Section 2 Review

Section 2 - The Road, The Driver, And The Vehicle

Nice work! If you haven't obtained your permit at this point, it might be a good idea to study up and get yourself to the DPS for that written exam. If you do now have your permit, Congratulations! The FREEDOM has started!

Now it is time to get into the "nitty gritty" if you will. Pay attention! Beginning with Section 2, you will be taking exams at the end of each part. You will need to pass your section exam in order to move to the next section. Don't worry! You may take each exam as many times as needed to finish your course. Remember to let us know if you need help along the way. That is what we are here for! 1-800-942-2050.

Each section going forward includes both class and driving time. Our objective for this section is to build a strong foundation for the basics of safely driving your vehicle. As you complete this section, you should have a clear understanding of the importance of the proper driving attitude, the beginning development of driving skills, and driving maturity. These are just the first steps for YOU, the student on the way to becoming a safe driver. We begin our study examining the characteristics of the road and the new teen driver.

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The Highway Transportation System

Objective: Following this session, the student will be able to identify three components of the Highway Transportation System. The student will be able to dispel four common myths about young drivers. The student will also be able to discuss the physiological changes to the teen brain that are relevant to driving and identify the three primary risk factors for new teen drivers.

The Highway Transportation System (HTS) is a complex system designed to move people and things safely and efficiently from one place to another. It consists of people (drivers, pedestrians, and passengers), vehicles (bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles), and roadways (streets, avenues, boulevards, highways, etc.)

Simple neighborhood lanes, complex superhighways, and every kind of street in between make up approximately 4 million miles of roadway that link every state, county, city, and town in America. Every day, these roads are traveled by more than 180 million people driving, riding, or walking. Spread out evenly, that's over 45 people per mile. Of course, we know that some roads are traveled more heavily than others.

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The Highway Transportation System (Continued)

With so much traffic in so little space traveling at speeds up to 75 miles per hour, you should expect a few collisions-and you will. In a given year, any driver stands a 1 in 9 chance of being in a collision. A safe driver must learn how to interact with various types of drivers in various types of vehicles on a variety of different roadways; and to do so without collisions, traffic violations, or near misses. Before examining how a driver is to drive safely, let's look at how roadways are designed to keep drivers and passengers safe.

The HTS is regulated jointly by federal, state, and local governments. The federal government sets minimum standards by which all state and local governments must abide. State and local governments that follow these guidelines receive federal funding to maintain certain aspects of the HTS. Federal laws also establish state rights regarding driver and roadway safety. Some examples of federal laws follow:

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety act requires vehicle manufacturers to include certain safety features like safety belts or shatterproof glass in their vehicles.

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The Highway Transportation System (Continued)

The National Highway safety act provides guidelines that states must follow. These guidelines set minimum standards for driver licensing, vehicle registration, highway construction, highway maintenance, traffic laws, and traffic court. This federal law gives each state the authority to set its own laws, such as Graduated Driver Licensing laws, so long as they do not conflict with federal rules and standards. Counties, cities, and towns also pass traffic laws, such as establishing school zones and speed limits on city streets, to make those streets safer for citizens.

Early roads in America were based on trade routes and exploration routes. Increased population, vehicle speed, and roadway usage now require that a corps of engineers be involved in the planning, grading, banking, paving, curving, and bridging of new roads. Local roads are given names that often reflect the history and culture of the town. State and federal highways are given numbers that follow conventional rules. Roads traveling North and South have odd numbers with the number sequence increasing as you travel West to East. Roads traveling East and West have even numbers with the highest number farthest North.

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The Highway Transportation System (Continued)

Innovations in highway design are making modern roadways safer than ever. Today's high speed roadways separate traffic moving in opposite directions with a wide median-a concrete or grassy structure in between the lanes. It is not uncommon for newly constructed highways to include rumble strips along the outer boundary of the lane. These ridges in the pavement will cause tires to make a loud "rumbling" noise and cause the whole vehicle to vibrate if the driver drifts to the edge of the road.

Reflective paints and nodes are now used to separate lanes of traffic because they are easy to see both at day and night. Highways and interstates will, by design, have a shoulder, a strip of land along the roadway that may be paved, gravel or dirt. Shoulders should be engineered to support the weight of an automobile, leaving a place for drivers to stop in an emergency.

They are not, however, designed to support extensive driving. Other safety features one may encounter on highways may include guard rails, street lights, and electronic notification signs. These features, as well as vehicle safety technologies, are in place to protect drivers from the dangers inherent in driving; however, the number one cause of collisions is driver error. The rest of this text is designed to educate the new driver about safe driving procedures and to train the new driver to make good driving decisions.

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Teenagers And Automobiles

The statistics for teenage drivers are less than optimistic. They are more likely to be killed in a vehicle crash than any other way. There are a number of national agencies that track and study the driving experiences of teens across the United States, as well as internationally. The trends are consistent; automobile collisions are the number one killer of teens and young adults. Perhaps USA Weekend did the most revealing study. The USA Weekend Feature Story, September 3-5 1999, copyright 1999, used 1997 statistics to reach some startling conclusions.

The deadliest drivers of all - The National Highway Traffic Safety database shows 16-year-old drivers are the riskiestThe solution, say some states: Take away the car keys at night, outlaw carloads of youths and demand a long, supervised learning curve or change the age requirements for getting the first license. They call such guidelines or expectations "graduated licensing . The laws adopted vary in each individual state.

Would you believe the entire death toll of the Vietnam War was less than teenage vehicle fatalities in the last decade? Would you believe teenage fatalities are equal to one Columbine High School massacre every day? "Crashes are the leading killer of teens 15 to 19, responsible for 1 in 3 deaths.

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Teenagers And Automobiles (Continued)

While death rates for drivers of all ages declined 20% from 1975-96, and even dropped for 17-19 year-olds, the rate nearly doubled for 16-year-olds, now the riskiest drivers on the road." Traditional driver education courses (30 hours of classroom activities and 6 hours of behind the wheel experiences) have not worked well in developing great beginning drivers! The report cited statistics that show 16 year olds are ill prepared for the responsibility of driving:

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Teenagers And Automobiles (Continued)

The report also debunks some popular myths:

What are the distractions for young drivers? There are many - some inside the vehicle and some outside the vehicle. Those outside are difficult to control. Those on the inside include music, passengers, and cell phones. Is experience always the best teacher? Regardless of age, no one needs to experience a fatal vehicle crash!

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Teenagers And Automobiles (Continued)

Of the analysis of electronic records of 37,280 fatal crashes in 1997, the following points are important:

What is the solution? America is revolutionizing how young people are licensed to drive. Twenty-eight states have followed the lead of the State of Florida in adopting legislation that promises to reduce body counts in the next decade. Driving-while-intoxicated and seat-belt laws have made significant improvements in the data collected and a similar result is expected with "new and yet to come" graduated licensing laws.

How do parents feel about law changes? "As a parent, I love the law. If they get caught driving at night, they go back to the beginning" with six more months of restriction. That empowers parents. It also saves lives. "The key to graduated licensing lies in the night-driving restriction," says teen-driving researcher David Preusser, whose studies have found nighttime crash reductions of 25-69%, where graduated licensing has been adopted.

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Teenagers And Automobiles (Continued)

What can parents do to reduce the pressure teens feel when driving? They must support local and state officials. Some states and parents and teens agree that there will be no passengers for the first six months and no music for the first six months. Cell phones must be reserved for emergency calls or home only. Many parents make time to devote over 50 hours of behind-the-wheel experiences with their teen driver...many well over 75 hours!

Texas Topic - Risk assessment. The student will define risk assessment and apply risk reduction principles to establish roadway position, vehicle speed, and communicate with other roadway user.

Youthful Risk Taking

Being behind the wheel of a vehicle can give teenagers a false sense of security. With no wind in the car, it is difficult to determine how fast the vehicle is actually moving. Some teenagers also feel that whatever can happen on the road, will not happen to them. They often engage in dangerous behaviors resulting in injury or death.

Risk Perception by Young Drivers

Teens often drive in higher speeds and tailgate other drivers without knowing they are creating unsafe driving conditions. It takes much longer for inexperienced drivers to develop a higher-order of perceptual and cognitive skills necessary to safely interact with the driving environment. 

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Teenagers And Automobiles (Continued)

Young drivers detect hazards less quickly and efficiently and see them as less dangerous as they really are. Young drivers underestimate the risk of an accident and overestimate their own driving skills. This lack of maturity and perception results in a deadly combination.

Studies have shown that the presence of teen males (in the passenger seat) increase the likelihood of speeding and tailgating among male and female drivers. The same study shows male teenagers are less likely to tailgate or exceed the speed limit when a teenage female is in the front passenger seat.

Teen attitude also plays a major role in perception. The "No one got hurt" attitude is common among young drivers. A beginning driver must learn how to look at driving as a new skill to learn and approach it with a good attitude from the start.

Tips for parents/beginning drivers

This program is specifically designed to provide parents with the tools necessary for starting their new driver off on the right foot. There are no guarantees against the student driver making a costly mistake on the road; however, this program provides the best help that is currently being offered. With it, the teenage driver will have a greater chance of becoming a " safe driver for life."

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Adolescent Brain Development and Driving

The following article was written by Don Berryhill, Ed.D.,Ph.D. Dr. Berryhill specializes in sports medicine and has worked with NASA and many notable universities. The article describes physiological changes that teenagers undergo which have an effect on their ability to drive.

Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver

Driving is made up of a complex group of factors that continually impact perception, thinking, and motor skills. The driver must be constantly aware of the environment, processing and evaluating the environmental information, and developing appropriate responses. According to the Johns Hopkins University Study of 1955, a proficient driver must have mastery of performance skills in three major areas: the control of the vehicle (operational), maneuvering the vehicle (guidance), and planning (navigational), all three of which are subject to perception, thinking, and motor skills management.

In recent years, research with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has shown that the brain of the adolescent and the teenager is still not fully developed in emotional, mental, and physical response skills when compared with the adult brain.

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Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver (Continued)

The part of the brain that generates raw emotion is in an accelerated developmental phase while the part of the brain that controls good judgment is, for the most part, inactive. This judgment control center (the prefrontal cortex if you want to get technical) is where your brain processes information from your eyes, skin, and internal organs. It is also where you evaluate information, control muscle movement, and make decisions. Obviously, these functions are very important to drivers, but the brain does not fully develop them until the early twenties.

