For teenagers, getting a driver's license is an important milestone. It's a step toward independence, and for some it's their first taste of adult responsibility. For the most part, teens are so eager and excited to get behind the wheel that they might not be very focused on the important issue of safety.
Operating a motor vehicle requires the coordination of several complex tasks simultaneously. When you factor in all of the other elements, including road conditions, weather, other drivers on the road, and distractions within the car, driving can be one of the most dangerous activities that we undertake each day. For teens, who are just learning to do all these things at once, safety becomes an even more important issue.
Youth-involved automobile crashes are a huge problem in the United States. According to the National Safety Council, traffic crashes are the leading cause of teen fatalities,
accounting for 44% of teen deaths in this country. The District of Columbia has the dubious distinction of having the highest teen driver death rate in the nation, according to a study compiled by the National Safety Council and the Coalation to End Needless Death on Our Roadways.
While it's true that driving carries with it countless inherent risks, it is still incredibly fun to get behind the wheel and go wherever you want to go. These depressing statistics are shared not to frighten you, but to make sure that you understand how important it is to drive responsibly, take the time necessary to get adequate training, and always obey the rules of the road.
Graduated Driver Licensing
Given the fact that lack of experience behind the wheel can be a large contributor to the cause of many traffic accidents, graduated licensing programs have been established in many states and in the District of Columbia. The purpose of the graduated licensing program, or GRAD (Gradual Rearing of Adult Drivers), is to make sure drivers under 21 are properly educated and trained, and that they take on additional responsibilities only as they become able to handle them.
The graduated licensing program gives teens plenty of supervised time behind the wheel to allow them the opportunity to learn from the experience of the adult driver. This allows time for knowledge to be translated into experience, and for the novice driver to gain skills and confidence behind the wheel before encountering more dangerous situations such as driving late at night or while other distracting teens are in the car.
The GRAD license program has three stages:
- Learner's permit
- Provisional license
- Full license with 17-21 restrictions
Basic Tips for Safe Driving
When you are getting ready to practice driving, it's a good idea to make sure that the car you will be driving is in good working order. Have the adult who will be supervising you show you how to check the car's fluid levels, as well as the tire pressure and tread depth. These are things that you will need to know how to do regularly once you become a motorist.
It's also smart to make sure that you have plenty of gas to get where you're going. Getting stranded is never fun.
Here are more things to remember every time you drive:
- Always wear your seatbelt and make sure that your passengers do as well.
- Never drink and drive, or drive after you have taken drugs (or even certain over-the-counter medications―check the label).
- Make sure that your windshield, mirrors, and rear window are clean and clear.
- Adjust your seat and mirrors before pulling away from the curb.
- Always obey posted speed limits.
- Use your turn signals to indicate to the traffic around you your intention to turn.
- Keep a safe driving distance between your car and the car ahead of you on the road.
- Never get behind the wheel if you are overly tired or sleepy.