Holiday Drinking and Driving

Holiday Drinking and Driving

When most people think about the holidays, they think of family, friends, giving, good food, and lots of traditions. The holidays are also marked with alcohol and long drives to parties and gatherings.

Unfortunately, these two instances combine more often than most people think and create a lot of tragedy during a season that is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. To help keep everyone safer on the roads this year, here is a special invitation to do your part.

What:

Don’t drink and drive. While it’s understandable that some people need to drink to survive family or work holiday functions, it’s never a good idea to drive when you are intoxicated. By speaking up to others and being mindful of your own actions, you are keeping yourself and those around you safe.  Choosing to not drink and drive can save lives.

Who:

Everyone who gets behind the wheel of a car. If you plan on drinking, the best thing to do is make some important decisions beforehand. If someone in your group is willing to skip the drinks, designate them to be the driver. If no one wants to miss out, arrange to have a friend or family member come pick you up, call you an Uber, taxi, or another driving service. Don’t take a risk driving with alcohol in your system and don’t let anyone else either.

According to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, between 10-20% of alcohol consumed is done by underage drinkers. Also, the highest percentage of impaired drivers were between the ages of 21-24. These two numbers help society know that parents need to be involved, educating their children on keeping them and those around them safe.

When:

Anytime, but especially during the holidays. There is an increase of both minor and fatal collisions related to alcohol during this time of year. The days that most incidents occur are:

  • The days before and after Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas
  • New Year’s Eve/Early New Year’s Day

Statistics also show that the later it gets in the day, the more traffic stops there are from impaired driving. When one of these holidays falls on a weekend, the numbers also increase.

Where:

No matter how far you plan on driving, it is dangerous to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Make a pact with those you love that you will do your part to decrease the number of drunk drivers on the road.

Why:

Impaired driving is a fast way to ruin the holidays. Not only can the driver become hurt or killed, they also hurt or kill other innocent people too. The consequences of these actions are not always at the forefront of someone’s mind when they take a drink.

By giving everyone a reminder of the dangers of drunk driving, hopefully, people will take the initiative to plan before drinking to keep the roads safe. We want to make sure everyone has a safe holiday season and gets to celebrate with their family and friends.

Safe Traveling During the Holidays

Safe Traveling During the Holidays

The holidays are a time of year when families get together from all over the country. If you are going to be one of the many people taking a road trip, it is important that you get to your destination safely. Here are the do’s and the don’ts of driving during the holidays.

The Do’s

Car maintenance. The first thing you should do before hitting the road is take your car to a trusted mechanic. They should check all the fluid levels, run diagnostics on your vital systems, and recommend any major work that needs to be done.

If there is anything recommended within the time frame of your vacation, make sure it is done before leaving. This will help avoid any major problems while you are driving.

Plan ahead. The roads are going to be full of travelers, meaning you might have to deal with long bouts of traffic. Make sure you plan for these situations and give yourself time to reach your destination.

Keep a phone charger in your car so you won’t run out of battery. Load your phone up with everything you need, like apps for directions, an app for your insurance company for roadside assistance, and with phone numbers for hotels and family members.

Pack for emergencies. Beyond packing your bags, you should make sure you pack the car for emergencies. Keep medications up by the glove box for easily locating them when needed. Make sure you have extra snacks, water bottles, and blankets for emergencies. Have a first aid kit handy in case of injury.

It’s also a good idea to keep a spare credit card and some cash in the car somewhere, in case your wallet is stolen or misplaced.

The Don’ts

Drive impaired. While most people know not to drink and drive, there are other ways your driving is impaired that you can avoid. The main two are:

  • Driving drowsy. If you notice you are getting tired, stop for snacks, switch drivers, or pull over to rest for a bit before hitting the road again.
  • Texting and driving. Just avoid using your phone at all while driving. If you need to text, make a call, look up something, or anything else on your phone, hand it to a passenger, or wait until your next stop.

Break the Law. Getting a ticket while on vacation is a terrible memory and a big hassle. Make sure you don’t drive too fast and always wear your seatbelt.

Push the limits. Know when you can pass a rest stop and when you can’t. If you have little passengers in your car, make sure you stop and let them use the restroom. Pulling off a road to let them go isn’t always safe or wise.

Also, know the limits of your gas tank. Don’t pass a gas station thinking you’ll fill up at the next one if you are running low on gas. It may turn out that you are on the side of the road with an empty tank, far from any gas stations.