Immaturity of this portion of the brain means that the teen will have trouble with multiple thought tracking, organization, use of critical memory, judicious decision making, appropriate speed of motor responses. Combine that delay with the hyperactivity of raw emotion and thrill seeking and you have a situation that virtually begs for unsafe driving practices.

There are two pieces of the brain development in teenagers that we want to consider: speeding up nerve transmissions and eliminating unneeded nerve pathways. Until our early to mid twenties (in some cases early thirties), the nervous system is under construction.

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Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver (Continued)

One of the last developments in the nervous system is the insulation of the nerves to make information travel faster through them. This process is called myelination. During teen years, the nerves connecting the areas of the brain that control impulsiveness, process good judgment, and regulate emotion are finally insulated for faster transmissions. Those nerves that do not yet have the insulation coating have a definite influence on the driving skills of the adolescent or teen. As a result, their abilities to maintain full attention, recognize potential dangers, evaluate risky situations, and make good decisions are challenged.

For over 10 years, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland have been mapping the development of the brain in children and teens. They found that the judgment and control center of the brain has a rapid growth spurt around age 10. Starting at age 12, the extra nerve connections begin dying off. The big wigs call this process pruning. The nerves that are used remain in use. The nerves that are not used are lost. This apparently allows the brain to become more efficient at the skills and routines that the body will actually use, without wasting space for what is unused. 

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Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver (Continued)

Researchers believe that teens who have not completed the pruning process simply do not have the brainpower to manage all of the available neural pathways and manage multiple thoughts, critical memories, and emotions well enough to make good decisions.

These facts are supported by research indicating that the motivation of young drivers to seek thrills or impress friends is usually much stronger than the willingness to be safe. Adults view this as an invincibility mentality. Teens look at it as living one day at a time and having fun. Most young people simply do not see themselves as likely to be in a collision.

Immaturity and inexperience  are characteristics that often make the teen less skilled and less cautious. Ignore these facts and add in the advanced automobile of today and we have created a potentially deadly machine on the highway.

It will be important in the future to govern youth as they begin their driving by preparing legislation founded upon this developmentally and scientifically based information. The graduated driver licensing (GDL)  laws that we see sweeping the nation are the first attempt to take a teen's natural limitations into consideration as we prepare them to drive safely.

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Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver (Continued)

By devoting extra time to establishing good driving habits, you are helping your teens' brain develop. The time and attention you devote to instilling good, safe driving habits in your teen will create automatic responses that may very well save the life of your teen in an emergency situation.

The Physiological Nature of the Driver - Experienced drivers also understand that there are many factors contributing to distracted driving. While many of those factors we can control, there are others that are not easy to distinguish.

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Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver (Continued)

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Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver (Continued)

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Physiological and Psychological Profile of the Young Driver (Continued)

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The Privilege of Driving

Driving is a privilege and never an individual right. The privilege of driving the family vehicles should be earned by demonstrating a good driving attitude, some driving aptitude, and maturity. Some teens demonstrate these important characteristics at an early age and some in their late teens.

Attitude and Maturity

A recent article in the Traffic Safety Magazine (sponsored by the National Safety Council) noted that many parents have restrictions or curfews for their teen drivers. Most states allow parents to restrict driving privileges until age eighteen. Parents have the option to withdraw their signature approving their teen the privilege of driving. Most states have a simple form to sign.

If the teen drives after this form has been submitted by his/her parents, the young driver is driving without a valid license and will be stopped and fined accordingly. The decision to forfeit a teen license is very drastic, yet important in protecting everyone - the family, the driver, his passengers and other drivers.

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Attitude and Maturity (Continued)

Lynelle Nendle stated in her contest-winning article, "Teenagers are willing to do almost anything to earn the driving privilege. I have friends who never made the same mistake twice when they had driving rights [rescinded] by their parents." The article also said that, "The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests families set house rules that are reasonable, consistently enforced and obeyed. Teens appreciate rules when they are in a sticky situation. "I will be grounded if I do that," gives a way out when under peer pressure.

Inexperience vs. Immaturity - Immaturity can lead to improper braking, over reacting, over-steering, over compensating in a skid situation and more. In time, an experienced driver will know how to drive accordingly to weather and road conditions, such as fog, rain, and snow. Teens are especially vulnerable to distractions in the vehicle, such as cell phone usage, music, smoking, and other passengers in the car.

Maturity behind-the-wheel comes with age. Just like many other things, the more you practice, the better you get. The ability to drive safely takes time, effort and focus. At a young age, the drivers lack of skill and lack of attention are a direct result of inexperience. It is important at a young age to begin driving with good habits and the desire to work on improving skills constantly.

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Discussion questions - Jot down answers to the following questions and keep these notes for your records:

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Your Vehicle and the Systems that Make it Work

Objective: This section will introduce the new teen driver to the major systems of the automobile and indicators that the automobile should be serviced professionally. The student will be able to identify four major systems in the automobile and discuss proper maintenance of those systems.

Having examined the teen's physiology and the government's philosophy, now we will take a quick look at some of the mechanics of steering and braking and some other mechanical systems that make driving what it is today. Additionally, we will address some preventive maintenance measures  you can take to make your vehicle run efficiently and more economically.

Steering System

The steering system controls the position of the front wheels in order to permit the driver to change the direction of the vehicle. Most cars today have power steering, a hydraulic pump powered by a belt connected to the engine that facilitates steering.

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Steering System (Continued)

Steering begins with the steering wheel. When the driver turns the wheel, the wheel turns the steering column. The column connects to the gearbox where the rotary motion on the wheel is converted to linear motion on the steering linkage.

The steering linkage actually turns the front wheels, allowing the driver to steer the car. Most vehicles have a hydraulic pump and belt assembly called power steering. This greatly reduces the necessary steering input to turn.

To maintain the steering system, avoid turning the steering wheel when the vehicle is not moving. Also, never force the steering at the vehicles limit of travel. Modern steering systems enable full steering without turning the wheel to its limit.

When driving, obstacles (potholes, curbs, other sudden impacts) should be avoided as these might knock the steering out of alignment. Routine driving will probably necessitate an annual alignment but running over obstacles may cause more severe alignment problems. Steering problems are serious and should be dealt with immediately, but they do not happen suddenly. Be alert. The power steering belt, pump, and fluid should also be checked when checking the oil. Fixing problems before they start is a great way to conserve money, time, and natural resources.

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Steering System (Continued)

If any of the following indicators are experienced, the steering system should be checked by a professional mechanic:

Suspension System

The suspension system works with the steering system by cushioning the vehicles ride and keeping the wheels and tires pointed in the right direction. Through a series of bars, rods, springs, and other components, this system supports the weight of the vehicle and helps ensure stability. Problems with the suspension may cause uneven tire wear, also called cupping. Like the steering system, the suspension will not fail immediately. Watch for warning signs. Have the shocks, struts, joints, or McPherson struts (combination shock and spring) serviced and replaced according to your vehicle owner's manual. Other indicators include excessive bouncing (shocks), and uneven vehicle when parked (springs).

Tires and Braking Systems

Although the suspension makes your ride smooth, the tires absorb most of the shocks caused by road hazards. They flex or give over irregularities reducing the noticeable shifts over erratic road surfaces. The tires are also the point of traction, gripping the road and allowing the driver to accelerate, brake, and steer.

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Tires and Braking Systems (Continued)

Tires are constructed as either bias ply (the layers of cord and rubber are criss-crossed) or radial ply (the ply's are parallel and perpendicular to the tread) with steel belts. Radial tires are constructed to last longer and they are more flexible than bias ply tires. The downside to radials is that a strong impact with a pothole or other obstacle can cause the steel belts to separate which leads to tire blowout. 

Routine operator maintenance on tires includes keeping proper inflation levels (usually 35 psi for radials and 32 psi for bias, check the manufacturers recommendations) and looking for uneven or unusual tread wear. Check the tire treads. Underinflating or overinflating tires can be dangerous and reduces the life of the tire.

Tires are rated according to the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System for traction, temperature, and treadwear. Traction and temperature are rated with an ABC scale with "A" being the best and "C" meeting government minimum standards. Treadwear is rated on a numerical scale. The higher the rating, the longer they will last. A mechanic or tire salesman can translate the rating into expected miles.

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Tires and Braking Systems (Continued)

The brake system permits the driver to slow or stop the rotation of the tires. The friction of the tires against the road surface will then slow and/or stop the vehicle. Modern vehicles are equipped with two braking systems: a dual hydraulic brake system and a mechanical brake system (parking or emergency brake).

Good brakes are essential for the safe operation of a vehicle. The life expectancy and performance of brakes depends on how they are used and maintained. Braking distance is the distance the vehicle travels once the brakes are applied. Experience and skill in braking, the kinetic energy of the vehicle, the mechanical condition of the vehicle, and road conditions all come into play. Other factors that affect braking distances are roadway surface, hills, and loads.

Basic Components of Brake System:

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Fuel and Ignition Electronics

The automotive fuel system  is designed to provide the correct amount of fuel and air to the engine under all operating conditions and power demands. Many vehicles today use a fuel injection system (replacing the carburetor) to deliver the fuel under pressure into the combustion chambers or into the air flow just as it enters each individual cylinder. This maximizes power and economy. The fuel system includes:

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Fuel and Ignition Electronics (Continued)

The Ignition System- draws energy from the battery to create high voltage surges to set off combustion in the engines cylinders.

The Charging System - produces electrical power while the engine is running to operate all the electrical components and recharge the battery. This consists of a drive belt, alternator, voltage regulator, wiring, and battery.

The Starting System- permits the driver to turn the ignition switch to activate an electric motor, Solenoid switch, wiring, and battery.

The Accessory Circuits- power the lights, safety systems, and accessories. This system includes the fuse box, wiring, and any electrically powered equipment.

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Discussion questions - Jot down answers to the following questions and keep these notes for your records:

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Driving is Fun, but Serious

Reading through the driver education material is an important way to transmit facts. Practicing driving maneuvers enhances skill. Discussions within the family and with respected mentors transmit values; and adopted values change behavior.

Parents, set an atmosphere in your home where families can be open to talk about these important issues. Make time when everyone can participate. Such discussion may not be completed in one talk. Remain open and listen for feedback. Remember that parents are the adults and your example, conduct, and constant positive leadership is paramount to successful instruction of your teen driver.

Review the statistics regarding teen driving presented in this program.

Parents, discuss current behavior and maturity. Talk about your expectations and how they are being met. Is your student driver meeting them, exceeding them, or, do you expect to see immediate positive growth and progress toward them? What about doing his share of the chores that are important to the family? What is your teen's attitude about schoolwork, obeying house rules and guidelines? Is your student considerate of all family members?

