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11 Things Every New Driver Should Know Before They Hit The Road

By Aaron Crowe

Driver’s training classes teach students how to drive, but there are plenty of lessons they may not have time to cover.

Beyond learning defensive driving techniques and being sure not to use their phone while driving, there are lots of things that new drivers should know before they hit the road. Here are 11:

  1. You’re in charge. This is the first tip from a safe driving program called UPS Road Code, where UPS employees help teens in a driving simulator how to drive safely. Drivers should remember that they’re in control of their car, including who they let into the car and the choices they make as a driver on the road.
  2. Buckle up. Make sure you and and your passengers are wearing seatbelts.
  3. Keep your distance. Maintain an appropriate following distance so you have time to react. The three-second rule is regularly recommended by experts — when the car in front of you passes a fixed object on the road, it should be three seconds before your car passes that same object. Along with this, look as far down the road as possible so you have time to react to any sudden changes. Surround your vehicle with space in front and at least one side so you can get out of a potential accident.
  4. Signal. Not only is using a turn signal important to letting other drivers know where you want to go, but it’s a courtesy that makes driving easier for everyone. Also be sure to check blind spots before changing lanes.
  5. Keep your car maintenance updated. Follow the recommendations from your owner’s manual, including regularly changing the oil and being sure you have enough gas before leaving home.
  6. Insurance. Along with getting at least the state minimum of auto insurance coverage, it’s a smart idea to get enough uninsured motorist coverage to pay for your injuries in case you get hit by an uninsured driver and are injured in an accident, says Shane Fisher, at attorney in Winter Park, Fla. “People take out big liability policies in case they get sued, but fail to insure themselves if they are the ones hit,” Fischer says.
  7. Make your passengers comfortable. Eric Stauffer, an insurance expert, says he remembers his driving instructor telling him to make the ride for everyone in your car more comfortable. “When coming to a red light or stop sign, be sure and slightly release the brake the moment before the car fully stops to make a smooth transition,” Stauffer says. “It prevents the car from jerking as it completes the stop.”
  8. Know what to do when a police officer pulls you over. When you see red lights flashing behind you, don’t speed up or do something reckless. Pull safely to the side of the road, turn off your car and roll the window down while keeping your hands visible. Police don’t like to be surprised, so don’t make any sudden moves and don’t argue. Save any arguments for traffic court.
  9. How to change a flat. If you get a flat tire, pull completely off the road and call roadside assistance to come and change the tire. If you know how to change a tire, make sure you’re safely off the road and change it. If you don’t know how, wait for help.
  10. Know what to do after an accident. After pulling safely out of traffic, call police to report the accident. Exchange insurance information with the other driver but don’t discuss who is at fault. Use your cellphone camera to take pictures, and take notes of what happened.
  11. Don’t get angry. An angry driver is an aggressive one, so don’t get in the car if you’re not calm. If another driver causes you to get angry while driving, don’t let it get to you and don’t retaliate by cutting them off or tailgating.