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A New Flying Car

A New Flying Car


Although countless small companies have tried to commercially develop flying cars over the past several decades, we’re still not seeing Blade Runner-esque vehicles cruising over our rooftops … yet. Terrafugia is one of the groups currently trying to change that situation – a fully-functioning prototype of its Transition fixed-wing “roadable airplane” is currently undergoing flight tests, and was recently cleared for civilian use by the US Federal Aviation Authority. It still requires a runway for take-off and landing, though, which kind of clashes with many peoples’ flying car fantasies. Well, today Terrafugia announced its plans for a hybrid-drive vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle, known as the TF-X.


Like the Transition, plans call for the 4-passenger TF-X to feature wings that fold into its sides, allowing it to fit on roads and in garages when in fully-electric ground mode. When it’s time to take off, however, those wings will extend into their flight position, and retractible propellers will open out of two 600-hp electric motor pods – one on each wing tip. Each pod will contain 16 separate motors, to keep everything in the air should one or more of them malfunction.


Initially, those props will be pointing upwards, allowing them to pull the TF-X up off the ground. Once the vehicle is sufficiently airborne, however, the propellers will rotate forward, allowing it to move ahead. Once the TF-X has gained enough forward momentum, the two wing-mounted propellers (but not the wings!) can once again be retracted, with a 300-hp internal combustion engine powering a single large rear-mounted ducted prop while cruising. The wing props will be re-engaged as the landing site approaches.


Before you start picturing yourself flying a TF-X off of your driveway, however, Terrafugia does state that the vehicle will require a clearing at least 100 feet (30.5 meters) in diameter for takeoff. This means that users will most likely drive their vehicle to and from designated landing sites similar to those used by helicopters, and fly between those sites.


That said, unlike the case with a helicopter, the designers believe that it should only take about five hours to learn how to fly the TF-X. This is largely because users will have the option of flying it in automatic mode, in which they just input the location of their destination landing site (along with some back-up secondary choices), then leave the navigation to the vehicle.


It will subsequently travel at a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) without needing to refuel or recharge. While cruising in automatic mode, it will be able to automatically avoid other air traffic, along with inclement weather, restricted airspace and tower-controlled airspace (which pilots would require additional training to fly in). It will also automatically land itself at the destination (if weather allows), although the pilot will be able to override that function if they notice any hazards at the chosen landing site.
Should the TF-X just crap out completely in mid-air, the pilot can activate a parachute system to keep it from crashing to the ground. Likewise, if the onboard control system detects that the vehicle is being piloted in an unsafe manner, it will automatically declare an emergency and contact the relevant authorities. Should the pilot be unresponsive to prompts by the system, it will automatically land the vehicle at the closest airport.


All of this is still at least 8 to 12 years away, though, as that’s how long Terrafugia figures it will take to develop a commercially viable product. The only estimate on price is that it could be “on-par with very high-end luxury cars of today.”

10 Most Useless Car Technologies

10 Most Useless Car Technologies


Sure, it’s easy to complain. But these car technologies deserve to be called out for being underwhelming, frustrating, or just plain pointless.


Paddle Shifters for Automatic Transmissions

In theory, the ability to manually shift an automatic with nice, prominent steering-wheel paddles makes some sense. Many of us don’t want the inconvenience of a manual transmission during the daily grind, but who doesn’t want to manually change gears once in a while? On some cars, like the AMG Mercedes with the seven-speed auto box, the paddles work fairly well. But we’ve often found that that the computer-controlled transmissions are far too reluctant to respond to driver inputs. As just one example, we’ve tried on multiple occasions to actuate the paddle shifters in the five-speed automatic in Acura’s nimble new TSX about eight times before one corresponding upshift occurs. Unless the paddle shifters are calibrated properly, they’re just another pointless feature.


Interlocked Seatbelts and Starter

This one’s a bit of a throwback, but it might be the most famous market failure here. Interlocked seatbelts and starters, which would prevent drivers from starting the car unless they were wearing their seatbelts, became law in 1973. But Minnesotans, for just one example, laughed it out of their market. No matter how well they were tuned, the carbureted cars of the period required owner finesse to start at minus 30 F. Why buckle up before you determine your car will start? So many Minnesotans would just buckle the belts in the fall and sit on them through the winter. Congress soon quickly rescinded this misguided rule.


