When you drove your new car out of the dealership exhilaration probably wasn’t the only emotion you were feeling. The excitement you felt driving your new car for the first time was probably kept company by a dose of terror. The formerly quiet roads of your suburb suddenly came alive with new threats to your shiny new toy, from cars changing lanes without signalling to stealth speed bumps.
While these feelings will fade away as you become accustomed to your new car, the combination of getting used to a new car, combined with the urge to test its limits can easily lead to accidents that can put a literal dent in your car ownership experience.
So here are some simple tips to help you avoid crashing your new car.
Get fairer car insurance. Based on how you drive
Put your phone down
Nothing says ‘I’ve arrived’ quite like one of those selfies that shows you strapped into the cockpit of your new car. However, if you start experimenting with photo opportunities while you drive, there’s a reasonable chance that you may not, in fact, arrive. And the same goes for texts and on-the- fly Facebook posts. Using a phone while driving is comparable to driving under the influence in terms of its impact on your driving ability and reaction times. If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider that while driving 60 km/h and tapping out a text in 3 seconds, your car will travel have the length of a rugby field – while your eyes are off the road.
Don’t drink and drive
You’re probably going to want to take your new car out on the town to show it off to your admiring friends. If you do this, ensure that the person responsible for driving it is below the legal blood alcohol limit before getting in the car. Alcohol slows down your eye muscles and reduces your night vision and colour perception, impairing the very systems required to respond rapidly to road hazards. Many people ignore this simple and basic advice, which is why around half of all road accidents are caused by drunk drivers, and why a third of fatal accidents involve drunk drivers.
Don’t rush corners
If you’ve got a fast, sporty car it can be very tempting to take corners without slowing down much.
However, each time you successfully navigate a corner at speed, you’ll put your tyres and suspension under strain.
This means that every time you take a corner at speed you increase the chances of losing control of your car when you attempt this stunt again in the future. Losing control of a vehicle is a terrifying and dangerous experience and places other road users at risk. So brake before you get into a corner, and then hold the straightest possible line through your lane.
Don’t respond to provocation
You’re not the only potential hazard on the roads. The behaviour of other drivers can also put you at risk, and provoke you to make poor driving decisions. If you’re driving a new car around town you may find that some drivers randomly take this as provocation to cut into your lane, slow down in front of you, race you or otherwise behave like idiots. In these situations its easy to become aggravated and attempt to respond in kind, or otherwise signal to the other driver what you think of them. Avoid reacting, as these situations tend to escalate very rapidly and can easily result in accidents or violence. If you don’t respond the other driver will quickly lose interest, and you’ll have forgotten about the incident within the hour.
A large number of non-fatal but expensive and annoying accidents happen in parking lots. The last thing you want is to park your new car at the mall and come back to find a dent in your door.
So follow these basic tips:
- leave advanced parking strategies like reverse parking until you’re more comfortable with your car and have a better feel for its dimensions
- park between two cars where possible. This allows you to decide how much space is between your car and the cars on either side of you, rather than allowing another driver to make that choice when they park beside you
- use your indicator lights when reversing out of a parking bay, and reverse slowly. You’re most likely to hit another vehicle while reversing out of your bay, and they’re most likely to see your car reversing if your indicator lights are flashing in the direction of oncoming traffic.
Avoid driving at night
This may sound like odd advice, but until you’re comfortable with your car and have a lot of experience behind the wheel beneath your belt, avoid driving at night. While there’s substantially less traffic on the road at night, almost half of all fatal car accidents happen at night, which means your risk of getting into a serious accident is approximately doubled.
This is a result of combination of factors, including reduced visibility caused by poor light and exposure to others’ headlights, and the presence of more drunk and drowsy drivers on the road. If you do drive at night, reduce your speed and increase your following distance. When approaching intersections never assume that oncoming drivers will observe traffic light signals or road markings, and only drive in front of oncoming traffic once it has decelerated significantly.
Improve your driving with telematics
Installing a telematics app like UbiCar on your phone before you drive can help you become a better driver and reduce the risk of crashing your new car. These apps can track all elements of your driving using the sensors in your smartphone and then score individual elements of your driving like braking, acceleration, speeding, cornering and phone use for every trip you take. You can then use this feedback to improve your scores, and even compete for the highest score against friends and family who use the same app when they drive.