If you can follow these do’s and do not’s of traveling during the holidays, you can enjoy your time with family. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

A Guide to Winter Car Maintenance

A Guide To Winter Car Maintenance

Maintenance on your car during the winter is different than the summer. Most mechanics recommend doing different inspections and changes for both winter maintenance and summer maintenance. A lot of the maintenance you can do yourself, or hire a mechanic. Either way, here are some of the maintenance items to do to help get your car ready for winter from the top to the bottom.

Windshield Wipers

The windshield wipers on your car are only recommended for six months. Unfortunately, most people don’t think about changing their windshield wipers until they are in the middle of a storm and see their wipers aren’t doing a great job. Switching out your blades in the fall will help keep your windshield clean and your visibility great all through the cold season. Don’t forget to switch out the blade on your rear window too.

Two more things that affect visibility are ice on your windows and a dirty windshield. To keep visibility great is to make sure your windshield washing fluid is full. That way, when another car on the road splashes dirty slush on your car, you won’t be left with thick, dirty streaks. Also, make sure you have an ice scraper and snow brush in your car. This way, you are prepared for ice on the windows or coming out of the office to a snow-covered car.

Checking Fluids

The two most important fluids to check are the oil and coolant. These each serve a different purpose in your vehicle and are important to have at optimum levels during the winter.

  • Having the right amount of antifreeze and water mixture in your radiator will keep it from freezing.
  • If you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing, most mechanics recommend using a thinner oil to protect your engine.

Both fluid levels are going to be different for each style and type of vehicle, so make sure you check the recommended levels, types, and mixtures in your owner’s manual or talk to a trusted mechanic in your area.

Battery

Cold weather reduces the capacity of your battery, which is why many people must replace them during the winter. Make sure your battery is ready for winter by inspecting the fluid, cables, and terminals. Also be sure to check the battery itself for anything like cracks or breaks in the casing. Check the voltage by either using a handheld hydrometer or, if you have the ability, check the voltage on your dashboard.

Tires

If you live in an area that gets cold, you may have noticed before that lower temperatures deflate tires a little. With low air pressure, your tires don’t get great gas mileage, but they also increase the risk you take on a slick road. Make sure that you check and adjust to the recommended PSI level for each tire.

While you check the pressure on each tire, take some time to inspect the tread. Balding tires increase the danger on a wet road because they don’t have enough grip.

Depending on the area you live, consider switching all four tires to snow tires or all-season tires. This will help you have more control and grip on the road as you drive in wet and slippery conditions.

Finishing It Off

Once you have finished inspecting your tires, you have completed our general winter maintenance checklist. If you have noticed funny noises or problems with your car, make sure you take it to the mechanic so that you can get them resolved quickly. Don’t let a problem continue during any season, but during the winter you risk being stranded in the cold.

Halloween Safety Driving Tips

Halloween Safety Driving Tips

Whether you are planning on celebrating Halloween with a fun night of trick or treating, attending parties, or attending haunted venues, it’s a risky night to be out. Whether you unintentionally cause harm to others or get in an incident, there are dangers lurking on Halloween night. Here are five tips to keep your night a little less scary and a lot more fun.

Tips for Safe Driving

  1. Keep your headlights on. Many people don’t turn their headlights on until it’s dark, but visibility starts to decrease in the early evening hours. It is also hard for other drivers and pedestrians to see your vehicle, or distinguish if it’s running, so just keep your lights on. Many cars automatically have lights on, but if yours isn’t one of them, turn them on early.
  2. Drive slower than the posted limit. Speed limits are not required driving speeds. When there are crowds around, or a lot of children present, it is better to drive slower than the posted speed. In these situations, people are likely to step or run out in the road in front of your car, causing an incident if you are distracted or driving too fast.
  3. Park in marked spots. Haunted venues draw big crowds on Halloween night. If you are planning to attend, look for a marked spot to park your vehicle. This not only keeps your vehicle safer from getting hit, but it also prevents creating another hazard for other drivers.
  4. Never drive intoxicated. There are plenty of Halloween parties that offer alcohol. If you are planning to get behind a wheel, don’t drink or do drugs. If you are underage, you shouldn’t be participating in these activities anyway.
  5. Give yourself extra time to get there. To avoid unexpected delays or driving too fast to meet up with friends, give yourself extra time to get where you need to go.