Automatic Moisture-Sensing Wipers

This feature is just like the automatic spelling-correction that interferes when you type on a word processor or a smartphone: You spend more time defeating the system when it screws up than you’d spend using the system manually. We feel an easy-to-reach switch for wipers remains the best way to clear an intermittently misting windshield. Automatic rain-detecting wipers fall under the category of trying to read Mother Nature’s mind—hundreds of meteorologists say it can’t be done. The reason automatically adjusting wipers were invented in the first place is because customers complained of poorly designed and placed wiper switches. Carmakers should have adopted a slightly simpler solution: easier-to-reach switches.


Automatically Steering Headlights

For our money, we’ll take good headlights with broad beam spread and light output that covers the road evenly over these systems, which were designed to help drivers see around corners by turning the beams when the car’s steering wheel reached a preset angle. This feature is normally found only on luxury cars; we’ve tried them all and were never impressed.


That said, these headlights should not be confused with the adaptive-pattern technology recently introduced by makers such as Audi and BMW. These variable-beam-pattern LED lights consist of more than two dozen beam sources that provide seamless light to the darkest corners of the road without blinding oncoming drivers. But the old-fashioned automatically steering headlights actually made drivers’ vision worse: We sense a car’s attitude on the road with visual cues, such as a fixed line on the hood (racing stripes were not added to car hoods because race drivers crave fashion), and ordinary fixed headlights make this easier when you’re driving at night.


Map Lights

What’s a map? Oh right, that stack of papers we used to carry around. The Mercury Capri of 1971 arrived standard with an articulating small spotlight (made by Hella for rally drivers) that would fold down from behind the rearview mirror and aim directly at the driver’s or passenger’s laps, illuminating a map without blinding the driver. It migrated to some Mustangs, but similar effective lighting wasn’t available in the U.S. until the early 1990s, though without the precise intensity of the Capri’s unit. By the late 1990s, map lights were finally common—just in time for the slow obsolescence of paper maps.


Effective interior reading lights are still available only on high-end luxury cars. Map light, reading lights—whatever you want to call them, they never met expectations.


Motorized Rearview Mirror

When Mercedes introduced this feature in the 1994 SL500, we found a great use for it: If a driver is following you with high beams at night, you can aim the mirror to reflect the light back into his eyes without reaching up. As Mercedes explains, the feature is meant to work with the memory system for seat positions, exterior mirrors, and other controls. We think, however, that it’s a good practice to adjust the mirror manually with your right hand after you get in any car, and this vital habit isn’t so inconvenient that you need the extra weight in a servo motor and wiring to allow you to unlearn it.


Motorized Seatbelts

Back in the 1980s, before airbags became common, automakers used motorized seatbelts to satisfy the passive-safety requirements (the rules for what a car needed to have to protect occupants during a crash). But for most, the only passive part was the shoulder belt and you still had to buckle a separate lap belt. Plus, the tracks were prone to getting gummed up slowing the belt to a crawl. Epic fail.


Proximity Warning Systems

In these systems, sensors detect an object close to a car and trigger alerts to warn a driver—sounds very handy. In practice, though, the alerts are not common between different cars (like vehicle horns), and they offer no easily viewed direction as to where the alerts are coming from: front, rear, or side. Often the alerts sound distractingly similar to other warning chimes, such as those intended to warn you about unbuckled seatbelts, open doors, and even low-fuel alerts.


Like any automotive technology, the more you use a proximity warning system, the more familiar with it you become. But too often we find that the majority of proximity alerts force us to take our eyes away from the road to scan an instrument panel for warning lights.


Electronic Parking Brake

Junior Johnson of Nascar fame perfected the “bootleg” turn, a method of reversing the direction of a car at speed on a narrow road, sometimes with the help of a parking brake. Latter-day handbrake users employ the parking brake to slow down in speed traps without alerting the speed-trap operators by flashing brake lights, and still more mechanical-handbrake fans use the brake lever regularly to turn into sharp driveways covered in snow. Electronic parking brakes in Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, and Bentleys won’t allow any of this driver control.


Chevrolet Volt Capacitive Touch Controls

Now that we’ve all learned the ins and outs of touchscreens, we also know they’re nearly impossible to use accurately while we’re walking or jogging, riding a bike, or riding in a car. And even though we all balked at the first mass-produced touchscreen in a car, featured in the 1986 Buick Regal, those pressure-touch screens are much easier to use on the move than the Volt’s sensitive capacitive-touch screen. Plus, the Volt touchscreen, just like an iPhone screen, doesn’t work if you’re wearing gloves unless they’re made of specially designed conductive threads.


