safety tips

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!


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.

Follow These Tips To Avoid Drowsy Driving

Follow These Tips To Avoid Drowsy Driving

Have you ever driven home late at night, only to realize that you don’t actually recall the details of the drive? I have, and as a result vowed years ago to rearrange my travel schedule to avoid driving myself home from the airport in a late-night post-business-travel stupor. The National Healthy Sleep Awareness Projects calls drowsy driving a “pervasive threat to public health and transportation safety.”


A study in the Accident Analysis and Prevention Journal showed that being awake for 21 hours can decrease the “ability to maintain speed and road position as serious as having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent.” It’s no wonder that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 100,000 crashes every year are caused by drowsy drivers.

The Healthy Sleep Awareness Project has recently launched Awake at the Wheel, an initiative aimed at educating drivers on the dangers of driving drowsy. The experts behind the initiative go a few steps beyond simply preaching; here are some warning signs and tips to help you avoid driving drowsy:

Drowsy Driving Warning Signs

  • You keep yawning.
  • You are unable to keep your eyes open.
  • You catch yourself “nodding off” and have trouble keeping your head up.
  • You can’t remember driving the last few miles.
  • You end up too close to cars in front of you.
  • You miss road signs or drive past your turn.
  • You drift into the other lane of traffic.
  • You drift onto the “rumble strip” or the road’s shoulder.

Drowsy Driving Prevention

“Rolling down the windows or turning up the volume on the radio will do little to increase your alertness while driving,” according to the National Healthy Sleep Project. Here are some more effective ways to avoid drowsy driving:

  • Get a full night of seven to nine hours of sleep before driving.
  • Avoid driving late at night.
  • Avoid driving alone.
  • On a long trip, share the driving with another passenger.
  • Pull over at a rest stop and take a nap.
  • Use caffeine for a short-term boost.
  • Take a short nap after consuming caffeine to maximize the alerting effect.
  • Arrange for someone to give you a ride home after working a late shift.

Join with us in vowing to never drive drowsy again — even if it means spending a little extra for a taxi, car service or a hotel for a night, or calling in a favor to a night-owl friend for a ride. Our lives are worth the extra effort.


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 “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

NHTSA Bids You Safe Travels With Winter Driving Tips

NHTSA Bids You Safe Travels With Winter Driving Tips

While the trip in the song took them “over the river and through the wood” by sleigh, the majority of holiday travelers head to Grandmother’s house — or wherever else they go to celebrate — by automobile. Nearly 39 million motorists were estimated to have traveled more than 50 miles from home by car during this past Thanksgiving holiday, with millions more set to hit the road for Christmas, according to AAA.

For those planning to head out on a car trip this Christmas, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reminds motorists to buckle their seat belts, put young children in child-safety seats and anyone younger than 13 in the backseat, avoid drinking alcohol or distractions when driving, and stay out of the “No Zone,” the area around large trucks and buses where crashes are most likely to occur.

NHTSA also reminds travelers that weather-related crashes account for a significant percentage of fatalities during winter holiday travel, totaling 4 percent for Thanksgiving 2012. “Preparedness” is the name of the game when it comes to guarding against both weather-related accidents and roadside emergencies.

NHTSA has provided the following checklist for safe winter driving:

Plan Your Travel

  • Check weather, road and traffic conditions.
  • Allow ample time to reach your destination safely.
  • Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, and let others know your anticipated arrival time.

Know Your Car

  • Every car handles differently, particularly on wet, icy or snowy roads. Practice driving your car in adverse weather conditions in an empty parking lot in full daylight.
  • Before moving your car, clean snow, ice or dirt from windows, forward sensors, headlights, taillights and the backup camera.
  • When renting a car, familiarize yourself with the vehicle before driving it of the lot.
  • Drive slowly and increase following distance so you have plenty of time to stop.
  • When braking, apply firm, continuous pressure with antilock brakes; for non-antilock brakes, pump the pedal gently.
  • In a skid, ease your foot off the gas and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go; stay off the gas and brakes until you regain control.

Get Your Car a Checkup

  • Visit a mechanic for routine maintenance before your trip.
  • Have your vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, worn hoses and other items that may need repair.
  • Have your battery checked for sufficient voltage, amperage and reserve capacity; have the charging system and belts inspected; keep fresh gasoline in a hybrid-electric vehicle to support the gas engine.
  • Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle as prescribed by the owner’s manual and check for coolant leaks.
  • Fill your windshield washer fluid reservoir completely using high-quality winter fluid with deicer and buy extra to keep in your vehicle.
  • Make sure your windshield wipers work and replace worn blades, and check your window defrosters to ensure they’re working.
  • Check tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the manufacturer’s recommended inflation, which is found on a placard on the driver’s-side door frame and in the owner’s manual.

