There is no denying the sense of freedom and adventure that comes with obtaining a driver’s licence and operating a vehicle on your own for the first time.
But earning a driver’s licence only means that you have successfully passed the two-step licensing process administered by the Ministry of Transportation. To become proficient as a driver requires the mastering of many skills and years of practice behind the wheel.
For those who have recently earned a driver’s licence (teens, twentysomethings), here are some tips to help in the safe operation of a vehicle. If you’re a parent of a newly minted driver, please share this column with your son or daughter.
Buckle up. Make sure that you fasten your seatbelt every time you’re in the vehicle. It’s not only the law in Ontario, it’s also one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in motor vehicle collisions.
Warning lights.Learn what each different warning light means. Some can indicate serious potential problems. Ignoring a critical warning light can jeopardize the safe operation of your vehicle and compromise your manufacturer’s warranty coverage.
Practice driving in bad weather. Driving in a snowstorm or in the rain can be frightening, but doing so will help build your confidence in manoeuvring the vehicle in all types of weather conditions. Be cautious when practising driving in this type of weather. Consider enrolling in an advanced driving course to learn new skills.
Beware of blind spots. Mirrors don’t show what is outside of your peripheral vision. Bicycles, motorcycles, and small cars are easy to miss. Don’t rely on just your mirrors. Check your blind spot every time you make a lane change, and don’t drive in someone else’s blind spot.
Drive without friends. Young drivers are often influenced by their friends to drive fast and show off. If your friends are with you in the vehicle, avoid the temptation to disobey the rules of the road.
Don’t lend your vehicle. If a collision occurs while a friend is driving your vehicle, the accident would be covered but it will adversely affect your insurance rates.
Be Prepared. Learn how to check the engine oil and tire pressure, and read the owner’s manual to get acquainted with the vehicle’s main features and accessories. Before setting out, figure out what to do (and who to call) if you get a flat tire, dead battery or locked out of your vehicle.
Avoid distractions. Put away your mobile phone or turn it off before you start the vehicle. It is illegal to use a hand-held and/or entertainment device while driving, and distracted driving is now the leading cause of automobile crashes in Ontario.
Access to cash. Have a debit card, an auto club card or some cash on hand in the event that you get stuck and need a tow and you need to find transportation home.
Collision preparedness. Know your lawful rights and responsibilities if you’ve had a collision. It’s best to take your vehicle back to your new car dealer — they know your vehicle best. Being prepared ensures that any repairs to your vehicle are expedited efficiently and cost-effectively.
Emergency items. Those who plan on travelling long distances or into remote areas should include safety items in their trunk, such as a First-Aid kit, booster cables or a portable battery pack, blanket, bottled water, flashlight, matches, and cellphone.
The above tips are aimed principally at young and inexperienced drivers, but drivers of all ages and abilities could benefit from them. Whatever your level of driving experience, please drive safely.