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12 safety tips for learner drivers
Learning to drive is an exciting time. Your license offers freedom and independence, and getting it is a rite of passage for many young Aussies. But learning to drive can also be daunting. And learning to drive safely? Well, that’s another skill in itself. From minimising distractions to anticipating hazards, here are 12 simple tips to help keep you safe on the road as you learn to drive.
1. Put your phone out of reach
Not only is your phone putting you at risk, but also your passengers and other drivers on the road. No matter whether you’re stopped at a red light or on the move, shifting your focus off the road for even two seconds doubles your risk of crashing. Avoid distractions by turning your phone to silent, and putting it out of reach. If you’re heading somewhere new and you’ve got a passenger, let them navigate. Remember, if you’re caught using your phone while driving, you’ll cop some hefty fines. In VIC, that’s a $545 fine and four demerit points. In NSW, five demerit points and a fine of $349.
2. Buckle up
It’s one of the first things you should do when you get in a car, as a passenger or driver. But surprisingly, some people still don’t consider seatbelts a priority – particularly males. Studies show that men are less likely to wear seatbelts, and twice as likely to be killed in road accidents for not doing so. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to stay safe, so buckle up.
3. Keep an eye on your speed
Listen up learner drivers: Speed limits are set for good reason. And as your confidence on the road grows, you may find your speedometer creeping over that line just a little – but don’t get complacent. An increase of just one kilometre per hour can raise your risk of a deadly crash by 5%. Be especially careful in school zones, and don’t let other road users bully you into speeding – just let them pass.
4. Keep passengers to a minimum
The more passengers in the car, the more distractions. Whether it’s friends or family, try to keep the passenger number to a minimum where possible. When you’re learning to drive, things that will eventually become second nature – like checking your mirrors constantly, or anticipating hazards – require all your concentration. Minimising your passengers minimises distractions, so you can focus on the important things.
5. Avoid driving when tired
- affects your concentration
- slows your reaction time, and
- impairs your ability to calculate risk.
If you’ve slept badly and are feeling fatigued, don’t drive. Even if it’s only a five-minute journey. And if you’re a learner driver hitting the road for a long trip, make sure you stop regularly for rests, or share the driving.
6. Keep a safe distance
Tailgating is bad practice no matter how long you’ve been driving, but it’s particularly dangerous for learners. Always keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front, so you have plenty of time to brake – especially if the driver in front of you needs to brake suddenly. Also give yourself more room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you during wet conditions, as braking can take longer on slippery roads.
7. Drive to the conditions
One of the best safe driving tips for learners is to always drive to the conditions of the road and weather. Heavy rain, wet roads, gravel, and glare can all become hazardous if not adapted to properly. Keep in mind that you’ll need more braking time both on wet and gravel roads, and your risk of skidding or sliding will increase. Slow down, and keep more distance between your car and the vehicle in front. It’s also a good idea to keep a pair of sunnies in your car for when you find yourself driving into sun glare.
8. Always think ahead
Part of learning to drive safely is learning to anticipate risks. Unfortunately, not everyone drives safely. Often you’ll find yourself adapting your driving to minimise the risk caused by other drivers. That’s why it’s so important to look ahead on the road (not just one car in front), and learn to anticipate other drivers’ moves before they happen. This will get easier the more you drive, but always keep it in mind so you’re staying alert and ready.
9. Stay visible
If you’re driving at dusk, dawn, night-time, or even in heavy rain, turn your lights on. Most drivers find driving at dusk the hardest light to see in, so don’t hesitate to turn your lights on sooner rather than later.
10. Always check your blind spots
Checking your blind spot is something that should become second nature eventually. But when you first start driving, it can feel a bit strange. And maybe you’re tempted to just rely on your car’s mirror signals. But no matter how high-tech your car is, you should always turn your head to check for yourself. Where you can, try not to drive in other people’s blind spots either. Always give yourself the best chance to be seen.
11. Choose a safe car
One of the easiest things you can do to increase your safety on the roads is to choose a safe car. Although the type of car you drive will depend on your needs — or whatever mum and dad have in the garage — there are a few key safety standards to consider. Most importantly, your car must be roadworthy. If possible, choose a car with side airbags, and a high safety rating. If you’re going to be driving the family vehicle for a while, keep these things in mind for when you do set out to buy your first car. And remember, there are also restrictions around the types of vehicles P platers are allowed to drive. If you’re buying your first car but don’t know where to start, check out our quiz to help you decide.
12. Make sure you’re insured
Regardless of your driving ability, how good you are at assessing risks on the road, or anticipating hazards, accidents happen. If you already have a policy with AAMI, learner drivers are automatically covered as long as there’s an insured, licensed supervising driver in the front passenger seat with them at the time of the incident. But if you’re buying a new car along with insurance for the first time, you can get a Comprehensive Car Insurance quote here.
- How to drive a manual car for beginners
- What you need to know about used car safety ratings
- What to do in a minor car accident
Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as AAMI. Any advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. Please read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before you make ay decision regarding this product. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. The Target Market Determination is also available.