It’s an exciting experience to finally get your driver’s license. Suddenly you don’t need to ask for rides from your parents or friends, and you’ve now got the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. As a newbie driver, you’ve got the rules of the road fresh from drivers ed classes in your mind. You’ve just finished up the course, studied for your test, and have been behind the wheel practicing for a while. Now all your hard work has paid off.
In some ways, new drivers are some of the safest drivers out there—unlike experienced drivers who have long since forgotten some of the technical parts of driving laws, novice drivers have just completed driver’s ed classes and are eager to drive well and get where they want to go with no issues.
But while the phrase “practice makes perfect” certainly does not apply to driving, there are some things you will only learn through experience and actually sitting behind the wheel.
Always Wear Your Seat Belt
No, this isn’t something your parents told us to tell you; instead, it’s simply a fact that seat belts save lives. Seat belts reduce the percentage of crash-related injuries and death by nearly half. You might get in the car and think that your destination isn’t that far, so no seat best is necessary, but never drive without one buckled. Even if you’re an incredibly careful and attentive driver, there are other drivers who are reckless. If you cross paths with them, a seat belt could very well save your life.
Make Sure You’re Seated Properly
This might sound very classroom-like but sitting properly will actually help you drive safer and be more comfortable. Unfortunately, not a lot of drivers know how they should be seated. And no, it’s not like how race car drivers do it.
So what’s the right sitting position?
Sit back on the seat and make sure that your back is straight. The backrest doesn’t have to be tilted forward. As long as your back is in a straight position, that should be the right angle.
Next are your arms. When you’re sitting in a straight position, your arms should be able to reach the steering wheel with ease. Your back shouldn’t be leaving the seat when you’re reaching for the wheel. As for your wrist, it should easily rest on the wheel.
For your feet, they should reach the pedals without you moving your upper body. If you have to move, then you should just move the seat forward.
To know if your feet are at the right distance to the pedals, your heel should be able to rest on the floor. And when you switch between the brake and the gas, your right foot should not have to stretch an additional step. Instead, the balls of your right foot should easily rest on one pedal while comfortably switching to another.
Lastly, your knees and elbows should be slightly bent. Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time moving. So avoid having perfect 90-degree angles with your joints.
Adjust Your Headrest To The Right Position
Your headrest isn’t just intended to be comfortable, but it can help you in an accident. Even in minor crashes, whiplash is a common injury to sustain. A headrest that is positioned behind your neck won’t do you much good, while a headrest that is directly behind your head will decrease the potential damage due to whiplash.
A Clean Windshield Is Key
Although you might not have the newest car in the world, you should care for your car well. This means changing the oil regularly, getting tune-ups, and even just keeping it clean. A dirty windshield or windows can greatly hinder your ability to see the road and other drivers around you, making your drive incredibly unsafe. Clean the outside of your car on a regular basis and keep your dash clear of clutter.
As much as possible, don’t place anything on the headboard. No bags, tissue boxes, toys, or pillows. Even if this area is very roomy, putting things on it will hinder you from seeing the front as a whole.
Besides, when an accident happens, these things might add insult to injury. It might be the cause of cracked bones.
So if you can keep your headboard clean, then do it.
10:00 And 2:00 Isn’t The Only Way To Drive
Sure, driver’s ed classes may have taught you that your hands should go at 10:00 and 2:00 on your steering wheel, but there are differing reports on the best location for your hands. It seems that 9:00 and 3:00 or even 8:00 and 4:00 are better if the airbag deploys. Envision the powerful force of an airbag on your hands and wrists if they are too high up (or too low) on the steering wheel. Placing your hands more in the middle is the safest spot when driving.
Simply Avoid Aggressive Drivers
It’s incredibly frustrating to deal with an angry driver who is unreasonably mad, and it can be tempting to try and show them a lesson by pulling in front of them or driving slowly. As satisfying as you think this might be, do not do this! Aggressive drivers are responsible for half of all traffic fatalities and it’s impossible to reason with someone who has completely lost their cool. It’s best to get as far away as you can from this driver—let them pass and move on their way and out of your path. The average car weighs about 4,000 pounds, so when you’re operating a vehicle it is not the right time to try and deal with someone who can’t think clearly.
Always Make Sure You’ll Clear The Intersection
Blocking the intersection is not only rude, it’s dangerous. Before you enter an intersection, ensure that you’ll be able to clear it completely. This usually means stalling a bit at the beginning of the intersection to see if the car in front of you will make it all the way through. It’s extremely stressful to have angry drivers honking at you because you’re blocking their way, so try to avoid the situation altogether.
Adjust Your Driving Based On Times And Weather
Yes, there are posted speed limits, but it’s always wise to decrease speeds in inclement weather or at night when your visibility is lower. Speed limits are definitely the fastest you should ever go in a given location, but they are not at all required! If it’s raining, snowing, stormy, windy, or dark out, don’t push things. Instead, take your time and reduce your speed. It will only cost you a few extra minutes in the long run but it will make your drive immensely safer.
It can be easy as you continue to drive to feel like you’ve got the whole driving thing down. You’ll begin to have your regular driving routes and you’ll start to feel a little more comfortable behind the wheel. This can lead to placing trust in other drivers that are not warranted. Even if you’re driving through an area that you’ve driven through many times before, always treat it like it’s brand new territory because you never know what could happen! There may be construction, an animal in the road, a drunk driver, or any other number of issues in your way. Stay alert and keep all of your attention on driving.
Be Ready to Drive
As a beginner, you’re probably very excited to finally have that independence and “maturity” people get from driving. However, don’t rush.
Make sure that you’re mentally ready to drive before going inside the car. Before you even take your seat, be in the proper mood and mindset. If you get in when you’re angry, chances are that you’ll be too distracted to properly focus on the road. Or worse, you might put your anger on the gas and speed off without even remembering all the lessons you learned in driver’s ed.
Know that you should never let your mood affect your driving. If you’re excited, try to manage that excitement, and don’t just step on the gas the moment you can. When you do that, you might hit something or someone out of excitement. And that definitely kills the joy in driving.
So before you get inside the car, know that you have to be responsible when you drive. It’s not meant to be a show or an attempt to be like Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious.