Ready to jump behind the wheel and hit the open road? Maybe, maybe not. It takes time for new drivers to feel comfortable and confident navigating a car. Understanding the rules of the road makes driving safer and more enjoyable for everyone. If you’re a new driver — or you know a new driver — these tips can help you cruise more smoothly as you learn the ropes.
1. Focus, Focus, Focus
There’s no such thing as being too safe while you’re driving. Buckle up before you go anywhere, and refuse to start the engine unless those passengers of yours are also wearing seatbelts.
Tap-tap those GPS settings before you depart for your destination so you don’t need to fiddle with the device mid-trip. If you know that you’ll need something along the way like money for a toll, then get it within easy reach.
Most importantly, never use a cell phone when you’re behind the wheel. Cell phone use while driving contributes to as many as 1.6 million accidents a year, according to the National Safety Council. Not only is using the phone unsafe, but it’s also illegal in many states. Fourteen states ban all drivers from using hand-held phones while 38 states ban these phones from teen drivers, and 47 states ban drivers from text messaging. Why not put that phone out of sight — or better yet, out of reach — so you aren’t tempted.
Did You Know? The National Highway Traffic Safety Association estimates that, at any time during the day, 660,000 people are using their phones while driving.
2. Keep Your Hands on the Steering Wheel
It can be tempting to twiddle with the radio settings, freshen your makeup, and even take a bite to eat while you’re trying to steer, but these are all distractions that make driving far more hazardous than it should be. It only takes a split second for accidents to happen. Keep your paws on the steering wheel, and you’re ready to move the car at a moment’s notice.
Did You Know? Conventional wisdom says to place your hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, but many safety experts now recommend placing your hands at 9 and 3 o’clock. This keeps you in control of the vehicle, but it lowers the risk of injury if the airbag deploys.
3. Be a Defensive Driver
What does that mean? It means to expect the unexpected and assume other drivers might be aggressive. As you’re cruising along, keep at least a two-second buffer between you and the car in front of you. To do this, start counting when the car in front of you passes a fixed object like a telephone pole. You shouldn’t pass the object until you’ve counted to two.
Always be prepared for other cars to stop suddenly, pull out in front of you, or make a mistake. Being a defensive driver also means that you’re courteous of others. Tap your turn signals before changing lanes, go the speed limit, don’t pull out in right in front of someone else, and so on.
Tip: If the weather is bad, increase your following distance from the car in front of you to four seconds.
4. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings
An alert driver is a safer driver. Continually scan the road and keep an eye out for bikers, pedestrians, or any animals that might dart out in front of you — often, helpful road signs warn you of these possibilities.
While driving, you should also periodically check the gas gauge and routinely scan both the side and rearview mirrors so that you know your neighbors on the road. Remember that many areas near schools have special, lower speed limits in the mornings and afternoons when children are present.
Tip: Be especially alert during the dawn and dusk hours, when animals like deer are more likely to be active.
When it comes to driving, safety is a top priority. Follow us on Twitter — when you’re not behind the wheel — to stay up to date with more automobile tips and tricks to improve your driving experience.