safety tips

Keeping Kids Safe

Keeping Kids Safe

 

Trunk Entrapment

 

Children are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. So, if you leave your kids unattended, in or near a vehicle, it won’t be long before they are playing in it. Hide and seek can turn deadly if they get trapped in the trunk, where temperatures can rise very quickly – resulting in heatstroke or asphyxiation.

 

Prevention Tips

 

– Teach children that vehicle trunks are for cargo, not for playing.

– Always supervise your children carefully when in and around vehicles.

– Check the trunk right away if your child is missing.

– Lock your car doors and trunk and be sure keys and remote entry devices are out of sight and reach of your kids.

– Keep the rear fold-down seats closed/locked to keep your children from climbing into the trunk from inside your car.

 

 

Retrofit Your Car

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As of September 1, 2001, auto manufacturers were required to equip all new vehicle trunks with a ‘glow in the dark’ trunk release inside the trunk compartment. Show your kids how to use the release in case of an emergency. If your car is older and does not have the ‘glow in the dark’ trunk release, ask your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.
What You Need To Know, Now.

 

– Younger children are more sensitive to heat than older children and adults, and are at greater risk for heatstroke.

– High temperature, humidity and poor ventilation create an extremely dangerous environment in a vehicle trunk.

– Check the trunk right away if your child is missing.

 

 

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Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. An outside temperature in the mid 60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes.

 

 

Car Seat Recommendations for Children

Car Seat Recommendations for Children

 

There are many car seat choices on the market. Use the information below to help you choose a car seat that best meets your child’s needs.

 

Birth – 12 Months

Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

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1 – 3 Years

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

 

4 – 7 Years

Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

 

8 – 12 Years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

 

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5 Engine Oil Myths

5 Engine Oil Myths

 

We all know that our cars need engine oil in order to operate smoothly. The role of engine oil is to keep the moving parts of the engine lubricated, to protect them against rust corrosion, and — with modern detergent oil additives — to keep them free of sludge and general engine gunk.

 

But most of us also know some things about engine oil that aren’t actually true. For instance, isn’t it always necessary to change your oil every 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers)? And when the color of your oil starts becoming dark, doesn’t that mean that it’s about to fill your engine with harmful sludge?

 

Well, no. These ideas are myths and over the next few pages we’ll debunk them, along with a few other engine oil “facts” that don’t happen to be true. A little knowledge isn’t necessarily a dangerous thing, but a little knowledge that doesn’t happen to be true could quite possibly ruin your engine, or at least cost you a lot of unnecessary expense.

 

5 – The “W” in 10W-30 oil stands for “weight.”

When you buy engine oil, it’s important to know the oil’s viscosity, a property that corresponds roughly to its thickness. The less viscous the oil, the more smoothly it moves through your engine and lubricates the moving parts. The best engine oils have a viscosity that is neither so high (thick) that it will barely flow or so low (thin) that it will slip through your engine like water.

 

There are two ways in which oil viscosity is measured: single grade and multi-grade. SAE 30 is a typical single-grade rating. That means that an organization called the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) ran the oil through a standardized tube-like device and timed how long it took, in seconds, to flow from one end to the other. The viscosity rating is the number of seconds rounded to the nearest multiple of ten. Thus, SAE 30 oil takes approximately 30 seconds to flow through the tube. This single viscosity rating is sometimes called the oil’s “weight.”

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Unfortunately, oil changes its viscosity with temperature and the single viscosity rating only represents the flow of oil when it’s warm. What if you need to start your car on a cold winter morning? The oil will flow more slowly, so the cold viscosity rating is important too. A multi-grade rating gives you both the hot and cold viscosities. For 10W-30 oil, the 30 is the same as the SAE 30 viscosity rating for warm oil, but the 10W is the viscosity rating for cold oil, according to a standardized rating system developed by the SAE for winter oil use.

 

And that’s what the “W” stands for: “winter.”

 

4 – When engine oil turns dark, it’s dirty and should be changed.

If you’re conscientious about keeping your car in good running order, you probably worry from time to time that your oil has gotten dirty and is causing sludge to build up in your engine. So you pull the dipstick out and check the color of the oil at the tip. Chances are, it’s starting to turn dark, no longer the light amber color that you saw on the stick when your oil was fresh. So now it’s too dirty to use, right? It’s depositing sludge in your engine and needs to be changed.

