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Tips & Tricks for Using Google Maps like a Pro

Tips & Tricks for Using Google Maps like a Pro


Did you know that today is Google Maps’ 10th birthday? The popular mapping service has evolved a lot over the last decade, making the jump from our computers to our phones, adding a ton of cool features along the way. Did you know that you can use Google Maps to measure aerial distances, or that you can use it to travel back in time? And did you know that you can use Google Maps to view the devastation caused by the 2011 Japanese tsunami?


1. Create offline maps


If you’re traveling through the woods, mountains or desert, there’s a good chance your phone will lose its data signal from time to time. Unfortunately, no signal means no maps – real bad news if you’re not familiar with the remote area through which you’re traveling.


Fortunately, Google Maps lets you easily save maps for offline use. If you’re using Google Maps for Android, simply tap the mic and say “OK Maps” to save the map that’s currently on your screen. If you’re using Google Maps for Apple iOS, swipe the info sheet the bottom of your screen, go to the menu in the top right and choose “Save offline map.” You can access these saved maps by looking under “Your Places.”43-google-maps-offline-maps

2. Orient Yourself


Are you all spun around? Not sure whether you’re supposed to make a right turn or a left because you don’t know what direction you’re facing? Stop wondering – a quick tap of the compass in the top right corner of the screen while navigating will shift the map to face the same direction you are. Tap the compass again to switch back to the more traditional (but less useful) “North is up” view.

3. See Inside Places


Did you know that Google Maps not only shows you how to get around while driving our nation’s interstates and city streets, but also while inside buildings like famous art museums, airports and your local gym as well? When you look up a location, tap the card at the bottom of the screen and look for a Street View-esque option called “See Inside.” You can also quickly access a Street View of the exterior of the building the same way – great for when you’re trying to drive to an unfamiliar destination.

Google Maps showing the last train4. Catch the Last Train


In my hometown of Boston, mass transit trains don’t run all night – they stop running shortly after bars close. This can be tough trip to plan if you need to make a transfer along the way. Fortunately, if you type your destination into Google Maps, choose the train icon, then “Settings” and then choose “Last” and “Done,” the app will show you the last trains and buses that get you where you need to go.

5. One-handed Zoom


Most of us have been well trained to use the pinching gesture to zoom in on our smartphones. But there’s an easier way to zoom while using Google Maps: Just double tap the screen and swipe up to zoom out or swipe down to zoom in. (Keep your finger on the screen after the second tap.)

6. Find the nearest Gas Station


When it comes to locating the closest gas stations with the best prices, personally, I prefer the Gas Buddy app. But you can easily find gas stations within the Google Maps app, albeit without real-time pricing info. Tap the search bar and scroll down to choose “Gas stations,” “Groceries,” “Pharmacies,” “ATMs,” and plenty of other common services like “Parking.”

7. Save Your Favorite Locations


Want quick access to all the locations you frequent most often, or just want to save information about a store or restaurant to review later? Maps lets you set Favorites by tapping the star icon. This will save the location directly to the map as an easy-to-find star.


You can also save your home and work addresses to Google Maps to save time. Open the left side menu inside the app, then choose “Your Places.” This information interfaces with Google Now, allowing it to serve up real-time traffic updates to your phone before leaving for work in the morning.

Google Maps ski trail map of Snowbird8. Check out Skiing and Hiking Trails


Heading out for a day of winter sports and adventure? Google Maps now features a wealth of ski and hiking trail maps for a number of major destinations including Snowbird, Big Sur and Yosemite. Just type your favorite resort into Google Maps and zoom in to see the different trails. Don’t forget to save the maps for offline use with “OK Maps” before you go!

9. Avoid Paying Tolls


Looking to save a couple dollars on your next drive? Instead of taking a costly toll road or bridge, you can tell Google Maps to only show you free access routes. Just tap “Route Options” while searching for directions and toggle “tolls” off. Be careful, though: This could add a lot of miles to your trip!


Is the Era of the Red Light Camera Coming to an End?

Is the Era of the Red Light Camera Coming to an End?

I don’t know many people who are enthusiastic about red light traffic cameras. In my experience, they easily cause as many problems as they solve. People slam on their brakes to avoid oft-shortened yellow light cycles. Others have been getting tickets for making rolling right turns on red, “guilty” of violating a three-second-stop rule that’s never posted. And many of us know someone who’s received a false positive ticket – one issued despite the driver not doing anything wrong (or even being in the car).