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What makes it important that you earn a driver license at this time?


Texas Topic - Roadway and Vehicle Technology. The student will understand and properly use survival mechanisms and protections provided by enhanced occupant protection features incorporated into highway and vehicular design technology and distinguishes highway and vehicular occupant protection devices as crash survival mechanisms.

What about wearing seat belts?

Some people refuse to wear seat belts on short trips. This is unwise because statistics show most collisions happen twelve to fifteen miles from home. Seat belt use should be mandatory in your car. Make it automatic for everyone - always buckle up all passengers in the vehicle. Only take as many passengers in the vehicle as can be buckled up, one per belt. Some states require every passenger to be buckled up. Know your state requirements.

What about alcohol consumption while driving?

Parents, is your teen driver comfortable enough to call you for a ride home (anytime of day or night) if he feels it is not safe for him or a designated friend to drive home? (After he is safely at home, discuss the situation in detail.)

What is the financial impact to your family if a driver is arrested for driving under the influence? The financial impact is only a part of the consequences, in addition to embarrassment and inconvenience (i.e., inconveniences going to/from work/school, etc.).

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The Texas permit and license to drive.

Texas Topics

TEXAS REGULATIONS [Following information excerpted from TDH, October, 2008] Texas Regulations for gaining an Instructional Permit require 6 hours of laws and procedures prior to applying for a Texas instructional permit.

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Instruction Permit

This permit is issued for the purpose of permitting a student driver to legally practice when accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age and has had at least one year driving experience who is occupying the seat beside the driver, is not intoxicated, asleep or engaging in any activity that prevents them from observing and responding to actions of the driver. 

Provisional License

All original licenses, other than an instruction permit, issues to persons under 18 years of age will be marked “provisional.” The photograph of the licensee will show a profile and will be dated to expire on the applicant’s next birth date occurring after the date of issuance.

Classified Driver’s License:

Class A driver license permits a person to drive any vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds; including a vehicle included in Class B or Class C, except a motorcycle or moped.

Minimum Ages: 18, or 17 with completion of an approved driver education course including classroom and practical training or approval of minor’s hardship application.

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Class B driver license permits a person to drive the following vehicles, except a motorcycle or moped:

  • A single unit vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, and any such vehicle towing either a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating that does not exceed 10,000 pounds, or a farm trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating that does not exceed 20,000 pounds.

  • A bus with a seating capacity of 24 passengers or more, including the driver.

  • A vehicle included in Class C.

Minimum Ages: 18, or 17 with completion of an approved driver education course including classroom and practical training or approval of minor’s hardship application.

Class C driver license permits a person to drive the following vehicles, except a motorcycle or moped:

  • A single unit vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that is not a Class A or B.

  • A single unit vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds, towing a trailer not to exceed 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating or a farm trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating that does not exceed 20,000 pounds.

Minimum Ages: 18, or 16 with completion of an approved course of driver education including classroom and practical training, or 15 with approval of minor’s hardship application.

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Class M driver license permits a person to drive a motorcycle or moped.

Minimum Ages:

  • Motorcycle—18, or 16 with completion of an approved course of driver education (32 hours classroom and the 16-hour Departmentapproved Basic Motorcycle Operator Training Course)

  • Moped—15 years of age

Motor-driven cycle of 250cc or less

  • 15 with Department approval for minor’s hardship license

  • 15 with completion of an approved course of driver education (32 hours classroom and the 16-hour Department-approved Basic Motorcycle Operator Training Course)

Essential Needs: This is a special license issued by the Department of Public Safety to persons whose licenses have been suspended for causes other than physical or mental disability or impairment and can prove an essential need to drive. Identification Card: The Department is authorized to issue a personal identification card with a photograph for those individuals who find it desirable.

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Allergic Reaction to Drug: All driver’s licenses will provide a space for the licensee to indicate any drug allergy a person may have.

Anatomical Gifts: Driver’s licenses and identification cards that are issued September 1, 1997 or after to a person who wishes to be an eye, tissue, or organ donor may execute a statement of gift. The statement of gift may be shown by a card designed to be carried by the donor to evidence the donor’s intentions with respect to organ, tissue, and eye donation. Licenses and identification cards that were issued prior to September 1, 1997 that indicate a person wishes to be an eye, tissue, or organ donor shall be conclusive evidence of a decedent’s status as a donor and serve as consent for organ, tissue, and eye removal.

Health Care Directive: On the reverse side of the driver’s license, the Department shall print “Directive to physician has been filed at” followed by a line that the holder of the license may use to indicate the appropriate telephone number. Special Note: All applicants for a Texas driver’s license are required by state laws (Sections 521.044, 521.142, 522.021 of the Transportation Code; and Section 231.302 of the Family Code) to present evidence (social security card or other acceptable document) of the person’s social security number. The purpose of requiring a person to provide proof of their social security number is to assist the Department in determining the proper identity of each license holder.

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Application - You can get the application form and fill it out at your nearest Drivers License Office. You can find the office nearest you by looking in the directory in the back of this handbook. Your application must be made in person.

Examination - Careful study of this handbook should help you do well. The examination consists of four parts: road rules, road signs, vision, and skills test. All four parts must be taken b each person who makes application for an original license as well as by any person whose last Texas license expired more than two years ago. Exception: The road rules and signs test and driving test are not required for applicants who surrender a valid out-of-state license. Also, the driving test is not required for applicants applying for an instruction permit.

PART 1—THE RULES TEST: Three types of rules tests are given

PART 2—THE SIGNS TEST: A set of written questions on the meaning of standard highway signs will be given. To prepare for this test study the section in the handbook called Traffic Signs.

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PART 3—THE VISION TEST: Your vision will be tested. You may be required to wear corrective lenses while driving if they will improve your vision and help to increase the safety of your driving.

PART 4—THE DRIVING TEST is given only after all other tests have been passed and evidence of automobile liability insurance covering the vehicle is presented or the vehicle is exempt under the Act. The type of vehicle that must be used for the driving test depends on the class of license applied for. A $10.00 examination fee is required when changing from a lower to a higher class license or when adding a Class M to an existing license or adding Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) endorsements or removing restrictions from a license. 


  • 1st conviction - up to $200 fine

  • 2nd conviction in one year - $25-$200 fine

  • 3rd conviction in one year after 2nd conviction - $25-$500 fine and 72 hours to 6 months in jail, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

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Contact your local Driver License office for information concerning the removal or addition of any restrictions or endorsements from your driver license or instruction permit.

SPECIAL NOTE: All applicants for a driver license or an identification certificate are required by state laws (Section 521.142 and 521.101 of the Transportation Code) to submit their thumbprints to the Department. The purpose of requiring thumbprints is to assist the Department in determining the proper identity of a person who is applying for a driver license or identification certificate.


A reasonable restriction or endorsement may be placed on your driver license to improve the safety of your driving. This restriction or endorsement is not meant to interfere with your driving but to make you a better driver.

In such cases, a code letter is placed on the license which designates the type of restriction. The following table explains the different restrictions or endorsements and the code letter(s) assigned.


  • A With corrective lenses

  • B LOFS age 21 or over

  • C Daytime only

  • D Not to exceed 45 MPH

  • E No expressway driving

  • I M/C not to exceed 250 cc

  • J Licensed M/C Operator age 21 or over in sight

  • K Moped

  • L Vehicle w/o air brakes - applies to vehicles requiring CDL

  • M CDL Intrastate Commerce only

  • P Stated on license

  • Q LOFS 21 or over vehicle above Class B

  • R LOFS 21 or over vehicle above Class C

  • S Outside mirror or hearing aid

  • T Automatic transmission

  • U Applicable prosthetic devices

  • V Applicable vehicle devices

  • W Power steering

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  • H Hazardous materials - CDL only

  • N Tank vehicle - CDL only

  • P Passenger - CDL only

  • S School Bus - CDL only

  • T Double/triple trailer (CDL and non CDL)

  • X Combination of hazardous materials and tank vehicle - CDL only


Operating a motor vehicle is a privilege. If this privilege is abused it may result in driver license suspension or revocation.

Suspensions: The temporary withdrawal of a driver’s license or driving privilege for a definite period of time.

Revocation: The termination of a driver’s license or driving privilege for an indefinite period of time. A suspension may be restored when all requirements for the revocation has been satisfied.

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Cancellation: The withdrawal of a driver’s license or driving privilege until the driver is able to requalify.

Denial: The withholding of a driver license or driving privilege because the person is ineligible for a license. A driver license may be issued when eligibility requirements are met.

Mandatory suspensions, revocations, and convictions for offenses involving fraudulent government records, require a $100.00 reinstatement fee. Administrative License Revocations (ALR) requires a $125.00 reinstatement fee. Some mandatory suspensions also require the filing of an SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility).

Convictions of the following offenses will result in the automatic suspension of a driving privilege. (See the Commercial Driver’s License Handbook for additional information concerning disqualifications. Also, see Suspensions/Revocations for Individuals Under 21 for additional suspension information.)

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Convictions of failure to comply with the following offenses will result in the automatic suspension of a driving privilege of persons under 21 years of age: (Also see Administrative License Revocation (ALR) for additional suspension information regarding minors.)

The Department of Public Safety has the authority to suspend/revoke the driver license or driving privilege of a minor, after a proper hearing, for the following reasons:

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ADMINISTRATIVE LICENSE REVOCATION (ALR): The Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Law became effective January 1, 1995. A $125 reinstatement fee is required for all ALR suspensions.

  • Chapter 524 of the Transportation Code provides for suspending the license (over 21) for failing a breath or blood test when the blood alcohol content (BAC) indicates a level of .08 or more.

  • Chapter 724 of the Transportation Code provides for suspending the driver license or driving privilege of any individual who refuses to submit to a breath or blood test.

  • Chapter 524 of the Transportation Code and Section 106.041 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code provides for suspending the driver license or driving privilege of individuals under 21 years of age for any detectable amount of alcohol. Senate Bill 35 as passed by the Texas Legislature became law on September 1, 1997. This law provides that a minor (a person who is under the age of 21) may not drive a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol (.00) in their system. This law is commonly referred to as the ZERO TOLERANCE LAW. This law provides for the suspension of a minor’s driver license for any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system or refusal to provide a specimen of the minor’s breath or blood for analysis. See Chapter 10 for more detailed information about the ZERO TOLERANCE LAW for minors.