 

Wrong. In fact, just the opposite is true. If you’re using a detergent engine oil (and most modern engine oils have detergent additives), the oil is working just the way it’s supposed to, dispersing the tiny particles that can result in engine sludge and holding them in suspension in the oil itself so that they can’t build up. That’s why the oil appears darker, but this in no way impedes the oil from performing its normal functions of lubricating and protecting the metal surfaces inside the engine. Of course, the oil is limited in how many of these suspended particles it can contain and will eventually need to be changed when it becomes saturated, but use the oil change interval recommended by your car’s manufacturer to decide when to change the oil, not the color of the oil on the stick.

 

3 – You should change your oil every 3,000 miles, no matter what the manual says.

Once upon a time, almost every auto manufacturer recommended that the oil in your engine be changed every 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers). Use oil past that interval and the engine would begin to fill with sludge, which would not only degrade performance but leave the moving parts at risk for damage.

 

That’s no longer true. Modern detergent oils, improved oil viscosities and better auto engineering in general now allow cars to go about 7,500 miles (12,070 kilometers) between oil changes. Yet you’ll still hear the 3,000-mile (4,828-kilometer) figure quoted widely — especially by people trying to sell you oil. No less an authority than Consumer Reports has debunked this myth, stating that unless you drive your car under unusually difficult conditions, and especially if you always drive it in stop-and-go traffic, going 7,500 miles (12,070 kilometers) between oil changes shouldn’t harm your engine in any way.

 

2 – Engine oil additives will improve your engine’s performance.

This is true — except that these “additives” have already been added before you buy the oil. Any reputable brand of motor oil will come with additives that improve its viscosity index — the range of temperatures under which it flows properly through the engine — and that give it detergent properties that keep your engine free of sludge. Most will also include rust retardants to prevent corrosion and chemicals to protect metallic surfaces.

 

With all these additives already in the oil, putting in more may actually dilute what’s already there and lessen the oil’s effectiveness. Check your car’s manual to see if it has any special additive needs, but this is unlikely in anything except some of the most exotic high-performance engines.

 

1 – Synthetic engine oils can cause oil leaks.

Back in the 1970s, when synthetic engine oils (those based not on petroleum but on chemical base stocks such as polyalphaolefins) first became popular, they didn’t always play well with the seals and gaskets in the car’s engine. They could cause the seals to shrink in ways that petroleum-based oils did not, resulting in those messy oil leaks that would mysteriously appear in your car’s parking space. Some people still fear that synthetic oil will cause leaks and so they continue to use petroleum-based oils instead.

 

These fears are largely unfounded. Oil manufacturers long ago learned to reformulate synthetic oil so that seal shrinkage doesn’t occur. Still, there’s a way in which synthetic oil can cause a leak, at least when you use it in an older car that’s been operating for years on a petroleum-based oil. The synthetic oil can clean oil sludge off the seals that may actually have been blocking off tiny cracks in the seals, revealing leaks that have been there all along. This probably won’t be a problem on newer cars, but if you’re still driving a car that’s more than, say, 15 years old, you might not want to make a sudden decision to switch to a synthetic oil.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Cheap Ways to Increase Horsepower

5 Cheap Ways to Increase Horsepower

 

Your car is fine. It’s got a great stereo, and you’ve been driving it long enough that the seat has that perfect butt-groove going on. You’ve been pretty diligent about taking care of it, with regular oil changes and trips through the car wash. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were, I don’t know, faster? Maybe had a little oomph when you take off from a red light? Maybe, just maybe, your car could even pass another car while going uphill — with a little tuning. We’re not talking about making your car a queen of the drag strip; I mean, that’s expensive. Or is it?

There are easily five things you can do to pep up your commute or turn in a respectable time on the quarter-mile, and it doesn’t have to cost more than your mortgage payment to do them.

