It’s exciting to get a driver’s license, get handed the freedom of being able to drive yourself to school, to work, or simply to meet up with friends, no longer having to rely on finding a ride or asking your parents to drive you. However, according to DMV.org, teenage drivers account for more auto accidents than any other age group.
As a new driver there are a lot of things to remember – when to put on your indicator light, whether or not it’s okay to make a right turn on red, staying aware of street signs, following directions….all of which can crowd out adhering to basic, but important safety rules to prevent an auto accident. Practicing safe driving not only helps keep you and your passengers (when you’re old enough to have them in the car with you) safe from personal injury, but it also keeps your car from requiring expensive repairs.
Just say ‘no’ when it comes to cell phones and driving
In an article from the LA Times, texting is cited as the “most common cause of distracted driving accidents…fast becoming the new drunk driving.” Sadly, teens are four times more likely to get into accidents of this kind because they most often text/check their phones while driving.
Many states already have laws in place that prevent you from texting or even handling your phone while driving, and it’s important for teen drivers in Georgia to be aware that as of July 1, 2018, it’s illegal to hold your phone or support it with any part of your body while driving. Hands-free usage will still be allowed, but you can receive a ticket if you’re caught holding your phone while driving or even balancing it on your leg.
Following this law is so important, but even if there wasn’t a law to tell you not to actively use your phone and drive, it’s a safety practice all drivers should follow. Using your cell phone while driving turns you into a distracted driver, someone who can’t necessarily respond as quickly to an unexpected situation such as the car in front of you coming to a quick stop or someone running a red light or stop sign in your path. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that reading a text can take your eyes off the road for five seconds, but at 55 mph, that’s equal to driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed. Considering that most accidents happen within three seconds of being distracted, you’re putting yourself in a lot of danger each time you check your phone while driving.
As a new driver, teens should be encouraged to limit distractions while driving. Inexperienced drivers are more likely to lose control of their car and distractions of any kind can lead to a dangerous situation. So, in addition to putting cell phones away unless safely parked, teen drivers should give themselves time to acclimate to driving before cranking up their favorite songs or even grabbing a quick meal to eat en route.
Basic safety practices teen drivers should remember
While not driving distracted is perhaps the most important thing a new or teen driver should ensure they not do, there are a few other safety measures which are good to remember.
- Headlight use: use during rain, early morning and evening, anytime you think another car may have trouble seeing you
- Keep your distance: stay at least one car length behind the car in front of you to give yourself time to react to the unexpected
- Check your mirrors: use all your mirrors to stay aware of how traffic is moving all around you. It’s important to know what the other cars are up to in order to effectively drive defensively. If you notice a particularly aggressive driver, try to stay out of their way.
- Be prepared for the unexpected: keep an emergency kit in your trunk, containing a flashlight, road flare, jumper cables, and first aid kit. Know how to jump your car and learn how to change your own tire should you end up with a flat.
- Follow the speed limit: speed limits are there of a reason, so it’s important to obey them, especially when driving on a congested road or one you’re unfamiliar with. There’s no pressure to keep up with the cars around you. If you’re on the highway, stick to the two right lanes to avoid speeding drivers. If on a local street, go the speed limit to avoid getting a ticket as well as getting into an accident, regardless of what others around you may be doing.
- Defer the right-of-way: if you find yourself in a situation where you’re unsure of who has the right-of-way (like four cars arrive at a 4-way stop at the same time) defer to the other drivers, let them have the right of way. Also, pull put slowly just in case someone else decides to go at the same time.
There are more general safety tips all drivers should follow to ensure they stay safe on the road, and the best way to get in the habit of being a defensive driver is to drive as often as possible in a variety of different situations – different times of day and through different types of weather – to help put safe driving into regular practice.
Should you find yourself in an auto accident
Hopefully, as a safe, non-distracted driver, you won’t find yourself in an auto accident, but should it happen, here is an important list of what steps to take. Before doing anything on this list, though, remember to remain calm. You won’t be able to think through the situation logically if you’re not calm. Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock of the accident, remember to:
- Call the police (and an ambulance if there is any serious injury) and fill out a police report.
- Assess the damage to your car and take pictures of the scene (don’t move anything).
- Collect information from the other driver(s) including insurance information, contact information, and their license plate number.
- Get medical attention, even if you don’t think you’re injured. It’s a good rule of thumb to be checked out.
- You’ll need to report the accident to your insurance, but before doing so, consider contacting a personal injury attorney. They can help you prepare a statement for the insurance company that will prevent you from saying anything that can later be used against you to limit compensation. A lawyer can also assess your accident and advise you if further legal action is appropriate.
The law team at The Patterson Cozzo Law Firm offers a wide variety of services built around walking clients through the process at each turn. Available for a free consultation, lawyers can be contacted now.