What new (and even experienced) drivers need to know

Maybe you passed your driving exam with flying colours. Maybe the first time you held a steering wheel you got a rush of excitement packed with respect for this awesomely powerful machine at your command. This is all good, but do you know which fatal mistakes young drivers repeatedly make? You should because motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teens in Canada.

Limit distractions

You’ve probably seen people driving while on a cell phone, putting on lipstick, eating, or turning to scold kids in the back seat. That’s not wise at all!

• Don’t blare the stereo. You might drown out an ambulance siren or a skidding car.
•Keep both hands on the wheel. Rummaging for food, or adjusting the radio takes a hand off the wheel and the balance off your steering. Plus, where your eyes go, your steering follows.
• Don’t text or call. Most cars connect to your phone, and while that might be legally OK to use them this way, don’t do it until you are at ease behind the wheel.
•Don’t crowd the car. Carrying two or more passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash.
• Don’t rubberneck. When you look at accidents, billboards, or people you know your hands tend to lean with your gaze, and even a slight move can have big consequences, especially at high speeds.

Know when you’re too tired

If your eyes burn or vision gets blurry, if you nod off even once, pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road and have a nap. Listen to your body. When you wake up and feel like you’re going to fall over, think of an alternative to driving: young drivers have more accidents caused by fatigue in the early morning after waking up.

If you are in an accident, stay calm

If you have a serious accident, you might be rattled. Don’t drive away, instead immediately call 911. Assess the scene and put the facts in order: get your cell out and take photos from several angles before any cars are moved. If you are a belairdirect client, make sure our app is installed on your phone. With the Accident assist function, we’ll guide you through, step by step! Get the name, address, phone number, license plate, and insurance provider of any other drivers involved.  Get the names and numbers of any witnesses to the accident.

Expect the unexpected

In the summertime, speeding down a country road is especially tempting, but what about wildlife? A moose doesn’t yield to cars and if you hit one, its massive body will come right through your windshield — and you. Even smaller animals can take us by surprise and inexperienced drivers tend to swerve rather than brake, yanking the wheel too strenuously. Or what if a cyclist is beyond that next curve? In fact, a cyclist can pop up anywhere, so keep an eye out, and always check your mirrors for them before turning.

Control comes with time. Young drivers are most vulnerable in emergency situations that demand a quick reaction and an unfamiliar maneuver,  like straightening out a skid, swerving or slamming on the brakes. And in the panic of the moment, drivers tend to look exactly where they shouldn’t: at the telephone pole, the trees, or the median. Where you look is where you are apt to drive so focus on the spaces between the obstacles you want to avoid.

Treat trucks with extra care

You would think that truckers have a better view from up there, but the blind spots on either side and behind them are exponentially larger than a car’s. Approach with smooth, clear moves and extended signalling to be sure they’ve seen you. If you can’t see the truck driver in his side mirror, then he can’t see you, so don’t ride alongside. Pass, and allow more space before getting into the lane in front of them because it takes them more time and distance to come to a stop.

Don’t follow too closely

Most drivers make the mistake of driving too closely to the bumper in front of them. Don’t pick up the habit. Consider that at 100 km per hour you’re travelling about 30 meters per second. If the car in front of you brakes, at that speed your car will need about 40 to 50 meters to reach a full stop. In rainy conditions, double or triple your stopping distance.

A good measure is to pick an object on the road ahead and once the car in front of you reaches it, count, “one thousand… two thousand”. If you reach the object before you finish this count, increase your following distance.

Slow down

Posted speed limits aren’t arbitrary; they are an indication of the hazards ahead, from sharp corners to school zones. The faster you go, the less time you have to react. Consider that a 1% increase in speed increases a driver’s fatality risk by 4% to 12%. And 40% of drivers in fatal crashes involving speeding (2004 to 2006) were 16 to 24 years-olds, says Transport Canada. Why not avoid the mad dash altogether and leave 10 minutes early.

Never drive under the influence

You’ve heard it before. But do you know why you shouldn’t drink and drive? Even sober, young drivers are nine times more likely to crash than other non-drinking drivers. Alcohol, even in small amounts, extends this gap.

Male drivers aged 16 to 20 with a blood-alcohol concentration level above .15 (almost twice the legal limit) are more than 40 times more likely to crash than those aged 35 and older with the same BAC. Likewise, low doses of marijuana reduce reaction times by 0.9 seconds when moving at 59 mph. That translates to an extra 78 feet of travel. It’s biological, you can’t fight it!



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