two teenagers talking while driving

My dad told me when he started learning to drive that Papa Ray told him that a car is literally, “a two-ton bomb” and you need to be careful or you can get yourself killed when operating it. I am guessing my dad shared this with me to emphasize how dangerous driving can be. Well, there have been a lot of changes in automobiles since my dad drove his first car with safety innovations that were never even imagined in his time all those years ago, however, his concern for my safety is understood and taken to heart. What every teenage driver should know before getting behind the wheel is a guide for my fellow Generation Zs who might need some tips that will help them out while driving on public roads.

Before Starting the Car

Before operating the car, it is imperative to know how to properly operate the automobile with all its options and functions. A good place to start is reading the owner’s manual, as it is filled with many facts about the vehicle to be driven. The owner’s manual will explain what the function of all the buttons, knobs and indicator lights are for as well as give specific details about other options available on the automobile. If your vehicle did not come with an owner’s manual, you should be able to locate a copy of it online. I know it may seem a little strange to consider reading the owner’s manual before driving your car, but since no two different models are identical, you cannot assume that all of the functions and operations are exactly the same for two different cars.

Once you have familiarized yourself with where the controls are located and what their functions are, now you are ready to go for a ride. It does not hurt just to walk around the outside of your car and take a quick look at it and the ground around it. It is good to make sure there are no obstacles in your way when you are ready to go for a ride.

Almost Ready

Once in the driver’s seat, there is a small checklist that needs to be reviewed.

  1. Seat adjustment. Make sure the seat is set for comfort and optimal driving.
  2. Check the mirrors. Make sure that all mirrors are properly adjusted so you can see out of them.
  3. Set the audio entertainment ahead of time so you do not have to fumble with it while driving.
  4. Check the gas level and instrument panel for illuminated indicator lights. The gas gauge should be a no-brainer, right? The last thing I want to do is be on my way somewhere (in a hurry) and realize that I am almost out of gas or even worse, actually run out of gas and have to wait for roadside to come to the rescue. The illuminated indicator lights will give you a heads up that not all is as it should be under the hood and you may want to get your car checked out before you are left stranded somewhere. Let’s face it, there is never a good time for a car to break down.
  5. Place your phone on Do Not Disturb while you are driving. If that is not an option for you, then sync your phone with the car’s audio system to enable hands-free communication where possible.
  6. Make sure you engage your seat belt and that it is worn correctly. Make sure that all your passengers use their seat belts as well. It illegal not to wear a safety belt when a motor vehicle is in operation, not to mention it would likely save your life in the event of an accident. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, in 2017, of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2017, 47% were not wearing their seat belts. According to the NHSTA, an estimated 14,955 lives were saved by seat belts and it was estimated that an additional 2,549 lives could have been saved if they had been wearing their seat belt. Nobody plans on accidents happening, do yourself a favor, save your life, save your money and buckle up.

Time to Drive

Now the fun part begins. Driving down the road is one of my favorite things to do when I am in the mood for it. There are a few things I keep in mind while driving.

  1. Watch the speed limit and do not exceed it. I am proud to say that I have never been ticketed for a moving violation. The reason for that is because I do not speed. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go.
  2. Aim high while steering. Look around and beyond your vehicle to see any potential changes or road hazards that may be coming into your path.
  3. Do NOT panic. Stuff is bound to happen over the course of your driving years and when it does happen, don’t panic. A clear head could be what saves your life and the lives of other people.

I have always been told that you not only have to drive for yourself, but you drive for the other person as well. What this means is that you must always be vigilant while driving behind the wheel. Be watchful for the driver who is texting on their phone while driving 70+ down the freeway, or the driver who is distracted by something going on in their vehicle. This is the driver who causes accidents and unless you want to become a statistic, you had best give them plenty of room. This is the driver who will accidentally veer into your lane or even worse, slam into another car without even applying the brakes because they simply did not see it coming. Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently. That is why texting while driving has been outlawed in 48 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands.

In conclusion, these are some of the things I have learned over the last couple of years that I have been driving. All of it is common sense and pretty direct for the most part and I feel this is what every teenage driver should know before getting behind the wheel.


Karen Sears

Karen Sears is a Marketing Assistant at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. and a Criminal Justice Major at Sam Houston State University. She graduated from Tomball Memorial High School in May of 2019, and earned a Paralegal Certificate from the University of Texas at Austin in the Summer of 2019. She plans to attend law school after graduation.