Much of this evidence has been anecdotal in the past, but a number of red light camera studies seem to back up the fact that these “safety” devices are causing more problems than they solve. In Baltimore, Maryland, an independent audit found an error rate of over 10% in 2012, meaning one out of every ten tickets was improperly issued. A brand new study of red light cameras in Chicago, conducted by Texas A&M Transportation Institute for the Chicago Tribune, showed that the devices caused a 22% increase in rear-end collisions that caused injury. Those accidents were likely aggravated by the fact that city transportation officials reduced the timing of yellow lights under the federal standard of 3 seconds – almost certainly done to boost the number of tickets issued and revenue raised.


You almost can’t blame cities for being taken in by the cameras and skirting the rules – automated red light tickets are huge moneymakers. In the example above, Baltimore residents were hit with $2.8 million in undeserved fines. In Chicago, simply reducing the yellow light timing raised $7.7 million. And because the private companies that install the red light cameras often get a sizable cut of those fines as part of their contract, there’s an incentive to break the rules on their end as well.



In October 2014, three people who work for Redflex, one of the largest suppliers of red light cameras in the country, were indicted on federal corruption charges. Redflex contractor, Martin O’Malley wound up pleading guilty to being paid $2 million for his services, a sizable portion of which wound up being funneled to the Department of Transportation as a bribe. Redflex CEO Karen Finley also faces federal charges. Chicago has since ended its contract with the company as a result.


Chicago isn’t the only place moving away from the intrusive tech. The governor of Ohio signed a law in December that requiring the physical presence of an officer to issue a red light ticket, effectively rendering much of the states’ cameras moot. New Jersey, meanwhile, suspended its lucrative red light ticket pilot program on December 16, 2014 to analyze data. NJ Governor Chris Christie, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, has already said that his “inclination” is to not renew the program.


Public polls on the subject of red light cameras have been mixed. Still, there’s evidence that red light camera scandals and malfunctions are taking their toll on public support. “The public has to believe that this is a safety countermeasure and not a moneymaking scheme, and that it is a fair system,” Joseph Hummer, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit, told the Chicago Tribune. “The fairness is critical to it if people are going to accept these cameras … that they are not arbitrary.”

Clean Car tips

Clean Car tips

Think of it as a wise investment: Keeping your auto filth-free can boost its resale value and eradicate those nasty end-of-lease excess-wear-and-tear charges. And if you focus on the task at hand, it shouldn’t take more than an hour every two weeks.

The Interior

A shiny exterior polishes your automotive image with the world, but keeping the inside clean makes life more pleasant for you and your family. Dragging the cord of a vacuum cleaner through puddles is an especially bad idea, so clean the interior before the exterior.

Dash and doors

  • Using an electrostatic dust cloth, sweep the dash, knobs, vinyl surfaces, and plastic trim.
  • Wipe them down with an all-purpose cleaner using an old towel.

Pesky gearshift

  • Gently pull the leather or plastic away from the sides to vacuum it and wipe it down with a cleanser-dampened towel.

Floor and seats

  • Start by taking out the floor mats and shaking them. If you don’t have floor mats, get them?they protect the carpeting and can be replaced if stained beyond repair. If your region gets a lot of snow or rain, you might want to buy a rubber mat with deep channels to collect mud, sand, and salt.
  • Vacuum the mats, the seats, and the floor carpeting, in that order. Slide the front seats all the way back and make sure to get the debris (spare change and fossilized French fries) from under the front seats. Then move the seats all the way forward and vacuum underneath from the backseat.
  • Tilt the seats back so you can get the nose of the vacuum down in the cracks.

Windows and windshield

  • A microfiber cloth and a spritz of water clean well and won’t cause streaks.
  • Roll down the windows a few inches to get the grime on the top edges.
  • For the rear window, use the back of your hand so you don’t strain your wrist.

The Exterior

A warm, sunny spot might seem like the perfect place to wash and dry your car, but it guarantees streaks. Wash in the early morning or evening, or in a shady area.

Rinse it

  • Hose off loose dirt.
  • Life the windshield wipers and spray the cracks below both windshields.
  • Blast the undersides of the wheel wells and the hubcaps.

