A Guide for New Drivers: How to Maintain Safe Driving Behaviours
You're a licensed driver now, but how can you keep those skills as perfect as the day you passed your driving test?
Congrats on passing your final driver’s test – no matter how many tries it took, you should be proud! You’re joining a fleet of 26 million drivers in Canada, as well as 1.2 billion drivers around the world.
We know the process can seem long at times, from the initial written test to driving with an experienced driver, to wrapping it all up with that final test. It’s systems like the Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) that are designed to help drivers add valuable skills to their toolbox.
Before you hit the road and enjoy all the freedom driving it has to offer, scroll through our tips to stay up to date on safety whenever you are behind the wheel!
Spread the word
As soon as you pass that test, reach out to your auto insurer. You will need an up-to-date policy to drive legally, and where you may have been covered under family policies previously, things may change once you have your full license. If you’ve got an insurance provider already, they will need to know your latest license information, and you may even be eligible for a deal!
With a new insurance provider, building a strong driving history is important. Steps like taking a ministry-approved driver education course will actually help you when it comes to purchasing your first insurance policy.
Be mindful of your behaviour
We know that hitting the road solo can be very different from having a driving instructor or parent peering over your shoulder. It is easy to make a quick lane change without signalling or pull into the bike lane for a drop-off.
Certain behaviours tend to fall to the wayside as you get comfortable as a new driver. This can include things like signalling, speed, or eliminating distractions. You may even be spending more time in the car, and that can mean adding distractions like eating, applying makeup, or rushing to an appointment. Or perhaps you barely drive now that you’ve got your license, causing certain behaviours to become rusty over time.
When you get into the car, pretend you’re brand new to the roads. Make your driving instructor proud!
Driving as cautiously as the day you passed your test shouldn't be hard or intimidating. Brush up on your skills regularly to be a better driver. This can include things like:
Practice skills you don’t use very often, like parallel parking. While technological advancements are creating vehicles that can park for you, it is important to keep your skills up to date. You never know when you’ll be driving a car without park assist! Seek opportunities to drive on highways, passing other drivers, and parking. These are skills that drivers commonly avoid due to nerves or inexperience, but are essential for good, safe driving.
Refreshing your knowledge
The skills that you studied in prep for your driver’s test were important — hence the test! It is important to keep up to date on the content — like rules and skills — especially if you don’t come into contact with them regularly. Check out your province’s driver handbook, or sample tests online.
Minimizing tech distractions
To be better, you need to be focused. When it comes to enhancing your skills behind the wheel, power down technology. This ensures you are focused on the task at hand, like lane changes and off-ramps. Your phone settings may include a “do not disturb” function made for driving — activate that, and your phone stays silent for the ride.
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Road safety legislation is always changing, which means you need to be updated to stay on the right side of the law. Some of the most recent changes we have seen include updates to distracted driving, vehicle-related technology, and cannabis-related impaired driving. Regularly check in on your provincial and municipal regulations to understand how changes impact your daily commute. This helps you stay informed, as well as on the right side of the law.
Be a leader
As part of the GDL process, many provinces have limits on how many passengers a novice driver can carry. When you start driving with your full license, know that adding more friends and family members to the mix can increase risk and distraction. As the driver, you’re running the ship. Make sure you set some ground rules so you can focus on what you need to do: get everyone around safely.
Stumped on what to enforce? Ground rules can include mandatory seatbelts, music volume, number of passengers, and how far you’ll drive.
Get obsessed about your ride
Now that you’ve got your license, you may have also purchased a new car. Congrats!
A lot of novice drivers use a vehicle that belongs to someone else, such as a family member or a driving instructor. Having your own ride can be a whole new experience, as you’re now responsible for the overall well-being of vehicle maintenance and repairs.
The best way to take care of your car? Be proactive, and know how it all works. Knowing what to expect when it comes to things like winter tires or your emergency kit supplies will help you out when you need it. Make sure you read through your owner’s manuals, source a great mechanic, and schedule in regular service to keep you moving.
There is a reason that hitting the open road with the windows down and the radio up is alluring — it is complete freedom! Be proud of that license, and have fun while you’re driving responsibly.
Until next time, drive safe.