5 – Cold-Air Intake

This is the first thing just about anyone will tell you when you say you want to up your horsepower. It’s kind of like those minty-fresh gum commercials with the ice swirling around, and the price is only a smidge more than a pack of gum. A kind of big smidge, but still. The idea is that cold air is more dense, so more air gets into the cylinders to mix with the fuel. More air means more combustion, and more combustion means more power, to the tune of a realistic 5- to 7-horsepower in a typical engine. This only works if the air intake is the limiting factor, however. If your engine is already sucking in big breaths of cool, fresh air, then try one of the other tricks on this list.

4 – Cat-back Exhaust

No cats need be harmed in the increasing of one’s horsepower (how did so many animals make it into this tip?). This means that you straighten the pipes from the catalyst in the exhaust tubing to the back of the car, at the bumper. “This will loosen up the entire system,” said Jeff Zurschmeide, author of “The New Mini Performance Handbook.” “It pushes the exhaust gases out easier.” Getting those gases out ASAP means more room for more air and fuel, and more air and fuel means more power. Zurschmeide notes that “new catalysts are less restrictive than they used to be, and they’re designed to work with the engine. They’re not such a bar to performance anymore.” If your car is, ahem, vintage, you might want to check out tip number 3.

3 – High-flow Catalyst

When cars were first required to have catalytic converters, manufacturers rushed to slap them into place. They didn’t do one’s performance any favors, though they did help the air we breathe some. It took decades for catalysts to improve, with even cars from the 1980s and 1990s getting gummed up in the converters. And if you added leaded gas to that equation? Well, you were lucky if you could make it up a hill. Try this: Swap an old catalyst out for a modern aftermarket high-flow number and feel the difference in the pedal. Do this along with a cat-back exhaust, Zurschmeide says, for the biggest bang for your buck. He also notes that it’s illegal to remove a catalyst that’s not broken — and there are some hefty fines for punishment. Do not, under any circumstances, knock a hole into your catalytic converter with a wrench you happen to be holding, requiring it to be replaced, perhaps by a high-flow catalyst. You hear that? Do not knock a hole in it.

2 – Tire Tricks

Believe it or not, there are a bunch of tweaks you can make to your tires to increase the feel of power in your car. Zurschmeide suggests starting with a more aggressive alignment. Dial out the toe-in that manufacturers specify so that the wheels are pointed straight ahead for more straight-line speed. Swap out the regular tires for a set of shorter tires to increase acceleration. Sure, this will make your speedometer read incorrectly, but it’s a small price to pay for a quick time off the line. You can always get a new set of light weight wheels to mount those short tires on, too, but be careful here if you’re pinching pennies. A set of carbon-fiber wheels may lighten your load, but they’ll lighten your wallet by far, far more.

1 – Reflashing

Reflash! Ah-aaaah! Savior of the universe! Reflashing your car’s computer merely changes its programming regarding timing, fuel-air mixture and other horsepower-upping inputs. The benefit of a reflash, besides the added power, is that it can be undone if you need warranty work done or have to have your car inspected by the state environmental department. The downside is that it really only works if your car is turbocharged or supercharged; reflashing a normally aspirated engine will only get you an extra half a horsepower, Zurschmeide says. And as with some of the others on this list, it only nets a big power boost if the factory programming is the limiting factor for your engine. Swapping out the stock computer for an entirely new module could help — but that, Zurschmeide says, “has a very high price of entry.”

How Defensive Driving Works

How Defensive Driving Works

 

Approximately 6 million collisions occur on America’s roads each year [source: NHTSA]. These accidents kill approximately 40,000 Americans and injure 2 million more annually. They also cost the U.S. government about $164 billion — or about $1,000 per person per year [sources: KCBS, CDC Faststats, Los Alamos National Lab].

 

No one plans to get into a car wreck, but accidents can and often do happen. Drivers get distracted by cell phones and text messages, take their eyes off the road or simply don’t pay attention. Aggressive drivers hit the gas pedal too hard, switch lanes without warning or follow other drivers too closely.

 

You can’t prevent accidents entirely, but you can decrease their likelihood by practicing some good defensive driving skills. Defensive driving is all about anticipation — knowing what’s going on around you, predicting what might happen and knowing how to react quickly in case another driver catches you off-guard. It’s also about protecting yourself so that you’re less likely to be injured in a crash. Something as simple as putting on a seat belt could save your life in an accident; in fact, they save about 11,000 lives per year [source: NHTSA]

 

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In this article, you’ll learn some tips to help you drive more defensively. Although no amount of defensive driving can prevent a crash, this advice should help you stay alert, in control and safer out on the road.