Wash it

  • Make sure your wash mitt is clean. “We’ve seen people ruin their finish because they didn’t rinse off the grime on the mitt before washing it,” says Robert Traicoff, supervisor of paint materials for the Ford Motor Company.
  • One-eighth of a cup of mild dishwashing liquid, like Dove, in a bucket of water is fine for unwaxed finishes. Starting with the roof, soap an arm’s-length-size section with your wash mitt and rinse it immediately. Then tackle the hood, the sides, and the trunk, in that order, using the same method, so you go from most to least clean for the sake of the soapy water.
  • To prevent streaking, don’t suds up the windows (you’ll wash them separately).
  • Use a separate sponge to scrub only the especially grimy areas: the windshield wipers and the tires. Save the right front wheel for last because it gets the dirtiest ? it hits the puddles and loose gravel on the side of the road.
  • To remove tar, saturate a cloth with a mixture of 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon linseed oil; rub into the tar and remove.

Rinse again

  • Sluice off your car, making sure to power the soap out of nooks such as the rim of the gas-cap cover, under the door handles, and the innards of the side-view mirrors. Soap seeps out and streaks the car ? usually moments after you’ve finished drying the car and put everything away.

Dry it

  • Before water spots have a chance to mar the finish, use a towel to mop up the surface. Fold the towel as it gets damp.
  • If you have a chamois, use it to mop up any remaining dampness.
  • Remember to dry spots like the roof line just above the windows, which could spill excess water later when you move the car.

Do windows

  • Bugs, grease, and grime make auto glass harder to clean than the windows in your house. A detailer’s favorite for cleaning windows and bug-spattered headlights is a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water.
  • To avoid streaking, give the window weather stripping a few hours to dry before you roll down the windows.

In Between

You won’t need to do the full cleanup every time. But quick touch-ups between biweekly washes can make them easier.

  • If you live in a dusty area or frequently pass road construction, hose off the car between washes.
  • If your kids have a penchant for car sickness, use an ice scraper, which you might already carry in your car, to scoop up the offending liquid, and an all-purpose cleaner to spray and blot on the area.
  • Treat your rig like a national park?take out what you bring in. Get in the habit of removing your coffee cups and gum wrappers each time you leave the car.
  • Tree sap doesn’t become a problem until it dries. Wipe it off before it sets or it may stain your car.

City Drivers Versus Country Drivers: Who’s More Dangerous?

City Drivers Versus Country Drivers: Who’s More Dangerous?

In Aesop’s Fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” the rural rodent after visiting his urban-dwelling friend’s hustling-and-bustling home returns to the simple life and says of the big city: “It is surrounded by too many dangers to please me.” Most of us can relate on some level to the calming allure of open spaces versus the imposing shadow of the downtown skyline, and city drivers in particular have a reputation for being wild behind the wheel (think cabbies) — but are they really more dangerous?

On the whole, the numbers show, they are not — not even close. According to a 2014 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, despite only 19 percent of the U.S. population living in rural areas, rural fatalities accounted for 54 percent of all traffic deaths in 2012. And that’s after a decade of steep declines in highway deaths, by 27 percent in rural areas compared with just 14 percent in urban areas. Even with the gap narrowing, rural crashes still kill many more people each year, statistically, than urban accidents.

NHTSA based its stats on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a census of fatal crashes in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Researchers found that in 2012 there were 30,800 fatal crashes resulting in nearly 33,561 deaths, and that rural areas accounted for 16,443 of these crashes and 18,170 deaths, 53 and 54 percent, respectively. That’s compared with urban areas’ 14,263 crashes and 15,296 deaths, each accounting for 46 percent of their respective totals. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles in 2012 was 1.86 for rural motorists versus just 0.77 for urban motorists — a rural death rate nearly 2 1/2 times greater.

According to data, rural drivers speed more, drive drunk more often and are less likely to wear their seat belts. Data shows that speed was a factor in nearly a third of fatal crashes in 2012; that included 5,660 rural deaths and 4,527 urban deaths, again, despite the rural population being much smaller. Likewise, in 2012, 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents, of which rural areas accounted for 55 percent to urban areas’ 44 percent. And while urban motorists buckle up only 2 percent more often, vehicle occupants killed in rural crashes were unrestrained 54 percent of the time as opposed to 48 percent of the time in fatal urban crashes. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of rural pickup truck occupants who died in crashes were unrestrained, representing the highest percentage for any type of passenger vehicle in either type of area.

So does that mean city drivers are inherently safer, more cautious or more skilled behind the wheel than their country counterparts? Umm … probably not.

“It’s not so much that rural drivers are more dangerous, it’s more that rural roads are more dangerous,” Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety told Cars.com. “In rural areas, you have higher speeds; you have twisty roads that can be dangerous at night, and you add to that situations where drivers are impaired by alcohol driving home from the bar. It means that the risks are higher in rural areas — and that’s always been the case.”

