For a teen, there’s nothing more exciting than that first drive of freedom all by yourself. Along with this freedom, at some point, you will have your first car, which you will certainly remember for the rest of your life. You won’t have to negotiate with parents or siblings to drive you and your friends around anymore; you can cruise for any amount of time your heart desires.
Of course, anything worth having doesn’t exactly come easy. You’re going to have some work to do if you want to finally get the privilege of driving. There may be some special considerations for the state you live in, but in all states, many requirements for getting a license generally stay constant.
Though it can depend on where you live, you will usually have to pass a formal driver’s education course. Often times these courses are offered through a high school, but you also have the option of taking driver’s ed in outside driving schools. Driver’s Ed classes are made to prepare you with both written knowledge in a classroom and hands-on training behind the wheel. You’ll learn about the traffic laws in your state, as well as:
- How to check for problems with your vehicle before entering. (ex. checking the tires)
- How to properly prepare to go for a drive. (adjusting mirrors, adjusting seats, and buckling seatbelts)
- How to enter and exit all different types of roads, streets, and highways.
- What each traffic sign and signal means.
- How to use turn signals.
- How to parallel park.
- Handling emergency situations including flat tires, accidents, and getting stranded with an empty gas tank.
In many driver’s education courses, you will observe other students driving, and when it’s your turn to get behind the wheel, they will observe as well. This is very helpful because it allows you and others to have valuable driving experience behind the wheel and to learn from each other’s mistakes.
This may make you nervous at first, but it’s important to realize that everyone is in the same boat of people who are also inexperienced drivers.
Nowadays, getting a driver’s license takes more work than it used to. You used to be able to just study for your driver’s test at home and go and take the test, but those days are long gone.
About 40 years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created the graduated driver licensing (GDL) system. The GDL brings a new driver through three stages: the learner’s permit, the intermediate permit, and the official driver’s license.
The GDL system requires that you spend a certain amount of time at each stage before you move on to the next one. You must hold your learner’s permit for a period of time before getting your intermediate permit, and then you need to maintain your intermediate permit for a specified time period before you can attempt to get your official license.
In addition to time prerequisites, there are also age requirements plus education and training requirements involved in GDL that need to be met before moving on from each stage.
Thus, you will usually have to wait until you are the required age before applying for an intermediate permit, so in some cases you may have had your learner’s permit for the required amount of time, but you still must wait until you turn a certain age.
Nowadays, just about every state utilizes a GDL program for driver licensing. The requirements in training, education, age, and time may differ on a state to state basic, so ensure you are familair with your state’s program to satisfy the requirements.
As you continue to drive, you will gain more experience and learn more and more. Therefore, new drivers will benefit from getting as much practice as possible.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t yet finished your driver’s education course so long as you have the learner’s permit and a qualified adult to supervise your driving. You can get all the practice you need this way before continuing in the GDL process.
If you’re looking for some ways to increase your practice time, here are some ways to do just that:
- See if an adult will go with you to the mall.
- Offer to drive your parents or guardians to their errands.
- Drive with your parents and brother to sports practice.
- Drive yourself home from school when you are picked up. Focus on using your knowledge and previous practice when driving.
- Try to experience driving in adverse road conditions for experience driving in all types of weather. (You will also likely have to record a required number of hours of driving at night.)
If your state requires it, ensure you always have a licensed adult with you, and do not stay on the road past the allowed hours. Doing so could put you at risk for losing your learner’s permit and delay the entire process of getting your driver’s license.
Nobody enjoys being told what to do, but it’s important that you take the advice of people who have been driving for years because they have so much more experience and were once in your position. They have come to know how the roads work and are able to anticipate certain situations that a new driver hasn’t yet been exposed to.
Keep these tips in the forefront of your mind while practicing behind the wheel in order to become a safe driver:
- Respect seatbelt laws. Usually, you won’t be able to have a number of passengers that exceeds the number of seatbelts in your car. Ensure anyone riding with you has buckled up as well.
- Do a vehicle inspection before entering the car. Adjust your seat, mirrors, and gas gauge. Make sure your tires are adequately filled with air as well.
- Follow traffic laws. You must obey speed limits, traffic signs, traffic lights, and use turn signals. Using turn signals is common courtesy (and the law) to those who are driving around you. The biggest no-no is drinking and driving, and you should never be riding with someone who has been drinking or doing drugs.
- Be prepared for anything. You should always have a plan in case of any kind of emergency. Always have a cell phone, calling card, or change for pay phones in case you need to get a hold of your parents. You should also carry some extra money for gas and ensure you have good directions to wherever you are going.
- Keep an eye on others. This means paying attention to the vehicles in every direction, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.
- Be aware of weather and road conditions. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed to pull over if it’s raining bullets to the point where you can hardly see anything in front of you.
- Perform regular maintenance on your vehicle. If you’re not able to do this yourself, ask a family member, friend, or take it to the a local auto shop.
- Always remember that when you are moving, you need to stay focused on the road. You shouldn’t be messing around with things like your phone, beauty routines, eating, or putting on live concerts to the radio. Everything needs to be put away and your stereo needs to be at a reasonable volume so you can hear what’s going on around you.
It’s very important to realize that driving is a privilege. It takes a good amount of work to get your driver’s license, but it can be taken away in a snap if you make a big mistake behind the wheel. When you drive safely and responsibly, you ensure that you get to keep your driver’s license, and more importantly, you reduce your risk of a serious car accident.