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CANCELLATIONS:The Department of Public Safety is authorized to cancel the license or ID card of individuals who do not meet certain qualifications. The following types of cases require cancellation of a driver license or ID card:

  • suspension/revocation action from another state,

  • parental authorization withdrawn (for individuals under 18 years of age),

  • failure to give required information in the application for the license or ID card,

  • person was not entitled to the license or ID card,

  • incomplete driver education,

  • voluntary surrender for medical or insurance purposes,

  • false statement on application license or ID card.

COURT-ORDERED SUSPENSION/REVOCATION/CANCELLATION - The Department shall, upon receipt of an order from the court, suspend, revoke or cancel the driver license or driving privilege for the following:

  • delinquent child support,

  • requirement for a deep lung breath analysis mechanism (interlock device),

  • failure to repay any overpayment of food stamps or financial assistance,

  • mentally incapacitated,

  • chemically dependent,

  • fail to renew annually - classified sex offender.

OTHER SANCTIONS FOR NON-DRIVING ALCOHOL-RELATED OFFENSES - A person who purchases an alcoholic beverage for a minor or who furnishes an alcohol beverage to a minor can be punished by a fine or confinement in jail. A person who sells a minor an alcoholic beverage can be punished by a fines and/or confinement in jail.

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VEHICLE INSPECTION - All motor vehicles registered in Texas, including motorcycles, motor scooters, and mopeds must be inspected each year by an official motor vehicle inspection station. Evidence of financial responsibility for the vehicle being inspected must be presented at the time of inspection. If evidence of financial responsibility is not presented, an inspection certificate will not be issued.

Certain equipment is considered unsafe and therefore not allowed:

VEHICLE REGISTRATION - When a nonresident owner or operator establishes residency in Texas or enters into gainful employment, his vehicle may be operated for 30 days thereafter, after which time the vehicle must be currently registered in Texas.

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The Safety Responsibility Act

Enacted to ensure all drivers are financially responsible for the death, injury, or property damage they may cause while operating a motor vehicle. All owners and/or operators of motor vehicles in Texas must have at least the minimum amount of liability insurance.

Evidence of Financial Responsibility

In order to comply with the Safety Responsibility Act, a driver, unless exempt, must maintain liability insurance or be self-insured under the provisions of the Act. Evidence of financial responsibility must be presented to the proper authorities at the time a person applies for a driver license, registers a motor vehicle, or obtains a motor vehicle inspection certificate.

Every owner and/or operator of a motor vehicle in Texas is required, as a condition of driving, to furnish upon request, evidence of financial responsibility to a law enforcement officer or to another person involved in a crash.

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The following list includes what is acceptable proof of financial responsibility.

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Agencies Involved in the Highway Transportation System - Many federal, state, and local government agencies help regulate the HTS. The federal government has established the National Highway Safety Act with a set of traffic safety guidelines. Federal, state, and local governments in turn enforce these national guidelines:

Right-of-Way of Emergency Vehicles - Operation of vehicles on approach of authorized emergency vehicles Sect. 21-405:

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Fire Departments

Texas Law on Littering

What is Litter? The Texas Litter Abatement Act defines litter as:

  • Decayable waste from a public or private establishment, residence, or restaurant, including animal and vegetable material.

  • Nondecayable solid waste, except ashes, including: combustible material such as paper, rags, cartons, wood, furniture, rubber, plastics, yard trimmings and leaves, non-combustible solid waste such as glass, crockery, tin or aluminum cans, and metal furniture, discarded or worn out materials and machinery such as motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts, and old appliances.

Offenses Under the Texas Litter Abatement Act - Under the Texas Litter Abatement Act, it is illegal:

  • To dispose of or allow someone else to dispose of litter at a place that is not a legal landfill.

  • To receive litter for the purpose of disposing it at a place that is not a legal landfill, regardless of whether the litter or the land on which the litter is to be disposed belongs to or is controlled by the person.

  • To transport litter to a place that is not a legal landfill for the purpose of dumping.

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Texas Law on Littering (Continued)

Penalties Under the Texas Litter Abatement Act - It is a Class C misdemeanor to illegally dispose of litter that weighs 15 pounds or less or has a volume of 13 gallons or less.

  • It is a Class B misdemeanor to illegally dispose of litter that weighs more than 15 pounds but less than 500 pounds or has a volume of more than 13 gallons but less than 100 cubic feet.

  • It is a Class A misdemeanor to illegally dispose of litter that weighs 500 pounds or more or has a volume of 100 cubic feet or more.

  • It is a Class A misdemeanor to illegally dispose of litter if it is for a commercial purpose and if the litter weighs more than 5 pounds or has a volume of more than 13 gallons.

  • If a person has been previously convicted of violating this Act, that person ’s punishment will be upgraded to the next highest category for any subsequent violation of this Act. For example, if a person has a prior conviction of a Class A misdemeanor, that person’s punishment will be for a third-degree felony the next time he/she violates this Act.

Common Violations

  • Throwing litter out of a car or boat.

  • Rolling junked cars into a river.

  • Hauling trash for profit and dumping it in any place that is not a legal landfill.

  • Letting someone else dump tires or any waste on your property, regardless of whether you gain financially from the activity.

  • Pouring used motor oil or restaurant grease into storm drains or down manhole covers.

  • Pouring motor oil on the ground.

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Texas Law on Littering (Continued)

Effective Illegal Dumping Enforcement - Always weigh the litter. If it cannot be weighed at the dump site using hand scales, it should be weighed by the city or county agency that hauls the litter away for proper disposal.

  • Measure the volume of the litter at the site. This can be done by assuming a tarp is thrown over the litter and measuring its dimensions. Courts in other states have ruled that empty space (for example, the space inside a junked car) counts toward the total volume of the litter.

  • The law is written to give the strongest penalties to those who dump litter for profit. Look closely at the magnitude of the offense and the intent of those involved when considering the appropriate chargefor the offense.

  • Even if there is not enough evidence to file criminal charges, you can seek a civil injunction to stop illegal dumping. Also, the County Commissioner has the authority to remove litter from a person’s property and send the landowner the bill, without having to get a criminal conviction first.

  • Litter is given a very broad definition under the Texas Litter Abatement Act. Thus the word “litter” defines a vast range of materials such as grease or leftover food from restaurants, building materials abandoned at construction sites, and packaging materials from stores.

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Texas Law on Littering (Continued)

Protecting Texas’s natural resources is extremely important. Some things motorists can do to reduce pollution associated with operation of a motor vehicle include:

  • Accelerate smoothly.

  • Brake gently.

  • Keep your vehicle properly tuned.

  • Recycle used motor oil and other fluids.

  • Carpool.

"Don't Mess With Texas" Campaign

In 1985, the state of Texas had a large litter problem. To battle this mess, the Texas Highway Commission launched an extensive public education campaign. This research identified the state's worst offenders and how best to locate them. From that moment forward, the "Don't Mess with Texas" campaign was launched and continues to remind Texans to keep litter off of Texas roads.

For over 25 years now, the "Don't Mess With Texas" campaign has worked diligently to keep trash off of Texas roads and highways. Over the years, the task has become a difficult endeavor, but each and every one of us can do our part to assist. You can lend a hand by ordering a free litterbag, report a litterer, or even watch some widely loved "Don't Mess with Texas" commercials.

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Texas Topic

Consequences of Using Alcohol and Other Drugs and Driving

Drinking and driving is the leading cause of death among older teens. Because people do not always frame their choices as life or death decisions, the law has established grave consequences for drinking and driving. For teenagers, zero tolerance laws and use and lose laws automatically revoke your license if you are caught drinking. All ages are subject to implied consent laws. Fines, penalties, and legal consequences are much stiffer for alcohol related collisions.

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In Texas a “minor” is someone under 21 years of age. Generally speaking, a minor may not purchase, attempt to purchase, consume, or even possess an alcoholic beverage.

Since a minor should not even possess an alcoholic beverage, the 1997 Texas Legislature adopted Senate Bill 35, which established ZERO TOLERANCE for minors who commit offenses under the non-driving alcohol-related laws as well as for minors who drive under the influence.

ZERO TOLERANCE means just that. Even if a minor is not intoxicated as defined under the DWI statute, if the minor has ANY detectable amount of alcohol in his system while he or she is operating a motor vehicle in a public place, as far as the law is concerned, the minor driver has committed the criminal offense of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by a Minor (DUI by a Minor).

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DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL BY A MINOR (DUI BY A MINOR) - Any Offense DUI by a Minor (10 years of age or older but less than 17) (“Delinquent Conduct” under the Family Code) - Punishable by a fine up to $500.00, not less than 40 nor more than 60 hours of community service, and the minor’s driver license may be suspended (or driving privilege denied).

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Types of licenses

The types of licenses and applicant requirements for each type vary from state to state. Some commonalities are detailed below.

Learner's Permit

The licensing office does ask for organ donor preference on the learner's permit/driver's license application. Organ donation is covered in depth later in Section 2. Drivers with a mental or physical condition that may impair their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, even temporarily, must provide the licensing office with a medical statement from a doctor. Vision changes, seizures, impaired judgment, impaired motor function, and loss of consciousness are some examples of these conditions.

Provisional or Intermediate Driver's License

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Types of licenses (Continued)

Other Types of Licenses:

Motorcycle Driver's License

Operating a motorcycle requires passing the motorcycle knowledge and skills tests. For those already holding a driver's license, they obtain a driver's license with a class M that allows operation of a motorcycle.

Commercial Driver's License

Class A-Combination heavy vehicle – any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicles being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.

Class B-Heavy straight vehicle or other combination – any single motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating that is not in excess of 10,000 pounds.

Class C-Small vehicle – any vehicle that does not fit the definition of a Class A or Class B vehicle and is either (i) designed to transport sixteen or more passengers including the driver or (ii) is used in the transportation of hazardous materials.

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Types of licenses (Continued)

Commercial Classes:

Endorsements and Restrictions

Commercial driver's licenses shall be issued with endorsements and restrictions that authorize/restrict the driver to operate certain types of vehicles.

Persons authorized to drive Class A vehicles are also authorized to drive Classes B and C vehicles, provided such persons possess the requisite endorsements for the type of vehicle driven.

Persons authorized to drive Class B vehicles are also authorized to drive Class C vehicles, provided such persons possess the requisite endorsements for the type of vehicle driven.

Any licensee who seeks to add a classification or endorsement to his commercial driver's license must submit the application forms, certifications, and other updated information required by the DMV and shall take and successfully complete the tests required for such classification or endorsement.