 

Here are a few tips to help you drive defensively:

 

Stay focused. It’s hard to ignore that plaintive cell phone ring or text message signal. If you’re running late, you may be tempted to finish breakfast or put on your mascara while driving. Don’t do it. A 2006 study finds that almost 80 percent of all crashes involve some kind of distraction in the three seconds immediately before the accident [source: Auto Trader]. When you’re driving, the only thing that should be on your mind is the road in front of you. Put your cell phone out of reach, even if it’s hands-free — research finds that any kind of phone can take your concentration off the road [source: CNN Money]. Pull over to talk and text, eat, put on your makeup, change the CD or read the newspaper (yes, some people actually do this in traffic).

 

Be in control. Taking any controlled substance could slow your reflexes and mar your judgment enough to cause an accident, so avoid drugs and alcohol when you know you have to drive. Sleepiness is also a danger on the road. Driving drowsy is like getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 (the legal limit in the U.S.), and it leads to nearly 2 million crashes each year [source: Sleep Foundation]. Get a good night’s sleep before you drive, and if your eyelids are starting to droop, get off the road and find a place where you can nap.

 

Be wary. You may be the best driver in the world, but you still need to worry about other drivers, including the woman who’s putting on her lipstick at 70 miles per hour (113 kph). Put extra space between your car and the one in front of you to give other drivers enough room to make unexpected moves. Check your mirrors constantly and always try to look as far as you can down the road ahead. Always have an escape route you can use quickly if someone sneaks into your lane unexpectedly.

 

Be safe. Make sure your car is equipped with accessories like air bags, ABS brakes and traction-control systems. Check your tire pressure, lights and fluids before you hit the road. Lock your doors, wear your seatbelt at all times and make sure your passengers do the same (children should be in age-appropriate car seats). Drive within the legal speed limit and follow local traffic laws.

 

Defensive Driving Courses

 

All you really need to drive defensively is a little common sense, but you can take a defensive driving course if you think you need some extra help. These classes are often referred to as “traffic school,” a program drivers use to erase points from their license after they get a speeding ticket, but they can also be useful for drivers who just want to brush up on their skills and learn how to prevent accidents. 1SafeDriver.com offers defensive driving courses. These courses also teach students how to react safely in a variety of conditions, including how to:

 

– Increase following distance and avoid being blinded by oncoming headlights at night, when visibility is low.

– Allow for safe distances, maneuver around trucks and avoid aggressive drivers on the highway.

– Drive safely on rain- or snow-slicked roads

 

Our online courses feature interactive screens where users learn defensive driving techniques and take quizzes designed to test their new skills.

How do I know when my tires need to be replaced?

How do I know when my tires need to be replaced?

Keeping your tires properly inflated not only increases your car’s fuel efficiency but also improves your car’s handling, braking ability and ride quality. Yet despite these benefits, more than a quarter of all passenger vehicles on U.S. roads have significantly underinflated tires, illustrating just how little attention our tires receive [source: NHTSA]. Over time that neglect, along with normal wear and tear, can lead to tires unsafe for the road. But before we learn how to decide if your tires should be replaced, let’s take a quick look at how your tires work.

 

Modern radial tires are constructed from multiple layers of materials like polyester, steel and, of course, rubber. These layers are designed to provide the tire with the strength and durability to last tens of thousands of miles, but only if the tires are properly maintained. Your tire’s tread is particularly important, since it’s the only part of your car in contact with the road. The grooves cut into tire tread are crucial for wet weather traction, channeling water away from the tread and keeping your tires in contact with the road.

 

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You can typically see if your tire’s tread or sidewall has suffered damage, but visual checks don’t tell the whole story. And since worn-out tires can hurt your car’s handling or even explode while you’re on the road, keeping your tires in running condition is critical for your safety and the safety of others. Read on to find out how you can tell if your tires need to be rotated, fixed or replaced altogether.