List courtesy PopularMechanics.com

Car Maintenance Myths

Car Maintenance Myths


While most of us see our cars as a gentle machine built for the purpose of safe and smooth transportation there are times where it seems to turn into a gas-guzzling monster ready to break down on us at every turn. A bit dramatic? Perhaps, but you have to admit – every once in a while when you’re driving on the open road, you’ve looked at your car and thought, “How are you going to cost me extra money today?”

In order to prevent this scenario from coming to fruition, it’s important to keep your car well-maintained. But while the old rules for car maintenance that have been passed down through generations may have served car owners well back in the old days, in modern times, some of those “wise tips” are not only outdated, but are also a huge waste of money.

Want to know what these wallet-draining tips are? Let’s take a look at some of the most common car maintenance myths that just may cost you loads of money.

Warm Up Before You Drive Warm up Your Engine

One of the most commonly-held maintenance myths directs you to warm up the car engine before you hit the road – especially on cold days. Apparently, if you drive with a cold engine, you could cause serious damage to your car.


As long as you’re not constantly flooring it wherever you go, you’re in safe hands – just turn the key and go. It is, understandable where this myth came from, as in there are certain car parts that do need to be warmed up before performing at full power. But remember – if your car is idling, it’s still producing power, and the difference between idling and driving at a reasonable speed is negligible. The parts that do need to be warmed up, such as your wheel bearings and transmission, will do so themselves once your car starts moving. When you unnecessarily keep your engine running, you’re wasting a good deal of money in expended fuel – when you don’t even have to.

Regularly Tune Your Engine Tune Your Engine

Sure, if you want your car’s engine to be running at its peak performance and you want to extend its life, then regular engine tune-ups are the best course of action… or so you thought.


Again, it’s not necessarily needed for your engine to get regular tune-ups, as cars nowadays are built to last for a very, very long time. It’s just another way to expensively have someone else replace your air filter or change your spark plugs (both of which you could easily do at home when the need arises). Sure, older cars have many parts that work together in a precarious balance, such as idle speed adjustment, air fuel mixture, and even ignition timing. All of these components need a certain level of basic checks and maintenance to work at optimal level. However, they don’t require you to go all “crazy Mr. Clean” on them. You can monitor your car’s performance by noting any differences in the way it begins to drive, and then get your engine checked accordingly.

Use High-Octane Gas

According to popular mythology, using only super grade or premium gasoline is good for your engine, making it run smoother and last longer.


With the exception of specific kinds of vehicles, such as sports cars that require high-octane gas, it doesn’t really matter whether you use plus- or premium-grade gas, since it won’t really affect the engine either way. All grades of gas are mandated by law to contain cleaning agents that will keep your engine performing smoothly and reduce the output of emissions.

Sports cars require premium-grade gas because they have to squeeze the air and gas into a super tight fuel-injection piston process. If any other form of gas is used, it would have the potential to cause engine knocking. But for your standard family sedan or SUV, regular (and less expensive) gasoline will do the trick.

If you’ve ever fallen for any of these myths, you’re not alone. But now that you know the truth, it’s time to let them go, so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

New Car Safety App Released by NHTSA

New Car Safety App Released by NHTSA


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced a “SaferCar” app for iPhones, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. This new app puts the power of NHTSA’s tremendous volume of vehicle safety data, including real-time vehicle safety information from NHTSA’s SaferCar.gov site, at the fingertips of American consumers. NHTSA’s SaferCar app allows users to search its 5-Star Safety Ratings for vehicles by make and model, locate car seat installation help, file a vehicle safety complaint, find recall information, and subscribe to automatic notices about vehicle recalls.

As a key partner in the White House Safety Data Initiative, the Department of Transportation (DOT) made a commitment at the Safety Datapalooza last September not only to make car safety data available through an easy-to-use app but also to give developers and entrepreneurs real-time access to the underlying government data through Application Programming Interfaces (API), so they can integrate these data into new and existing apps to further empower consumers. These APIs are now available, and developers can learn more about them at Safety.Data.Gov. NHTSA is also planning to publish an online course that teaches developers how to build safety tools using these APIs.