In Case of Emergency

  • Bring a snow shovel, broom and ice scraper; abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter in case you get stuck; jumper cables, a flashlight and warning devices like flares and emergency markers; blankets; a cell phone with charger; water; food; and any necessary medicines.
  • Stay with your stopped or stalled car and don’t overexert yourself.
  • Keep the car’s interior dome light on.
  • To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide, don’t run your car for long periods of time with the window up or in an enclosed space; keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and run the engine only long enough to stay warm.


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.


NHTSA’s 5 to Drive

NHTSA’s 5 to Drive

Handing over the keys is a worrying experience for most parents, but by setting expectations well before your teen starts to drive, you may be able to reduce your teen’s risk of a crash. NHTSA recommends five rules that parents should set for new drivers.


No Cellphones: It’s not just texting that teen drivers should stay away from while driving. New drivers need to focus all their attention on the road, so cellphones, including hands-free cellphones, should never be used while the teen is driving. Some cars, like those from Ford, offer “Do Not Disturb” modes for phones to prevent the phone from being used while driving. There are also a number of apps that can disable a phone while the vehicle is in motion, removing temptation from teens. Sound too tough? Ten percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurred because of driver distraction, according to NHTSA. Putting away the cellphone doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?


No Extra Passengers: A number of studies have found that teen drivers are more likely to engage in a risky driving behavior, like speeding, tailgating, failing to yield, weaving, showing off or driving erratically, than when they drive alone. While state graduated licensing laws often limit the number of passengers a teen driver can have, parents should not allow teens to drive with their friends in the car.


No Speeding: In 2012, excessive speed was a factor in 48 percent of crashes that were fatal to teen drivers, reports NHTSA. New drivers just don’t have the skills or decision-making ability to handle extra speed. Talk to your teen about how risky speeding is. Some cars also offer tools to monitor and limit teen drivers. Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system can send a notification to a parent if the car goes over a certain speed. Ford’s MyKey system allows parents to limit a car’s top speed when a teen is driving.


No Alcohol: This rule seems pretty basic, given that it’s illegal for teens to drink at all, let alone drink and drive. However, NHTSA reports that in 2012, 28 percent of teen drivers who had fatal crashes had been drinking. Let your teen know that drinking and driving, or getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking, is unacceptable.


Always Buckle Up: No parent would let a toddler ride in an unbuckled car seat, yet teen drivers are the group that’s least likely to buckle up. NHTSA says that 55 percent of 15- to 20-year-old passengers who were killed in a car crash weren’t wearing a seat belt. It adds the 49 percent of teen drivers who were killed in car crashes while sober weren’t buckled up. Teen drivers who had been drinking were even worse off: 55 percent of teen drivers killed in crashes after drinking were not wearing their seat belts. Talk to your teen about the importance of buckling up. If you worry about the message getting through, Ford’s MyKey system can disable the car’s radio until everyone in the car has their seat belt on.


NHTSA’s 5 to Drive rules are an excellent first step to keep teen drivers safe, but teens are experts at detecting hypocrisy. Set a good example and follow these rules when you drive, even if your kids are years away from taking the wheel. You’ll not only be keeping yourself and your passengers safe, but you’ll also be setting the stage for your kids to have safe driving habits for life.

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. 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.

Hydroplaning Basics: Why it Happens and How You Can Avoid it

Hydroplaning Basics: Why it Happens and How You Can Avoid it

Have you ever skidded while driving on a wet road for what seemed like a split second or even longer? Even if you didn’t lose complete control, you most likely experienced hydroplaning.

What is Hydroplaning?

The term hydroplaning is commonly used to refer to the skidding or sliding of a cars tires across a wet surface. Hydroplaning occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can scatter. Water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tire, and the tire is then separated from the road surface by a thin film of water and loses traction. The result is loss of steering, braking and power control.

Rubber tires have tread (grooves) that are designed to channel water from beneath the tire. This creates higher friction with the road surface and can help prevent or minimize instances of hydroplaning.

When does Hydroplaning Occur?

Hydroplaning can occur on any wet road surface, however, the first 10 minutes of a light rain can be the most dangerous.

When light rain mixes with oil residue on the road surface, it creates slippery conditions that can cause vehicles, especially those traveling speeds in excess of 35 mph, to hydroplane. This can be a deadly combination for the driver and surrounding motorists.

The chance of being involved in a motor vehicle accident increases during poor weather conditions such as fog, rain, ice and snow. However, it isn’t necessarily the pounding rain and blinding snow that are the most dangerous; it is the slick conditions that drivers aren’t prepared for.

How do I Avoid Hydroplaning?

The following are important tips to avoid hydroplaning:

  1. Keep your tires properly inflated
  2. Rotate and replace tires when necessary
  3. Slow down when roads are wet: the faster you drive, the harder it is for your tires to scatter the water
  4. Stay away from puddles and standing water
  5. Avoid driving in outer lanes where water tends to accumulate
  6. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you
  7. Turn off cruise control
  8. Drive in a lower gear
  9. Avoid hard braking
  10. Try not to make sharp or quick turns


Defensive Driving and Traffic School