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Are you new behind the wheel? Mastering the art of three point turns, parallel parking and reversing around a corner is just the beginning. The true test of your driving ability comes only once you’ve ripped up those L-plates. No more ugly, red L-shaped stickers for you.

As exciting as it can be for someone to pass their driver’s licence test, the thought of actually getting out on the road can be pretty terrifying for some people. Especially for new drivers.

It’s even more scary for those with little real road time experience, as they have no clue of what to do when they’re in a vehicle by themselves. When you are first learning how to drive, one thing you will hear over and over again is that you need to drive defensively.

By following a few simple tips, you can easily mask your inexperience and make driving more enjoyable for yourself and the other motorists on the road. Here are five driving tips for the first time driver.

Get more training

You may have passed your driving test but only after you pull away alone for the first time does the real training begin. If your driving instructor didn’t teach you how to drive in busy towns, bad weather or on freeways, you should learn to drive in these areas yourself. Instructors tend to show you the ropes in the easiest possible conditions. They usually take you on quiet back streets while the weather is perfect. But you can be sure you’ll be encountering plenty of less than favourable environments the minute you set off on your own.

You can follow up your basic training with some further driving education. It’ll teach you how to drive in busy towns, in all sorts of weather and in any kind of environment most learners would find stressful. It’ll make you a better driver.

Get to know your car

So you’ve got a brand new car. Yes, it’s understandable that you’re excited but don’t just get into driving your car. Get comfortable with it first. Sit in it. Is it comfortable enough for you? Turn it on. Look at all the buttons. Try to figure out what each one of them does. Look for the switches for the front and rear fog lights and learn to spot the corresponding warning lights on the instrument binnacle. Where do you switch the hazard lights on? These are all the little things you need to check out before heading off in your new car. Failure to instinctively know how to activate or deactivate one of these features in a hurry could cause you to become distracted and lead to an accident.

Remember, your first car doesn’t have to be brand new. There are a lot of pre-owned cars available at affordable prices. Although even if it’s a used car, it’ll still be brand new to you.

Check your blind spots regularly

It’s important to always look in your mirrors and blind spots. And your mirrors do a good job of showing what’s behind you and your blind spots will show you what’s just outside of your outlying vision. Hence why you need to learn to check your blind spots regularly. Do yourself and everyone else a favour to check your blind spots every time you change a lane or turn right.

And with that, don’t drive in someone else’s blind spot. Just because you’re smart enough to check your blind spots regularly doesn’t mean everyone else is.

Drive in bad weather

It can be terrifying to go out in the rain or in icy conditions and you can try to avoid it at all times. However, that’s the best way to learn how to deal with these situations. You should try to feel how the cold weather affects the car, how braking distances are increased and how the tyre grip is reduced. You might have to change your driving style to adapt to specific conditions. And you’ll feel more comfortable and relaxed if you learn this in your own time.

Put your phone away when driving

Using your mobile phone while driving is illegal. You’ll get a traffic fine for it or you could even risk being arrested, so don’t even think about it. You shouldn’t even put your handset on speakerphone and hold it in front of your mouth. You might consider using a hands-free car kit but they aren’t as safe as you think they are. The mental workload required to have a conversation and process additional thoughts can slow your reaction times, causing you to miss things in front of you.

It’s great to have your driver’s license as it’s one step closer to adulthood. But once you’re a licenced driver, you’ll have a whole new set of responsibilities. You’re responsible for those driving with you and around you. So remember that safety comes first.

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