Teenage drivers are vulnerable because they are taking on new skills that can only be learned through practice. They are controlling an approximately two-ton piece of complex equipment that is likely owned by someone else and worth a significant amount of money. They are learning in a dynamic environment with other vehicles nearby that are sometimes moving in unpredictable ways or operated by inattentive drivers.
These concerns seldom deter a student driver from working toward earning a driver’s license and driving a car. However, it is vitally important for student drivers to be aware of the risks involved and be as prepared as possible. Knowledge and preparation gives a student driver the best opportunity to succeed as they develop important skills to avoid car accidents.
Too much information can be overwhelming. Some of the more important skills for a new driver to master include:
- Maintaining a firm grip on the wheel.
- Keeping a safe following distance from the vehicle in front.
- Understanding and following road signs and signals.
- Braking early, smoothly, and slowly.
- Signaling when changing lanes.
Additionally, hands should be placed outside of the steering wheel and on both sides. Always hold the wheel with both hands.
Safe following distances vary with conditions. The three-second rule applies under optimal conditions. Know that safe following distances increase drastically in wet and snowy conditions.
Know Basic Traffic Control Signs
Safe driving begins with knowing the concepts behind traffic control, traffic flow, signals, and signage. The United States maintains consistent standards in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The standards set requirements for sign color and type, size, and lettering. This enables everyone to be able to drive from state to state without having to get used to different ways of identifying traffic flow requirements.
While most signs are readily recognizable, it is important to ensure students are aware of the basic signs, what them mean, and how to follow them. For example, while a driver may be tempted to only slow down at a stop sign at an infrequently used intersection, they must know and practice coming to a full and complete stop at each and every stop sign. Similarly, speed limits are not mere suggestions.
Less obvious signs and traffic flows that must be understood include:
- Sharp Turn Ahead signs
- Traffic rotaries where drivers must yield to those already in the circle
- Yield signs
- Solid yellow lines
Learn How the Vehicle Operates
Basic operations should be taught and their use should be practiced until they become automatic. Elements to teach the student driver include use of the following:
- Emergency brake activation and release
- Controls for rear and side view mirrors and their proper adjustment
- Controls for adjusting the seat and steering wheel
- Turn signals for changing lanes or making turning
- Windshield wipers for driving in rainy conditions
- High beams for very dark road conditions
- Gas tank release to fill the tank when it is low on fuel
What Rules Should I Always Follow?
New drivers need to be mindful of reasonable precautions. While it may appear simple, driving is quite complex and requires a lot of practice to become adept. These tips will help an inexperienced driver be ready and able to take to the road:
Always wear a seat belt. Do not start the car until the seat belt is fastened, including seat belts for passengers.
Always avoid impaired driving. It is never appropriate for any motorist to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is also not a good idea to drive while drowsy or upset. Fatigue or emotions can lead to serious accidents.
Turn off the phone and put it away. Using a cellphone is a serious distraction. While it may be reasonable for an experienced driver to use the phone for directions, it is best not to try to do this while learning to drive. Cellphones are responsible for a significant uptick in serious and fatal car crashes. Avoid other distractions as well. Eating or drinking while driving is a multi-tasking practice that should be avoided. Make sure to reserve all of one’s attention to driving.
Be sure the vehicle is in good condition to drive. This includes having tires with adequate tread, brakes that are in good working order, and enough fuel, engine oil, anti-freeze, and windshield wiper fluid. The decal for vehicle inspection should be current as well as the registration. A driver should make sure to have their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance card with them while they are in the car.
Allow plenty of time before driving. If one must drive, leave plenty of time to avoid rushing.
Do not drive aggressively. Teenagers can be prone to test limits, and young drivers may speed, drive aggressively, or tailgate. Aggressive driving is another preventable cause of serious and fatal crashes. It can also result in being pulled over, ticketed, fined, and having driving privileges revoked or suspended, depending on the circumstances.
Practice Driving in Different Road Conditions
In the beginning, avoid driving at night, in bad weather, and on busy streets. Some states do not allow student drivers to drive at night. Be sure to follow restrictions for student drivers. It can be difficult for a new driver to correctly judge safe driving distances as well as operate in limited visibility settings.
As skills improve, practice taking the car out at night, in the rain, and in snowy conditions to get familiar with how to drive in less than ideal conditions. Safe stopping distances increase greatly in wet and icy conditions. Be aware of how to adjust stopping distances before attempting to drive in the rain and snow.
How Do I Become a Defensive Driver?
Defensive driving involves anticipating possible driving situations and being ready to make safe well-informed decisions based on them. Defensive driving means motorists will avoid unnecessary risks and be vigilant to identify these risks as they arise.
In terms of passing other vehicles on the road, a defensive driver will avoid switching lanes if there is not enough time or space to pass safely, such as in a tunnel, on a narrow road, or on a bridge. A defensive driver will also avoid switching lanes if they are in a work zone or if there is a blind spot in front, such as a hill or curve.
Other precautions include limiting passengers. States vary as to whether student drivers may drive unaccompanied and whether or not they can carry passengers. Be sure to know requirements for student drivers.
Contacting a Lawyer After a Car Accident is Important
If a teenager is involved in a car wreck, it is important to inform the insurance company. It may not be a good idea to rely exclusively on the company when resolving a case. If the accident caused serious injuries, the award negotiated by the insurance company might not be enough to cover all of the medical expenses. A knowledgeable lawyer will help a victim with a personal injury claim.
A driver hit by a distracted teenage driver also has legal options. After an accident, a victim should speak to a lawyer about the best course of action.
Towson Car Accident Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Injured Drivers Obtain Compensation After Car Wrecks
It is important that all drivers review and learn safety tips, especially teenage drivers. If you were involved in an accident, one of our Towson car accident lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can assist you with your claim. Contact us online or call us at 443-589-0150 for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County.