Contrast that, Rader said, with urban areas, where speeds are generally much lower, there’s more traffic congestion and it’s just all-around more difficult to get vehicles up to dangerously high speeds, and the risk factor goes down. Rader added that seat belt use is at an all-time high in the U.S. at roughly 85 percent, and convincing the remaining 15 percent or so to buckle up every time they get in the car would go a long way toward reducing driving deaths — whether on city streets or country roads.

Among all states and the District of Columbia, rural motorists account for a greater portion of fatal accidents than urban motorists in 31 of them. The top 10 states with the highest percentage of rural fatalities are:

1. Maine, 100 percent
2. Montana, 93
3. South Dakota, 88
4. South Carolina, 87
5. North Dakota, 86
6. Idaho, 83
7. Wyoming, 82
8. Vermont, 82
9. Kansas, 80
10. Kentucky, 78

What Are the Most Damage-Prone Cars?

What Are the Most Damage-Prone Cars?


According to a 2014 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration comparing different categories of cars and individual models by their relative “damage susceptibility,” some cars are indeed more likely to incur damage or, at least, costly damage — some way more costly — while others are far less so. The report uses data compiled by the Highway Loss Data Institute in its December 2013 Insurance Collision Report, and it “reflects the collision loss experience of passenger cars, station wagons, passenger vans, pickups and utility vehicles sold in the United States in terms of the average loss payment per insured vehicle year for model years 2011-2013,” NHTSA stated.

Generating the sympathy of no one ever cut off by, say, a BMW swooping into a congested highway on-ramp in front of them, luxury brands dominate the list of most damage-prone cars. — and here you thought they were likely to cause accidents — along with exotic sports cars. As classified by NHTSA according to segment, “very large” luxury cars have 89 percent more or higher insurance claims than the average car, small sports cars 54 percent more, large two-door cars 52 percent more, large luxury cars 46 percent more and large sports cars 44 percent more. The No. 1 most damage-prone car, according to the study, is the Ferrari 458 Italia, which is a whopping 446 percent more damage-susceptible than the average for all other cars considered.

“Insurance loss data for collision are a combination of frequency of claims as well as cost of the claims,” said Russ Rader, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman. “Exotics and high-end luxury cars usually aren’t the most crash-prone vehicles in terms of frequency because they aren’t driven much, but when they do crash, it’s costly to fix them.”

It might seem obvious that high-end vehicles come with commensurately high damage claims, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, Rader said. “Where vehicles are driven and who is driving them affects insurance claims,” he said. “We don’t always know why a particular vehicle has low or high insurance losses.”

Which types of cars motor through life far more often with fenders unscathed? SUVs and pickup trucks. It might surprise you to learn that the top spot among cars with the lowest damage susceptibility is occupied by none other than the off-road-ready Jeep Wrangler — although, truth be told, most Wranglers stay on-pavement. By NHTSA-defined segment, the least susceptible are “micro cars” like the Smart ForTwo and Scion iQ, “mini sports cars” such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata and “midsize station wagons” like the Subaru Outback, all three of which are 21 percent less damage-susceptible, followed by pickup trucks and SUVs, 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

“Big pickups may be on the list for low-collision losses because they’re commonly used for work, including on the farm,” Rader said. “Low-severity fender-bender crashes, which are the dominant crashes in these data, are less likely to happen in rural areas than in urban ones.”

The top 20 most damage-prone vehicles, each followed by its rating, are as follows (100 represents the average for all passenger vehicles. A rating of, for example, 122 reflects a “collision loss experience” 22 percent worse than average, while a 96 rating would indicate 4 percent better than average.):

1. Ferrari 458 Italia, 546 rating
2. Bentley Continental GT, 517
3. Ferrari California convertible, 427
4. Maserati Granturismo convertible, 405
5. Maserati Quattroporte, 404
6. Bentley Continental GTC convertible, 394
7. BMW X6 M, 380
8. Porsche Panamera Turbo, 353
9. Maserati Granturismo coupe, 322
10. Nissan GT-R, 318
11. Mercedes-Benz G-Class, 316
12. Mercedes-Benz SLS-Class coupe, 304
13. Audi A8L, 298
14. BMW M3 coupe, 297
15. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, 292
16. BMW 6 Series, 289
17. BMW 6 Series convertible, 284
18. Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class with all-wheel drive, 272
19. Jaguar XJ (long wheelbase), 267
20. Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, 262

Taking Care of Your Car

Taking Care of Your Car

If you love your car as much as most people do, you’ll want to take care of it. Here are a few basic maintenance and cleaning tips to keep your car in good shape.