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Additional Information on Driver's License Applications: 

Identification Requirements

To apply for a driver's license, learner's permit, or photo identification card, students younger than 18 years of age must appear in person and bring at least one form of identification. Identification documents must show the student's complete name and date of birth, and must be original or duplicate documents issued by the federal or state government. No photocopies will be accepted. Additionally, hospital or souvenir birth certificates are not accepted. A list of acceptable documents can be found in Section 1 of most driver handbooks.

Proof of Social Security Number

Proof of Residency

The licensing office will accept the following documents as proof of residency. All documents must be written in English and show the applicant's name and the street address of his/her primary residence as it appears on the application for license. A post office box is not acceptable.

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Who Has To Take the Permit Test

Regardless of the applicants age, every state requires first time drivers to pass a written test before obtaining an instruction or learner's permit. The permit test covers state driving law and it is based on the state driver handbook. Generally, the tests are 25 to 50 questions, multiple choice. Some states offer a sample permit test online or in the state driver handbook, but the best way to prepare for the test is to study the driver handbook. Pay close attention to specific state laws as well as any terms that are in bold, highlighted, or otherwise marked to stand out.

Phew!! Talking/Reading about the law is not always fun. But it is necessary, and the good news is... You are DONE reading about the law. Let's move forward.

Texas Topic - Anatomical Gifts. The student will understand the benefits of organ, eye, or tissue donation, and describe the procedure for becoming an organ, eye, or tissue donor and analyze the importance of organ, eye, or tissue donor as a preferred choice. See Glenda Dawson Life, Texas Registry, the official state Website where Texans can register to be an organ, tissue and eye donor.

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Organ and Tissue Donation Designation process

Objective: The student will be able to discuss how organ donation works and why families may choose to consent or not consent to organ donation. The student will be able to identify 6 organs that may be donated. Addtionally, the student will discuss the process of organ donation with his or her family.

When you apply for your driver's license, learner's permit or photo ID card, the DMV/DPS will ask if you wish to become an organ donor. Your choice to become a donor will be designated on your driver's license or photo ID card. You may change your choice free of charge at your next renewal. Organ/tissue donors must be at least 18 years of age or have consent from a parent or legal guardian.

Cell, tissue, and organ transplants are proven, non-experimental therapies. Aside from the highly publicized heart and kidney transplants you may see or hear in the news, skin, bone, and blood transplants are helping people every day. Every year, the number of possible tissue donors greatly exceeds potential organ donors. Each tissue donor can positively affect more than 200 people. Unfortunately, the need for life saving organs far outweighs the number of donors. 

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Organ and Tissue Donation Designation Process (Continued)

Approximately 12,000 Americans die annually from causes that leave them able to donate organs. Many of these individuals are not included in the organ transplant database because their families do not know or understand the deceased's wishes. Often, the possibility of organ donation is not discussed because people do not like to think about their own death. Other people do not discuss donation because they do not understand how the process works.

Some states, like Virginia, have established a computer donor registry. In May of 1994, the Department of Motor Vehicles started the registry in accordance with state law. Now, when you apply for a permit, license, or ID card you will be asked for your donor preference. Your preference is logged in the registry for medical personnel to access in the case of a fatal collision. At that time, they can address the issue with the surviving family members.

While support for organ donation is getting stronger, there are still more than 60,000 people waiting for a transplant. The shortage of donors is due, in part, to the misperception that medical personnel only need the donor card to use tissues or organs. 

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Organ and Tissue Donation Designation Process (Continued)

The fact of the matter is that the family must consent to organ donation. Even when a signed donor card is present, procurement organizations must get permission from the next of kin. In a survey regarding organ donation, 93% of respondents said they would honor the wishes of a family member who desired to donate, however, only 47% would donate without having discussed the issue previously. For this reason, it is crucial that you discuss your intentions with your family. Did you realize that a simple conversation can save lives? Generally, less than 40% deaths meeting criteria for organ donation actually become donors.

The Gift of Life

Technology now allows us to transplant at least 19 kinds of tissue or organ: skin, cornea, bone, bone marrow, blood, kidney, heart, lung, pancreas, liver, small bowel and heart valve. Now, one of the most complex medical procedures is no longer experimental. Despite the technological advances and routine nature of some of these surgeries, the need for donations still far exceeds the available donors. Every 16 minutes someone in the United States is added to the waiting list. Ten people on the list will die today because they do not receive a transplant.

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Organ and Tissue Donation Designation Process (Continued)

Donating an organ or tissue is truly a gift of life. As such, most religions support organ donation and no major religion opposes it. The donor is able to designate which organs and tissues he or she would be willing to donate but the donor should not worry that the process will disfigure the body. A deceased organ donor's body is treated with the greatest of care and being an organ donor does not interfere with funeral services or open casket memorial services. Donor and recipient families who express an interest may even be able to meet to celebrate the life of the donor and the continued life of the recipient.

It is important to note that two independent doctors with no affiliation to the organ procurement organization (OPO) must certify that a potential donor is deceased before any action will be taken toward organ donation. Individuals on life support may not necessarily be donor candidates. Some conditions like coma or vegetative states may offer hope of recovery so patients in these conditions would not be considered for organ donation. Conversely, a patient who is brain dead has no chance of recovery or survival, while the body may be kept alive on a machine, the patient is not truly alive because the brain is no longer functioning. This patient's family may wish to discuss organ donation with a hospital staff member, counselor, or representative from the OPO.

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Organ and Tissue Donation Designation Process (Continued)

Hundreds of lives are being saved or enhanced by the organs and tissues of just one donor. Donor cells, tissues, and organs are matched to recipients through and extensive process involving medical need, blood type, and in some cases, tissue typing. The American Medical Association (AMA) prioritizes recipients according to urgency of need and low risk of organ or tissue rejection. The transplant waiting list includes people of every age, race, blood type, and both genders. There is a statistical correlation between population groups and specific organs.

For instance, men are more likely to suffer a heart attack and comprise 80% of those waiting for a heart. Because characteristics are so specific for matching organs, there is a need for donations from ever segment of society. If you choose to donate, you can be certain, should the time come, you would be able to help many people. A special computerized national network, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), based in Richmond, Virginia, coordinates organ distribution. Regional organ procurement agencies and recovery centers utilize UNOS to match donated organs and potential recipients. There is no cost to the donor, the donor's family, or the estate for donation. Neither the donor nor his family may receive any payment for the donation - it is a gift, and as such, no cost or payment to the family is involved.

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Discussion questions - Jot down answers to the following questions and keep these notes for your records:

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Pre-Driving Checks

Objective: The student will become familiar with the standard controls in a car. The student will be able to describe how to properly adjust the driver seat and mirrors. The student will describe the importance of properly wearing a seatbelt and the student will be able to list the steps required to start a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

In this section, we will begin to master the operational performance skill. At the conclusion of this section, the new driver should be able to identify the basic components of a vehicle and explain their functions. Blind spots will be defined with an explanation of how to compensate for them.

Texas Topic - Preparing to Operate the Vehicle. The student will recognize the necessity of making routine vehicle checks and adjustments prior to and after entering the vehicle; will identify and respond appropriately to alert symbols, warning symbols, vehicle control devices and safety devices; will understand and control vehicle balance and vehicle operating spaces; and appropriately apply the techniques of vehicle reference points to establish roadway position and vehicle placement.

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The Checklist

Begin with the vehicle-safety checklist provided at the end of this section. The purpose of this checklist is to ensure, through inspection, that you can identify a vehicle that is safe to operate. THESE ITEMS ARE THE MINIMUM.

To ensure your vehicle meets all safety requirements, frequent inspections should be conducted of all systems outlined in your vehicle owner's manual. As you use the checklist, explain how and why each item is to be checked. The vehicle should not be driven if any of the systems do not meet the minimum criteria listed in the checklist.

Proper Seat Position

Adjust the seat until your feet can comfortably touch the pedals. Some new drivers need extra help in seeing over the dashboard or reaching the pedals. You may need pillows to assist in this. Now adjust the seat back so that it is far enough back for your wrist to rest on the top of the steering wheel when your arm is comfortably extended. Your body should be at least 10 inches from the steering wheel if you have a driver side airbag. This is your proper seat position.

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Interior Controls

Interior Controls

When you insert your key in the ignition and turn it to the “on” or “accessories” position, your dashboard will illuminate with warning lights and alert symbols. Look at the instrument panel below. You should be familiar with all controls and safety devices within the interior of the vehicle, and able to explain the function of each component.

Alert Lights and Warning Symbols

Temperature light or gauge- This light/gauge warns you when the coolant in the engine is too hot or too low. If it comes on, pull off the road when safe and get professional help. Caution: never attempt to remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot. The pressure and hot steam may cause severe upper torso and facial burns.

Oil pressure warning light or gauge- This light/gauge warns you when the oil is not circulating at the proper pressure or there is not enough oil. This light/gauge does not tell you the amount of oil in the engine. It is recommended that you not drive too many miles under this condition.

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Alert Lights and Warning Symbols (Continued)

Temperature light or gauge- This light/gauge warns you when the coolant in the engine is too hot or too low. If it comes on, pull off the road when safe and get professional help. Caution: never attempt to remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot. The pressure and hot steam may cause severe upper torso and facial burns.

Oil pressure warning light or gauge- This light/gauge warns you when the oil is not circulating at the proper pressure or there is not enough oil. This light/gauge does not tell you the amount of oil in the engine. It is recommended that you not drive too many miles under this condition.

Alternator/Generator warning light or gauge- Your vehicle's electrical system is in trouble if this light comes on or the gauge shows "discharge" while the engine is running.

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Alert Lights and Warning Symbols (Continued)

Brake System Warning Light- This warning light serves two purposes:

Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) Light- Alert light illuminates prior to start; warning light after start.

Air Bag Warning Light- Alert light illuminates prior to start; warning light after start.

"Service Engine Soon" Light- Warning light illuminates prior to or after start.

Door Ajar Light- Warning light illuminates prior to or after start.

Horn - The horn should be used as a warning device ONLY, and not to be used casually. The horn is used to warn oncoming traffic on tight, blind curves. The audible distance of the horn should be taken under consideration when using it as a warning device.

Low Fuel Warning Light- Warning light illuminates prior to or after start.


Lights and Signals

Your vehicles light system is your primary means of communicating with the world outside your car and it is your best tool for seeing and being seen. The light system includes both interior and exterior lights.

