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    In Wisconsin, teen drivers begin their required 30 hours of behind-the-wheel practice once they have completed their driver education classes. Of course, there is a short amount of time spent behind the wheel in driver education, but the real hands-on learning begins with the driver's training practice.

    Skills Covered

    You will learn or be introduced to many of these basic driving skills in your driver education class. The time to practice them is during your driver's training time. Here's a good, basic list of skills you will want to work on while you are training:

    • Starting, moving and stopping the vehicle.
    • Backing, straight and curved.
    • Angle in and parallel parking.
    • Up and down hill parking.
    • Starting and stopping a vehicle on a hill.
    • Managing and maneuvering through an intersection.
    • Lane changing.
    • Left and right turns with and without traffic lights and road signs
    • Pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle right-of-way.
    • Proper use of the vehicle's transmission (standard or automatic}.
    • Proper use of the brakes, clutch, and accelerator for slowing and stopping.
    • Understanding and maneuvering through traffic lights and signals.
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    It may look like you could master all of the skills on the above list in just a few short days, but in reality, you'll want to actually practice each skill a number of times while you have someone with you.

    Repetition and Changes

    A great way to really learn these skills is to master them under one set of circumstance, then, before you consider that section of training complete, try them under at least two other conditions. Here's a way to help "mix it up" a little:

    • Practice driving, starting and stopping on hills in the rain and, if possible, in the snow.
    • Practice lane changing on a major freeway and on a busy urban highway.
    • Try to drive at least once in fog, heavy rain, snow, or other inclement weather that can prove challenging while you still have someone with you.
    • Practice driving in crowded urban areas with lots of pedestrians before you complete your training.
    • Drive on the freeways during very busy times at least a few times before you complete the training.
    • Practice driving in a traffic-heavy urban area.
    • If you have a professional driving teacher, ask if they have a closed track where they can demonstrate proper vehicle control in a skid.
    • Practice each skill you've learned in the day time at least once after dark.

    Practicing your driving skills over a period of time is the very best way to become a better driver. Once you get out on the road and start encountering these various driving situations, you'll really begin to learn that no two driving trips are ever the same, no matter how short. Weather, time of day, road conditions, other drivers, traffic patterns; all of these play a part in each unique driving experience.

    Take Your Time

    Since you must be 16 years old to be issued a driver's license, take the time while you wait to keep practicing your driving skills, even if you've finished your 30 hours. Keep a log of your driving time and keep track of the skills you feel need further work or those for which you would like additional training; you can find one in your copy of the Wisconsin Motorists' Handbook or obtain one online using the free Adobe Reader. Ask the person teaching you for further assistance.

    Stay Focused

    While many teens are perfectly comfortable multi-tasking; talking on the phone, text or instant messaging, being online, and listening to music, driving is not a good time to try doing these. While you are behind the wheel, it is critically important that you pay attention to your driving and to nothing else. Distractions are one of the major causes of motor vehicle accidents. Do not allow yourself to be distracted. Below are a few ideas for keeping distractions to a minimum.

    Common Distractions

    Some of the most common distractions noted in motor vehicle accidents among teens are:

    Music

    Music is wonderful and is great when you're driving alone on a long trip, but it can become a major distraction. Changing CDs, fumbling with an MP3 player, or changing the radio station takes your eyes and attention off the road for a dangerously long time. By having your attention diverted, you'll have less time to react if a traffic situation develops.

    Food

    Eating and driving don't mix. For one thing, it's impossible to do both very well at the same time. Spills, ketchup drips, and various oozing foodstuffs distract; you'd be surprised at how much of your vision is blocked when you try to eat and drive. Plus, one-handed driving is never safe even with an automatic transmission.

    Cell Phones

    A recent study shows that people who talk on cell phones while driving are just as dangerous as drunk drivers. Turn off your phone when you turn on the ignition and check your messages when you stop.

    Grooming

    Lots of drivers distract themselves by putting on makeup, checking teeth, brushing hair, and a host of other personal care chores while they are driving. Give it a miss and tidy up once you stop the car.

    Friends

    One of the most anticipated parts of driving is getting to run around town with a car full of friends. While that's a great feeling and a lot of fun, it can also be a dangerous distraction. Many fatal crashes have occurred in a car full of teens having a great time. Wait to enjoy yourselves when you get to a meeting place and are out of the car.

    Other Distractions

    Don't study, watch a DVD, read a book, send or read a text message or, in short, take your eyes and mind off the road. Wait until your car is stopped to do any of these activities.

    Nothing should come between you and the road as long as you are driving. Keep your focus on traffic and the road ahead should be your only priority while driving. Other concerns should take a "back seat" for the time the vehicle is rolling. Keep the correct distance between you and the car ahead, and stay aware and alert, with an eye down the road a little way and a glance in the rearview from time to time and you'll avoid accidents, near-misses and the need to make sudden corrective moves. Stay safe.


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