Millions of Americans already rely on these data to inform their purchasing decisions on popular automobile review sites; with the SaferCar app and others that will follow, they’ll be able to access these data in real-time. That includes:

  • 5-Star Safety Ratings: Consumers considering vehicle purchases can look up crash test ratings and compare them across different makes and models.
  • Recalls and Complaints: Consumers can register their vehicles to be notified by NHTSA if a safety issue is discovered. The app also makes it simple to submit complaints to NHTSA regarding possible safety problems with a particular vehicle.
  • Help Installing Child Seats: Get driving directions to the nearest child seat inspection station and get assistance to properly install car seats and boosters.
  • Safety Headlines and Alerts: Receive important news and information from NHTSA, as well as recall notices and push notices on their recorded vehicles.

Unleashing open data in formats that are easy to use in new and innovative ways, while rigorously protecting privacy, has been a priority for the Obama Administration. We applaud the NHTSA team for this latest contribution to the cause of open data and transportation safety!






Will Your Car Recognize You?

Will Your Car Recognize You?


The inevitably sub-par posture and numb cheeks of a wary, worn-out driver can leave an imprint — on the body, soul and car seat. Even the most well-worn saggy cloth or leather seat can hold the shape from its occupant for a few minutes, and it’s never a pretty or flattering sight. Get ready, because in a few years, the shape of your butt will be even more revealing.

Soon, your car seat might do more than prop you up, power forward and back and keep you warm. A team of researchers in Japan has developed a new method of theft deterrent that verifies the driver’s identity. Yeah, all anti-theft systems basically ensure (by some means or another) that only an “authorized” user is attempting to drive the car away — but this one’s a little different. Rather than inputting a code or possessing a key, this system is comprised of 360 sensors under the surface of the seat, which work together to determine the shape and size (among other stats) of the driver’s lower half: A fingerprint of the butt, if you will. If the scanned information doesn’t match the stored information for the car’s regular drivers, the car won’t start. (There’s currently no information available about how inconvenient the system would be in a situation in which a friend borrows the car, or in the event of an emergency.) The inventors claim research has determined a 98 percent rate of accuracy, but the system isn’t available yet, so you’ve got a few years to shape up before your car seat can scan and store any such unflattering data.

Why has such a development taken so long, anyway? Seat sensors have been used, although for more practical and safety-oriented purposes, for more than 15 years. One of the oldest and most common applications was for smart air-bag sensors, in which each air bag in the car was assigned to protect the occupant of a specific seat. If the seat sensor did not detect an adult occupant at the time of a crash, the nearby air bags would not deploy or would deploy at a lower force and speed, reducing the likelihood that a child would be injured by a full-force deployment. Some systems even adjusted the response based on the weight and position (or seating posture) of each occupant.

There have also been other systems that were designed to immediately identify the vehicle’s specific driver, although these features were geared more toward comfort and convenience than security. In the last several years, many auto manufacturers began offering driver memory systems on their mid-range and upscale models. These systems used an identifier, such as a key fob, to automatically restore the driver’s preferred settings, such as seat adjustment, mirror position and optimal climate control, enabling multiple family members to comfortably share a vehicle without engaging in the automotive equivalent of the “toilet seat up or down” argument. Such cars were no more able than a porcelain throne to identify a specific pair of cheeks, but with this latest development in seat sensors, there’s hope yet.






5 Safety Tips for Teen Drivers

5 Safety Tips for Teen Drivers


Statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other official, reputable groups show that teenage drivers get into more accidents than do any other drivers. Whether you’re a newly-minted San Francisco teen driver, who wants to learn best practices, or you’re a parent or educator of teens, here are critical safe driving tips.
5 Safe Driving Tips for Teens

1. Consider an across-the-board ban of cell phone use in the vehicle.

Most parents and teens understand that driving while texting can increase your accident risk substantially. In fact, one study conducted by Virginia Tech found that truckers who texted were over 20 times more likely to get into injury accidents. Due to safety risks, texting while driving has been illegal in the state of California since 2009. Other studies suggest that even chatting on a cell with a hands-free headset can increase your risk because it distracts you from the road. For maximum teen safety, therefore, put an end to any cell phone use in the car

2. Consciously slow down.

Teenage drivers are impulsive, natural risk takers. So many teens speed. Sadly, the effects can be fatal. In fact, 4 out of every 10 teen auto accident deaths can be linked to speeding. The teen driver may need to habituate himself or herself to driving slower than what his or her impulses dictate. Practice fighting the “speeding impulse” to lower the teen’s risk of a crash or collision.

