Practice, Practice, Practice
Before attempting to drive on public roads, spend some time in parking lots or other traffic-free places. Get used to things like throttle response, braking, and response time. It’s critical that you know the layout of your car’s interior and how to operate your turn signals, front and rear wipers, high beams, and the like. Explore other cars to get used to the subtle differences.
Once you’re ready to hit the streets, consider driving school. They know the best local roads on which to begin, so you’re not immediately confronted with the most befuddling highway in town. Plus, you’ll be behind the wheel of one of their cars, so you need not worry about damaging your own.
Don’t forget the incidentals, like knowing how to pump gas, jump-start a battery, or change a tire. The last thing you want is to look like a newbie if you get a flat while on a date!
Drive as if every other person on the road is a complete lunatic who might change lanes randomly at any moment and is driving a car barely fit for the road.
All kidding aside, it’s critical to maintain a buffer of space around you at all times. Avoid driving right next to other cars, or in lanes without a shoulder or breakdown lane, in case you need to make an emergency maneuver. If someone starts riding your bumper, let them pass. Stay with the flow of traffic, and don’t drive so slowly that everyone else has to go around you.
Another facet of defensive driving is to keep your eyes moving. Don’t fixate on the car in front of you. Instead, try looking past that car for brake lights or other problems. Watch the road surface for potholes or debris, and scan the sides of the roadway for possible hazards. A ball entering the street is likely to be followed by a child, and they often don’t look first. Your eyes should go from the road, to your mirrors, to the surface and sides of the road, every few seconds or so.
Remove All Distractions
Statistics and studies prove that cell phone use while behind the wheel is about as hazardous as driving while intoxicated. Put your phone on “silent” mode and tuck it away in a place where you can’t see it but can still access it in case of an emergency. Avoid all phone use, as even hands-free calling can be just as dangerous as putting a phone to your ear.
Avoid having your buddies ride along until you get some experience, since friends tend to be pretty distracting. Keep the music off, too, until you’re used to the sounds of the car and the road. Once you’re ready to listen to music while you drive, use Pandora or SiriusXM so you don’t have to change stations or fiddle with CDs and MP3 players.
Driving can bring great freedom, but it comes with a ton of responsibility. With a little preparation you can have fun while still playing it safe.
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