Unless you are in the 15 to 18-year-old age range, older individuals tend to forget how stressful driving can be for new drivers. To help new drivers, we have assembled some resources and tips for new drivers.
The Safe Driving Pledge
We are committed to safe driving. You can access our Safe Driving Pledge, sign it, and keep it handy for referral purposes. If you keep these tips in mind, you will stay safer and enhance the safety of the road for others. Parents have set driving examples for their teens since early childhood. Teaching good driving habits through setting examples of always buckling up, driving the speed limit, obeying traffic lights and stop signs, and stowing cell phones will help prevent teen driving accidents. We developed a downloadable ‘Safe Driving Pledge’ to help parents enforce the rules of the road with their teens.
Learn the Rules
Florida’s GDL program was established to allow young drivers to safely gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges. Most of its programs include three stages:
- Learner Stage: Supervised driving, culminating with a driving test
- Intermediate Stage: Limiting unsupervised driving in high-risk situations
- Full Privilege Stage: A standard driver’s license.
The Written Test
As with all states, you will need to pass a written test regarding the rules of the road.
- Written Test Tip: Florida uses the Official Florida Driver License Handbook to help students prepare for the written exam.
The Driving Test
In Florida, you can set an appointment for your driving. The driving test works to ensure you have the following skills:
- Proper driving posture
- Backing up
- Signaling and turning
- Approaching a crossing
- Staying in the proper lane
- Following at a safe distance
- Obeying traffic signals and stop signs
- Stopping quickly
- Observing the right-of-way
- Performing a three-point turn
- Straight-in parking
- Parking on a grade
Throughout the process, you have to drive to learn how to drive. Florida requires a driving log. Recruit an adult who does not get nervous easily and practice. It is best to first start out on a deserted road and then move into regular traffic as you get better. Take it slow, and listen to the adult passenger's advice.
To begin driving:
- Fasten your seatbelt.
- Adjust your mirrors. The rearview mirror should show everything behind you, and the side mirror should show the side of your car and everything outside of that.
- Start the car.
- To reverse, e.g., out of your driveway, keep your foot on the brake while you shift into R (for reverse).
- Check your mirrors, your rearview camera if your car has one, and swivel your head left to right to be sure there are no approaching cars, bikes, pedestrians, or children.
- Slowly ease up on the brake and gently push down on the gas pedal, continually checking your mirrors, camera and swiveling your head. Generally speaking, you should swivel your head left to right and back quite a few times while backing up.
- Turn the wheel so that you back into the closest right lane.
- Shift into D (for drive), straighten the wheel, and press gently but firmly on the gas pedal.
- You're driving!
- Practice, practice, practice, any time you can get an adult to ride with you. Try to learn something new every time you drive.
- Learn how to use your wipers when it's raining, your lights when it starts to get dark, and be sure to understand the use and etiquette of your bright or high beams.
- Don't drive on the freeway, at night, or in the rain until you've become comfortable and skilled at driving.
- If you are involved in an accident, don't panic. Be prepared ahead of time. As part of your practice, make time to read this article.
Additional Tips for New Drivers
There are some things new drivers should know that aren't always included in-state training programs. Here are a few tips that you may find helpful:
- Drive Defensively. Always drive as if someone else is going to make a mistake or do something that is not safe. When you see a car approaching an intersection perpendicular to your direction, assume and prepare as if the other driver will not stop.
- Survey the Traffic Flow. Your eyes should constantly be moving and surveying what's happening on both sides of you, behind you, and ahead of you. When looking ahead, look at least three cars in front of you as well as directly ahead. If you see something going wrong well ahead of you in traffic, you can prepare yourself earlier.
- Set Up Listening Preferences Ahead of Time. Try and get your listening preference going before you start driving rather than during driving.
- Avoid Distractions. Do not text and drive. Put your phone out of your reach. Also, do not be distracted by children or passengers, changing the car's music or temperature controls, eating, or anything that takes your mind off of driving. The consequences of an accident may be catastrophic and life-changing.
- Do Not Drive While Impaired. No alcohol, marijuana, pills, or other mind-altering substances before or during your driving.
- Do Not Tailgate. Driving manuals recommend drivers keep a one-car length distance for every ten miles per hour of speed. This allows a safe stopping distance if the vehicle in front should suddenly apply its brakes and come to a stop. Driving on Florida's highways can sometimes be a challenge as there often is heavy and fast-flowing traffic. Even a six-car length space can be quickly filled by an aggressive driver. The NHTSA classifies tailgating as a form of aggressive driving.
- Use Your Blinkers. Prior to making a turn, use them to indicate which direction you are going.
- Slow Down. Speeding causes accidents.
- Do Not Run Yellow Lights. If the light turns yellow and you are able to stop safely, stop.
For new drivers especially, it is critical to keep your car in good working condition. Here are some tips for maintaining your car:
- Inspect and Maintain Tires. Knowing how to maintain your car's tire pressure can help reduce wear on the tires and prevent sudden blowouts. Find the recommended pressure (PSI), check the car's PSI (there are gauges available), and inflate or deflate your tires accordingly.
- Change the Oil. Routinely checking and changing your car's oil is critical for keeping your car engine in good running condition. Check your oil each month and change it as directed in the car's owner's manual.
- Check the Fluids. There are several fluids that should be maintained at peak levels to help keep your car running properly. You should routinely check:
- Engine oil
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
- Test the Lights. A broken or burned-out bulb is a safety hazard. Routinely check each bulb on your car. If a bulb is out, replace it and if that does not work, take your vehicle to an auto shop to determine if the fuse needs replacing.
- Replace Windshield Wipers. If your wipers are not completely cleaning your windshield, have them replaced. Worn-out blades can reduce visibility during heavy rain.
- Change Your Engine Air Filter. A dirty engine air filter can allow dirt and other particulates into your car's engine and reduce its efficiency. It may also eventually cause major engine damage. Inspect your car's air filter once a year and replace it as needed.
- Have Your Brakes Checked. Your car's brake pads also require regular inspection. Listen for any brake noise and pay attention to shuddering or vibrating from the brake pedal. If any concerns arise, take your car to a brake or auto shop.
- Check Belts and Hoses. Your car's belts and hoses should be kept in good shape to keep your vehicle running and avoid breakdowns.