Tips for New Drivers
School is out, but Malta and the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining are keeping road users in the know with tips on how to stay safe this summer. Look out for this Malta ROAD SCHOLARS road safety series for more information.
So you're excited about getting your driver's licence. Perhaps, you've just got your first car. Whatever the occasion, you're a new driver and you're ready to 'do road'. Many seasoned drivers will tell you that learning how to drive is more than passing the exam and getting your licence. It is about being on the road on your own and dealing with the many obstacles that may come your way.
"Inexperience is the leading cause of road crashes involving new drivers," said Kenute Hare, director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining. "We find that in addition to being inexperienced, many new drivers become easily distracted on the roads. We'd like for them to drive with caution and to know that driving is a learning process. Learning does not stop."
In Jamaica, there have been more than 200 road crashes attributed to inexperienced drivers over the past 30 years. Fifty per cent of these crashes have been caused by persons driving for less than five years. As a new driver, there are some key things you can do to prepare for the road. Here are some tips for a smoother, safer ride.
1. Practise driving under different road conditions.
In this case, practice makes almost perfect. No one will ever be a perfect driver, but getting a lot of practice while being careful and vigilant can build your confidence. Driving instructors tend to show the ropes under the easiest of conditions - quiet minor roads on a cool (or warm) sunny day. Bear in mind, at some point when you set off to traverse on your own, you will encounter less-than-favourable road conditions. Ask a more tenured driver to go along and practice steering your way through busy towns, in rainy weather, and try taking a drive at night. The aim is to learn how these conditions affect you and the car so you can aptly alter your driving style to deal with each condition.
2. Get to know your vehicle.
Don't just drive your vehicle. Familiarise yourself with all its buttons and switches. Learn what they do and in what circumstances you should use them. This tip may seem simple, but failure to instinctively know how (and when) to turn on and off any of these features in a timely manner could cause you to become distracted, leading to a crash.
3. Drive within the speed limit.
Speeding is a contributing factor in most fatal crashes. Know the speed limit. Speed limit signs are usually posted along the road. When the sign is not posted, follow the maximum speed recommended for the various types of roads in Jamaica. Also, keep checking your speedometer to know if you are within the speed limit and reduce speed in work zones and school zones. When making your way out, allow enough time to reach your destination. There is no need to rush. If you are running late, pull over to a safe area and call ahead.
4. Avoid distractions.
While driving, it is imperative that you avoid anything that may divert your attention. Simple things like munching on your favourite snack, changing the radio station, having a cell phone conversation, or even talking to passengers while driving can serve as distractions. The mental workload required to attend to these additional tasks can cause you to lose sight of what's in front of you - literally.
5. Never drink and drive.
No motorist should ever drive under the influence of alcohol. As a new driver, it is important to remember this cardinal rule or your driving career could be over before it has even begun. Drunk driving is a hazard that endangers you and those around you. In addition, driving under the influence of alcohol can carry a fine or imprisonment. Officials have proposed major increases in fines, which could go as high as $100,000 for failing to do a breathalyzer test. So it's always best to drink responsibly, which means avoiding alcohol if you have to drive. If you're with friends for a night out, opt for non-alcohol beverages like Malta, and champion your team as the designated driver for the evening.