The first six to 12 months of driving alone are the riskiest for any driver – and young drivers are more likely to crash on their restricted licences than at any other time in their lives. So here are 10 tips for teen drivers to improve your skills and reduce your chance of a crash.

1. Driving lessons boost your ability and confidence

Becoming a safe and skilled driver takes practice and focus – and training really helps. We recommend learner drivers get some professional lessons from someone they feel comfortable with. Did you know that AA Youth Members can save $125 on a 5 lesson block? Find out more about AA Driver Training here.

2. You need to choose your supervisors wisely

Not every fully licenced adult is cut out to be a driving supervisor. Having a nervous, shouty, or non-communicative supervisor could make your early driving experiences stressful and off-putting. In addition to professional lessons, practice with supervisors who can stay calm, help you identify hazards, and give you helpful tips on navigating new situations and places.

3. Night-time driving can be hazardous, so practice your skills

A restricted licence only permits solo driving during the day because crashes most often happen at night. Practice driving at night with a supervising driver, so you’re prepared for the different conditions once you get your full licence.

4. Passengers increase your risk of a crash

It’s much harder to concentrate on driving with a car full of friends who are messing with your playlist and yelling out the windows. The risk of crashing increases when you carry passengers, which is why you can’t carry passengers unsupervised when you’re on your restricted licence. Once again, practice with a supervisor to establish good habits early.

5. Don’t touch that phone!

Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. Remaining focused at all times is essential to staying safe, because it allows you to spot and avoid unexpected problems before they turn into a collision. If you need to use your phone, pull over. Otherwise, ignore it until you reach your destination.

6. Your alcohol limit is zero

Under the age of 20, the alcohol limit is zero, so even a single drink is not permitted. Driving while affected by drugs is also banned. It’s important for your safety and other people’s that you always stay sober behind the wheel.

7. Take a break if you start to lose concentration

Feeling tired, unwell, distracted, or emotional? It might not be the best time to drive. Don’t put your life at risk by pushing on through tiredness, illness or anxiety. Stop and have a nap, a snack, or call a friend. Only drive when you can concentrate fully on your decision-making.

8. Route planning can reduce driving stress

Even with voice navigation turned on, it’s tricky driving in new places. To avoid the stress of getting lost, take the time to plan your route before you set off somewhere new. Leave yourself plenty of time to arrive, and if you do suspect you’re off-course, always pull over somewhere safe to check your map.

9. An advanced driving course helps you get licenced faster

The AA Defensive Driving Course is one of only two NZTA approved advanced driving courses. Our course teaches you how to spot potential hazards and handle them safely. By successfully completing the Defensive Driving Course, you can take your full licence test six months earlier.

10. Teenagers are not terrible drivers!

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that teenagers can be excellent drivers. Unfortunately, young drivers are over represented in serious crashes, due to factors like inexperience and risk-taking behaviours. But young drivers also have extremely fast reflexes and learn rapidly. Provided you don’t take risks and you stick to the rules, you could soon be among the top echelon of drivers on our roads.

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