Soon You Will Be Ready to Hit the Road
Congratulations on being old enough to apply for a learner’s permit. Soon you will be ready to hit the road for errands, commutes to school and work, evenings out on the town, and eventually even road trips. You and your parents probably have a verbal agreement that goes along with the freedoms you have achieved. For example, it goes without saying that you should stay away from alcohol and cigarettes, since you are too young to buy these things legally, anyway.
Your parents might also have rules related to your safety, such as curfews or a rule than you must respond to your parents’ text messages within a certain amount of time. But why do your parents forbid you to ride in the car with other teen drivers? Since most of your friends are teen drivers themselves, how will you be able to go anywhere?
Learning All the Rules
Since you are learning to drive, and since you are about to become part of the new generation of teen drivers yourself, you are probably getting a taste of what a challenge it can be to keep all the rules of the road in your mind at once. At any future driving lesson, your teacher will have to remind you to use your turn signal, to slow down before making a turn, to speed up before changing lanes, and to start slowing down gradually, even when the cars stopped ahead of you at a red light look like they are far away?
Time to Practice
It takes a lot of practice to get used to these things; that is one of the main reasons that there is a waiting period between when you get your learner’s permit and when you can take the road test for your full-fledged driver’s license, so you can have time to practice.
Of course, driving once around the parking lot of the DMV and parking in a clearly marked parking spot to the DMV employee’s satisfaction does not mean that you know everything there is to know about driving. How many of your friends have bumped their parents’ cars into mailboxes or gotten into fender benders within the first few months of getting their driver’s licenses?
Teen Drivers are More Accident Prone
Teen drivers are statistically more likely to get into car accidents than drivers in any other age group. Of course, even when you are a new driver, there are a lot of things that you can do to stay out of trouble on the road.
The first, of course, is not to drive without another licensed adult in the car before you have a driver’s license that gives you the privilege of driving by yourself. Not only is it against the law for people who only have learner’s permits to drive alone, but it is also very dangerous. While it is permissible to drive while any licensed adult is in the front passenger seat while you have your learner’s permit, some licensed adults make better co-pilots than others.
Get a Co-pilot You Can Trust
Generally speaking, it is better to drive with a relative who has had his or her license for many years than it is to drive with a friend who is only a few years older than you and has only had his or her driver’s license for a few months. In many states that is also required by law.
It is also a good idea to drive with someone who exudes confidence about your driving skills and who is not excessively nervous that you will damage their car. If you have relatives who naturally incline toward being backseat drivers, you probably do not want these relatives riding with you until you have established a good track record of driving both alone and with passengers.
Driver’s Ed Classes
If possible, taking a driver’s ed class is a very good idea, because driver’s ed teachers have no fear of the foibles of teen drivers. Some high school offer very reasonably priced driving courses.
Furthermore, your parents’ rule against riding with other teen drivers is to your benefit as well as that of your friends.
Be Aware of Driver Distractions
Distractions are the worst enemy of drivers of all ages. Recently, many states have passed laws against using cell phones without earphones or hands-free earpieces while driving for this very reason. In general, any use of a cell phone is prohibited when you have a learner’s permit.
Even if you are able to resist your phone while you are behind the wheel, having your friends in the car with you can be a major source of distraction.
Experienced drivers are used to having people in the car with them when they drive, but people with learner’s permits are not used to driving and interacting with their peers at the same time. Driving requires keeping a lot of things in your mind at once and making constantly changing decisions.
Remember, teen drivers need to practice driving for a while before they can drive with their friends.
Photo credits: Tom Wang, Warren Goldswain, NHTSA.