Preventive Maintenance Pays Off

A trained, qualified mechanic with the expertise and equipment to do the job correctly should perform most of the maintenance on your car. You also should pay attention to what’s going on under the hood. The owner’s manual for your car will provide you with a maintenance schedule for your specific make and model. Additionally, you can do the following simple checks and procedures to help prevent problems – and extend the life of your vehicle:

Change the oil and oil filter regularly.

The owner’s manual for your car will specify exactly how often you should do this, but a good rule of thumb is to change them every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. If you change the oil and filter yourself, be sure to dispose of the used oil properly.

Check all the fluids.

This includes brake, power steering, transmission, transaxle, windshield washer and antifreeze fluids. Your owner’s manual will tell you how to check these.

Check the air pressure level in your tires at least once a month.

Your owner’s manual should specify the ideal air pressure for your particular tire.

Make sure all your lights work.

This includes headlights, turn signals, brake lights and taillights.

Replace the windshield wiper blades periodically.

If your wiper blades are cracked or torn, or if they begin to streak, it’s time to replace them.

Inspect the engine belts.

They should not have cracks or missing segments.

Check the air filter.

The filter should be clean, not clogged or damaged.


When To Pay Attention – The Consequences of Distracted Driving

When To Pay Attention – The Consequences of Distracted Driving

In 2010, 3092 people were killed in a crash involving a distracted driver. Distraction.gov reports that in June of 2011 more than 196 billion text messages were transmitted in the U.S. and what’s even more alarming – 40% of American teens say they have used their cell phone while driving.

Texting while driving has become one of the most dangerous driving distractions on the road. Traffic crashes, involving both injuries and fatalities, are increasingly being caused in part by drivers using their cell phones to read or write a text message. Talking on a cell phone is equally dangerous, as statistics show that people who do this are four times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident. It has become apparent that these activities are detrimental to driving safety, and so should be reduced dramatically.

Drivers who have conversations while driving or who take their eyes off the road to send a text decrease their attention to the road, thereby reducing the ability to react to changes in traffic. These activities cause drivers to be distracted and divert mental resources away from driving, inhibiting full mental attention to the task.

Been Caught Speeding?
A study by the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging found that talking and listening to a conversation while driving reduced the activity of part of the brain associated with spatial processing, meaning the amount of brain activity devoted to driving was disrupted and reduced with these concurrent distractions. Cell phone use requires drivers to take their mental attention from the road, and texting also causes both cognitive and visual distractions for drivers.

These distracted drivers are becoming increasingly dangerous to themselves and other drivers on the road. Yet many state lawmakers have yet to pass a law that affects texting or talking on a phone while driving.

The problem with a lack of laws against these activities is the message that it sends to drivers; that since it is not illegal to talk or text, then this must be safe or acceptable behavior. Quite the opposite is true. Although states like Florida have current legislation pending that would prohibit texting while driving, a widespread debate continues over the enforceability of these potential laws. Despite these concerns, public sentiment has become supportive of laws against texting while driving, as they would hold drivers accountable for their potentially dangerous actions in the case of a traffic crash.

A current anti-texting campaign launched by AT&T, “Texting and Driving…IT Can Wait'”, sends important messages to the public: that the dangers of texting while driving are serious and often have disturbing results. The commercials portray real-life stories of adolescents and adults who are currently dealing with traumatic brain injuries or the death of a loved one as consequences of either writing or reading a text while driving.

As the public is made aware of the dangers associated with these activities, it is hoped they can be reduced to make our commute safer. Cell phone use while driving is a danger to everyone on the roadways, and must be viewed as such by drivers and lawmakers alike. The consequences are distracting enough – it’s time everyone paid attention.

5 Essential Road Travel Tips You Don’t Already Know

5 Essential Road Travel Tips You Don’t Already Know

# 1. Prepare Your Car

Make sure to prepare your vehicle for travel. It will be your home away from home. Plan at least a month in advance for any unforeseen repairs. Check the following and adjust if needed:

  • Coolant
  • Oil
  • Tire Pressure
  • Spare Tire
  • Brakes
  • Belts, caps, hoses and filters
  • Lights, signals, all wiper blades and windshield wiper fluid

# 2. Prepare Yourself

Remember you need to be just as ready to hit the road as your vehicle. Tell people where you’re going and get a good night sleep before your trip. Also, it is important to check your cell phone range and make sure you can reach emergency operators from wherever you are traveling. Before your trip, become familiar with the routes you’re traveling and the weather forecast. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and pack the necessities:

  • First aid kit http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh2-HealthKit.aspx
  • Water and snacks
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Jumper cables and flares
  • Travel brochures and maps
  • Tool kit and cutting tool
  • Chains or something for traction (especially for winter driving)
  • Waterproof matches
  • CDs or books on tape

# 3. Make Reservations or Check Hotels in the Area

Traffic Ticket solutionsIf you plan on stopping for overnight rest, make it easier by doing the following:

  • Make reservations if you have an idea of where your destination will be for the night. What if there is a nearby concert or festival of some sort? You want to make sure you are able to get a room at a decent price.
  • Plan ahead for hotel locations. You will save time and gas not having to get on and off exits, and stopping at different hotels to find out the rates and availability.
  • If you are waiting till you are on the road to get a room, make sure it is in the early to mid afternoon when you call to make reservations. Most hotels will start filling up during the late afternoon, early evening hours.
  • Check for hotels that have family discounts or automotive club and warehouse club discounts.

# 4. Be Smart With Gas Mileage

With gas prices on the rise, you may find yourself with less spending money on the road. Here are some tips to save on gas:

  • Slow down your acceleration. For example, when going from 0-60 mph, slow down your acceleration time to 15 seconds and you can save 30% on gas mileage.
  • Try to purchase your gas at the coolest time of day. Gas is densest at these times.
  • Maintain a moderate speed. If you travel at 55 mph you will save close to 21% more on your gas mileage versus traveling 10-15 miles over.
  • Keep windows closed while traveling at high speeds. Having open windows can reduce your gas mileage up to 10%, which can be the same as air conditioning.
  • Avoid driving on rough roads, they can decrease your gas mileage by 30%.
  • Cool down automatic transmitions by placing them in neutral at long traffic lights or traffic standstills.
  • Remove excess weight from your car – that can also reduce gas mileage.
  • Make sure tires are pressurized to the maximum limit provided by the manufacturer.
  • Know the estimated cost of fuel for your trip: visit http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com/


# 5. Be Safe and Alert While Traveling

The final step to road trip safety is actually being safe and alert while on the road. Remember, you want to avoid all of the emergencies you just planned for. So take the following into consideration on your commute:

  • Scan the road for hazards
  • Be aware and cautious of tailgaters or aggressive drivers
  • Avoid pulling over on the side of the road unless it is an emergency – especially at night
  • Make sure you have plenty of gas between exits
  • Take breaks and stretch at well-lit rest stops to avoid falling asleep at the wheel
  • Try listening to music or rolling the window down if you feel tired
  • Share driving responsibilities to avoid fatigue or highway hypnosis

Finally, relax and remember why you planned your trip in the first place. It is always good to try and enjoy the road as much as the destination. If your travel is for business or pleasure, you can make anything worth the trip.

How to Get the Best Gas Mileage out of Your Car

How to Get the Best Gas Mileage out of Your Car


The days of filling your tank for under $30 bucks are fading like a hometown in the rearview. If cheaper gas is your destination, good luck. You’ll most likely be running on fumes by the time you realize there’s no going back.

The best thing you can do for the road ahead is be smart when it comes to fuel economy. If you want to squeeze out every last quarter mile from your hard earned money, there are many tips and tools at your disposal. And you may be surprised. Some of these tips will make a huge difference when it comes to saving gas.

Before You Travel

  • Try to purchase your gas at the coolest time of day. Gas is densest at these times, so you’ll get more out of the volume.
  • Use your manufacturer’s recommended type of motor oil to increase your gas mileage up to 2%.
  • When starting your car, you don’t need to run it for more than 45 seconds. After that, you are just wasting fuel.
  • Regular tune ups can save an average of 4%.
  • Replacing a dirty air filter can increase gas mileage up to 10%.
  • Make sure tires are pressurized to the maximum limit provided by the manufacturer.
  • Traveling on deep tire tread dramatically reduces fuel efficiency. Remove unnecessary devices such as snow tires if they aren’t needed.
  • Remove excess weight from car – that can also reduce gas mileage.
  • When purchasing a new vehicle, look at the vehicle’s rated fuel efficiency. Smaller cars are more fuel efficient, especially those with manual transmission.
  • Know the estimated cost of fuel for your trip: visit http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com/