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Lights and Signals (Continued)

Most of the interior lights are found on your dashboard and were discussed in the previous section. Other interior lights may include a dome light and reading lights. Many drivers prefer that all interior "comfort" lights remain off while driving because they may affect the driver's night vision or produce unnecessary glare.

Exterior lights include headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, parking lights, emergency flashers, and in some cases side marker lights and mirror-mounted signals.

Maintaining your light system  starts with your car battery. Although most modern batteries are "maintenance free," you will still need to remove any corrosion from the battery terminals and make sure the cables are connected firmly. Brush the corrosion off with a wire brush or dissolve it by pouring a soft drink over it. Some mechanics will tell you to place a penny on your battery between the terminals. That penny will collect most of the corrosion that is naturally generated on the terminals. Whenever you change the oil, change your penny as well. Older batteries may require that you add water to maintain them. Check the battery once a month for an appropriate fluid level and add water when necessary.

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Lights and Signals (Continued)

Your engine will monitor your electrical system through the engine control module or computer. The check engine light will illuminate if a problem is detected. These problems are best diagnosed by a certified mechanic.

Keep your exterior lights clean and check them once a week to make sure they work. Dirty lenses can reduce light output by up to 90%.

Rearview Mirrors

Once the seats are properly adjusted and you have checked your interior controls, adjust the mirrors. Traffic needs to be viewed clearly from the rear view mirror for at least 200 feet. Set the inside mirror so that it encompasses the entire back window. You may have been taught to align the outside mirrors in a position that allows a small portion of the side of the vehicle to be seen. This gives a point of reference when attempting to judge distance and posi­tion of other vehicles. It also overlaps the view of the side and rear view mirrors.

The pictures on this page demonstrate a different mirror orientation. These mirrors are aligned according to Blind spot and Glare Elimination (BGE) settings. Starting with the above mirror setting, adjust your side mirrors out approximately 15 degrees. This will widen your field of vision and reduce the mirror blind spot.

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Blind Spots

To demonstrate the effectiveness of BGE mirror settings, take a moment to identify the blind spots to the driver's view with traditional mirror settings then repeat the exercise with BGE settings.

Front of Vehicle:

Rear of Vehicle:

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Blind Spots (Continued)

Now let's look at the blind spots to the sides of the vehicle.

Left Side of Vehicle:

Right Side of Vehicle:

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Blind Spots (Continued)

To compensate for the front and rear blind spots, the driver must check the front before pulling forward from a parking slot and ALWAYS CHECK BEHIND THE REAR OF THE VEHICLE BEFORE BACKING OUT OF A PARKING SLOT OR DRIVEWAY. A quick check before entering the vehicle is the way to be sure all is clear. Many pets, toys and tragically, even children themselves, have met their fate behind a backing vehicle.

Texas Topic - Protecting Occupants. The student will list proper use for vehicle occupant protection devices; associate occupant protection to seatbelts and vehicular and roadway technology; and demonstrate proper use of a seatbelt and distinguish occupant protection devices as crash survival mechanisms.


Seat Belts

After adjusting the mirrors, buckle-up. Statistics show that many teenagers do not wear seatbelts. Here is where peer pressure rears its ugly head. The prospects of looking wimpish or uncool by wearing a seat belt are apparently more frightening to some teens than ending up in a crash. This is unfortunate. Occupants are five times more likely to be killed in a crash when not buckled in.

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Seat Belts (Continued)

Don't be surprised if parents link wearing the seat belt with the privilege to drive. BESIDES, "IT'S THE LAW." You must establish a habit early in your driving that the seatbelt must be buckled before turning the ignition and starting the car. Texas Law now requires all passengers to wear a seat belt.

To properly wear a seatbelt, the belt must be positioned low and tight across the lap. The shoulder strap should lie snugly across the chest and rest against the collar bone without rubbing on the neck. Many vehicles today have seatbelt height adjustments to make belt use more comfortable.

Seat Belt Use Statistics from

Research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on occupant protection use from 1995 to 2004 confirms there is a strong positive correlation between the restraint use of an adult driver and that of young children in the vehicle. Among fatally injured children from birth to 15, the research revealed the following:

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Seat Belts (Continued)

Seat Belt Use Statistics from

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Seat Belts (Continued)

Seat Belt Use Statistics from

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Seat Belts (Continued)

Seat Belt Use Statistics from

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Starting the Vehicle

Automatic Transmission 

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Starting the Vehicle (Continued)

Standard Transmission

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Steering: Proper Hand Position

Opinions vary as to exactly what constitutes proper hand position on the steering wheel. Your parents probably grew up with the 10:00 / 2:00 position. This position is no longer preferred because deploying airbags may throw the driver's hands into his face. We recommend the 9:00 / 3:00 position. Now that driver side airbags are standard equipment in the steering wheels of new cars, the 8:00 / 4:00 hand position has become an acceptable option.

Either of these positions, or anywhere between them, is a good hand position as long as the student is comfortable. Try several hand positions while parked. You and your parents need to talk about the pros and cons of each and understand their expectations of you. Do not drive with only one hand on the steering wheel, wrists crossed, or both hands at the 12:00 position. Again, airbags are the factor. Should the airbag deploy, you want to be sure the hands are directed out or down, not in the driver's face.

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Steering: Proper Hand Position (Continued)

We recommend that you steer using the modified hand-to-hand method. We call it "modified" because you never actually bring your right hand to contact your left hand. Parents were probably taught hand-over-hand and, prior to driver side airbags, that was acceptable. In today's automobile it is important to keep your hands away from the top of the steering wheel. If the airbag deploys, you will likely punch yourself in the face with the force of the airbag's deployment as well as the force of your own forward motion in the vehicle.

When using modified hand-to-hand steering to turn, the left hand grasps the wheel between 7 and 8 o'clock and the right hand grasps the wheel between 4 and 5 o'clock. Depending on the direction of the turn, the right or left hand pushes the wheel up and the opposite hand slides up, grasps the wheel and pulls down to continue the turn but you never bring your hands above the 11 and 1 position. While the pulling hand moves down, the hand that initially pushed up slides back toward its original position to make adjustments as needed. Simply reverse the modified hand-to-hand process to bring the vehicle onto your intended path. Initially, you may be confused about modified hand-to-hand steering.

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Steering: Proper Hand Position (Continued)

Parents, if your teen is shuffling the steering wheel, gently correct him and encourage him to use the full range of motion. It may also help to have him focus on the smoothness of the turn.

With the new driver's hands positioned at 7/9 and 3/5, a more natural seated position, there tends to be less muscle stress, hence less weaving in a lane. With the arms next to the body, it is more natural to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Since the hands and arms never cross over the steering wheel there is less chance of injury to the face induced by the hands or arms in the event of a frontal crash in a vehicle equipped with a driver side air bag.

Practice proper hand position and steering method using a frisbee, paper plate, or other disk or wheel before you get behind the wheel of a car.

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Discussion questions - Jot down answers to the following questions and keep these notes for your records:

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Texas Topic - Standard Vehicle Reference Points. The student will utilize standard vehicle reference points to determine and execute lane placement, stopping position, and turning maneuvers.

Standard Vehicle Reference Points

Objective: The student will describe the standard reference points used to determine a vehicles front limit, rear limit and lane position. The student will also be able to list 10 steps required to secure a vehicle.

Use Reference Points to Determine your Vehicle's Position

New drivers often have trouble making smooth turns, changing lanes, angle parking, and parallel parking because they do not know how the vehicles they drive spatially relate to the roadway. It is impossible to actually see where your vehicle is on the road; so you have to determine your position another way. Reference points have been defined to help the new driver gain that spatial awareness. The points we use are standardized. By all means, take your family vehicle to a parking lot and use the painted lines to establish your own personal reference points with regards to your vehicle. You may find another reference point that works better for you. If so, use your personalized reference point instead of the standard.

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Standard Vehicle Reference Points (Continued)

The first area we will define is the vehicle's front limit. You need to know your front limit whenever you are stopping, at an intersection, and when you park. When you stop your vehicle with the front even with a line or curb, the line or curb should appear to run under the left side mirror or into the right side corner post. The position of the line with relation to your mirror or corner post is your reference point for your front limit.

Knowing your rear limit will help you avoid collisions when you are backing your vehicle, lining up your rear bumper with a line or curb, parallel parking, or perpendicular parking. To determine your rear limit, look over your shoulder through your right and left rear windows to the curb or line you are trying to back to. Use both right and left views to fully orient you to the environment behind you.

Although rare, you may find one day find yourself on a one way street needing to curb park on the left side. On such an occasion, you would need a reference point for your left side, six inches from the curb. Line up the left curb or left lane boundary with the line between your vehicles left fender and hood (the gap between the hood and the fender). This should position you zero to six inches from the curb.

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Standard Vehicle Reference Points (Continued)

More often you will need to be 3 feet from curb on your left side as you drive. Most cars are approximately 6 feet wide and most roads are twelve feet wide. Centering your vehicle in your lane leaves approximately three feet on each side. To determine if you are three feet from the left side, use your left fender as your reference point. When you perceive the curb lined up with the fender itself, you should be about three feet from the left edge of your lane.

Your right side reference point three feet from curb is the mid point of your passenger's half of the hood, or 3/4ths the width of the hood from the driver side. When the lane boundary or curb appears to intersect your hood at this point, your vehicle is approximately 3 feet from the curb.

When parallel parking, you need to be able to tell when your right side is 6 inches from curb. The standard reference point for this position is center of your vehicle's hood. When positioned 6 to 8 inches away, the curb or line should appear to intersect the vehicle's hood at its center. If your vehicle has a hood ornament, the hood ornament is an even easier reference point.

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Standard Vehicle Reference Points (Continued)

Your reference points are not only important for parking, but they are vital for determining your lane position while driving. As mentioned previously, a "center lane position " is the normal lane position while driving. This position allows you to easily move left or right to avoid an obstacle in your path or an obstruction to your view. Use your reference points for both right and left positioning three feet from the lane boundary to determine a center lane position.

If you find an obstacle or obstruction on the right side of your lane, you will need to reposition your vehicle to the left lane position. This position is also helpful when you need to pass a pedestrian or vehicle stopped on the right side of the road. You may also choose the left lane position on a two lane street when you intend to turn left. Your lane position and turn signal will communicate your intent to other drivers. Use your reference point for left curb at six inches to help you maintain this position.

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Standard Vehicle Reference Points (Continued)

If you find an obstacle or obstruction on the left side of your lane, you will need to reposition your vehicle to the right lane position. This position is also helpful when you need to pass a vehicle stopped on the left side of the road. You may also choose the right lane position on a two lane street when you intend to turn right. Your lane position and turn signal will communicate your intent to other drivers. Use your reference point for right curb at six inches to help you maintain this position.

