If you haven’t noticed all the “Rookie Driver” stickers on cars, you’ve certainly noticed all the young drivers with obviously stressed adults in the passenger seat. It’s that time of year again, when the newest flock of motorists are hitting the road. Here are 7 driving safety tips to offer to keep them, and those around them, safe as they learn the rules of the road.
1. Enroll Your Rookie in a Driver Safety Class
Driver safety classes are mandatory in the state of Maryland before licenses are issued to new drivers. Enroll them before they start driving so they can learn basic automobile safety, and as a bonus, they get hours behind the wheel with an instructor. This gives them the confidence they need to practice their skills with you.
2. Rookie Stickers Aren’t Just Cliche
When you’re getting your new driver a provisional license, make sure you get a “Rookie Driver” sticker from the DMV. These are also available at Amazon as magnets if you don’t want to deface your vehicle. These warnings work in several ways, from discouraging anxiety-inducing tailgaters to warning others to be alert for sudden, unexpected maneuvers from your student.
3. Start Small
Start in a school parking lot after hours and work up to a quiet neighborhood where your rookie driver can practice. Make sure they work on spatial issues like length of the hood of your car and the width of the vehicle. They can practice backing into spaces, parking, and smooth acceleration and braking techniques. Only after your new driver is confident in these controlled settings will it be safe to take them out on the road. Don’t forget to teach them etiquette at stop signs and roundabouts, as well as sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
4. Take a Deep Breath
Rookies prefer driving with an instructor far more than a parent or sibling because they feel less anxious. Find your inner zen and make sure you project a relaxed, confident attitude with your rookie, even if you’re slamming your foot on an imaginary brake on the passenger side. One tip for this is to consciously take a breath before correcting your new driver; this gives you a fraction of a second to regain control of your emotions and gives the appearance that you are calm. There is nothing to be gained from losing your patience with your new driver, and your fear will be contagious and detrimental to their confidence.
5. Make Sure the Car is Ready for Your Rookie
You may be used to your vehicle’s quirks, but others won’t be. Make sure all fluids are topped off, brake lights and turn signals are working properly, and your tires are full. Don’t let your new driver pull off without adjusting the mirrors, seat, and steering wheel to their own comfort levels, and of course, always wear your seatbelts. Turn off the radio and your cell phones before every lesson.
6. Don’t Forget Car Maintenance Lessons
Make sure your new driver knows how to check and add oil, use a gas pump, and fill the tires. It’s also very handy to teach them to jump start a battery and change a tire. It’s a good idea to get them a roadside service plan for emergencies so you know they will have help when they’re on their own.
Make sure they have all documentation in one spot within the car in case of an accident, and that they understand their responsibilities if they are involved in one.
7. Rainy Day Driving
Once your rookie has the basics down and feels confident behind the wheel, it’s time to let them experience driving in more challenging conditions such as dusk and nighttime, rainy weather, and even snow, if possible. Take them to rush hour traffic jams, roadwork scenes, and tunnels. As nail-biting as this will be for you, it’s important they know how to confidently handle a vehicle in adverse conditions.
Watch Out for Rookie Drivers
If you see a Student Driver sticker on a vehicle, give them space and be patient. You had to learn once, too! Never tailgate or improperly pass a rookie driver, and be alert for sudden stops, lane changes and other unpredictable behavior from the vehicle.