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Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage for countless teens. Driving a car affords you a feeling of unparalleled freedom and the ability to move around on your own without help from friends or family. But the road can also be a dangerous place, and the potential for accidents and breakdowns is very real.
Teens entering the driving phase should be as prepared as possible for the unpredictability of driving, and parents should do their best to encourage good driving habits among their teenage drivers. While the process of obtaining a license may be different for homeschooled teens versus those attending traditional schools, roadway safety is a vital consideration for every teen driver.
Good driving habits are obtained over time, but there are fundamentals of driving that can get teen drivers off to a good start. Here are some useful driving tips and best practices that teen drivers and their parents should be aware of.
Staying Safe on the Road
There are many factors in the realm of roadway safety, from only using hands-free devices to navigating hazards such as weather and construction. Of course, safe driving also means knowing the dangers of texting while driving and avoiding driving while sleepy or impaired. While you can’t control the actions of other drivers, driving safely and without distractions can help you reduce your chance of getting into an accident.
One of the most important lessons to learn before getting behind the wheel is to never drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, including certain prescription medications that may make you drowsy. Drunk or drugged driving can impair your motor functions, leading to slower reaction times, blurred vision, and the inability to properly process information. If you’re going to a party or similar event where there may be alcohol present, it’s a good idea to have a secondary transportation plan in place so that you can get home safely.
Depending on where you live, you may have to learn to drive in adverse weather conditions. Driving on snow-covered, icy, or wet roads may seem intimidating at first, but inclement weather is something all drivers have to deal with from time to time. Prior to the first snowfall, prepare your car for winter conditions by checking tire tread depth, replacing any worn out tires, and ensuring that your battery is in good working order. During the winter months, make sure to pay attention to the weather forecast and avoid driving if a snowstorm is approaching.
Car Buying Tips and Alternatives
Once you pass your driving test, you may want to get a car of your own. However, buying a car isn’t always feasible for teenagers, as cars are expensive, big-ticket items. If you do have funds on hand from a part-time job or another source, however, don’t rush into the car-buying process. Do your research and compare a variety of vehicles to ensure that you get a good deal that fits your budget.
Your budget, in fact, is the first thing to consider when buying a car. Make sure to allow for additional expenses that accompany the car-buying process, including registration fees and insurance. Then, decide if you’re paying cash or opting for financing. Note that your parents may have to act as co-signers if you do take the financing route, and that it’s a long-term commitment.
You may be tempted to purchase a car that looks good but that doesn’t meet your driving needs. Consider the type of driving you’ll do: For example, will you mostly be driving on city streets or taking the highway? City driving often utilizes more gas than driving on the highway, so gas mileage will be an important consideration. And if you live in an area with snowy winters, you may want to invest in a vehicle with all-wheel drive.
What to Do if You’re Involved in an Accident
The unfortunate reality is that car accidents are common, and even the safest drivers are at risk. According to Ohio University, there were 5.3 million car crashes in 2011 alone, which caused 2.2 million injuries and more than 32,000 roadway deaths. Further, motor vehicle crashes have led to an estimated $871 billion in economic loss. These sobering numbers have led to a rise in autonomous vehicle technology, which may prevent some of the most common causes of roadway accidents: drunk driving, distraction, and speeding.
But autonomous vehicles are still in the testing stages across the country, and human drivers should be aware of the steps to take in the case of a car accident. For teen and adult drivers alike, car crashes can be scary and stressful. If you’re involved in an accident, no matter who’s at fault, legal professionals recommend that you stay calm and collected. Panicking will only complicate an already unpleasant situation.
Following a car accident, ensure that everyone in your vehicle is safe and call 911 even if no injuries are apparent. While you wait for the police to arrive, exchange contact and insurance information with other drivers involved in the accident. Take pictures of the scene, especially vehicle damage, and make sure to call your parents and let them know what happened. Although car accidents can be upsetting, knowing how to handle the situation in a calm and intelligent manner is just one of the fundamental responsibilities of being a licensed driver.
Whether you’re still studying for your driving test or you have a new driver’s license in hand, it’s an exciting time of life. Earning your driver’s license is a step toward adulthood, and it should be treated as such. When you avoid driving in dangerous conditions whenever possible, practice safe driving habits, and know how to handle yourself in the event of an accident, you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of adventure behind the wheel.