7 Essential Pieces of Advice for New Drivers
So, you’ve finally got your license, and you’re ready to hit the road—but not so fast! Passing your driving test is a huge win, but it doesn’t grant you the experience you’ll need to drive safely, and it doesn’t mean there’s no risk. In fact, according to the CDC, new teen drivers have a risk of crashing that’s about 1.5 times higher in the first months of licensure.
If you’re hitting the road for the first time, honing your skills can feel intimidating. However, new drivers who follow a few key tips can learn to make the most of their practice, allowing them to improve their driving abilities fast. Here are the essential pieces of advice you should know.
1. Get to Know Your Ride
Every car is different, and the last thing you want to do is struggle to find the right button as you’re speeding down the road.
Before you head out in a new car, get to know it both inside and out. This means getting familiar with everything from the dashboard to the gear shift to the fuel door. Here are a few important things you should always know how to do:
- change gears
- switch your headlights to high beam and back
- turn on your windshield wipers
- turn on your hazard lights
- turn on your fog lights
- turn off air recirculation for foggy windows
- toggle your right and left turn signal
- open your fuel door
- open your car hood
It’s also a good idea to keep your car manual in the glove box, as you never know when you’ll need to check something fast!
2. Adjust Your Seat and Mirrors
If you’re sharing your car with another driver, it’s important to adjust your seat and mirrors every time you get into your ride.
Adjust your seat according to your height and the length of your arms and legs. You should have no trouble pushing the gas or brake, and you should be able to comfortably reach the steering wheel.
Your rear view mirror should allow you to see behind your car without turning your head, and your side mirrors should allow you to see the road behind you as well as a tiny sliver of your own car.
3. Keep Your Car in Shape
As a new driver, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the care and keeping of your ride. You don’t necessarily need to know the nuances of how the engine works, but you should be able to do a few basic things on your own.
Learn how to monitor your essential fluids, including your oil and windshield wiper fluid. You should also be able to check your tire pressure on a regular basis. Don’t forget to also get familiar with the lights on your dashboard, which will help you understand when your car needs additional servicing.
4. Be Prepared
No one plans on having an accident or a breakdown, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare in advance.
First and foremost, this means driving with your vehicle registration and proof of insurance in your glove box. There’s no reason to drive without insurance—especially because it’s against the law—so make sure to take advantage of cheap auto insurance rates wherever possible.
In addition, have an emergency kit handy for breakdowns. This should include things like jumper cables, road hazard cones or flares, a flashlight, water, and an emergency blanket. You should ideally be able to do basic maintenance, such as changing your own flat tire or jump-starting your car, in a pinch.
5. Follow the Two-Second Rule
As a first-time driver, it can be hard to understand how to follow at a safe distance, which is where the two-second rule comes in. Under this rule, you’ll remain at least two seconds behind the car in front of you at all times. This makes it easy to follow at a safe distance regardless of your speed or the sizes of your respective vehicles, and it gives you enough time to brake fast in case of an emergency.
Note that you can and sometimes should allow more than two seconds between you and the car in front of you. In hazardous conditions or stormy weather, giving yourself a little more distance can decrease your risk of an accident.
6. Know Where You’re Headed
As a new driver, you’ll want to remove any possible stressors from your ride—like not knowing where you’re going. Driving an unfamiliar route, even with the help of a map on your phone, can be difficult for even veteran motorists.
To that end, you’ll want to get familiar with your route in advance, checking the main steps of your drive as well as any complex points—such as quick lane switches on the highway. This can help you feel more comfortable during your practice.
7. Avoid Even Minor Distractions
While your phone may be a necessary distraction while you’re using its map feature, that’s the only time it should distract you.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2020 alone. Things like texting and making phone calls are obvious things you should avoid, but those aren’t the only ones.
Eating, changing channels on the radio, looking for a button or setting, or even glancing at the back seat can get your eyes off the road for long enough to cause an accident, in the worst-case scenario. Even distractions from friends in your car can be enough to increase your risk.
Before you hit the road, make sure you’re truly ready to go, and avoid even minor distractions during your drive. Consider putting off that road trip with friends until you have more experience!
Hone Your Skills as a New Driver
As a new driver, staying safe while improving your skills can feel like a huge task—but it doesn’t have to be that way. The simple new driver tips above can help you feel more comfortable as you hit the road, allowing you to focus on what matters as you practice.
Want more of the tips and tricks you need to know? Be sure to take a look at our other content for helpful guides like this one.