Yesterday, I shared that I was celebrating my one year anniversary with my beloved car, Seth. In celebration of that anniversary, I’ve decided to share some advice for new drivers. In the last article, I provided actionable advice that could help you lower your auto insurance costs:
The number one way to keep your insurance premium low is to steer clear of accidents. Unfortunately, no matter how great of a driver you are, there is no accounting for the other crazy people on the road as well as other inexperienced drivers.
Still, better their fault than yours and your insurance company will agree. So, here are some tips to get you started. While these may be applicable to anywhere you live, I specify Atlanta because this is where I have the bulk of my driving experience.
1. Leave Super Early
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding claimed 9,717 lives in America in 2017. This accounted for 26% of the total traffic fatalities for that year. Many of these people were not the drivers speeding. They were children crossing the street after school, elderly people waiting for the bus, and many other drivers, passengers, and cyclists who thought they would live to see another day.
While many people speed for no reason but the sheer pleasure of it, the number one reason you may feel compelled to push your limits is because you are late. In fact, this is one of the most common excuses drivers give to police officers when they get pulled over. Give yourself some extra cushion to get there on time and rely on cruise control to keep you within the legal speed limit.
2. Take the Back Roads
According to AJC and several other news agencies, the deadliest highway in the entire United States is right here in Atlanta. It is known as I285 and it circles the entire city. When Atlantans say they live inside or outside the perimeter, this is the death trap highway they are referring to. Not only do I recommend avoiding this highway until your driving skills are better, but I recommend avoiding all the highways until then.
I have a friend who decided he would tackle the highway first. Luckily, he drove a jalopy. Every few weeks, he had another story of getting into an accident or bumping someone. After the last big one, he was forced to purchase a new car. I did the opposite. I stuck to the back roads and didn’t start driving on the highway until July 1st. Adjust your navigation app to route you away from highways until you feel ready to tackle them.
3. Avoid High-Traffic Times
The more cars on the road while you’re driving, the more likely you are to strike or get struck by one. In the first few months of driving, this was my kryptonite. I absolutely refused to drive on the streets of Atlanta if it meant sharing it with too many other drivers. City drivers are especially impatient and reckless at this time. If it’s raining, you can times that by twelve.
I mostly work from home and choose when I go in to work at my part-time job. So, even though rush-hour traffic and other drivers’ Friday night shenanigans don’t faze me now, I still plan my schedule around empty roads. I live in the suburbs, so that means in the morning, it is better to be heading home than going to work. Likewise, at post-work rush-hour, I would rather be heading into the city than going home. You will have to find out what works for you.
4. Look Before Crossing
When we are children, even when we have the green light to cross, our parents tell us to look left, right, and left again. We get older, get behind the wheel and somehow believe this rule no longer applies. The thread below details the incident that instilled the need to continue this on the roads for life. This was just three months into my life as a driver.
Well, my morning is off to a rather interesting start for all the wrong reasons. Here's a thread about how I almost either totalled my car or lost my life or both this morning.
— Alexis Chateau 🇯🇲 (@alexischateau_) November 17, 2018
Since then, I have seen even tractor trailors run red lights right in front of me when it was my turn to go. So, I caution you. If it is after dark and the road is not busy, people tend to either run red lights for the thrill or after nodding off at the wheel.
Whenever you can, slow down and look both ways before shooting across the street on your green light. If you were waiting for the green light, this is an even better opportunity to look before crossing. Note that according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers killed 980 people in 2017 by running red lights. Don’t be one of them if you can help it.
5. Check Before Braking
National General Insurance identifies following too closely as one of the top driving mistakes drivers make. As a new driver, your driving reflexes are not as good as others. Do no overestimate your abilities. I generally leave about two cars’ worth of space between me and another vehicle when driving 40 MPH or less. On the highway, I put a whole 18-wheeler’s worth of distance between us.
However, your back-end can also get smacked by experienced drivers who are impatient and reckless. Because of this, before slamming on your brakes — as many new drivers often do — check your rear view mirror. If you have to slow down on a road where drivers speed because the driver in front of you is waiting to turn, turn on your hazards.
One additional method I used to keep drivers off Seth’s butt that worked like a charm was this bumper sticker:
I removed it on the day my driver’s license turned a year old. I now have a new one. Naturally, Shadow (my black cat) is flattered by this:
Alright guys! Seth's new tramp stamp is in place and he's looking fabulous 💃 pic.twitter.com/h73QLjpbZ6
— Alexis Chateau 🇯🇲 (@alexischateau_) August 1, 2019
Do you remember what it was like to be a new driver? What were some of the tips you followed to stay safe on the roads? Share them with us in the comments below.
For the next post, I will share some tips on how to handle the Atlanta highways as a new driver, so you don’t end up like my friend who totalled his jalopy within a year. If there are specific topics you want me to cover before this series is over, you know how to reach me!