3. Reduce other factors that could contribute to risk or distraction.

Eating, blasting loud music, and even just chatting with friends in the car can all lead to distraction, which can in turn lead to a teen auto accident. Consider encouraging the teen driver to eliminate distractions entirely. In other words: no loud music, no passengers (other than an adult supervisor or parent); no eating or drinking behind the wheel, etc. Remember, teenage drivers “must be accompanied and supervised by a licensed parent, guardian, or other licensed driver 25 years of age or older” when you transport passengers under 20 years of age at any time, for the first twelve months (via CA DMV website). Risk for serious injury will likely go down considerably as a result of these smart safety practices.

4. Choose a vehicle with excellent safety ratings.

It might be tempting, not to mention economical, to give your teen the beat up clunker that’s been sitting in your garage for years. But an investment in safer automotive technology can be priceless. Look for vehicles with airbags, electronic stability control, a terrific safety record, and anti-lock brakes.

5. Lastly, encourage the teen driver to take responsibility for his or her safety – and for the safety of others on the road.

At some point, safety is a choice. Even a teen who drives a very safe car and who has been banned from driving with friends can find ways to get into trouble. Make the teen your ally – you are both on the same side.






Most Dangerous Roads for Walking in New Jersey

Most Dangerous Roads for Walking in New Jersey


For five years in a row, Route 130, also known as Burlington Pike, in Burlington County has held the title: “New Jersey’s Deadliest Road for Pedestrians.”

This year, it will share that unfortunate distinction.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its annual list of “most dangerous roads for walking” in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut today, and the Black Horse Pike in Atlantic County and Route 1 in Middlesex County — each with with nine fatalities from 2009 to 2011 — have joined Burlington Pike as the deadliest in the state.

Together, the three highways were the scenes of the more pedestrian fatalities than any other roads in the metropolitan region with the exception of Route 24, also known as called Hempstead Turnpike and Fulton Avenue, in Nassau County, N.Y. (14 deaths), Broadway in Manhattan (12 deaths) and Route 25, also called as Jericho Turnpike and Middle Country Road, in Suffolk County, N.Y. (11 deaths), according to the report.

“Year in and year out, the pedestrian-unfriendly US-130 continues to threaten the lives of Burlington residents,” Mathew Norris, South Jersey advocate for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional transportation policy watchdog group, said. “It’s time to make this road safer.”

But pedestrian deaths could not be narrowed down to just one area of the state. Of the nine deadliest roads in New Jersey, four were in the south, two were in the central part of the state, and three were in the north.

The analysis by Tri-State Transportation Campaign did not include interstate highways and other roads where pedestrians are prohibited.

In the three-year stretch, 440 pedestrians died on New Jersey roads, up slightly from the 436 killed from 2008 to 2010 in last year’s survey.

The next six deadliest roadways in the state — which each had eight deaths over the three-year period, included Route 30, also called the White Horse Pike, in Camden County; Route 9 in Middlesex County, Routes 1&9 in Union County, Route 46 in Morris County, Route 9 in Ocean County and JFK Boulevard, also known as Route 501, in Hudson County.

The report found that about 60 percent of pedestrian deaths in New Jersey were on such arterial, or main roads, as Route 130, Routes 1&9 and Route 1 — even though they only make up about 15 percent of roads in the region.



Arterial roads are typically magnets for big box stores and other businesses, but improvements for pedestrians don’t always come with those new businesses, pedestrian safety advocates said.

“These are roadways that invite pedestrian activity because of what’s on them, but they don’t have the infrastructure to support that pedestrian activity,” Janna Chernetz, New Jersey advocate for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said.

The safety advocates said they hoped that changes introduced by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, including a website for the complete streets program, which accommodates pedestrians and bicyclists, and a workshop focusing on pedestrian safety, would be reflected in future road surveys.

(courtesy: Mike Frassinelli/The Star-Ledger )






Self Parking Car of the Future

Self Parking Car of the Future


Wouldn’t it be nice if your car could valet itself? That’s right—imagine driving up to a hotel or restaurant, getting out of your car, and pressing a button. Your car would roll up its windows and drive off to find an available parking spot and park itself. Then, when you needed your car again, you could just press another button and it would leave its parking space and drive to where you are.

