driver looking over her shoulder

Getting a driver's license is, for some people, just another step on the road to adulthood. For others, it's something almost sacred, on par with the first drink, the first formal dance, or the first kiss. While it's easy to get caught up in the power to go where you want, when you want, new drivers need to try to ease into their responsibilities. After all, it can take years to go from being a driver who can pass the driving test, to being a driver who can handle whatever the road throws their way. These tips for new drivers are brought to you by Cars Direct and Teen Driving.

Tip #1: Shut Off Your Phone

While the idea of a cell phone is that you can be reached anywhere at any time, cell phone use while driving is a huge contributor to traffic accidents. That's why the safest course is simply to turn it off. If you have a Bluetooth device, either a headset or a car hookup, you can answer calls in relative safety, but it is still a risk. If you're going to divide your attention between the road and your phone while you swipe and tap, though, it's a good idea to just wait until you're stopped.

Tip #2: Avoid Tunnel Vision

It's easy to assume that other drivers just passed their exams, and know the rules of the road as well as you do. However, the open road is less like an orderly rules system and more like Mad Max. There is no guarantee that other drivers are going to stay in their lanes, obey the speed limits, maintain a safe distance, or use their turn signals to give you a warning that they're changing lanes. That's why you need to widen your focus and be aware of everything on the road instead of just what's in front of you.

Tip #3: Set Your Tunes Before You Pull Out

While using a cell phone while you drive is a grievous sin, fiddling with the radio can be a minor distraction that gets you in trouble as well. Many modern cars have controls for the radio built right into the steering wheel, but that isn't a luxury most drivers have. As such it's important to pick your channel, or your CD, before you start driving. That way you're not halfway through a lane change, trying to tune the knob, and staring into the sun. Speaking of which...

Tip #4: Be Aware of Environmental Hazards

When most drivers think of environmental hazards they think of heavy rain, snow, and ice. Those are dangerous, and you should prepare for them. However, a dirty windshield and bright sunlight can blind you if you're not careful. That's why it's a good idea to make sure your windshield wiper fluid reservoir is full, and that the inside of your windshield is also wiped off regularly. If your pull-down visor isn't enough to screen the sun, though, it may be a good idea to keep a pair of sunglasses in your car. Especially if you're driving east in the morning, or west in the evening.

Tip #5: Practice Makes Perfect

The only way to get better at driving is to drive. Not only that, but you're going to have to drive in more environments, and on routes you aren't used to. While you should keep your comfort level as a driver in mind, it's also important to get new experiences whenever you can. Otherwise, you'll feel like you're flailing whenever you have to go somewhere you're unfamiliar.