You have finally earned your driver’s license, and it’s time to hit the road! Well, hit the breaks just for a moment before you get all excited about your brand-new wheels and determine if you’d like to see the stunning coastline stretching from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach, or go inland for a city adventure. The responsibility that comes with driving a car is a great one, and it has a wide range of different facets you should understand before you can deem yourself prepared for an adventure.
Of course, once you choose the perfect car for you, the rest may seem like a bunch of easy choices, but it still takes some time to learn about your legal obligations, safety precautions, as well as pro tips that can help you enjoy your rides more than ever. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re ready to sit behind the wheel!
Distractions are a no-go
Okay, this may seem like a “duh” moment to most of you experienced drivers out there, but some people spontaneously pick up their phone as soon as they hear a notification ping away in the seat next to them. In fact, one in four car accidents in the US is caused by texting and driving, while research also confirms that texting is six times more likely to lead to a car accident than drinking and driving – which is no excuse to reach for the beer, of course. As a novice driver, and someone who has yet to get to know their car properly and all of its specificities, you should keep your eyes on the road and stick to those key driving rules you’ve learned when you passed all of those tests.
That means that you should keep your tunes at a reasonable level, no blasting music to distract you or cause you to suddenly swerve your car, no fixing your makeup while you’re waiting for the green light, and no touching your phone while you drive. A little side-note when it comes to music, since so many drivers aren’t aware of it being an actual risk factor: a study has shown that listening to music while driving can actually reduce focus and attention for teens and increase the risk of an accident on the road. Although novice drivers are more prone to such loss of focus, it’s best even for experienced ones to keep the tunes out of the equation.
The confidence for driving will come, but these behaviors should never change, even when you feel that you could take the Great River Road with your eyes closed – steer clear of the phone and other distractions.
Make sure you know your roads
While we’re on the subject of road trips, which are a must when you get your car and feel more comfortable behind the wheel, you need to learn as much as you can about each trip that you take. Getting to know the streets and paying attention to other cars and signs can be overwhelming at first, so knowing where to go is a benefit you should use to your advantage. Use GPS when you need it, but be sure to stay informed on any changes on the road just the same.
For example, there are useful websites and apps such as Live Roads that can help you navigate your path with HD as well as offline maps, and a range of different features to make your driving as smooth as possible. Plus, keeping an eye on live changes on the road can help you avoid traffic jams and spot the most convenient route for you to take.
Educate yourself on your legal rights
So, you’ve decided to go out of the state and see the sights in the beautiful, sunny California? A new state means new roads as well as new challenges you might come across. You already know what to do if you happen to be in an accident in your own city, but you should seek advice from legal experts such as reputable San Jose personal injury lawyers to learn about what you can do in such situations locally.
Perhaps there’s a specific procedure you should follow, or you might need to file a suit, file a claim with your insurance company, or anything else you haven’t done before. Wherever you decide to travel, learning about the local laws and procedures is an advantage. It’s equally useful to know safety data related to this region, so knowing that in the span of one year, traffic fatalities in California increased by 7%. Keeping your awareness high of traffic risks can help you stay safer on the road and ask the right questions in case you need advice.
Obtain proper insurance
You remember how difficult it was for you to pick the perfect car? Well, it’s all the more challenging to find the ideal insurance provider, since there are so many options out there, with only a few giving you exactly what you need for your specific circumstances. Depending on your location, learn about that basic state-required insurance, and then work your way from there. Some companies offer discounts for students and the elderly, while others reward good drivers, so learn all there is on offer before you choose!
Keep in mind that your basic insurance package might not be enough for a road trip across different states. Check for add-on options for roadside assistance, and personal belongings coverage for the valuable items you plan to bring. On the other hand, if your health insurance isn’t as comprehensive, make sure that you get a policy that will cover emergency medical expenses, transportation, hospital stays, and the like.
Learn the most basic fixes
Although you can never be a fully self-reliant mechanic for your car, and neither should you be, there are certain basic things you need to know so that you can manage an unexpected situation on the road, resolve minor issues, and stay safe. Changing flat tires before driving is one of those skills you should master from the moment you get your car, then checking for your fluids (oil and coolant), and replacing wipers as well.
In case you find yourself stranded on the road, you should also know how to jumpstart a car when someone’s willing to pull over and give you a hand. This will prevent calling roadside assistance every time your car won’t start, and you’ll have a life-saving skill up your sleeve for emergencies.
Driving is indeed fun and exciting, and you’ll get to explore your country (and beyond) when you’re on the road, but you also need to make sure that you’re a mindful driver and that you know how to take good care of your car. Hopefully, these vital tips will prepare you for many of your rides, and you’ll get to enjoy all the more thanks to your skills and knowledge!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claire Hastings is a wanderer and a writer. She writes as long as she can remember, and she is very passionate about fashion, running, other cultures, and her cat.
Follow Claire on Twitter @claireahastings