Safe driving tips
There are steps you can take as a learner driver to help keep yourself safe.
- You need to be aware of hazards in time to react to them. There's a lot to think about when you're learning to drive.
- Learn to drive defensively. Most driving instructors use a defensive driving approach, so consider taking lessons with a qualified professional.
- Always keep a safe distance (at least 3 seconds) behind, gives you time to brake.
- Wait for safe gaps in traffic and ignore impatient drivers behind you.
- Check your blind spot (by looking over your shoulder) when changing lanes or merging.
- Wait for big gaps in on-coming traffic. Wait for overtaking lanes or don't overtake at all.
- Be realistic about your hazard awareness skills. If you're not sure what your skills are like, you will be able to test them by practising the Hazard Perception Test.
Katie, 16, says she's always gotten along well with her older brother Sean. So well that she thought Sean would be the perfect person to teach her to drive. "I asked Sean if he would teach me rather than Mum or Dad because I thought I wouldn't fight with him as much!" she laughs. "Even though he's five years older than me and has his full licence, it's not that long since he was a learner himself so I thought he might go a bit easier on me."
Katie and Sean had been driving together a couple of times a week for a few months. They had been using The Driving Companion and following the safety tips. Katie says that she felt confident enough with the gears of their manual car to change up to fourth gear and back again, and to stop suddenly without stalling. She had driven in heavy traffic a couple of times, and was getting better at changing lanes without being nervous. "I was happy with how I was going," says Katie. "Maybe in retrospect I was a bit too confident. I don't know."
One rainy day last July Sean and Katie were out driving. "Sean thought it would be a good time for me to get used to wet-weather driving. He wanted me to stick to the backstreets because I wasn't used to the conditions. But I wanted to practise my lane-changing on the main roads. We had a fight. I won - which ended up being a bad thing."
Katie did practise her lane-changing on a busy road. Because it was raining, visibility was poor, and Katie panicked. "There was so much to think about. The gears, checking my mirrors, the weather. I was so busy worrying about everything that I missed seeing a parked car, and after my lane-change I side-swiped it."
Katie's crash caused some damage to both vehicles, and a lot of embarrassment. However, it could have been far worse. After the crash, Katie's Mum insisted she learn from a professional instructor - something Katie was grateful for.
What would you have done differently if you were Katie?
YouTube videos to watch