Passing your first driving test is an exciting event! It’s the first step on your way towards earning a full-privilege license.
Even though you have your learner’s permit, there’s still a way to go before you become a fully licensed driver.
The fact is, every motorist is learning all the time. Here are some useful tips that will help you become a better and safer driver.
Never Use your Cell Phone behind the Wheel
For many drivers, using their phone while driving isn’t a big deal. They do it all the time and, because they’ve never had an accident, they shrug the risk off.
But the fact is, using a phone while driving is one of the leading causes of accidents on the road today. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a quick call or a single text — when your attention is distracted from the road for even a split second, accidents happen.
Police are cracking down on drivers who use their phone behind the wheel. While it is not illegal in all states, those that do criminalize it often carry harsh punishments. Penalties vary between states, but those found using their cell phone while driving can receive a fine, a driving ban and, in some cases, even jail time. For younger drivers, the penalty sometimes can be even worse.
Check your State Driving Restrictions
Passing your test is an exciting time, giving you the freedom to go wherever you like, whenever you like. But before you start driving, be sure to check your state’s local driving laws.
Some young drivers feel pressure from their friends to give them lifts to and from school or nights out. But many states have restrictions on young drivers which you will need to be familiar with.
For example, your state might have a limit on the number of passengers you can carry at any one time, or it may impose a driving curfew.
Don’t bow to peer pressure. But for new drivers, an extra person in the car is an extra distraction, which can increase your chances of having an accident.
There will be plenty of time for that big road trip further down the line (and when you are ready, here are some useful road trip safety tips to get you started). But for now, abide by your state laws and earn your license.
Choose the Right Car for You
After passing your test, it’s easy to get excited about driving your own car and it’s pretty tempting to go out and buy the first car you see.
That’s not a good idea.
Instead, it’s important to take your time and choose your first car carefully. You want something that’s easy to maneuver (like a small hatchback), economical, reliable and usually inexpensive.
You may also want to consider opting for a smaller engine as car insurance premiums increase greatly as you move up to larger engines. 1.4 liters or lower is definitely your best bet.
Older vehicles will be cheaper to purchase but do consider the tech available in newer models. For example, some of the latest cars use dash cams, parking sensors and backup cameras which can really help a new driver.
Keep a Safety Kit in your Car at all Times
Accidents happen, and while you can’t plan them, you can prepare for them with a well-stocked safety kit.
It’s a good idea to carry a red warning triangle to display if you have an accident or breakdown. Warning triangles are portable and affordable, so there’s really no excuse to have one in your safety kit.
Your safety kit should also include an emergency flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, washer fluid, and a spare tire. Essential items such as oil and tire irons are vital of course, but you should think beyond your car.
If you are stranded on the road in cold weather, you’ll need a few bottles of water, some food, and a sleeping bag or warm blanket. Keep your safety kit in the trunk of your car at all times — it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Take Advantage of Rest Stops wherever You Can
As your confidence grows, you’ll start taking longer journeys around the country. Even though you’re sitting down, driving a car can get tiring. Many new drivers underestimate just how demanding long car journeys can be, so remember to take rest stops wherever you can.
No matter how much of a rush you’re in, it’s important that you take the time to stop and rest up with a cup of coffee.
If you can’t find a rest stop, pull up safely in a turnout and give yourself a few minutes to recharge. And before setting out on your journey, make sure you’ve had a good night’s sleep. You might feel fine when you begin your journey, but fatigue can quickly set in on a long journey.
Passing my driver’s test was a life-changing event for me, and I felt like I had the world at my feet.
But I’ll readily admit that I made my fair share of mistakes. I’ve been fined twice for using my cell phone while driving, and I once broke down on the interstate without a safety kit — not even a red triangle — and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
So the advice above has been hard-won, but it’s worth it. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, and follow the tips above to be the best driver you can be.
Kayleigh Alexandra writes for MicroStartups, a non-profit community that helps aspiring charities and entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.