On the Road

  • Don’t start and stop your engine multiple times. Idling for one minute consumes the same amount of gas as starting your engine.
  • The faster you travel the more gas you consume. If you travel at 55 mph you will save close to 21% more on your gas mileage versus traveling 10-15 miles over.
  • When you are approaching a hill or incline, make sure to accelerate before you reach the hill to avoid using excess gas to get the same result ON the hill.
  • Avoid driving on rough roads, they can decrease your gas mileage by 30%.
  • Did you know that if you travel at the legal speed limit continuously you increase your chances for hitting green lights? The fewer stoplights and less stopping/slowing the better when it comes to saving fuel.
  • Use cruise control for highway traveling.
  • Cool down automatic transitions by placing them in neutral at long traffic lights or traffic standstills.
  • Avoid reverse driving maneuvers.
  • Having an open sunroof (much like open windows) can increase resistance and use more fuel.
  • Keep windows closed while traveling at high speeds. Having open windows can reduce your gas mileage up to 10%, which can be the same as air conditioning.

Online Traffic School Courses

And the final and most important gas-saving tip:

  • Watch your acceleration! Slow your acceleration time down to 15 seconds (when going from 0-60 mph) and you can save 30% on your gas mileage.

The Basics of Vehicle Safety Maintenance

The Basics of Vehicle Safety Maintenance

No matter how well you drive, you are not safe unless your vehicle is in good condition. You keep your vehicle in good condition by having the vehicle properly maintained. If it is not, your car could fail you at a critical moment, and you could be in a serious crash. Read your automobile owner’s manual carefully to become familiar with your vehicle’s maintenance schedule and requirements. Maintenance regimes vary widely from one vehicle to another.

What parts of the vehicle should be properly maintained?

Virtually all of your vehicle’s mechanical systems can affect fuel efficiency if not properly maintained. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for checking the engine, cooling and ignition system, brakes, drive train and emission-control system. You should consider your vehicle from front to back, bottom to top.


Make sure that all of your lights work and that your light lenses are clean. Check headlights, taillights, directional signals, and interior lights.


Windshields are made out of laminated safety glass which reduces transmission of high frequency sound and blocks 97 percent of ultraviolet radiation. A thin layer of flexible clear plastic film (PVB) is sandwiched between two or more pieces of glass. This plastic film serves to hold the glass in place. If the glass breaks, the film helps lessen injuries which could be caused by flying glass. This structure also affords protection for those inside the vehicle by obstructing possible projectiles from entering the vehicle through the windshield.

If your vehicle has tinted windows, check with your local law enforcement agency to make sure it is in compliance with state sunshading specifications.

It may surprise you to know that the first windshield wipers invented were operated manually. The driver had to physically move a lever back and forth inside the car. Today, of course, windshield wipers work electrically. Some vehicles (especially SUV types) have windshield wipers on the rear window as well. Some vehicles even have windshield wipers on the headlights.

Wiper blades work like squeegees. A thin rubber strip is attached to the blade arm which is swept across the windshield to wipe away the water. A rubber on new blades is clean and smooth so that water can be wiped away. As blades age and become worn, the seal against the window lessens due to nicks or cracks in the rubber or from becoming brittle with age. Worn blades can leave streaks on the windshield that interferes with driver visibility. It is important to clean wiper blades to remove any dirt buildup. Your vehicle’s windshield washer system will help keep the windshield and the wipers clean. Wiping the rubber edge with window cleaner until clean may prolong the blade’s life. When you notice any change in visibility due to the wiper’s performance, replace them with new.

It is important to keep your windshield clean on the inside as well as on the outside. Dirt builds up on the inside that can affect visibility as well.


All vehicles should be equipped with one rearview mirror mounted inside the vehicle that allows a view to the rear of at least 200 feet. A rearview mirror should also be placed on each side of the vehicle mounted on the outside of the vehicle’s front doorframes. Make sure that your mirrors are clean and pointed in the correct direction. The mirrors are designed to assist drivers in keeping track of traffic around their vehicles.


Tires are designed to grip the road and give the driver directional control. Bald, excessively worn, or improperly inflated tires decrease the ability of the driver to control the vehicle. Rotating your tires helps prolong their life and improve fuel economy. On most vehicles, tires should be rotated about twice a year; however, you should consult your owner’s manual for the recommended rotation pattern and frequency for your vehicle.

Rolling resistance is a key factor that affects a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated and not worn away. The best way to reduce rolling resistance is to maintain correct tire pressure. Rolling resistance results in premature tread wear when your tires are under-inflated, increasing fuel consumption. Operating a vehicle with just one tire under-inflated by 6 pounds per square inch (PSI) can substantially reduce the life of the tire and increase the vehicle’s fuel consumption by three percent. Tire pressure needs special attention in cold weather. It can be expected to drop by about 1 PSI for every 10oC drop in temperature. Tires also lose a certain amount of pressure due to their permeability (by some estimates, as much as 2 PSI per month). Tire pressure should be checked when the tires are cold (for instance, when the vehicle has been stationary for at least three hours).

