For new drivers, getting your licence enables you to experience new levels of freedom and independence. However, with the newfound freedom comes great responsibility. It’s important to remember that the road can be an extremely dangerous place. Every time you’re driving, you need to do all you can to ensure that you, your passengers and other road users and pedestrians are safe.
To help you navigate the roads safely, we’re going to be looking at four key things that you need to know as a new driver.
- Knowing when your car needs to be repaired
When it comes to safety, the condition of your car is just as important as your driving skills. If your car isn’t functioning properly, you’re at an increased risk of getting into an accident. This is the case for both new and experienced drivers.
Because of this, you need to be able to recognise when your car needs to be serviced and repaired. Since cars are complicated machines, there are a slew of things that break down at any given time. Flat tires, a dying battery, worn brake pads and a cracked windscreen are just a few of the problems that you might encounter.
In order to keep things simple, it’s best to start with three of the more common car problems that you’ll likely run into.
- Worn brake pads
The brake system is the most important safety feature of your car. As such, you need to keep an eye on it constantly.
If the brake pedal feels ‘mushy’ or is just generally unresponsive, it’s likely that your brake system needs to be looked at by a mechanic. If you hear squealing or rattling noise when you step on the brakes, then it’s likely a sign that your brake pads need to be replaced.
- Dying battery
The car battery powers every electronic feature in your car and helps you start the engine. Unfortunately, your battery isn’t going to last forever. Eventually it will need to be replaced with a new one.
If you’re having trouble starting your engine (i.e., slow cranking or the engine not starting at all), it’s worth checking on your battery. If you notice your lights dimming or not functioning otherwise, there’s a high chance that your car battery is dying.
It’s also a good idea to visually inspect your battery every once in a while. Bulges on the outer case and chemical discharge by the terminals are signs that your battery needs to be replaced.
- Malfunctioning engine
The engine is one of the more complicated parts of a vehicle. As a new driver, the idea of a malfunctioning engine might seem intimidating. However, you don’t need to know everything to identify tell-tale signs that something is wrong.
When it comes to your engine, the key things to look out for are coolant leaks, steam coming from the block, unusual noises, and extreme heat. If you notice any of these signs, consult a mechanic as soon as possible
- Gradually building confidence
True confidence in your driving skills doesn’t just come overnight. You need months and years of experience before you can truly be comfortable behind the wheel. As a new driver, it’s recommended that you build up your confidence by slowly exposing yourself to new driving conditions.
For example, as a new driver, you probably don’t want to go on a long road trip where you are going to encounter a lot of rough terrain and unfamiliar road layouts. This can affect a new driver’s confidence and therefore make them more likely to make mistakes.
To start out with, it’s best that a new driver gets used to the roads around their own neighbourhood. Certainly, driving your car every day to school, university or to work can do wonders for your confidence. Once you’re used to driving around your town, then you can start driving farther and farther from your neighbourhood.
- Building safe driving habits
When you’re driving next to your instructor, you’re constantly getting feedback about what you’re doing wrong and what you need to improve on. However, once you start driving on your own, you’re not going to have anyone pointing out your mistakes.
Because of this, it’s vital that you build safe driving habits early in your driving career. This means not using your phone, not flouting road rules and being constantly on the lookout for hazards.
Another thing to consider is the people that you have with you in your car. Generally speaking, younger drivers tend to get distracted when they have friends in the vehicle with them. Because of this, Victorian probationary licence holders cannot carry more than one ‘peer passenger’ in their vehicle at any time. A peer passenger is someone older than 16 but younger than 22 years old. For your own safety, it’s important that you follow this rule so that you’re not distracted while on the road.
- Contingencies and emergencies
You also need to be able to manage unexpected car problems while you’re out on your own. Unfortunately, you’re not always going to get help when you need it the most. It’s essential to know what to do in case of a flat tyre, a discharged battery or, more importantly, a sudden breakdown.
If your car breaks down, the first thing to do is to get your car to a safe place where it’s not blocking the flow of traffic. On Australian roads, a good place to go is as far to the left of the road as possible. When your car is in a safe place, turn on your hazard lights so that incoming motorists can see your vehicle. Once it’s safe, call roadside assistance and wait for them to reach your location.
Getting your licence doesn’t mean there’s nothing more to learn. Learning is always going to be a part of your driving experience. And if you want to be as safe as possible on the road, it’s important to learn constantly.
If you have further questions about the inner workings of your car you can always contact a qualified mechanic. Also, just because you have a licence doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to work with a driving instructor again. Indeed, defensive driving courses are a great way of taking your fundamental driving skills to the next level.