 

Tread Depth and Other Telling Signs

In some cases, knowing when to replace your tires is straightforward. For instance, your tires have tread wear indicators built into them, (typically marked by the letters “TWI” and a small arrow on the side of the tire). If these indicators become flush with the tire tread, your tire has less than the required one-sixteenth of an inch of tread remaining, and it’s time to replace the tire [source: NHTSA].

 

You can also check your tire’s tread depth using a tread-depth gauge or even a penny (or a quarter, see sidebar). When using a penny, place the penny in the tread’s grooves with Lincoln’s head upside down. If the tread covers part of his head, you still have enough tread to drive safely. Of course, your tread doesn’t always wear evenly, particularly if your tires are misaligned, improperly inflated or otherwise out of balance. Accordingly, make sure to test your tread depth in several places, checking for bald patches as you go, and inspect both the center and outer edges of each tire to make sure the tread is wearing evenly.

 

In addition to checking tread depth, you should also look for cracks or cuts in your tire’s sidewall, particularly in older tires that haven’t seen a lot of miles. If you notice a bulge in your tire’s sidewall, be particularly wary; your tire has likely developed a weak spot and need to be replaced as quickly as possible.

 

Caring for Your Hardworking Tires

 

In some cases, just paying attention to your car when you drive can clue you in to problems with your tires. For instance, if your car vibrates excessively, your tires might be unbalanced or out of alignment. If you start to feel that your car’s handling is unresponsive, check to see if your tires are underinflated. If your car seems particularly bumpy, on the other hand, they might be overinflated. Proper alignment, balancing and inflation can greatly improve your car’s handling and extend the life of your tires.

 

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To further extend the mileage you get from your tires, have your tires rotated every 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers) or so, or consider doing the job yourself if you’ve got a jack and jack stands. Rotating your tires will ensure that they wear evenly, so you’ll get the most out of them before you need to head to the tire store.

 

Lastly, make sure to avoid potholes and other road debris if you can, since those things can knock your tires out of alignment or damage the tires themselves. Considering that the average cost of a replacement tire has jumped nearly $40 over the past ten years, all the way up to $97.97 per tire, getting more mileage out of your tires makes a lot of sense [source: Welsh].

 

But what happens when you have a tire with lots of life left on the tread, and you happen to run over a sharp rock or nail on the way home from work? Should you fix the flat yourself, take it into a professional or get it replaced? The answer depends on several factors. If the puncture is located on the tire’s sidewall, you’re out of luck; you’re going to need a new tire. If the puncture is located in the tread of the tire, however, your safest bet is to take the tire into a professional, who will take the tire off the wheel, patch the tire from the inside and plug the hole. This option might be a bit pricier than buying a $5 tire plug kit and doing the job yourself, but the repair will be much stronger. In fact, a study of more than 14,000 scrap tires showed that, while 17 percent of tires had been repaired during their life, only 12.5 percent of those repairs were performed correctly [source: Rubber Manufacturers Association]. Considering all that’s riding on your tires, a few extra bucks is a small price to pay for a safe ride.

5 Completely Wrong Ways to Drive in High Winds

5 Completely Wrong Ways to Drive in High Winds

Regardless of where you stand on global warming or climate change or the Mayan apocalypse, there’s no denying that the weather seems to have gotten especially wacky in the past few years. Extremely powerful tornadoes are touching down willy-nilly, and the hurricane season seems to last all year. It’s only a matter of time before we finally reach hurricane Zelda.

 

Besides torrential rains, snow measured in fathoms, and storm names based on video game characters, wacky weather comes with wind. Lots of wind. It can blow strong and steady, or it can gust and wreak havoc in three-second bursts. But no matter what kind of wind you’re dealing with (unless it’s a gentle sea breeze that makes the palm trees sway like hula dancers), it is not delightful to have to drive in it.

 

Let’s take a look at 5 things to do when driving in high winds that will earn you a coveted entry on FailBlog.

 

5 – Follow Things That Are Being Pulled by Other Things

Whether the wind is steady or gusting, as long as it’s strong, it will have an effect on any trailer out there. Tractor trailers, campers, boats — as long as it’s being pulled along the road, the wind can push it around.

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Think about it: The trailer has no power of its own to turn its wheels or slow down. It is attached to the truck towing it at one little point: the hitch. It usually has big, tall, square sides that are the exact opposite of aerodynamic. The wind isn’t going to come at the trailer in a polite, aerodynamic way either; it’s going to shove against it from the side, like a bully.

