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So you’re a new or new-ish driver? Congratulations and welcome to freedom, mobility and a lot of responsibility. If you’re wondering how you can be the safest driver you can be, we’ve got that covered with these safety tips for young drivers.

Buckle Up

Number one — seriously, the most important thing: That glowing red icon on your dash means someone (you?) doesn’t have their seat belt fastened. That is the first thing you and everyone riding with you should do every time you get in the car. Seat belts keep you and your passengers from being thrown around inside, or worse, thrown outside of your vehicle in the event of a crash. And, combined with airbags, they significantly reduce the number and severity of injuries. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 3 and 34, and more than half of those killed last year weren’t wearing their seat belts.

That Text? It Can Wait.

Number two, focus. Eliminate distractions at the wheel. Even if you’re hyper-responsible, a carload of friends talking, yelling, singing, hanging out windows and telling you to lighten up doesn’t help. It’s why a lot of states have passed teen driving laws that restrict first-year drivers to only having passengers under 20 with them if there’s also a parent, adult guardian or a licensed driver over 25 in the car, too. Check the laws in your state to see what you need to do and not do to be legal. They may have state-specific safety tips for young drivers.

While we’re on the topic of focus, remember that you’re behind the wheel to drive, not to talk on the phone, text or try to find that perfect playlist for the drive while in motion. A lot of newer cars are trying to make communication and entertainment simpler with things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that put those functions on a touchscreen and can read your texts to you and allow you to respond by voice. But the National Safety Council is finding that even those devices, which help us keep our eyes on the road, require us to use a part of our brain that is involved in concentration — and that even with eyes on the road, drivers talking on a hands-free cellphone miss seeing 50% of what’s out there.

Give Your Car Some Love

Number three, maintenance. If you’re as good at the wheel as you can be, fully present, fully aware, you can still be let down by the condition of your car. If your windshield’s not clean, you can’t see clearly. If your windshield wipers are worn, they’ll just make the windshield worse. Improperly inflated tires can affect the handling of your car in an emergency or in wet weather. And any mechanical breakdown can happen in the path of oncoming traffic. If you’re not mechanically inclined, that’s okay. Find someone, a relative or a professional, who is — and make sure your car is always in excellent condition.

Yeah, this all seems like a lot. But if you make it a habit, soon it won’t. And you’ll be enjoying safe, confident driving — with the lowest insurance premiums of anyone you know.

Check out all the interior products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on safety tips for young drivers, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

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