Automakers are already working on this type of less-intense automated driving. Audi’s proof-of-concept car isn’t quite Google’s self-driving vehicle—there’s no LIDAR laser on the roof, and it can’t drive hundreds of thousands of miles without human interaction (yet). But this car can drive itself into a parking lot, park itself, and drive back out to meet you with the press of a smartphone button.

How it works

Car to owner: “Don’t worry; I’ve got this.”

The Audi proof-of-concept connected car uses multiple built-in sensors to determine whether a spot is open (and large enough for the car to park in) and whether—and how far away—obstacles are from the car. It also uses some “infrastructure-based” sensors to help guide it to the parking garage (sensors built into the road, the walls of the garage, and so on).

In the demonstration we saw, the car worked in tandem with a smartphone app. A rushed “businessman” jumped out of the car, held up his smartphone, and tapped a button in the app. The car, which had been turned off and put into park, restarted itself, rolled up its windows, and drove (slowly) off to the parking garage.

Once inside the parking garage, the car found an empty parking spot (between two cars) and backed itself into the spot. In this particular demonstration, the car used both sensors built into the car and infrastructure-based laser sensors, which were placed along the curb to help guide the car into the parking lot.

Audi’s piloted parking car: not coming soon

Audi’s piloted parking car is an impressive display of technology—especially since it actually uses sensors that are currently built into Audi vehicles: Audi didn’t introduce any new technology for its parking demonstration. However, because of the complications surrounding the self-driving car phenomenon, this particular technology, though not brand new, still isn’t quite ready to come to market.

Audi expects the piloted parking car will be a reality within the next decade, but they can’t be any more specific than that. Also, the company prefers the use of “piloted” rather than “self-driving” or “self-parking,” to describe this technology since part of its philosophy is that the driver is still ultimately responsible for the car’s actions. By the way, if your actions resulted in a traffic ticket we have online traffic school to help get that ticket dismissed.

Although Audi’s proof-of-concept uses sensor technology already in use on the company’s vehicles, the car did need the guidance of laser sensors built into the parking structure itself, and we couldn’t walk near it while it was parking (or even walk within several feet of it) for it to work.

Future piloted cars will still need the laser sensors, which means that both vehicles and infrastructure will need to . So even when these cars do come to market, garages and parking lots will have to support the feature for it to work. (I imagine you’ll pull up to a restaurant and see a sign that says “Audi piloted parking works here,” or something to that extent.)

Not just another self-driving car

Audi’s proof-of-concept has a couple of things that make it stand out from other autonomous vehicles, such as Google’s self-driving Prius and even Toyota’s automated Lexus research car. First, it only uses technology that already exists and that has been implemented in cars that are on the road today.

Second, it doesn’t need unsightly exposed lasers and sensors—the proof-of-concept car we saw looked like any regular Audi. Audi may not be ready to bring its piloted parking concept to market just yet, but, when it does, it will probably do so in style.

Top 10 Driver Distractions

Top 10 Driver Distractions


It’s no secret that for many people, multi-tasking doesn’t stop when they get behind the wheel. While taking a drive can still be an escape from the daily routine, people today seem more inclined to make auto travel an extension of home, work or play. That may be fine for a passenger, but as roads become busier and more congested, drivers should be finding ways to focus more attention on the road, not less.

Distraction can be disastrous. A joint study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that almost 80 percent of crashes occurred when the driver took his or her eyes away from the forward roadway.

Recent media coverage has focused attention on personal or in-vehicle electronics as a primary culprit in driver distraction, particularly with respect to cell phones. However, many common activities or behaviors are frequently the source of distraction-related accidents:

Top 10 Driver Distractions (source: NHTSA-VTTI Study):

  1. Using a wireless device, such as a cell phone
  2. Talking to and interacting with passengers
  3. Reaching for CDs, food, falling objects or other internal distractions
  4. Programming radio stations or tinkering with dashboard controls
  5. Using an electric razor, applying makeup or other personal hygiene-related actions
  6. Unwrapping a burger, opening a canned drink or other movements when eating at the wheel
  7. External distractions such as pointing out a funny billboard or pedestrian
  8. Talking or singing to oneself
  9. Smoking
  10. Daydreaming

Multi-tasking may be the only way to cope at work or at home, but it’s something to avoid behind the wheel. Remember, when driving, always Watch The Road.

