It’s hard to find a more coming-of-age milestone in a teenager’s life than getting their learner’s permit and driver’s license. However, in recent years many teens are delaying this big achievement. There are many possible causes for this delay, including the presence of social media and technological innovations. Instead of driving to a friend’s house, teens can video-chat on their phones or use popular ride share apps such as Uber and Lyft to take them where they want to go.
Without the desire for independence that inspired teens in previous decades to get their driver’s licenses, teens today are overwhelmed by the large responsibility that comes with driving. Teens’ lack of experience behind the wheel not only puts themselves in danger but creates danger for other people on the road as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely to get into a motor vehicle crash than older drivers.
Having confidence in yourself and your driving skills will not only ease your stress level when driving but also make you a better driver. Here are a few tips to build your confidence about driving.
Simply put, the more you practice driving the more comfortable and confident you will be doing so. Becoming a confident driver will give you peace of mind and ensure your safety. The Graduated Driver License (GDL) of Tennessee states that before you can receive your Intermediate License you must have 50 hours of supervised driving with an adult.
Know the law
Driving laws differ from state to state, so double check yours. In Tennessee, teens can get their Learner Permit at age 15 and can obtain their Intermediate Restricted License at age 16. With a Learner Permit, a driver must be accompanied with a licensed adult above the age of 21 and may only drive between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. These rules fall under the graduated license law mentioned above. View the full list of requirements and rules in Tennessee.
Before you start driving, make sure your seat is in the correct position. Use the seat controls to position the driver’s seat close enough to the wheel that your legs are slightly bent while also fully pressing the brake. Set the seat back to an angle that allows your relaxed shoulders to touch the seat back. Keep a slight bend in your elbows as your hands are placed at 9 and 3 o’clock on the wheel.
Where are your controls?
While the car is still in the park or off position, make sure you are confident using its controls. Driving fast on the interstate is not the time to learn where the controls are. Instead, practice adjusting the review mirror and side mirrors so that you can see the car behind you and a small sliver of your own car. Next, double check the location of the windshield wiper controls, turn signals and high beams. Don’t forget to test your horn. Different vehicles have the horn controls located in different areas of the steering wheel.
Do not even think about having your phone anywhere near you while you are driving. Place your phone in your center console or in a bag in the off or silent position. This way you will not be tempted by hearing the ding or buzz of an incoming text or call.
Loud music can also be distracting while trying to drive in congested areas. Playing calming music has been found to ease driver’s nerves.
The habits you create now while driving will last with you for decades. Start now in creating a safe driving environment around you. You can also serve as a great example to your friends, siblings, or even parents.
Pick your passengers
Be aware of who you allow to ride with you as you get your bearings in the driver’s seat. Do not include passengers who are highly critical or make you nervous about making mistakes. Be vocal about your preferences. If your parent causes you to tense up in the car, suggest an alternate adult to sit in the front seat. Additionally, if certain siblings or friends make you nervous about driving or making mistakes, let them know. Only allow positive influences in the car with you.
Practice in different cars
Although all cars have the same general controls, it is a good idea to practice driving in multiple makes and models if given the opportunity. With practice, you will notice how different types of cars drive differently. This will help you choose your own car to buy and will be useful when you don’t have a choice in the car you drive.
Drive in all conditions
This is an important topic. Being prepared to drive in whatever weather comes your way is a great way to boost your confidence. You cannot control the weather and most likely will not be able to wait out every rain storm. In addition to driving in heavy rain, you should also learn to maneuver on ice or snow.
Practice driving at night, especially during winter months when most of your driving from the late afternoon on will be in the dark. Practice using your high and low beams while driving in rural and populated areas during dark hours. Drive on different road settings like highways, interstates, round-a-bouts, four-way stops and traffic lights to become more prepared.
Believe in yourself
Confidence is key to becoming a good and safe driver. Rely on your practice and experience driving to calm your fears on the road. This is a skill you will likely use for the rest of your life. You will not regret putting in the effort now to master this skill.
We hope these tips help you become a confident and safe driver. For another great resource to test your knowledge and skills, check out the Ford Driving Skills for Life online module.