Fall introduces fresh possibilities, and for many high schoolers, these include the freedom found behind the wheel. As with any new skill, developing expertise takes time. Here are six essential pointers for new drivers to remember.
Pay Special Attention in Heavily Monitored School Zones
Police officers know that school zones, specifically high schools, are hotbeds for traffic safety violations. Distracted driving before and after school is inherently higher in the fall months when everybody is getting used to their school year routines. Adults and students alike share the same roads, crosswalks, and parking lots.
“I definitely see and hear about an increase in tickets and not just by teen drivers,” says State Farm agent Pam Hansen Alfred.
Monitor yourself while driving in school zones to avoid costly tickets harmful to your driving record and wallet. Watch for pedestrians in your vicinity, monitor your speed, and avoid unexpected hard braking for your sake and those behind you.
Constantly Execute Awareness While Driving
Distracted driving incurs serious ramifications. For beginner drivers with fewer years behind the wheel, it is important to limit distractions, so your entire focus is on the road.
“Teen drivers can have a general lack of awareness which makes it easier to speed and run stop signs or red lights,” says Alfred.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that in 2018, fatal car crashes involving distracted driving were the highest among teenagers 15 to 19-years-old. These numbers underline the importance of awareness on the road.
Using handsfree devices for calls, adjusting the car stereo when your vehicle is stopped, and asking passengers for help with navigation apps are some methods to alleviate distractions. Limiting loud noises and excess activity in the vehicle are also helpful.
Follow the Speed Limit and Flow of Traffic
Every person’s approach to driving is not equal. Some drivers err on the side of caution, while others drive defensively. When it comes to heavy traffic on busy lanes, driving below the speed limit is inadvisable.
“Not keeping up with the speed limit or the flow of traffic can be particularly dangerous for inexperienced drivers because others are not always paying as much attention as they should.” Alfred continues, “People take driving for granted and assume others are driving close to the speed limit. When they aren’t, then rear-end accidents and sudden lane changes occur, causing collisions.”
Impeding the flow of traffic not only subjects drivers to accidents, but is also against Montana law within city limits and on highways. Vehicles operating under the speed limit with four or more vehicles behind them on two-lane highways are expected to pull off into turnouts or the shoulder of the road to allow others to pass.
Watch for Wildlife on the Roads
Montana highways are riddled with wildlife, namely deer, which are most active during early mornings and evenings. In 2020, Montana ranked as the second-highest state for insurance claims involving animals. If you routinely drive outside of city limits (and in some cases, inside city limits), your likelihood of sharing the road with wildlife magnifies.
When a deer or similar wild animal appears in your vehicle’s path, brake, but do not swerve outside of your lane. If your vehicle collides with the animal, do not exit the vehicle to check on the animal.
As with any accident, you need to proceed with caution. “Think about what you are doing,” says Alfred. “Don’t panic. Never leave the scene of an accident without calling the police first.”
Practice Winter Driving Early in the Season
Winter roads are precarious, yet unavoidable in Montana. Teenage drivers who took Drivers Education courses in the spring and summer months may have less supervised experience with slippery road conditions and need to invest extra hours into building their confidence and skills.
“I would encourage inexperienced drivers to practice driving in an empty parking lot and actually cause their vehicle to slide so they can learn how to steer out of a slide and also to understand how their anti-lock brake system will work,” advises Alfred.
Practicing driving once snow appears allows new drivers to enhance their comfortability on the roads before conditions worsen. Alfred urges drivers to prepare for the likelihood of an emergency by outfitting their vehicles with jumper cables, a blanket, a candle, and water.
Unlock Safe Driving and Good Grade Discounts
Insurance companies by and large offer student discounts through safe driving courses, good driving behaviors, and academic accolades, such as maintaining a high GPA. In recent years, technology has created a channel to expound on these discounts.
“State Farm has another discount called ‘Drive Safe & Save’ that monitors speed, cellphone use, turns, acceleration and braking and keeping your driving record clear (no accidents or tickets),” says Alfred.
Programs like ‘Drive Safe & Save’ utilize Bluetooth technology and telematics to monitor driving habits.
Contact your insurance company at the start of your driving journey to learn the expectations associated with their discount programs.
For additional student driver trips or to learn how safe driving can positively impact your insurance rates, reach out to Pam Hansen Alfred and her team at (406) 453-6010, stop by their offices at 2817 10th Ave. So., or visit www.pamhansenalfred.com.
2817 10th Ave S
Great Falls, MT