A Short Owner’s Manual for Teenage Drivers
As a teenage driver, you can’t possibly be expected to know all there is to know about cars, how to avoid accidents, what you might need to keep in your car, or how to avoid security risks.
The following will give you some starting points and you can use them as conversation starters with your friends or parents, on how to stay safe and keep your car in good condition.
Car maintenance and basic repairs
Don’t risk Murphy’s Law of driving which would state that you are bound to break down where and when you would least want to. Make a point of conducting routine car maintenance on a particular day of the week, and know how to perform basic repairs.
Mobile phone use
- Check the oil and if the level is low, know what to buy or where to find it at home, and how to add it.
- Know what all the monitor gauges are, how to read them and when to take affirmative action.
- Check the tyre pressure and amount of tread. Learn how to inflate the tyres if necessary.
- Know how to change a flat tyre. Practice makes perfect.
- Know where the fuse box is and how to change the fuse.
- Know how to change the windscreen wiper blades and a light bulb on the car.
It seems like such a no-brainer, given all the news reports of devastating accidents that occur as the result of using a mobile phone when driving. Teenage drivers need to know that texting while driving a car can be extremely dangerous. Here are some tips.
- Do NOT text while driving.
- If your car has integrated Bluetooth connectivity, put your mobile phone in the back seat. You can still answer calls from within the car if absolutely necessary but you won’t be able to reach the phone if tempted. Don’t put the phone in the boot because in the event of an emergency, you don’t want to be getting out of the car if it’s avoidable
- Turn your phone off to avoid distractions.
Some schools now offer Driver Ed as a subject. Whether yours does or doesn’t, you can still opt to enrol in a defensive driving course in your city or town. You’ll learn vehicle familiarisation, how to control your car and avoid collisions, emergency braking, corner wet braking and more.
The courses usually include demonstrations and theory and practical components. Investing in this kind of education could save one or more lives, and it could be yours.
Driving tired and under the influence
Driving while tired or when under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances is a recipe for disaster, even for drivers who have decades of experience behind the wheel. There is never a good reason to do so and the penalties can be severe. It is always best to arrange alternative transportation and go back and pick up your car the next day.
Take a taxi or an Uber, have your parents pick you up or ask a friend or their parent to drive you home. Being late for work or a date, not wanting to miss an exciting event or simply wanting to get home are not excuses for driving when you shouldn’t.
Driving with passengers in the car
It’s exciting to be able to drive your friends and family members around. That sense of independence is quite thrilling, but it’s also important to remember that while you’re trying to concentrate, others may be concerned with their own moods, activities or need to get somewhere in a hurry.
Teenage drivers are more inclined to show off, speed to make an important arrival time or carry more passengers than the car is legally permitted to carry. You have a long life ahead of you; don’t risk a minute of it on trying to save time, win fans or be helpful.
Important things to carry in your car
When you first get your car, you want to personalise it with seat covers, maybe some LED lighting, some decals or a new sound system. But there are other items that, if you don’t have them, you might wish one day that you’d thought to include them.
- Your car’s manual
- Small first aid kit
- Matches or a lighter
- Water bottle
- Seat belt cutter and window breaker (keep in glove box for obvious reasons)
- Paper towel or baby wipes
- Note paper and pencil
- Emergency money
- Blanket or towel
- Mobile phone charger
- Reflective triangles
There are bound to be other items that you’ll think of as you start driving and need them. Also, don’t forget to check that your spare tyre and jack are in the boot.
Security in car parks and other public places
Being a teenage driver – or any age, for that matter – means also being vigilant about your safety and security when out of your car.
Show the community they’re wrong about teenage drivers
- When going to your car, get straight in, lock the doors and drive away. Don’t give an observer with ill intentions the opportunity to attack or approach. If you have to call someone, mark off your to-do list or eat your lunch, drive to somewhere that hasn’t been under watch.
- If you return to your car and a van is parked beside it with the side door next to your driver’s door, avoid getting into the car. See if someone can escort you to your car instead.
- Once you are in your car, if you notice a flyer under your front or rear windscreen wipers, don’t get out to remove it. Someone could be waiting for you to do just that, and approach you.
- Despite exercise recommendations, don’t take the stairwell in a car park. Stay where you can be visible to security cameras and other people and can’t be detained by an attacker.
- If you have to return to your car at night and there are few people around, carry a personal panic alarm and be ready to activate it if approached.
- Always tell someone where you are going if you think you’ll be out at night, or you are driving to somewhere unfamiliar.
Justifiably or not, many in the community complain about the behaviour of teenage drivers on the roads. Be the driver that proves them wrong while also setting an example to your friends.