Wheel alignment should be checked once a year. Misaligned tires will drag and will not roll freely as they are intended to do. This will increase fuel consumption, reduce tire life, and cause problems with the vehicle’s handling and ride. While driving, you can perform a self-check on your wheel alignment. On a straight, flat and traffic-free stretch of road, rest your hands lightly on the steering wheel and drive at an even speed. If the vehicle pulls to one side, the wheels may be misaligned.

Wheels should also be balanced. If they are out of balance, the driver will feel a pounding or shaking through the steering wheel. This pounding will shorten the life of other suspension components and will produce uneven tire wear, which will increase fuel consumption. Tires that are not balanced exhibit a wear pattern that looks like a series of bald spots.

Remember, don’t neglect the spare tire. Make sure the necessary tools for replacing a tire are appropriately accessible.

You should check tire pressure and look for signs of uneven wear or embedded objects that can cause air leaks. In winter, check tire pressure whenever there is a sharp change in temperature.

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Car engines run particularly well when they are regularly lubricated. Oil lubricates the moving parts of the engine, minimizing metal-to-metal contact, thereby reducing friction and carrying away excess heat. Oil also captures dirt, metal shavings and other impurities from the engine enabling the transfer of these injurious substances into the vehicle’s oil filter. For best engine performance, fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, use only the oil recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Regular engine oil changes cost between $10 and $30 – a far cry from the expense of replacing or rebuilding an engine!

Check around the car and under the engine for fluid leaks. Generally, you can often identify the type of fluid that is leaking by its color. Oil is black, coolant is a bright greenish yellow, automatic transmission fluid is pink, and power steering and brake fluids are clear, with a slight brown tinge. All of these fluids are oily to the touch.

Belts, hoses, regular tune-ups

Have your belts and hoses checked at the regularly scheduled time periods mentioned in your owner’s manual. Also, get a tune-up at the scheduled maintenance time. Check under the hood for cracked or split spark plug wires, cracked radiator hoses or loose clamps and corrosion around the battery terminals.

Emission-control systems 

Modern vehicles are equipped to treat exhaust emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. The emission-control system must be inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you experience problems such as stalling or poor acceleration, or if your exhaust produces black or blue smoke, your vehicle is probably polluting the air and needs servicing.

Ignition systems 

Proper maintenance of your vehicle’s ignition system is critical. Spark plugs ignite the air-fuel mixture. If one or more of the plugs is worn or malfunctioning, the engine will misfire, and some fuel will remain unburned. Worn or damaged spark plug wires can also cause misfiring. A misfiring engine wastes fuel, produces higher levels of emissions and generally performs poorly.


The foot brake must be capable of stopping the vehicle within a distance of 25 feet at a speed of 20 miles per hour. The parking brake should be adequate to stop and hold the vehicle. While driving, you can perform a self-check on your brake system. On a straight, flat and traffic-free stretch of road, rest your hands lightly on the steering wheel and apply the brakes gradually. If the vehicle swerves to one side, one of the brake linings may be worn more than the other, or the brakes may need adjustment. If this happens, make sure to get the vehicle to a proper mechanic.

Your vehicle’s brake pedal is designed so that when it is pressed, the force of the pressure is multiplied several times. The hydraulic system that operates your vehicle braking system transmits the force from your foot to its brakes through brake fluid.

It is important to pay attention to any strange sounds you may hear when you apply your brakes, such as grinding or squeaking sounds. Any such noise should alert you to have your brakes inspected. The brake pad wear limit indicators on disc brakes give a warning noise when the brake pads are worn to where replacement is required.

Your vehicle’s owners manual will supply you with the correct information on maintaining the correct level and type of brake fluid.

Why should I bother to do vehicle maintenance?

Maintenance requirements vary widely from one vehicle to another. Failing to follow your particular vehicle owner’s manual’s maintenance regime could void your vehicle’s warranty. To keep the manufacturer’s warranty valid (not to mention ensuring maximum fuel economy), your vehicle must be maintained to the standards recommended in the owner’s manual.

It’s simple – Your vehicle will last longer and work better. The time to find out that your car has a problem is in your driveway, not out on the roadway. Additionally, a properly maintained vehicle is a safer vehicle. Through proper maintenance, your vehicle will function as advertised and will increase the potential for you to come through an emergency situation in one piece.