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Ultimate Guide for First Time Drivers

Published on Jan 15, 2021 | Last updated Apr 12, 2021 10 minute read

Ultimate Guide for First Time Drivers

The first time you take control of a vehicle can bring a whole slew of emotions right into the driver’s seat with you. As a new driver, we know driving on roads and highways can be both scary and exciting. This new experience may feel daunting, but we’re here to help you navigate the road ahead.

Although you studied the rules of the road and practiced the correct driving techniques, there are many things you should consider. Whether it’s passing the exams or getting your first insurance policy, it’s best that you know how to get started with your driving journey.

Knowledge test for new drivers

Every province in Canada has different rules and requirements that people need to follow in order to become a driver. Often times, you will need to pass a knowledge test to obtain your learner’s driver’s license.

In Alberta, this test is 30 multiple choice questions and a minimum of 25 correct responses is needed to pass. Here’s more information on test that you may want to be mindful of:

  • There is a fee to take the test.
  • The test will need to be done on a computer at a registry office.
  • Questions will include safe driving practices, driving laws and road signs.
  • Once the test is completed and if you pass, you will need to talk with a registry agent to ensure your driver’s license is updated.
  • The knowledge test permit is not a full driver’s license, but is required before taking any future exams.
  • By passing this test, you are able to legally practice driving with a driving school or a fully licensed family member or friend.

Graduated driver licensing

Regardless of age, all new drivers are part of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. This program ensures new drivers get the support, skills, and experience they need to handle the complex task of driving. GDL improves road safety by creating a safe and controlled environment for all new drivers. The specifics of each stage and requirement vary from province to province. Below is a general example of how many graduated licensing systems work. To find specific information for where you live, visit a government website.

As a GDL driver, you will hold one of the following driver’s licenses:

  • Stage One: Learner’s Driver’s Licence
  • Stage Two: Probationary Licence

The following information highlights the key features of the Learner (Stage One) and Probationary (Stage Two) phases of the Graduated Driver Licensing program.

Stage 1: Learner

To obtain a class 7 learner’s driver’s license you must:

  • Be 14 years of age or older (this varies from province to province)
  • Pass a vision screening
  • Pass a knowledge test on the rules of the road
  • Have parental consent if you are under 18 years of age
  • Have valid identification

Here are the conditions for a learner’s license:

  • You must hold a learner’s driver’s license for at least one year.
  • You must be accompanied by a fully licensed (non-GDL probationary) driver who is 18 years of age or older and is seated next to you.
  • There may be restrictions on what times of day and on what roads you can drive.
  • You are not permitted to have more passengers than seat belts.
  • You must have a zero level of alcohol and drugs when driving (or riding a motorcycle).

Stage 2: Probationary

To become a probationary driver you must:

  • Hold your learner’s license for a year
  • Be 16 years of age or older (the exact age varies from province to province)
  • Pass the road test

Probationary conditions include:

  • Must be a probationary driver for a minimum of two years.
  • Must have no more passengers than seat belts.
  • You must have a zero alcohol level when driving.
  • You cannot serve as an accompanying driver to a learner.

Stage 3: Full Driver’s License

To become a fully licensed driver you’ll need to:

  • Be suspension free for the last twelve months of the probationary stage.
  • Pass the advanced road test.

It usually takes a minimum of three years to complete both the learners and probationary stages of the program. To learn the exact requirements where you live, visit the official website for your province.

Proactive driving

What does proactive driving mean? It’s simply driving with the aim to anticipate possible hazards and take action to reduce, minimize, or avoid danger before it can occur. This helps you avoid possible car accidents.

Never assume other drivers are always going to drive carefully or respond correctly at all times. Anticipating what might happen may help you avoid collisions caused by the driving errors of others.

Here are a few quick proactive driving tips:

  • Scan all around your vehicle
  • Have a space cushion – don’t drive too close to the person in front of you
  • Plan ahead
  • Watch the road ahead and stay alert
  • Maintain your following time and distance
  • Do not use a cellular phone or other electronic devices while driving

Ensuring the safety of passengers

As a driver, it’s important that you follow the laws around passengers. Here are some things you should be mindful of:

  • A child under the age of six years and who does not weigh more than 18 kilograms (40 pounds) must be properly secured in a child safety seat.
  • All children, from birth, must ride in either a rear-facing infant seat or a rear-facing convertible seat until reaching the recommended weight to switch to a forward-facing safety seat, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Children who weigh more than 18 kilograms (40 pounds) should be secured in an approved booster seat prior to using only the vehicle’s seat belt without a booster seat.

