So, you’ve got your new driver’s licence. Way to go!
But while getting your licence is a thrilling step towards adulthood and independence, it is important to note that it also comes with big responsibilities.
When driving, your actions and decision making affects not just you, but fellow motorists and other pedestrians as well. And it can have serious consequences too.
Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group. Representing 10-15% of all licensed drivers, those aged between 17 and 25 are involved in around 25% of all road deaths in Australia.
So, it pays to be mature, sensible and responsible when on the road.
In this respect, parents should be role models to their children. Not just in how to drive, but also in playing an active role in their child’s driving lessons.
Irrespective of whether they did, for those young adults who have just passed their driving test, here are 10 tips to ensure your safety as a new driver.
Obey The Traffic Rules
From right-of-way to road signs, there are rules drivers are required to follow and more importantly, understand.
Following the speed limit, obeying traffic signals, leaving adequate space between you and the car in front of you, and wearing your seatbelt are just a few of them.
These rules are there for a reason. Learning and employing traffic rules will help you have a relaxed and safe time on the road. It will also ensure the other drivers around you are safe too.
If you disobey these rules, you run the risk of receiving traffic tickets. These usually take the form of fines, which can be hugely expensive and can also raise your insurance premium rates.
They can also involve being sanctioned with demerit points as well.
As a general observation, teens are more likely than older motorists on the road to speed and drive with shorter headways (distance between two cars).
The higher the speed you travel, the less reaction time and space you have to stop your car in an emergency braking situation.
Subsequently, the greater the damage and impact a vehicle will suffer if you happen to hit another one. This, in turn, leads to more risk of significant injury or even death.
Speeding is the biggest killer of young drivers and braking distance increases exponentially when speeds exceed 70 km.
When on the road, always be mindful that there is no pressure to keep up with other vehicles around you in traffic – regardless of what your passengers might encourage you to do.
Sticking to the speed limit will significantly decrease the potential of an accident happening and, in particular, serious physical injury or death. It will also help you to avoid fines, demerit points, a suspension of your licence, or even jail time.
Get Your Car Regularly Serviced
Getting your car regularly serviced reduces your risk of your vehicle breaking down and being involved in a collision.
Car care can take the form of tune-ups, regular oil changes and monitoring tyre pressure. It also involves checking things like the coolant levels or brake fluid, as well as making sure you fill-up the tank with petrol before it runs out.
As a new driver, if you take care of your car, it will take care of you. So, it is within your interest to keep its maintenance up and not let these things slide.
It is also crucial to ensure your car is up to date with its comprehensive and CTP insurance. You can get your green slip using NRMA or any other provider.
Always Wear Seat Belts
Always wear seat belts every time you drive. And make sure your passengers are buckled up too.
According to the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety in Queensland, an individual is 10 times more likely to be the victim of a fatal car crash if they have not securely fastened their seat belt.
Seat belts are very beneficial because they spread the force of a crash across your pelvis and chest. Which are some of the strongest parts of the body.
Put simply, your seat belt could mean the difference between getting a few bruises on your body or you flying through the windscreen.
At all times when driving, concentrate on the road.
There should be no texting. No scrolling. No calling. No skipping songs on Spotify. No eating and no turning your head to chat to your mates behind you.
Accidents and collisions can occur in the blink of an eye. So, you will give yourself a much better chance of avoiding one if you are paying attention.
A great tip for new drivers is to set yourself up for your drive before you set off. Get the GPS in motion, choose your music, put your phone on do not disturb and make sure any communications are paused or completed before driving off.
Drivers should not use their mobile phones at all whilst driving. Indeed, mobile phone distraction is one of the main causes of road accidents in Australia.
Before starting the car, put your phone out of reach. If you need to use your phone at any point, stop and park the car on the side of the road and take the key out of the ignition. This way you are not a danger to yourself or the other road users.
Remember it is your job alone to watch the road whilst you are driving, no one else can do this but you.
The chances of a p-plater being involved in a crash increase by 150% when carrying one passenger. It soars to around 250% when carrying three or more passengers.
That is why different states have restrictions on the number of peer-aged passengers a learner and provisional driver can carry.
Adjust Your Accessories
Prior to driving, make sure your seatbelt is in a comfortable position and double-check that your mirrors are giving you excellent visibility of your car’s blind spots.
How do you check that?
Well, when a car starts to overtake you, it will initially come to view in your side mirror while concurrently disappearing from the middle of your rear-view mirror.
Obviously, as a new driver, you should not adjust your mirrors whilst driving. If you do it just before you set off, every time you do, you will get to know where to place and adjust them with practice.
Rear and side mirrors do an excellent job of showing what is happening behind and also to the side of your vehicle.
However, they can leave blind spots which are big enough for other vehicles and people to be hidden from view.
You should physically turn your head to check for these blind spots, for example, when you’re changing lanes. This is something you need to practise until it becomes second nature. But you should soon get the hang of it.
Don’t Tailgate Other Drivers
Tailgating is one of the leading causes of accidents that involve rear-end smashes.
When you have just passed your test, a good thing to do is observe the mantra of the three second rule.
Pick a landmark ahead like a tree, sign or an overpass and when the vehicle in front of you passes that landmark, slowly count ‘one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand’.
If you reach the object before completing the count, you are following too closely, so reduce your speed a little.
Keep An Eye On The Weather
Heavy rain and gusty winds can really cause havoc when you are out on the roads and make driving exceedingly difficult.
If it is raining, make sure you have your headlights on, significantly reduce your speed and increase your following distance.
Braking takes much longer on wet roads, sometimes as much as ten times the braking distance as on a dry roadway. So it is always worth bearing that in mind in these situations.
Most importantly, if the conditions are far too volatile. It is better to stay off the roads until the conditions have improved.
Remember also, if it is flooded, forget it.
Unfortunately, breakdowns, emergencies and accidents can happen at any time. So, it is important to always have your driving documents and an emergency kit with you whenever you drive.
This should include the likes of car registration, proof of car insurance and your driver’s licence.
Your emergency kit should also contain water, non-perishable snacks, a blanket, a flashlight, a road hazard triangle and essential tools.
Don’t Drive Under The Influence
Under no circumstances should you ever drive whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
You might think ‘it will never happen to me’. But severe injuries and deaths do happen in car accidents. Those crosses you have seen on the side of the road from side to side should act as a sober reminder that some accidents have fatal consequences.
Learners and Provisional drivers are not permitted to have any alcohol in their bloodstream at all whilst driving. So, if you are intoxicated after a night out, get a taxi, a loved one or sober friend to come and pick you up.
Lack of sleep is just as dangerous as intoxication. As it impairs your attention, coordination skills and working memory. All of which are crucial skills for safe driving.
If you feel like you are falling asleep, it is perfectly acceptable to pull over to the safe side of the road for a quick 20-minute nap to revive yourself before resuming your journey.
In this respect, it is better to be safe than sorry.
We hope you have found our 10 tips to ensure your safety as a new driver very helpful.
At the end of the day, most of these tips relate to good decision-making and being sensible.
So if you exercise these traits, you shouldn’t have too many problems whilst out on the road.