There are two other standard lane positions, far left and far right. These lane positions are used to avoid an obstruction in the middle of your lane, such as a broken-down vehicle or a collision. Depending on all of the risk factors, choose the safest side of your lane and move your vehicle to the side so that it straddles the lane marking. When you have cleared the obstruction, resume your normal lane position.

Use reference points to help you decide when to turn. When turning right, you will clear the right curb or lane boundary if you begin your turn when the right front tire is even with the curb. Since you can not see your right front tire from the driver's perspective, use your right mirror frame as your reference point. When the mirror frame is even with the curb, begin your turn.

When turning left, you will need to cross at least one lane before entering your intended travel lane. As a driver, when you are approximately 2/3rds of the way across the preceding lane, begin turning your wheels to the left. Alternatively, when your left mirror frame visually intersects the left edge of your intended lane, you may begin turning.

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Securing Your Vehicle

You now know how to enter a vehicle and prepare it for driving. You also understand how to position your vehicle in a lane and use reference points to maintain a proper position. Before closing this section, we need to cover the sequence of events you must follow to secure your vehicle when you have finished driving. The list below is an easy procedure for securing your vehicle:

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Securing Your Vehicle (Continued)

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Discussion questions - Jot down answers to the following questions and keep these notes for your records:

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Texas Topic - Controlling Traffic Flow. The student knows laws and procedures required to control traffic flow and establish appropriate car positions in the driving environment.

Traffic Flow: Traffic flow is defined as the study of how vehicles, drivers, the highway, traffic control devices, and signage all interact, with the intent to understand and develop a road network that allows for efficient movement of traffic with minimal traffic congestion and maximum safety.

Safety Rules When Passing: All drivers should wait until the right time to make the decision to pass. Patience is the key to good passing. Passing at the wrong time or place can be deadly. Take the time to look at the situation, and make sure the way is clear. Signal, and let all drivers around you aware that you are about to make the maneuver. This might require the driver to tap on the horn, warning other motorists of intention to pass.

If you feel you need to return to your original lane, avoid cutting too rapidly. TRC 544.011 states if on a highway having more than one lane with vehicles moving in the same direction, TxDOT or a local authority may place a sign that directs slower traffic to drive in a lane other than the left lane. The sign must read “left lane for passing only.

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Passing on the Right: In Texas, it is lawful to pass on the right under conditions permitting such movement without conflict.

Being Passed: DO NOT INCREASE YOUR SPEED when you are passed. Stay in your lane, by all means necessary. When you are being passed on the left side, with unmarked lanes, move slightly to the right as far as you can. Make it a safe experience for other drivers to pass you.

Turns: Many accidents occur because of drivers to who do not turn correctly. In order to make a good turn, you must:

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Standing, Stopping, or Parking: Accidents do not always occur from a moving vehicle. Improperly parked vehicles can also cause accidents. When leaving a vehicle, the driver should set the parking brake immediately. This will ensure that the vehicle is stable and not budge when bumped, or even pushed. Turn off the vehicle and remove the key. Check for oncoming traffic before attempting to get out of the vehicle.

Never Stop, Stand, or Park a Vehicle:

Never Park or Stand a Vehicle:

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Unattended Motor Vehicle: It is against Texas law to leave a vehicle unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from ignition, and setting the brake, or without turning the front wheels to the curb when parking on an incline.

Parking on Hills: When parking down hill, always turn your wheels to the curb. Parking up hill with a curb, turn back of wheels to the curb. Parking up hill without a curb, turn your wheels to the right.

Leaving a Parking Space: Always look behind the vehicle when backing up. Children often play between parked cars, so be especially watchful for someone who might not be tall enough to appear behind your vehicle.

Speed: A good rule-of-thumb for speed is to normally drive the same as the mainstream of traffic. You should constantly be aware of how fast you are traveling. Often times, drivers will turn off this sense of awareness and lose track of how fast they are actually moving. Always obey speed limits. Always keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. The faster your vehicle is moving, the more distance you should be keeping the car ahead of you. A good driver should know when they are traveling too close.

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Speed (Continued)

Always slow down when the road is wet. Roads become slippery when wet, making your vehicle more difficult to control. At night, do no overdrive your range of vision. Always adjust speed according to your own physical condition and the condition of the environment and vehicle. Do not drive when you are tired.

Speed Limits: All drivers in Texas are required to obey posted speed limits. Speed limits are designed to accommodate for the orderly flow of traffic under normal driving conditions. Speed must always be adjusted under periods of traffic, bad weather, or low visibility. All drivers must be aware that cities have the authority to change these limits at any time.

The following shows the maximum speed limits for all vehicles under different conditions:

  • Urban Areas - 30 mph during the day, 30 mph during the night

  • Beaches and Alleys - 15 mph during the day, 15 mph during the night

  • Designated Rural Interstate Highways - 70 mph during the day, 65 mph during the night

  • Urban Interstate and Federal or State Highways - 70 mph during the day, 65 mph during the night

  • Designated School Bus Speed - 60/50 (based on inspection rules)

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Special Driving Situations

Headlights: Do not travel the same speed during the night, as you would during the day. Make sure you can stop within the distance that is lighted by your headlights. Headlights should be dimmed when you are within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle, when following within 300 feet behind another vehicle, or when driving in fog, heavy rain, sleet, dust, snow, or lighted roads.

Freeway Driving: In Texas, a freeway is defined as "A divided arterial highway with full control of access and with no crossings at grade". These super highways are built for maximum safety, but they must be respected. You must always yield the right-of-way to vehicles already on the freeway.

As you enter the change lane, keep to the right, signal left, and when clear, increase your speed to safetly merge with the flow of traffic. Always signal, and look two times before changing lanes. Use the right-hand lane if you want to drive at the mimimum speed limit or below the normal flow of traffic. Use the middle (or left) lane.

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Winter Driving: We are all aware that winter driving conditions create problems that are abnormal to everyday driving. Be prepared to use the proper tires or chains for deep snow and ice situations.

It is critical to slow down when driving in ice or snow. It is also even more important to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.

Always adjust your speed that will allow you to stop within your following interval or one that allows you to steer without losing traction. Before traveling in incliment weather, make sure to clear all windows of any ice or snow to allow for the best possible line of visibility around your vehicle.

Windshield wipers and defrosters are a MUST during the winter, and should be checked for failures BEFORE beginning your trip.

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The Importance of Auto Maintenance

Objective: The student will describe the importance of routine auto maintenance. The student will describe the expected operator and scheduled maintenance for the following systems: lubricating, exhaust, tires, and cooling.

Repair shop's truck passes 300,000 miles

Bobby Holt has nursed his beat-up red Nissan truck through more than 323,000 miles, enough to drive around the world 14 times. Just exactly how is that done? He drives full-time for AutoTek, running parts for the auto repair shop on Arapahoe Road in Denver, Colorado. But even the most conscientious car owner would be ecstatic reaching half that mileage.

It's the kind of question that gets AutoTek's Bob Leonard, a manager, nearly shouting in your ear. "Have we done anything special to that truck? No! But we do routine maintenance, and we do it religiously," Leonard said.

The only thing different about the Nissan is that when it needs an oil change, Holt doesn't have to call in for an appointment. Everything else, since the truck was new in 1989, has been by-the-book service. Neither the engine nor the transmission has been rebuilt or suffered a major repair, even though AutoTek also owns an engine-rebuilding business. The clutch has now been changed twice.

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The Importance of Auto Maintenance (Continued)

Repair shop's truck passes 300,000 miles

"Bobby's real easy on a clutch," said another AutoTek manager, Kent Davis, who plasters big numbers on a billboard at Arapahoe and Syracuse Street whenever the Nissan hits the goose eggs yet again. "And those are city miles. It's a lot easier to go easy on a clutch driving out on the highway."

The secrets are boring, but listen to them anyway and then finish your broccoli while you're at it. Change the oil every 3,000 miles. Yes, the car manuals say you can now go 7,500 miles, but the fine print below that says: Except under conditions of high heat or heavy dust or mountain driving. "So basically everything in Denver is in the fine print," Leonard said.

Auto Tek also mixes in an oil additive and a fuel-injector cleaner, liquids they call cheap for the benefit. Air filters are the bane of many oblivious car owners, who seldom worry about them until the desk clerk at a lube and filter joint shows them a filthy sample.

"Air filters? They say every 30,000, but it's like your vacuum cleaner at home. It depends on what you're sucking up," Leonard said. "If it's badly discolored and a mound of dust comes out when you tap it on the floor, change it."

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The Importance of Auto Maintenance (Continued)

Repair shop's truck passes 300,000 miles

"Air filters? They say every 30,000, but it's like your vacuum cleaner at home. It depends on what you're sucking up," Leonard said. "If it's badly discolored and a mound of dust comes out when you tap it on the floor, change it."

Change the spark plugs every 30,000, Davis says. Rotate the tires, eat your brussel sprouts, and then rotate the tires again, he says. The Nissan gets rotated every 5,000, because the people at AutoTek hate things that wobble. They'll polish an engine block down to a four-tenths of a gram imbalance because they loathe things that wobble.

Coolant flush? Really important, Davis says. The coolant will cool forever, but the additives that prevent the chemicals from corroding surrounding metal do wear out. "It's the kind of thing where if you get it done, you'll drive out of the shop and nothing feels different," Leonard said. "But you'll notice it if you don't do it."

Replace the timing belt between 60,000 and 90,000 miles. Timing belts are like an old water heater: They work fine up until the last second, and the next second your basement is a wet bar. "If it snaps, the piston will run into the valves and do serious damage," Davis said. Leonard added helpfully, "Mitsubishi has one that will just grenade the whole engine."

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The Importance of Auto Maintenance (Continued)

Repair shop's truck passes 300,000 miles

"Air filters? They say every 30,000, but it's like your vacuum cleaner at home. It depends on what you're sucking up," Leonard said. "If it's badly discolored and a mound of dust comes out when you tap it on the floor, change it."

Change the spark plugs every 30,000, Davis says. Rotate the tires, eat your brussel sprouts, and then rotate the tires again, he says. The Nissan gets rotated every 5,000, because the people at AutoTek hate things that wobble. They'll polish an engine block down to a four-tenths of a gram imbalance because they loathe things that wobble.

