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Being a teenager is one of life's true high-five moments. You bound through each day giddy with possibility, without ever giving pause to consequence. It's a mindset that serves youth well, except when it comes to operating a vehicle.
More than 5,000 teenagers die each year in the United States from car accidents, making this the greatest cause of teenage deaths in the country. And, not surprisingly, 16-year-old drivers have the highest crash rate out of any age group. Error is the leading cause, followed by speeding and drinking―all of which makes taking a driver education course that much more important.
Driver education classes provide behind-the-wheel experience and help articulate the responsibility that is needed when driving. Not only is your life at stake, but so are the lives of the other drivers on the road.
Tips for New Drivers
Here's a little friendly advice for teen 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. 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 or leaving the grease stain on your jeans.
- 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 send text messages when you're at the wheel. The police officer won't be sympathetic when you explain that 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.
- 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.
- Do be vigilant about looking for other drivers who are not as with it as you are. You never know when they will decide to enter your space. The element of surprise isn't as fun on the road as it is at a birthday party.
- Do install a barrier in the back of your car before taking your pet 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. You will need time to react should an unexpected obstacle appears. 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. When you can honestly say you've never had a ticket or an accident, people will respect you.
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