Driver’s education can help new drivers learn a lot about the rules of the road. But as you might suspect, there is a lot you won’t learn in a driver’s ed course. There are many of small, practical elements that no three week class could ever cover in-depth. In fact, many lessons about driving and safety only come from experience. Here are six practical lessons new drivers should know, but may not have learned in driver’s ed.
1. It’s OK to Shop Around for Car Insurance
Shopping around for car insurance makes a difference in both your level of protection and how much it will cost you. You’ll want to find a company that offers the coverage that your state requires, as well as good customer service (in case you need any long-term guidance). Oftentimes, searching for cheap car insurance online can help give you a good idea about the different insurance companies, what they provide, and how much your car insurance will cost.
2. Roadside Assistance Can Really Come in Handy
Having access to roadside assistance is a great way to prepare for the unexpected. Sign up with a group like AAA or Direct General and put their emergency assistance number into your phone, wallet, and glove compartment. This way, should something unexpected happen, whether it’s flat tire next to the highway or a breakdown in the middle of nowhere, you’ll be better prepared.
3. “Right of Way” Is Not Always an Ironclad Rule
Let’s say you pull up to a 4-way stop with two other cars. You reach the stop sign and stop first, which gives you the “right of way,” meaning you get to cross the intersection first. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. One of the other drivers might not be paying attention to the rest of the cars at the intersection and start to cross before you—or worse, not stop at all. You might have to wait for them to pass, or even slam on your brakes if you’ve already started to cross. This is an example of a situation in which having the “right of way” doesn’t do a lot of good. That’s why it’s important to practice defensive driving when dealing with situations where “right of way” might be assumed. Even if you have the right to turn first, change lanes, etc., you should still be careful and take note of what other drivers are doing.
4. Learn How to Report an Accident and File a Claim
Driver’s ed doesn’t always explain how to use car insurance, either. The process is remarkably simple; after calling authorities and attending to anyone who needs medical attention, obtain the insurance information and personal details (address, phone number, etc.) of those involved in the accident. Next, call your car insurance provider, report the accident, and provide them with the other party’s insurance information, along with as many details as you can remember about the incident.
5. Stay Alert on Long Trips
When you are driving for a long time, it’s remarkably easy to slip into a “just a tiny bit faster than the surrounding traffic” mentality. Unfortunately, long trips are when you are most likely to get caught in a speed trap, whether you’re going through a small town or zipping through highway construction. Always pay close attention to speed limit signs during long car trips. If you have someone riding with you, have them help keep an eye out, too.
6. Driving Too Slowly Can Actually Be More Dangerous
There is a reason why most highways have a minimum speed limit (typically 40 mph). Though your driver’s ed instructor probably never encouraged you to “floor it,” there are times when speeding up is actually the safer thing to do. For example, if you are on the highway going 35 mph in a 65 mph zone, it can disrupt the flow of traffic and increase the potential for accidents. If at all possible, try to keep up with the rest of the traffic—especially on highways. If you need to drive slower than traffic for some reason, make sure to stay in the lane farthest to the right.