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Driving proves that teenagers don't know everything. Despite repeated warnings by adults that they don't yet understand the dangers on the road, many teen drivers treat road rules like pointless infringements on their pursuit of fun. Rather than believe that bad consequences can happen to them, lots of new drivers ignore the warnings―resulting in accident statistics that stagger the brain:
- Sixteen-year-old drivers have higher crash rates than any other age group.
- 14% of all car accident deaths across the nation involved teen drivers.
- 18% of all reported car accidents involved teen drivers.
- Nearly 50 percent of all 16-year-old-driver deaths occurred with other teen passengers in the car.
According to authorities, inexperience is the leading cause of all teen accidents―all of which elevates the importance of practice time behind the wheel. Pennsylvania requires every teen driver to have a minimum of 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel experience before they are allowed to apply for a driving test and get a junior license.
If you're a teenager learning to operate a car, never pass up the chance to drive―even if it's just around the corner to collect a pizza. There is no such thing as bad experience when it comes to driving. The more time you have behind the wheel, the safer you'll be in the long run because of all the practice.
Although not mandatory (unless you want to get your full license prior to turning 18), enrolling in a driver education course is strongly suggested. Pennsylvania's state-sanctioned program focuses on theory instruction, touching on topics like the need for mental and visual focus and the importance of sound decision-making. These skills will really help you when you're confronted with an unexpected driving situation and have to make lightning-fast decisions (sometimes life-or-death ones).
Also, be sure to study the Pennsylvania Driver's Manual. It's chock-full of driving information that applies directly to Pennsylvania, including the rules of the road and advice to help you be a more expert driver.
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. Besides, no one will believe you got that huge dent going "only 10 miles an hour."
- 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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