Getting your driver's license and becoming a new driver is an exciting time. As a young teen driver, you now have a new freedom and independence that opens up many opportunities and adventures.
But getting behind the wheel is a huge responsibility that you shouldn't take lightly. How you drive affects your safety. You need to remember that not only does your driving affect your safety but also your passengers and everyone else on the road with you.
Use these ten tips to be a safe driver who avoids costly traffic tickets and accidents and is prepared for the unexpected.
#1 – Have Emergency Supplies on Board
You never know when a road trip may not go as planned due to heavy traffic, bad weather, or mechanical problems. Staying on top of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule is good, but you should also always keep emergency supplies in your car based on local conditions.
Having water and non-perishable food, such as granola bars and dried fruits, is important to keep you comfortable if you get stranded. Emergency tools such as a first aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, fire extinguisher, spare tire, jack, wheel wrench, and jumper cables are critical to have on board, too.
Another important aspect of staying prepared for emergencies is to make sure you are adequately covered by car insurance. Having roadside assistance coverage can be essential if your car breaks down or blows a tire.
#2 – Make Seat Belts Mandatory
Keep yourself and your passengers safe by requiring everyone in your car to use their seat belt — even in the back seat.
When you’re the driver, you can make the rules. It may not seem “cool” but it’s the right thing to do, and it can make the difference between serious injury and even death if an accident happens.
#3 – Be Safe Behind the Wheel
Speeding gives you less time to react to unexpected situations. Always allow plenty of time to reach your destination without exceeding the posted speed limits.
When you're driving on a highway, use the 3-second rule. Choose an object on the road ahead, such as a tree or billboard, and when the vehicle in front of you passes it, count three seconds.
If you reach the object before finishing the count, you're too close. Slow down, and maintain enough distance between you and other vehicles. Keeping enough space between you and the other cars can help you and other drivers stay safe on the road.
Being a safe driver also means having a good vehicle you can depend on. Mark your calendar with dates for regular maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations. Taking care of your car means taking care of your safety.
#4 – Avoid All Distractions
Good drivers say no to all distractions behind the wheel, such as eating, putting on makeup, texting, and talking on the phone.
Accidents happen in a split second, so be sure you always stay focused on the road. A good way to make sure you stay focused is to put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode while you are behind the wheel.
Remember that having passengers in your vehicle can be a significant driving distraction. Until you become a more experienced driver, try to limit the number of people who drive with you.
#5 – Stay Sober
Make a promise to yourself that you'll never drive unless you’re sober. The consequences of drunk driving can be both expensive and deadly.
Make sure you have a designated driver or the information for a taxi or ridesharing service for transportation instead of driving impaired. It’s never worth it to drink intoxicated, even if you think you’re “just buzzed.”
#6 – Take Extra Care at Dangerous Times
Driving at dangerous times, such as at night and in heavy traffic, can be especially challenging for new drivers. Improve your experience and skills by adding more practice time driving at night and in different weather and road conditions.
#7 – Take a Driving Education Course
Getting a driving education undoubtedly makes you a better, more defensive driver. Complete an online driver's ed course to improve your skills.
Additionally, car insurance providers will often offer an auto insurance discount to drivers who have gone through a driving education class.
Use these tips to become a better driver for yourself and for everyone else on the road. Becoming a safer, more aware driver might even save your life.
Laura Adams is a finance expert, award-winning author, and consumer advocate. As Senior Education Analyst, she represents Aceable.com and works to make sure consumers protect their futures by getting the right online education.