it until you can safely pull over and stop the car.
6. Adjust all accessories before you pull out into traffic. This includes the mirrors, seat, and stereo. Secure loose objects in the vehicle. If you had to make an unexpected stop you don't want you or a passenger to get hit in the head with a hockey stick, backpack, etc.
7. Don't drive if you are sleepy. You put the car, yourself and any passengers at risk.
8. Don't drive at night until you have enough experience and confidence to deal with all the extra challenges that driving in the dark present.
9. Be prepared for anything when driving alone. This includes taking your fully charged cell phone with you, and always letting someone know where you are going and what time you will be home. Take enough money for emergencies, and never pick up hitchhikers.
10. Get to know your car. Get in the habit of checking the tire pressure, the motor oil and the windshield washer fluid and learn how to add if low. Make sure all your lights are working before you drive off, and keep the windows, mirrors and headlight lenses clean. Get to know your family's mechanic and get an understanding for the regular servicing your car needs to be safe and reliable.
Tell your Parents they need to help you be a better driver, by being good role model. Remember that people learn by watching. So, they also need to buckle up, slow down, don't drink and drive, don't tailgate, don't talk on the phone while driving and exhibit safe driving behavior.
It helps to have clear expectations between you the new driver and your parents who own the car your driving. If you want to impress your parents with how responsible you will be driving, sit down with fill out the my "New Driver Contract." Positive, clear communication goes a long way to reducing your stress and keeping you safe.
Safe and Happy Motoring,