Consumer electronics, used properly and in accordance with regulations and manufacturer guidelines, should make travel safer and assist drivers in keeping their eyes and attention on the road. For example, following voice prompts from your car navigation system is safer than trying to read a map or printed instruction. New back-up cameras and bumper sensors can make drivers more aware of pedestrians or obstacles that might not be visible. On long drives, listening to your latest digital music playlist or favorite satellite radio station will be more relaxing (and less distracting) than changing your radio station every few miles.

Just remember, if you want to use electronics when you drive, get them set up before you put the car in gear.




Older drivers: 7 Tips for Driver Safety

Older drivers: 7 Tips for Driver Safety


Driver safety requires more than understanding road signs and traffic laws. As you get older, you’ll likely notice physical changes that can make certain actions — such as turning your head to look for oncoming traffic or driving at night — more challenging. Still, older drivers can remain safe on the road. Consider seven tips for older drivers.

No. 1: Stay physically active

Staying physically active improves your strength and flexibility. In turn, physical activity can improve driver safety by making it easier to turn the steering wheel, look over your shoulder and make other movements while driving and parking. Look for ways to include physical activity in your daily routine. Walking is a great choice for many people. Stretching and strength training exercises are helpful for older drivers, too. If you’ve been sedentary, get your doctor’s OK before increasing your activity level.

No. 2: Schedule regular vision and hearing tests

Senses such as hearing and vision tend to decline with age. Impaired hearing can be a concern for older drivers by limiting the ability to hear an approaching emergency vehicle or train. And common age-related vision problems — such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration — can make it difficult to see clearly or drive at night.

Ask your doctor how often to schedule vision and hearing tests. Even if you think your hearing and vision are fine, stick to your doctor’s recommended exam schedule. Problems may be easier to correct if caught early.

No. 3: Manage any chronic conditions

Work with your doctor to manage any chronic conditions — especially those that might impact driver safety, such as diabetes or seizures. Follow your doctor’s instructions for managing your condition and staying safe behind the wheel. This might include adjusting your treatment plan or restricting your driving.

Of course, it’s equally important to know your medications. Many drugs can affect driver safety, even when you’re feeling fine. Read your medication labels so that you know what to expect from each one. Don’t drive if you’ve taken medication that causes drowsiness or dizziness. If you’re concerned about side effects or the impact on driver safety, consult your doctor.

No. 4: Understand your limitations

Consider your physical limitations and make any necessary adjustments. For example, if your hands hurt when gripping the steering wheel, use a steering wheel cover that makes holding and turning the wheel more comfortable. You might ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist, who can offer assistive devices to help you drive or suggest specific exercises to help you overcome your limitations.

You might also adjust your vehicle or choose a different vehicle to better meet your needs. For example, many older drivers find it easier to step into and out of a bigger car. Vehicles that feature larger, easier-to-read dials on the dashboard are often popular with older drivers. Features such as large mirrors and power windows and door locks can be helpful, too.

No. 5: Drive under optimal conditions

You can improve driver safety by driving during the daytime, in good weather, on quiet roads and in familiar areas. Plan your route to avoid rush-hour traffic. Delay your trip if the visibility is poor. Beyond road conditions, make sure you’re in optimal condition to drive. Don’t drive if you’re tired or angry — and never drive after drinking alcohol.

No. 6: Plan ahead

When you get in your vehicle, be prepared to drive. Plan your route ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself trying to read a map or printed directions while driving. If you use a GPS device, enter your destination before you start driving. If necessary, call ahead for directions or major landmarks, such as water towers, schools or other prominent buildings. While you’re driving, don’t do anything that takes your focus from the road — such as eating, using a cell phone or adjusting the radio.

No. 7: Update your driving skills

Consider taking a refresher course for older drivers. Updating your driving skills might even earn you a discount on your car insurance, depending on your policy. Look for courses through a community education program or local organizations that serve older adults.

In addition, know when it’s time to consider other alternatives.If you become confused while you’re driving or you’re concerned about your ability to drive safely — or loved ones or others have expressed concern — it might be best to stop driving. Consider taking the bus, using a van service, hiring a driver or taking advantage of other local transportation options. Giving up your car keys doesn’t need to end your independence. Instead, consider it a way to keep yourself and others safe on the road.