Learning to drive can be exhilarating for teens and nerve-wracking for parents. No matter how much a parent or guardian trusts the teen or how well they did on the driver’s test, there will always be anxiety when a first-time driver hits the road alone. There is a constant fear of a new driver getting into a car accident. Education and practice are key to successful driving. Knowing both the rules of the road and how to operate a vehicle safely can help new drivers be safe and confident on the road. Any driver who is involved in a car accident should reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer for assistance.
Whether the new driver is a teenager or someone older, the following tips can help first-time drivers stay safe.
Take an approved driver’s education course. Although New Jersey does not require people to take driver’s education, there is an incentive to do so. Taking a behind-the-wheel course can help new drivers become comfortable with driving a car. Schools and private companies offer driver’s education classes that generally combine classroom or online learning with on-the-road experience.
Practice. No first-time driver should attempt to get their license without a lot of practice. Although online or in-class education is beneficial, a new driver must also get behind the wheel for as many hours as possible. Practice will instill confidence and help the new driver understand both how to operate a car and obey traffic laws.
Learn defensive driving. Another reason for taking driver’s education is to learn how to drive defensively. A new driver will not have the experience to control the car when a dangerous situation arises. Also, they will not know what to look for or prepare for when it comes to other drivers or adverse conditions. The more prepared they are, the better.
Avoid distractions. In most states, including New Jersey, it is illegal to drive while texting or talking on a device that is not hands-free. That is called distracted driving, and it causes thousands of accidents a year. New Jersey has strict laws against distracted driving, and new drivers must obey the law for their own safety and that of passengers and other drivers.
For new drivers, in particular, a laser focus on the road is a must for safe driving. Distractions such as the radio, videos, cell phones, rowdy passengers, or horseplay in the car can cause any driver to lose focus on the road and their driving. All drivers must minimize or eliminate distractions of any sort.
Do not rush. Drivers do need to drive the speed limit except in adverse weather or road conditions, but speeding is never acceptable. Speeding can cause loss of control and accidents because it is harder to stop or maneuver a car that is going fast. It is also against the law. Also, new drivers must learn not to hurry to get through a yellow light or get started when the light turns green or stopped at a stop sign. A few seconds saved can have serious consequences.
Do not tailgate. New drivers can tend to follow the car ahead of them too closely. Doing so can cause an accident when the driver ahead brakes or slows suddenly. Law enforcement almost always cites the driver behind in rear-crash accidents. Drivers should leave several car lengths between them and the car in front of them.
Look ahead and behind. New drivers will often just focus on the road right in front of them as they drive. However, they must also learn how to look ahead, behind, and next to them to understand traffic conditions. Scanning ahead can help them prepare for upcoming obstacles or changing road conditions. Using the rearview and side mirrors can help new drivers know what vehicles behind and next to them are doing and how traffic is flowing.
Avoid fast braking and turns. Although quick braking may be needed to avoid an accident or a changed road condition, it should be done only as a last resort. The same is true with swerving or turning quickly. A missed road or other destination is no reason to slam on the brakes or make a quick turn. Drivers should simply wait until it is safe to turn around and go back. Fast braking and sharp turns cause accidents.
Know the blind spot. Despite car manufacturers’ best efforts to increase safety in their cars, blind spot elimination remains elusive. New drivers should understand how to handle the blind spot when passing and changing lanes, especially. Drivers should use the rearview and side-view mirrors along with a turn of the head to ensure there are no cars in the blind spot.
Watch for road signs and devices. Many accidents are caused by drivers who breeze through stoplights and stop signs, sometimes with fatal consequences. New drivers must continually look for signs and devices that will help them drive safely, including speed limit, yield, merge, and other directional signage. These signs are there for a reason, and a driver who insists they did not see them is not going to get away with anything.
Use seat belts, blinkers, lights, and pay attention to vehicle gauges and warnings. Cars come equipped with these items for a reason: they help motorists drive more safely and courteously. Seat belt use by every passenger in the vehicle can save lives and reduce injury in an accident. Using a blinker when turning or changing lanes helps other drivers understand a motorist’s intention. Windshield wiper and headlight use help ensure safety in varying conditions. Finally, new drivers should pay attention to gas and oil gauges and warning lights to avoid unsafe car operation and problems.
Do not be the neighborhood taxi. Teen drivers often want to have their friends in the car, whether it is a ride home from school or a Friday night cruise around town. Parents should limit the number of people a teen driver can have in the car at one time and the number of trips per week the new driver makes. Boundaries can help ensure that distractions while driving are minimized.
Do not drive under the influence. Unfortunately, teens’ alcohol and drug use are real, including prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse. No person, no matter their age, should drive under the influence, ever.
Be cautious and careful about surroundings. Any driver, but especially new drivers, should always exercise caution when on the road. Motorists should not travel in unsafe or unfamiliar areas. Also, drivers should not give strangers a ride. Motorists should not stop where it is dark or secluded. If a problem such as a flat tire arises, it is best to stop in a lighted area but out of the way of traffic. Drivers should have an emergency road kit and a cell phone to call for help.
Teen drivers are inexperienced and sometimes make foolish choices behind the wheel. Anyone who is a victim of a teen driver should contact a car accident lawyer to understand the compensation available under the law.
New Jersey Keeps First-Time Drivers Safe
In New Jersey, anyone who has never held a driver’s license must enroll in the graduating driver’s licensing (GDL) program. This program takes a new driver from learner’s permit to probationary license to basic driver’s license while keeping the new driver safe. First-time drivers who hold a learner’s s permit or probationary license in New Jersey must obey the following restrictions:
- Avoid driving between 11:01 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
- Transport only one person unless accompanied by a parent/guardian or passengers are the driver’s dependents
- Avoid cell phone use, whether hand-held or hands-free
- Wear a seat belt
- Display the GDL decal
- Face a fine for any GDL offense and may not plea bargain
Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Victims of All Types of Car Accidents
A first-time driver may not have the knowledge, experience, or maturity to make good decisions all the time. Unfortunately, this can result in injury or harm to other drivers. Anyone facing medical bills, property damage, financial loss, or pain and suffering from a car accident involving a first-time or long-time driver should contact the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.