To that end, we’ve put together a few tips to help you have fun and stay safe out there all on your own.
1. Obey all traffic rules
There’s a reason the driving exam includes both a road test and a written one. From road signs to right-of-way, there are a whole bunch of rules that drivers are required to understand and follow. Learn them and use them.
2. Slow down!
Speeding is one of the leading factors in fatal crashes involving young drivers. Basically, the higher your speed, the less time you have to stop your car and the worse any impact—and subsequent injuries—will likely be.
3. Keep your car in good running shape
Taking care of your car can help you avoid breakdowns and other potential accidents. This includes regular oil changes and tune-ups, checking tire pressure (don’t forget the spare!), regular tire rotation, checking brake fluid and coolant levels, and filling up the gas tank before it hovers too close to “E”.
4. Wear your seat belt
Always. And make sure your passengers wear theirs, too. In fatal car accidents, more than half of teens (56%) were found to have been unbuckled . Save a life (maybe your own), and buckle up.
5. Avoid distractions
Keep your eyes on the road. That means no texting, no calling, no eating, no channel surfing on the radio, and no turning around to chat with friends in the backseat. Accidents can happen in a split second, but if you’re paying attention, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding one.
6. Adjust your accessories
No, not your bling. We’re talking about making sure your seat is in a comfortable spot and checking all mirrors to make sure you’ve got the best view possible.
7. Don’t tailgate
Following too closely is one of the leading causes of rear-end accidents. Just remember the 3-second rule: Pick an object on the road ahead (like a sign, tree or overpass) and when the vehicle in front of you passes the object slowly count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.” If you reach the object before completing the count, you’re following too closely.
8. Be prepared
In case of accidents, breakdowns or other emergencies, your car should always contain important driving documents and an emergency kit with everything you’d need for extended time in your vehicle.
9. Watch the weather
Rain, wind and snow can all make driving more difficult and dangerous. If it’s wet out, make sure your headlights are on, slow down, and increase your following distance. (Braking takes longer when roads are slick.) Most importantly, if the conditions are too treacherous, it’s better to just stay off the roads.
10. Don’t drive under the influence
Just don’t. This includes being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or lack of sleep. Nobody should have to tell you how severe the consequences can be.
Now get out there and drive! Practice makes perfect, after all.