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For something that requires as much skill, dexterity, coordination, and concentration as driving, classroom instruction is not enough. Once you're done with your driver education class and get your learner permit, you'll get to hop in a car with an instructor and take it for a spin. Several spins, actually―you'll need to clock a total of six hours of driving observation and six hours of driving yourself as part of your driver training course.
Drivers younger than 18 are required to hold a learner permit for at least six months and log a total of 40 hours of driving practice (with an adult driver in the car) before applying for a driver license. Ten of those hours must be after dark. The six hours of practice driving during the driver training course will count toward the total, but the more hours of driving practice you get outside of class before you take your test, the better you'll do.
The parent or guardian who signs the application will be asked to sign an affidavit certifying that the applicant has completed the 40 hours of practice driving as described.
Even with 40 hours of practice under your belt and a driver license in your hand, you'll still be pretty green compared with the other drivers on the road. It can take years to accumulate the skill to drive perfectly all the time, so take it easy when you first get your license.
You won't want to be one of the countless drivers who crash into something within days of getting your license. Even if you're studying for your first license at age 60, it's worth reviewing the Teen Drivers page for a reminder that no matter how old you are, there's no substitute for experience. Good luck!
Tips for New Drivers
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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