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Once you've completed your classroom driving instruction and turned 15 1/2 years old, you will then be eligible to apply for your learner's permit and begin your behind-the-wheel experience. It's time to put your knowledge into practice.
Nevada requires beginning drivers to log at least 50 hours of driving experience before applying for a regular driver license. If you weren't able to take a driving instruction class because no class was offered within 30 miles of your home, you'll have to make up for it by logging at least 100 hours of behind-the-wheel experience. No matter what your hourly requirement is, at least 10 of those hours must be at night.
To keep track of your hours, use the Beginning Driver Experience Log (Form DLD 130), available for download in PDF format.
Another valuable tool is the Beginning Driver Training Guide, which you can use to focus your driving practice. It lists all the basic skills you should master before going to take your driving test for your license.
According to a national insurance association, inexperience is leading cause of teen car accidents. When you're a beginning driver, every situation is new, and lots of driving situations require split-second decisions and a clear head.
Most of that comes with time and practice. Get as much driving practice as you can with your learner's permit. To make the most of your training time, drive in as many different situations as you can, including early morning, different weather conditions, and on a variety of public roads.
Of course, your licensed adult supervisor must be with you in the car at all times, and you shouldn't purposely put yourself in dangerous conditions just to gain experience. A daredevil attitude is not required―just a desire to learn the basics at your own pace. Remember: At least during practice, no one's grading you!
Take each skill step by step. No matter where or when you drive, each hour behind the wheel helps you gain confidence and experience that can't be learned from a manual.
Here's a little friendly advice for new drivers from someone who's been there. They don't teach you everything in school!
- Don't order mega-size drinks at the drive-through. They tip over in the drink holders when you turn or stop, and if you hold the drink between your legs for stability, then you can't operate the floor pedals.
- Don't try to eat a sandwich or burger while you're driving. The mayonnaise-covered tomatoes will fall into your lap and you'll have to make a snap decision between swerving to the curb (bad) or leaving the grease stain on your jeans (bad).
- Don't make or receive calls on your cell phone while you are driving. It's bad karma, everyone else on the road will be irritated with you, and you won't realize you're going too slow and swerving all over the place until you cause an accident. Same goes for applying makeup while driving: just don't!
- Don't under any circumstances send a text message when you're at the wheel. The police officer won't be sympathetic when you explain that you absolutely, positively could not wait until you pulled off the road to text "c u soon" to your best friend, so instead you rear-ended someone while your eyes and thumbs were busy on the keypad.
- Don't be lame and give in to peer pressure. If some nimrod in the back seat says, "How fast can this thing go?" ignore them―they're not the one who will get busted or cause an accident. Someone in the car has to be the grown-up: you.
- Don't panic and jump out of the car if you notice a bee on the inside of the windshield. Ever seen your car roll down the street without a driver? You don't want to.
- Do wear your seatbelt every time you get into a car, even for a short ride. Something as common as stopping suddenly to avoid a cat darting across the street can cause your face to meet your steering wheel. The results won't be pretty, and your prom date will find an excuse to back out.
- Do be vigilant for other drivers who are not as with it as you are, and keep your distance. You never know when they will decide to enter your space (since they won't bother to signal), and the element of surprise isn't as fun on the road as it is at a birthday party.
- Do install a dog barrier in the back of your car before taking Rover for a ride. Rover will want to be in the front seat with you, and trying to swat him back with one hand while steering with the other is a sure way to take out a whole line of parked cars.
- Do obey speed limits so that you will have time to react should an unexpected obstacle (a person, another car, an animal) appear.
- Do listen to your stereo at a low enough volume that you can hear emergency sirens. Those fire trucks are a lot bigger than you, so you'll want to know one is approaching before it runs you over.
- Do take it easy, pay attention, and take the rules of the road seriously. In a few years when you can honestly say you've never had a ticket or an accident, people will respect you, and it will be an enormous point of pride.
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