Know your lim­its as a new driver

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

You’re of­fi­cially part of the club. You have joined the mil­lions of new driv­ers al­ready be­hind the wheel. You’re prob­a­bly feel­ing ex­cited, ner­vous, or pos­si­bly scared — you may even be feel­ing a com­bi­na­tion of all three. Don’t worry, th­ese feel­ings are nor­mal.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe.

Know your lim­its. when you were a kid and first learned how to ride a bike, you prob­a­bly started out with the ba­sics. You knew your lim­its — you kept both hands on the han­dle­bars, your butt firmly in the seat, and you lim­ited your trips to your neigh­bour­hood. Af­ter some time, you gained ex­pe­ri­ence and be­came more com­fort­able with your bike; you prob­a­bly ven­tured fur­ther and took longer trips.

Driv­ing a ve­hi­cle can be sim­i­lar. As a new driver, the key is to make sure you are ex­tracare­ful and fully aware of all of your driv­ing habits. You might no­tice older friends and rel­a­tives do­ing some­thing risky — like speed­ing up in­stead of slow­ing down at a yel­low light. But when a driver who doesn’t have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence on the road does it, that kind of be­hav­iour can be even more dan­ger­ous.

Be­fore you take a long road trip, make sure you’re com­pletely com­fort­able go­ing to and from school and work. Be­fore you be­gin driv­ing at night, when re­duced vis­i­bil­ity makes driv­ing more com­pli­cated, make sure you have day­time driv­ing down. Be­fore you start driv­ing your friends around, prac­tice driv­ing with a re­spon­si­ble adult rid­ing shot­gun and on your own — so you aren’t dis­tracted by the com­pany.

Obey all traf­fic rules. This in­cludes wear­ing a seat­belt at all times, com­ing to a com­plete stop at all red lights and stop signs, obey­ing speed lim­its, know­ing when to yield, etc.

Avoid dis­trac­tions. When you first start driv­ing, it’s a good idea to avoid tak­ing friends along with you. Be­sides be­ing il­le­gal in some states while you’re a novice driver, driv­ing with friends can be dis­tract­ing. re­mem­ber, pas­sen­gers can be very dis­tract­ing even for an ex­pe­ri­enced driver. with more ex­pe­ri­ence, driv­ing with friends can be­come less stress­ful. other things that can dis­tract any driver in­clude talk­ing on the phone, eat­ing, putting on makeup, and lis­ten­ing to loud mu­sic.

Keep alert. Keep­ing alert doesn’t sim­ply mean pay­ing at­ten­tion — it means elim­i­nat­ing any fac­tors that might de­tract from re­ac­tion time. Al­co­hol re­duces judg­ment, driv­ing abil­ity, and alert­ness. Driv­ing while drowsy leads to sim­i­lar ef­fects, so get enough sleep. Mix­ing driv­ing, al­co­hol and drugs, and drowsi­ness can be deadly.

Re­spon­si­ble driv­ing also can help you save money. A good driver is less likely to fork over money for car re­pairs and in­creased in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums than a risky or bad driver is.

Know other peo­ple’s lim­its. You aren’t the only per­son you have to be re­spon­si­ble for on the road — there are ag­gres­sive and inat­ten­tive driv­ers of all ages and driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, not to men­tion pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists. Their pres­ence on the roads means it’s not enough to make sure that you fol­low all the rules of the road — you also have to watch out for peo­ple who don’t.

It’s im­por­tant to be aware of your sur­round­ings. For in­stance, when a light turns green, make sure the in­ter­sec­tion is clear be­fore you go; some­one may run a red light and be headed for you.

other ways to be bet­ter aware of your sur­round­ings in­clude:

Main­tain­ing a safe fol­low­ing dis­tance. If you’re too close to some­one else you won’t be able to re­act in time if they lose con­trol in front of you or slam on the brakes. If some­one is tail­gat­ing you, don’t freak out — just get out of the way and let them pass. If they’re mak­ing ob­scene or threat­en­ing ges­tures, don’t re­spond with the same kind of be­hav­iour and try to avoid eye con­tact. Some states even ad­vise you to call 911 to re­port th­ese dan­ger­ous driv­ers (just be sure to pull over some­place safe to do so).

See the fu­ture. Driv­ing isn’t just re­ac­tionary. A lot of it is rec­og­niz­ing and an­tic­i­pat­ing po­ten­tial haz­ards be­fore they de­velop. That’s why you want to keep your eyes mov­ing, scan­ning 20 to 30 sec­onds ahead. If some­one three cars ahead of you brakes, know that you’ll prob­a­bly also have to stop and start slow­ing down. Don’t sim­ply wait for the driver in front of you to slam on the brakes — that car’s brake lights might be out!

Check those mir­rors. Make sure your mir­rors are in po­si­tion to give you the best view pos­si­ble — be aware of your sur­round­ings and check your rearview mir­ror ev­ery 5 to 7 sec­onds.

Driver-train­ing shouldn’t end with a li­cence. Con­sider tak­ing a de­fen­sive driv­ing or driver im­prove­ment course ev­ery 2-3 years to keep your knowl­edge and skills fresh. Not only will this help you re­duce your risk be­hind the wheel, it may save you some money on your car in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums. It could also show your par­ents you’re se­ri­ous about be­ing a good, safe driver.

Know your car Tak­ing care of your car en­sures that it’s in good con­di­tion and func­tion­ing prop­erly. Many break­downs oc­cur be­cause driv­ers ne­glect rou­tine main­te­nance. To avoid be­ing stuck in one of th­ese sit­u­a­tions, try get­ting fa­mil­iar with pump­ing gas, keep­ing track of main­te­nance sched­ules, check­ing and chang­ing oil, check­ing the car’s coolant and brake fluid, learn­ing how to check tire pres­sure and adding air when needed, jump-start­ing the car, adding wind­shield washer fluid, know­ing where the jack, lug wrench, and spare tire are and how to use them.

Know­ing your car means that you won’t be that per­son who runs out of fuel in the mid­dle of nowhere be­cause he drove around with an al­most-empty tank, or the one whose tire blew out be­cause she for­got to check the pres­sure.

Some­times ve­hi­cle crashes and break­downs are un­avoid­able, no mat­ter how re­spon­si­ble you are. You should keep some emer­gency items in your car at all times for use in such sit­u­a­tions:

cell phone and charger

list of phone num­bers to call

in­sur­ance and reg­is­tra­tion cards

tools (wrenches, screw­drivers, pli­ers, socket wrenches, etc.)

self- ig­nit­ing flares or emer­gency tri­an­gles and cones

first- aid kit

bot­tled wa­ter and non­per­ish­able food

flash­light and ex­tra bat­ter­ies

jumper ca­bles

blan­ket, white rags

Prac­tice makes per­fect. So get out there and drive, keep­ing safety first.

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