Coolant flush? Really important, Davis says. The coolant will cool forever, but the additives that prevent the chemicals from corroding surrounding metal do wear out. "It's the kind of thing where if you get it done, you'll drive out of the shop and nothing feels different," Leonard said. "But you'll notice it if you don't do it."

Replace the timing belt between 60,000 and 90,000 miles. Timing belts are like an old water heater: They work fine up until the last second, and the next second your basement is a wet bar. "If it snaps, the piston will run into the valves and do serious damage," Davis said. Leonard added helpfully, "Mitsubishi has one that will just grenade the whole engine."

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The Importance of Auto Maintenance (Continued)

Repair shop's truck passes 300,000 miles

The auto test director for Consumer's Union in New York said the AutoTek advice is sound; though its test have never proven the benefit of oil or fuel additives. Draining and replacing the transmission and brake fluids periodically is also a big help to a car, said Consumer's Union David Champion.

There are a few models of Japanese pickup trucks from the late 1980s that have proven longevity, but anybody who gets past 300,000 miles deserves some attention, Champion said.

The AutoTek mechanics are paid well to coddle the Nissan and customers cars: "Our lowest-paid guy gets $48,000. Our top guy in the shop will get $100,000 this year; most everybody makes between $50,000 and $75,000, and we're having trouble hiring people at that," Leonard said.

That may sound like doctors' wages, but Leonard laughs at that one. "Doctors have two models to memorize and always have. We've got 50,000, and there are always more."

The message to the customer, though, is simple. Stop tailgating the red Nissan and pull over to read the unopened manual in your glove compartment. "You don't even have to understand it," Leonard said. "Just follow the schedule ."

Note: Our instructors share this article with you for the ideas and advice included. We strongly recommend that you follow the last paragraph. While maintenance is not inexpensive, it is much less expensive than replacing your $5,000.00 engine!

Copyright Denver Post, June 24, 1999, used with permission.

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Operator Maintenance

As the owner/operator of a vehicle, there is a lot that you can do to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Some operator maintenance concepts are so routine, you do not think of them as maintenance, such as cleaning your windshield or filling your fuel tank.

As the operator, you can do a lot to maintain your vehicle to include checking fluids, cleaning battery terminals, maintaining your tires, and visually inspecting your car with the vehicle safety checklist that follows. Your vehicle owner's manual is the first resource you should go to for operator maintenance. This section should help you delve deeper into maintenance related issues.

Lubricating System

Do you know how to check your engine's oil? How much oil should you have? When should you change it? These questions can be definitively answered by your vehicle owner's manual. Generally, you will check your oil with a dip stick when your engine is cold (not running for approximately a half an hour). Make sure your car is on level ground. When you locate the dip stick (it has a hooked or circular handle) pull it out and wipe off the oil that is currently on it. What color is the oil? Normal oil should be brown or honey colored. If it is dark brown or black, you should change it soon. Put the dip stick back in and pull it out again.

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Operator Maintenance (Continued)

Lubricating System

Now look at the gauge at the bottom of the dipstick. The oil should be anywhere between the "Add" line and the "Fill" line. If the oil is at or below the "Add" line, you need to put more oil in. Most vehicles need one quart of oil if the oil is at the "Add" line. Running your vehicle on too little oil can overheat your engine or even destroy it. If it is above the "Fill" line, you have too much oil. Do not add any more.

The transmission fluid  is checked through a dipstick much like the oil. Make sure your vehicle is on level ground. Unlike the oil, transmission fluid is checked when the engine is hot (has been running for 5 minutes or more). Never overfill the transmission fluid. If you discover that the fluid is low, get your transmission checked and the fluid level brought to normal. Because of the technical nature of the transmission, we recommend that you let a mechanic add or change your transmission fluid. Adding the wrong kind of transmission fluid can damage your car.

Exhaust System

Your tail pipe, muffler, exhaust pipe, and catalytic converter should be visually inspected annually for pinholes, and rust. Climb under the car and see if the exhaust system is loose. As you drive, listen to see if your car sounds unusually loud.

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Operator Maintenance (Continued)


Tire maintenance involves four main categories: Pressure, Alignment and balance, Rotation, and Tread (PART). When checking tire pressure, merely looking at the tire or thumping it does not give you appropriate information. The required tire pressure can be found on the tire sidewall, vehicle owner's manual, or tire placard on the door edge, door post, or fuel door of your car. 

Use a tire gauge to check the pressure. Check the pressure first thing in the morning. If the tires are hot from driving or being in the sun too long, the pressure will read high. If the pressure is low, add air to the required level. When you are finished, look the tire over for uneven wear, nails, cuts, bulges, or gouges.

Wheel alignment refers to the way the tires line up with the body of the vehicle and with each other. If your vehicle pulls to one side or if the treadwear is uneven, alignment may be the problem. Misalignment can be the result of a severe jolt to the tire (such as hitting a pothole) or it can be a process that develops over time. 

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Operator Maintenance (Continued)


A knowledgeable mechanic can put your vehicle on a mechanics rack and measure the alignment. Another factor that can affect your tire's wear and performance is balance. This is the even distribution of weight around the tires circumference. A tire and wheel system that is out of balance can wobble slightly or wear with a "cupping" pattern.

A tire dealer will normally balance your tires when they are purchased by attaching small metal weights to the wheel. If your vehicle vibrates through certain speeds (such as 55 to 60 miles per hour) you probably need to get your tires balanced. A regular service schedule should include tire rotation approximately once every other oil change. This is the shifting of the tires from one position to another.

Rotation is generally done by a tire mechanic who understands the appropriate patters for different vehicle and tire types. If you choose to rotate your own tires, you are generally safe switching the front and rear tires on the same side of the vehicle. 

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Operator Maintenance (Continued)


Checking your tread is fourth part of tire maintenance. The tire tread should be more than 1/16th inch deep across the tire. If one side is worn down more than the other you may have an alignment problem. If both sides are worn more than the middle, you probably do not have enough pressure in the tires. If the center is worn more than the sides, you have too much pressure. Any bulges in the tread or bubbles in the sidewall indicate that your tires treads may have separated and the tire is at risk to blow out. Excessively worn tires will not grip the road surface or channel water out from under the tire properly. They are more prone to slide or hydroplane and must be replaced.

Cooling System

Your cooling system is essential for the proper performance of your vehicle as well as your comfort. The cooling system will keep your engine temperature stabilized for efficient operation at all speeds. Too much heat can destroy an engine, too little robs you of fuel economy. Your cooling system should be checked whenever you have your oil changed. Ask the mechanic to look at the coolant levels, drive belts, radiator, radiator hoses, and heater hoses

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Operator Maintenance (Continued)

Cooling System

Depending on the age of your vehicle, you will want to change your coolant every two years (older models) or every 5 years (newer models). It is smart to check your coolant each Spring and Fall if you live in a colder climate. Make sure your antifreeze level is adjusted to handle the coldest expected temperatures for the area you live in. Problems with your cooling system will likely first show up on your temperature gauge. Unusual readings indicate a problem with the engine such as coolant loss, low oil level, sticky thermostat, or a broken drive belt. If your engine overheats, turn it off and have the car serviced immediately.

Steering and Wheel Alignment - A wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels to match them perpendicular to the ground and parellel to each other. These adjustments are important to conduct periodically to maximize the life of the vehicles tires and to enable a smoother, straight and level ride. When new tires are purchase, it is essential that a wheel alignment is administered.

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Operator Maintenance (Continued)

Smog Control Devices for Internal Combustion Engine

A smog control device helps to draw gases accumulating in the crankcase to control air pollution. It is important to make sure that all smog control devices are intact and connected properly. You can normally ask a mechanic to look for any descrepencies in the smog control device.

Drive Belts

Engine belts wrap around pulleys and transfer power from one part or system of the engine to another. Your engine may have a single "serpentine" belt that runs your fan, air conditioning unit, alternator, water pump and power steering or it may have multiple belts running individual systems. Regardless of the number of belts in the engine, they all need to be checked periodically. Belts should be checked when the engine is cool. Inspect them for cracks and dry rotting. Cracked or rotted belts must be replaced. Push on the belts to see if they "give" more than an inch in any direction - indicating that the belt is loose. A loose belt needs to be tightened. Regardless of their apparent condition, belts should be replaced between 50,000 and 60,000 miles of use.

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Operator Maintenance (Continued)

Drive Belts

Ask yourself...

Which of the following indicates that an engine belt must be replaced:

At what mileage should belts be replaced?

Change a Tire

Use your vehicle owner's manual to determine the proper procedures for changing a tire. Generally, those procedures will include:

Your owner's manual will also tell you the location and operating procedures for your jack, the proper placement for your jack, and the location of your spare tire. Change a tire on your family vehicle with parental supervision and fill out the tire changing form.

Calculating Overall Operational Costs

Calculating the overall cost of operating a vehicle can be a bit time consuming but well worth its weight in gold. This reflects the cost primarily of stop-and-go driving conditions. Depreciation, taxes, finance charges, registration, insurance and license fees are (ownership) costs that are incurred regardless of how often you drive your vehicle. Operating costs include gas, oil, maintenance and tires that accumulate for each mile your vehicle is in operation. It is a good idea to keep track of these costs on a per-mile as well as an annual basis.

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Discussion questions - Jot down answers to the following questions and keep these notes for your records:

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Now download and print the Vehicle Safety Checklist. This guide is used to determine whether your vehicle is in working condition.

More Ways to Learn

The following activities are designed to enhance the teen driver's learning experience by incorporating a "hands-on" approach. Exercises marked with a double asterisk (**) are preferred exercises and may be testable. Suggested times are included in parenthesis. Parents, have your student driver take notes and develop a notebook for future reference.

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Behind the wheel and Supervised Practice:

Upon successful completion and mastery of Section 2, the student driver applies for and obtains a valid driver license or instruction permit from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Students without a valid driver license or instruction permit in his/her possession shall not receive behind the wheel training no matter where the instruction is provided as specified by the Texas Administrative Code. (The licensing process can not be credited as classroom behind the wheel or in-car observation training, although identified as an instruction objective).

PARENTS, Print out the Guidelines for Behind-the-Wheel Instruction. This will be used while conducting the drivers evaluation on the student.

Please print out and use The Driver Evaluation document to examine your students progress while behind-the-wheel training. While the student is completing driving hours, they must be recorded in the Drive Time Log Sheet for this section. Print out the Instructions for entering information in the Drive Time Log Sheet.

Are you ready for your Section 2 test? After you have passed your test, you may move on to the next section. You may not continue until you have passed your test with a 70% or above. Good luck!

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