 

This is the point where, if you want to do it wrong, you’re going to try to draft behind that trailer in front of you on the road. Get really close, so that the nose of your vehicle is nearly tucked under the bumper of the trailer. This is a poor practice on the best of calm, sunny days, but on a very windy day, it’s downright dunderheaded.

 

For extra dunderhead points, pull out real quick-like from that drafting position and try to pass the whole rig as it sways in the breeze. See where that gets you. (Hint: It does not get you positioned perfectly and safely in the center of the lane.)

4 – Go Very Fast

You know how when someone sets a speed record, officials will note along with the time if there was a wind at his or her back? Like maybe the driver got a little extra something out of it? Well, if a little wind is good for sending the needle around the speedometer, a lot is probably awesome.

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If you can see the storm coming, with black clouds on the horizon and maybe some flashes of lightning, you’re golden. You’re going to out-drive the storm. Pay no attention to the fact that your car has 115-horsepower on a good day, or that it’s an ancient diesel Volkswagen bus that can’t out-run a newborn kitten. You’ve got this!

 

The danger here — not that you’re afraid of danger — is that when the wind pushes you off-course at speed, there’s no time to make a correction. Wherever the wind says you’re going, you’ll go there. Also, any corrections you attempt to make will tend to be over corrections, sending you in the opposite direction very fast. So, go for it!

 

3 – Drive a Tall, Skinny Car

What’s good for supermodels is great for tipping vehicles over in the wind: the taller and skinnier, the better.

Imagine a low-slung supercar like a Lamborghini and a full-sized van circa 1976. Maybe the van has wolves airbrushed on the side in your imagination, maybe it does not. Set these vehicles on a highway in Iowa with a storm on its way and the wind whipping like Indiana Jones keeping snakes at bay.

The Lamborghini doesn’t have any surface for the wind to push against; each panel has been made aerodynamically slippery, so the wind glides past. Also, it’s so close to the ground that downforce helps keep it stuck to the road.

The van, on the other hand, has loads of surface for the wind to whip against. Passengers inside can feel the whole thing rock down the highway. They can probably also hear the airbrushed wolves howling (but then again, that may just be inside their heads). There’s plenty of clearance under that van, so downforce isn’t going to help at all.

The lesson? Buy a Lamborghini immediately. It’s a safety issue.

 

2- Try All Your Fanciest Maneuvers

You’ve spent hours at the wheel, practicing your slides, your left-foot braking and your slingshot out of the corners maneuver. Granted, the wheel was hooked up to your Xbox, and your maneuvers come courtesy of Dirt and Forza 4.

But now it’s time to put those moves to the test. You probably noticed, since the game engineers spent a lot of time making sure the driver feedback was true to life, that turning and braking require a lot of traction. Driving in a straight line could be done on sheets of plywood instead of tires, but turning and braking require rubber to grip the road.

High wind reduces friction. It causes your car to lift a bit, it shoves the car off its line and it often comes with buckets of water falling from the sky making the road really wet. Rather than taking the safe and sane route of driving carefully, with both hands on the wheel and your eyes scanning for debris, see if you can make the highway into your very own Nürburgring or Talladega Superspeedway. Because video games and real life are pretty much the same thing, right?

 

1 – Go Puddle Jumping

So you couldn’t outrun the storm in your little four-cylinder economy car — that’s okay! You can still drive completely irresponsibly in the wind!

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Remember that wind often brings sopping wet storms with it. Those storms come on fast and fill up gutters and creeks and ditches with a quickness. Take advantage of all that murky water and drive straight into it. Don’t let up on the gas pedal either! How’s a person supposed to hydroplane if they aren’t going fast enough to skim across the water’s surface? The wind can only help here. Once you’ve lost traction and your car is skating across the water, a nice burst of high-speed wind can take your car where the wind wants it to go.

If you’ve tried any of these truly terrible ways to drive in the wind and find yourself stuck in a ditch, please stay there while the rest of us try to drive slowly and safely to the next parking lot where we can wait out the storm like intelligent drivers. We’ll call a tow truck for you. Eventually.

