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I Just Got My License - Now What?

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Congrats! 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 sane and safe.

Know Your Limits

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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 neighborhood. 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 extra-careful 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 behavior 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, if your state's GDL program allows it, practice driving with a responsible adult riding shotgun and on your own — so you aren't distracted by the company.

Safe Driving Tips

Here are some tips for developing safe driving habits:

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.

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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:

Driver training shouldn't end with driver's ed. 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:

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.

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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:

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

Reviewed by: Kurt E. Gray, MSM
Date reviewed: July 2012

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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