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Finally, it's the real deal. You're sitting behind the wheel of a car, your hair is just right, the tunes on the radio are loud enough to be heard an entire county away, and you're good to go.
Except that Mom is sitting in the seat beside you, turning down the radio and reminding you to make sure you check your mirrors and fasten your seat belt before you switch the engine on.
Welcome to life on a Level 1 Learner's License. You've got at least 180 days of supervised drive time (including at least 50 hours behind the wheel of the family car), another six hours of classroom time, and a road skills test to pass before you can drive without your parents reminding you to slow down, look both ways, pay attention to the traffic ahead of you, and so forth.
Love every minute of it. After all, it's, ahem, for your own good.
There's nothing that compares to actual driving experience to help make sure that you'll be a safe driver, capable of navigating back and forth to school, work, or your friend's house.
In fact, research has shown that the more driving experience you acquire, the safer you become.
So log lots of hours, but make sure they're quality hours and that you're developing good driving skills, not just spending time behind the wheel.
For instance, no matter how much you try to avoid it, in your life you'll drive after dark often. Get used to it. Make sure that at least 10 of your mandated 50 training hours are nighttime driving.
And snow is just a way of life in Michigan. If you haven't had solid time behind the wheel in the snow while being supervised by an experienced driver, don't drive alone in the white stuff until you have. It may seem like a no-brainer, but driving safely in inclement conditions takes practice.
As a young driver, you may tend to be more easily distracted from your driving than a more experienced driver might be. So, keep that cell phone in your pocket while you're driving, and if you have to find out who's calling you, make sure you pull over first.
Likewise, grabbing a bite to eat. A slice of pizza isn't as easy to eat at 60 mph as it is sitting still. Opt for the five-minute delay; it could save a lot of grief―even your life!
Studies also show that you're more likely to have an accident with friends in the car than you are if you drive alone. And with each additional passenger you add, your risk increases. Until you've gotten more experience, keep the load to a minimum.
Slow down. Speed does kill―it's not just a cool commercial. Right now you're developing the reactions you need to drive safely, learning how your vehicle responds in different situations. Give yourself a chance and lighten up on the gas pedal. You'll have more time to maneuver around sudden bad moves by other drivers, and you'll never have to worry about points on your license.
Finally, make sure you buckle up. You're significantly more likely to be involved in an accident than more experienced drivers. In fact, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of accidental deaths among teens.
So if you're going to be involved in an accident, it's far better to walk away with messed-up hair than to not walk away at all.
Michigan's Secretary of State has compiled a number of informative Web pages, publications, and brochures to help you navigate the teen licensing process, prepare for the required tests, and drive safely once you have your driver's license:
- Graduated Licensing Home Page
- Michigan's Graduated Licensing System Timeline
- Eligibility Requirements for Graduated Licenses
- Michigan's Graduated Driver Licensing: A Guide for Parents
- Road Skills Test Study Guide
- Road Skills Testing Organization Locator
- Practice Tests
- Teen Drivers
- Driver Education
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- Driver's License & ID
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- Drivers Training Requirements: Do You Have to Enroll in Drivers Training?
- How to Choose a Drivers Training Program
- Who’s Required to Take Drivers Training
- What is Drivers Training?
- Graduating From a Drivers Permit to a Restricted Drivers License
- Learn the Difference Between Drivers Ed and Driver Training