Are you fit to drive?

It is important that all drivers understand the risks of drinking or drug use and driving. There are risks, laws and penalties involved with this choice.

Things like alcohol and drugs, some medications, stress, fatigue (mental, emotional, and physical), and lack of sleep can impair your judgment and ability to responsibly and safely operate a vehicle. By ignoring driving law, you may face:

  • Heavy fines
  • A criminal record
  • Time in jail
  • The loss of your driver’s license privileges
  • Increased vehicle insurance premiums
  • Damage to property
  • Serious injury or death
  • Loss of employment, if driving is required as part of the job

Advice for parents of young drivers

Let’s face it: parenting stress can increase as kids approach the driving age. While you spend months helping them practice safe driving habits, it’s still evident that inexperienced drivers are more likely to get into accidents. You may not be able to help them every time they get behind the wheel, but parental involvement is an important way to educate them on the risks they take.

Here are some habits you can share with the young driver in your life:

  • If your teenager is driving to a social event, ensure they have enough cash to take a cab home.
  • Parents can set a good example for their kids by staying focused behind the wheel.
  • Ensure they are prepared for this challenge by taking them for driving lessons in adverse weather conditions.
  • Add your son or daughter to your roadside assistance program. That way, if they do get stuck, they know who to call for help.
  • If you have a young adult learning to drive on your insurance policy, restrict them to the most affordably insured car.
  • If there is a new driver in your household, it’s important to let your insurance provider know.
  • Give your insurance broker a call and have the new driver added as a secondary driver.

What are some general driving rules, laws or regulations? Here are some of the Canadian driving laws that new drivers should bear in mind:

  • You should drive on the right side of the road and use the left lane when passing others.
  • Always give pedestrians the right of way.
  • Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt.
  • Unless you have a hands free phone, use of mobile phones and even playing with the radio station can be classified as distracted driving.
  • Always use your signals when turning or going into a new lane.
  • While driving, you must carry your driver’s license, registration and insurance at all times.

Car insurance for young drivers

When you’re a young driver, there are different factors that play a role in determining your car insurance. Here are some of the things insurance companies consider when determining your rate:

  • When it comes to auto insurance, a young driver is anyone under the age of 25.
  • Insurance companies base their rates on multiple risk factors, and one of these is the likelihood of the driver getting into an accident.
  • While young drivers comprise about 10 per cent of drivers in Canada, sadly, they account for approximately a quarter of all accidents that result in serious injury or death.
  • As a result, if you are between the ages of 16 and 24, you are considered higher-risk drivers.

Let BrokerLink be your resource for all things car insurance. From start to finish, our brokers handle the legwork to make sure you’re protected. Give our brokers a call today and we’ll find the coverage that works best for you.

Ultimate guide for first time drivers FAQs

What are the most common mistakes on the driving test?

Whether you’re taking a knowledge test or the road test, being prepared is key. Practicing and reviewing the rules of the road will help set you up for success. Some common mistakes during the road test include: not correctly adjusting the drivers seat and mirrors, improper lane changes, not maintaining the correct speed when turning a corner, not checking your surroundings, ignoring pedestrian right of ways, not respecting traffic signals and lights, making incomplete stops, distracted driving and parking.

What is the best way to prepare for the driving test?

To better prepare for the road test, using the same vehicle you have been practicing with will be beneficial. Your vehicle will need to be ready for the road as examiners will often have you test your brake and signal lights, horns and ask you questions about other elements of your vehicle like if you have enough fuel. Next, practice often before hand. Learning the roads in and around the area you will be taking the test will also help prepare you. Don’t forget to practice parking – acronyms such as “Dr. Lu” may help you remember which way to turn your wheels. Downhill is to the right (Dr.) and to the left if you’re uphill (Lu).

How can I stop being scared of driving?

It’s completely normal to feel anxious getting behind the wheel when it’s new to you. We know weather conditions can also contribute to this. By continuously practicing overtime, you will be able to lessen this fear. Another thing you can do is leave for your commute earlier. This will allow you to gradually take your time and drive in the designated slower lane as you adjust to life as a new driver. Lastly, positive affirmations can help you. Just repeat phrases that bring you comfort on your commute or talk yourself through the situation at hand. If you see there is traffic ahead, coach yourself on what to do. Remember, take a few deep breaths and try to remain calm. You’ll be able to drive without fear in no time!