Tips for Parents and Kids

  1. Stay on the sidewalk. Too many cars are going through the streets, not watching for pedestrians. It is always safer to stay on the sidewalk. If you are on roads without sidewalks, make sure you walk on the shoulder of the road, rather than in the middle.
  2. Don’t wear masks. Plenty of costumes come with a mask, but they limit how much you can see when you are walking around. If you have kids with masks on, or you’re wearing one yourself, take it off while you are walking around. This is especially true when crossing streets.
  3. Know where your kids are going. If you have older kids and teens that go out alone, make sure you know the route they are taking. Teach them how to stay safe by not going inside houses, stay in a group, and that if they feel in danger, they should leave the area, even on Halloween. If your teens are going to a party, make sure you know the parents and see if there will be any drinking or other harmful behaviors going on.
  4. Wear reflective or glowing gear. Another problem with so many pedestrians is that they are hard for drivers to see. Make sure that everyone has some sort of reflective gear or glow sticks on them. This also helps you keep track of your group more easily.
  5. Stay in groups. The term “safety in numbers” applies to Halloween too. The more eyes that are available to keep track of children and watch out for dangers, the better.

Remember to be safe and have a Happy Halloween!

Four Campaigns for National Teen Driver Safety Week

Four Campaigns for National Teen Driver Safety Week

National Teen Driver Safety Week for 2017 is October 15-21, which means states across the nation are gearing up for awareness. The purpose of this week is to encourage parents to have conversations with their teen drivers about how to stay safe behind the wheel of a car.

This was started to decrease the number of teens dying and causing incidents on the roads through the greatest dangers for teen drivers: alcohol, seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding, and the number of passengers in the car. Here are four useful campaigns are available to help address these issues.

1. 5 to Drive

Materials provided in the “5 to Drive” campaign highlight five post-it notes that parents can leave on the dashboard of their child’s car or just use as a reminder to discuss these issues. The five notes are:

  1. No Cell Phones
  2. No Extra Passengers
  3. No Speeding
  4. No Alcohol
  5. Buckle Up

These resources are available to parents, caregivers, teachers, and any safety advocate. Infographics are provided as well as supplemental information for teaching effectively and showing the dangers each presents. For parents, this helps establish ground rules for allowing their teen access to the vehicle.

2. Teens and Seat Belt Use

The focus of this campaign is strictly to address the benefits of wearing a seatbelt. In 2013, more than half of 15-19-year-olds who were killed in crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt. This is more than just about the driver too. Unfortunately, 90% of younger passengers in the vehicle (ages 13-19) aren’t restrained if the driver is not.

3. U Drive- U Text- U Pay

Distracted driving is a danger to everyone on the road and the biggest distraction is the cellphone. Texting and driving can take your eyes off the road for five seconds at a time, which is enough time to travel the length of a football field when driving at high speeds.

This campaign is focused on more than just teen drivers and focuses on men and women. It provides materials from law enforcement and focuses on consequences of distracted driving, which is gaining recognition as a serious and deadly problem across the nation.

4. The Ultimate Party Foul

While drinking and driving is never safe, this campaign focuses on teaching 16 and 17-year-old drivers that underage drinking and driving is “the ultimate Party Foul”. Laws mandate a minimum drinking age to help save lives, but people often disregard them. In 2013, 29% of drivers killed under the age of 21 had alcohol in their systems. This campaign provides useful materials for communities, parents, and schools to encourage drivers of all ages not to drink and drive.

 

If you have not taken the time to talk to your teen driver about these common, serious problems, National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great time to find events and resources in your area. Not finding anything in your area? The Traffic Safety Marketing (TSM) government site has more resources available, including fact sheets and talking points, sample news releases, and downloadable infographics to help you.

Driving Safety in School Zones

Driving Safety in School Zones

Students are returning to school everywhere across the United States, and since school zones, crosswalks, and school buses are most frequently used during the school months, it is important drivers remember the laws involving them. Keeping students safe should be everyone’s priority.

Schools and Speed Limits

Areas surrounding schools often experience heavy amounts of traffic around school start and end times. With so many children walking home or running to vehicles, it is important to drive at a slower speed. Pay special attention to the following areas:

  • School Zones: Often marked by flashing lights on a speed limit sign, you should slow down. Most areas require driving no faster than 20 miles per hour, but there are areas that require you drive under 15 miles per hour.
  • Drop Off and Pick Up Lanes: Schools have designated areas for dropping off and picking up students. When in these areas, drive less than 10 miles per hour and be ready to brake if a student runs out from between cars. If you are going to need to park for more than a small moment, park in a parking stall to keep the lanes clear for others.
  • Neighborhoods: Remember that a speed limit is the fastest you should be going, not the required speed. In neighborhoods and other areas outside of the marked school zone, go slow and watch out for kids. It only takes a small distraction for the child to not pay attention and step into traffic.

