Are you learning to drive? Congratulations on this rite of passage! The freedom of getting behind the wheel can be exhilarating, but driving can also be very dangerous. As you learn to drive, these tips for new drivers can help you stay safe. For more comprehensive guidance, consider checking out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Teen Driving resources.

1. Take Drivers' Ed

Driver education can help make you a safer, better driver. It may even help you get a discount on your insurance. Look into various options, and sign up for a course, like the ones offered by Online Drivers Ed, before you go for your license.

2. Practice

Don’t just practice driving in empty parking lots. You need to learn to merge onto a busy highway, change lanes in traffic, drive in a city, and handle a car in various weather conditions. While we don’t recommend heading out in a snowstorm, you do want to get used to driving in various situations. If there’s something you don’t like, practice it even more, until you've conquered your fears enough to drive safely. Utilize a navigation app like Google Maps to find suitable practice locations.

3. Be Cautious

Becoming a driver for the first time means taking on a new set of safety rules. Park in well-lit spots, and always lock your doors. This is especially crucial for women! If you have a pet, never, ever leave your pet in a locked car: temperatures inside cars can reach deadly levels in a very short time. You’ll also need to get into the habit of monitoring your gas and engine lights. For more tips on vehicle maintenance and safety, visit the AAA Auto Repair Library.

4. Don’t Speed

Last but not least, watch the speed limit. Most areas will offer you a 5-mile-an-hour leeway. Any more than that, and you could be risking a ticket . . . or even your life! To better understand the effects of speeding, check out the National Safety Council's Speeding resources.

5. Avoid Distractions

Some people feel calmer with music playing. Others become distracted by their favorite tunes. Know yourself, and don’t take risks. If you do want to play music, start it before you leave your driveway. Don’t mess with buttons and playlists while you’re in traffic.

6. Look Ahead and Behind

Don’t just focus on the car right in front of you. Keep an eye on the traffic further up, and look for potential obstacles. Check behind you regularly as well, and make sure there isn't someone tailgating you.

7. Don’t Tailgate. Ever.

Tailgating isn’t just rude: it’s extremely dangerous and is the cause of most rear-end collisions. Many states are now enacting laws that hold tailgaters immediately responsible for accidents caused by their actions. There's a reason for this: if you're too close, the odds of you hitting the car in front of you are much higher. To maintain a safe following distance, follow the "three-second rule": when the car ahead of you passes a stationary object, count to three. If you reach the same object in less than three seconds, you're too close and should increase your distance. Adjust this rule to a longer count during bad weather or when driving at higher speeds. By maintaining a safe distance, you reduce the risk of rear-end collisions and create a safer driving environment for everyone on the road.

8. Avoid Fast Stops and Starts

Quick stops and rapid acceleration can be jarring for passengers and put unnecessary wear on your vehicle. Learn to anticipate traffic conditions, and adjust your speed gradually. This will help you become a smoother, safer driver and save you money on fuel and vehicle maintenance in the long run.

9. Watch Your Blind Spot

Every vehicle has blind spots, which are areas not visible in your mirrors. Before changing lanes, always check your blind spots by turning your head and glancing over your shoulder. You should also be aware of other drivers' blind spots, and avoid lingering in them. This can help you prevent accidents caused by drivers who don't check their blind spots.

10. Keep An Eye On Road Signs

Road signs are there to help you navigate safely. Pay attention to speed limits, traffic signals, and warning signs, such as those indicating sharp curves, school zones, or upcoming intersections. By following road signs, you'll be better prepared to react to changing traffic conditions and reduce the risk of accidents.

11. Use Your Blinkers

Using your turn signals is not only polite, but it's also essential for safe driving. Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or making a turn, giving other drivers enough time to react. This simple habit can prevent many accidents and miscommunications on the road. For more information on the importance of using turn signals, read this article by the Car and Driver.

12. Drive Defensively

No matter how good of a driver you are, there’s always a chance that someone else could hit you. Keep an eye on the other cars on the road. If someone is speeding or weaving in and out of traffic, get as far away from them as possible. When you’re on the interstate, keep several car lengths between you and the car in front of you. This gives you time to react if the vehicle ahead of you loses control. To learn more about defensive driving, consider taking a defensive driving course from the National Safety Council.

13. Put The Phone Down

Texting and/or talking while driving is extremely dangerous and can be a fatal mistake. The only reason you should ever use your phone while driving is for the GPS. If you do need GPS, get a phone holder that attaches to your dashboard, so you don’t have to look away from the road to check your map. That said, you should always have your phone charged and with you, in case of an emergency. Visit the website for more information on distracted driving and how to stay focused on the road.

14. Don’t Drink And Drive. Period.

Alcohol and cars are a terrible—and often fatal—mix. If you’re going to a club or party, plan your night so that you don’t find yourself getting behind the wheel when you’re over the limit. Use a designated driver, call a cab or Uber, or use public transportation. Get used to planning safe transportation now, before you can let drunk driving become a habit. If you get caught over the limit, you may find yourself in a legal

and financial nightmare that could impact your life for years. And an accident can have tragic and devastating consequences. To learn more about the dangers of drunk driving, visit Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

15. Be Patient

Road rage and impatience can lead to dangerous situations and increase your risk of accidents. It's essential to maintain a calm and composed attitude while driving. If you find yourself getting frustrated or impatient, take a deep breath and remind yourself that reaching your destination safely is more important than getting there a few minutes faster. Practicing patience can help you make better decisions on the road and create a more enjoyable driving experience for both you and those around you.

Driving is a big responsibility, and it's essential to prioritize safety as you learn to navigate the roads. By following these tips and continually working to improve your driving skills, you'll be well on your way to becoming a safe and responsible driver. Remember, the more you practice and pay attention to your surroundings, the more confident and skilled you'll become behind the wheel.