Laws for Crosswalks

While crosswalk laws don’t change during the school year, they are more frequently used. In more dangerous intersections or roads with higher amounts of pedestrians, cities will use one of the following options:

  • Crossing Guards
  • Brightly Colored Flags
  • Flashing Lights

In these situations, drivers are required to yield to the pedestrian. Stop when someone is in the road and wait for them to cross completely before proceeding. Keeping the intersection clear helps ensure the pedestrian’s safety because they are more clearly seen from every direction.

Stopping for School Buses

School bus drivers are tasked with getting children to and from school safely. They stop at designated areas to pick up and drop off students. When a school bus stops, they pull on a lever that opens the door and starts signals on the front and back of the bus. A stop sign also extends out by the driver. These signal to other drivers that they need to stop. This helps keep students safe who may be running to catch the bus in the morning or crossing the street to get home in the afternoon.

Safety and Enforcement

Keeping students safe is a community responsibility. While you may be in a hurry to get to school, take your own kids to school, or get to work, it is important to slow down and pay attention to the laws. Since the consequences for breaking these laws can lead to serious injury and death, they have stiffer penalties. Plan to leave a little early and drive at a slower speed. Being a little late is better than causing serious injury or death to someone else, getting in a crash, or having to pay an expensive ticket.

Driverless Cars: Do We Still Need to Learn to Drive?

Driverless Cars: Do We Still Need to Learn to Drive?

Driverless cars are a hot topic right now in the technology and automotive industry. Features are already appearing on cars with different functions that the driver no longer needs to perform on their own, such as parallel parking. With driving becoming so much easier, do we still need to learn to drive? See why it’s probably not the time to skip driver’s education classes…yet.

Human Minds Still Know More

Have you ever been driving around in a new city and the GPS unit is screaming at you to turn right, but the road is closed? Or been looking at a map on your phone from an interstate, but the map shows you are in the middle of a field? There are many situations in everyday life where you must use common sense, or intuition, to get to your destination.

While it’s a nice idea to rely completely on technology when driving, the reality is that it isn’t likely. There are always problems that come up, emergencies or changes in plan. Operating a self-driving car will still likely require education on driving, laws, and operating the vehicle. That way, if anything comes up and you must navigate your car somewhere, you won’t be entirely helpless.

Natural Sequence of Driverless Cars

Looking at the driverless functions in cars today, it’s hard to imagine taking the jump to never needing driver’s education and having a personal self-driving car. The sequence will probably look more like this:

  • Cars that park themselves
  • Cars that can drive themselves on the freeways
  • Technology incorporated into public transit systems
  • Self-driving abilities around the major cities
  • Driving abilities expanded to paved roads
  • The ability to send a car for errands or drop kids off at locations without you

Having a self-driving car that allows the driver to off-road in any condition seems unlikely. People will always want to explore and experience life outside the regular schedule of life. Even having the technology available to never drive seems decades away, especially considering all the red tape that comes along with transportation.

It Isn’t for Everyone

People still like their independence and technology is rarely infallible. While there is still a large population of people who don’t like to drive, there are still many people who do enjoy it. Everyone will not want to give up the experience of driving, just like adults today. The need for taking driver’s education will stick around for a long time still to accommodate this part of the population.

As driverless cars become more available and popular, it is more likely that programs will adapt. Keeping current with the technology available, they will probably change from providing driver’s licenses to operator’s licenses. However, the need for knowing the laws and how to run a car will still be there.

Does Your Car’s Color Improve Its Safety?

Buying a new car comes with all kinds of decisions. The features, safety tests, and price all have an influence on a buyer’s final choice, but color is one of the dominating factors when it comes time to buy.

There are a lot of legends that fly around about how color influences its safety, but which of these are fact and which are fiction?

Legend: Light, Bright Colors are Safer

Fact: The answer to this one is that no one can really give a definitive answer. Yes, these colors are more visible on the road, but that doesn’t mean you should count on them as a bonus safety feature. An Australian study done in 2007 shows that white vehicles are 10% less likely to crash during daylight hours, as compared to colors like black, green, gray, red, and silver.

Federal government studies show that you can get a similar benefit by using your daytime running lights too.

Legend: Darker Colors Increase Internal Temperatures

Fact: This is also an area of little study. In 2011, Applied Energy did a small experiment though, where they put two Honda Civics next to each other in the sun, one silver, one black. Checking the internal temperature after an hour, the silver car was approximately 10 degrees cooler than the black car.

This doesn’t mean your vehicle is safer to leave people or pets in during the summer heat, but it does make your ride a little more comfortable when you first get in.

Legend: Red Cars Have Higher Insurance and More Speeding Tickets

Fact: The Insurance Information Institute says both are urban myths. The underwriting for insurance does not typically include car color as criteria for pricing. The legend is based on correlation. Red is one of the most popular colors for sports cars. Insurance companies do consider if the car holds up well in a crash and how much the car costs to repair and replace. Sports cars don’t rank well in any of these areas, making insurance coverage more expensive for these types of vehicles.

Similarly, people tend to want to drive faster in a sports car because that’s part of the fun. Driving at higher speeds increases chances of traffic incidents, which also drives up the cost of insurance and the chances of getting a speeding ticket.

Legend: Color Effects Theft Rate

Fact: This legend is true. White, silver, and black cars are all more susceptible to theft. In a 2010 research report from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, cars with more popular paint colors were stolen approximately 40% more than less popular colors. The reason is because popular colors are easier to turn around and sell. Less popular colors, like orange, have two disadvantages here for the thief. First, the car is easier to spot at a distance, increasing their chances of getting caught quickly. Second, it is harder to find a buyer for an orange car.

In the United States, white is becoming the preferred color for most luxury vehicles, meaning they are also targeted for interior thefts.  White cars also tend to become part of the crowd in a parking lot, drawing less attention from potential witnesses to the break-ins.

Choosing the Right Color

Color has an influence over different aspects of safety. However, you are going to get positives and negatives to each one. Instead of worrying over which one will give you a slight advantage to being spotted or having your vehicle stolen, focus on your driving skills. Your abilities as a driver are the largest factor to safety, not the car color. Become a part of the solution today.

Prepare Your Car for the Summer Heat

Prepare Your Car for Summer HeatSummer’s high temperatures influence everything around you, including your car. Taking steps to ensure that your car is ready for the heat can go a long way in making sure you have a more comfortable summer. One of the ways to remember to do your recommended car maintenance is to base it on the seasons. Here are some tips to getting your car ready for the summer heat.

De-Winterize Your Car

If you live in a colder climate that gets snow, you most likely did some things to winterize your car. Snow tires are required in many states for driving around, especially if roads aren’t plowed well. During the summer months, these types of tires will slow you down and decrease the efficiency of your vehicle. It’s a good idea to clean the undercarriage of your car too. This helps remove any melting salts or mud that was left from the wetter weather that can damage the metal of your car.

Do Routine Checks

Give your car a summer time routine check to make sure everything is refilled, recharged, and ready to go. This is especially important to do if you are planning a summertime road trip. Some things to consider are:

  • Change the oil and oil filter to keep your engine parts running smooth. This can also make sure that you don’t overheat your engine on long car trips to the beach or mountains, especially when the weather is hot outside.
  • Clean off your battery from any corrosion that may have happened from driving in a lot of wet weather. Too much build up, combined with hot outside temperatures, will significantly reduce the life of your battery. Wipe off all surfaces and connections to keep them running well.
  • Change the air filters in your car to make sure they aren’t clogged.
  • Refill the window washing fluid to increase your windshield visibility.
  • Make sure your tires are ready for long drives, with enough tread and air pressure.
  • Check the brakes. If there are any concerning noises or you notice that it takes you longer to brake, get them repaired.
  • Check all the hoses and belts under the hood. These parts help keep the engine cool, but if there are cracks, leaks, or loose connections the radiator can overheat very quickly. Make sure your belts are in good condition too, which helps prevent snapping and causing damage.

Get Your Air Conditioning Going

One thing people forget to check until it is too late is if the air conditioner in the car works. Try turning it on before it is too hot outside. This will give you time to get it fixed or tuned up before you experience high temperatures. The most common cause for air conditioning malfunction in a vehicle is having a low level of refrigerant. Professionals are best at locating and fixing problems, but it usually happens when there is a leak. Consult a trusted mechanic to do an air conditioning tune up to keep you driving comfortably.

When you have taken these steps, you can enjoy your summer knowing that you have done everything necessary to make sure your car is running smoothly. With so many fun things to do, no one wants to be stuck having car problems.