Top 10 Safe Driving Tips

Top 10 Safe Driving Tips

Today, we drive safer cars on safer roads; decades of advertisements and public information campaigns have made most of us safer drivers. As a result, the U.S. logged the lowest accident fatality rate ever recorded in 2008 [source: NHTSA]. Despite this progress, unfortunately, the number of auto accidents and fatalities nationwide is still quite staggering: In 2008, there were almost 6 million car accidents in the U.S., leading to more than 37,000 deaths. What’s more, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of three and 34 in this country.

 

Improvements in technology will continue to help bring those numbers down, but the bottom line remains that most car accidents are the result of human error. The best way to reduce the risk of being involved in an accident is to practice safe driving behaviors. Whether you’re just learning to drive or you’ve been behind the wheel for decades, it’s a good idea to review some basic rules for safe driving. Here are 10 driving tips that will help bring you and your passengers home unharmed.

 

10 – Don’t Drive Drunk

More than 30 percent of all auto accident fatalities in the United States involve drivers impaired by alcohol. These accidents led to 11,773 deaths in 2008 alone [source: NHTSA]. Most of those deaths could’ve been avoided if the drivers involved simply hadn’t gotten behind the wheel while drunk.

 

Alcohol causes a number of impairments that lead to car accidents. Even at low blood-alcohol levels, intoxication reduces reaction time and coordination and lowers inhibitions, which can cause drivers to make foolish choices. At higher levels, alcohol causes blurred or double vision and even loss of consciousness. Drunk driving isn’t just a terrible idea — it’s a crime. In the U.S, getting caught behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher will probably earn you a trip to jail.

 

It’s easy to avoid driving drunk. If you’ve been drinking, ask a sober friend for a ride or call a cab. If you’re planning to drink, make sure you have a designated driver. The mild inconvenience of taking a cab home is nothing compared to the disastrous consequences of driving drunk.

 

9 – Don’t Speed

As the old public service campaign so succinctly put it, “Speed kills.” Research has shown that for every mile per hour you drive, the likelihood of your being in an accident increases by four to five percent [source: ERSO]. At higher speeds, the risk increases much more quickly.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains the consequences of fast driving quite simply: “Speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes. The economic cost to society of speeding-related crashes is estimated by NHTSA to be $40.4 billion per year. In 2008, speeding was a contributing factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes, and 11,674 lives were lost in speeding-related crashes” [source: NHTSA].

 

For your average drive across town, driving even 10 mph (16.1 kph) faster is only going to save you a few minutes — while increasing your crash risk by as much as 50 percent. Even on long trips, the time you’ll save is inconsequential compared to the risks associated with speeding. Take your time and obey posted speed limits. If you really need to get there as fast as possible, there’s one fool-proof solution: Leave earlier.

 

8 – Avoid Distractions

Many states in the U.S. have passed laws that ban the use of cell phones while driving. The reason is the number of deaths attributed to this seemingly harmless activity: 2,600 deaths nationwide every year, by some estimates [source: Live Science]. In fact, those numbers may actually be too low, due to the continued rise in cell phone use behind the wheel. If you think that talking and texting while driving isn’t a big deal, consider this: One researcher compared the reaction time of a 20-year-old driver talking on a cell phone to that of a 70-year-old driver. What’s more, working a cell phone behind the wheel can delay reaction times by as much as 20 percent.
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It isn’t just cell phones that cause distractions, however. Eating, applying makeup, fiddling with electronic devices or interacting with passengers also diverts a driver’s attention in potentially deadly ways. Perhaps the best advice on driving distractions came from rocker Jim Morrison: “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.”

 

 

7 – Don’t Drive Drowsy

A study conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech reported that 20 percent of all accidents have sleepiness as a contributing factor [source: TheDenverChannel]. If a driver is tired enough to actually fall asleep while driving, the results are predictable. Even on a relatively straight highway, a sleeping driver will eventually drift off the road. Trees, utility poles, ravines and bridge abutments turn this into a deadly scenario — and that doesn’t even take other cars into account.
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You might think a few yawns are nothing to worry about, but just being a little drowsy is enough to increase your risk of getting in an accident. Responses can range from dozing off for a few seconds at a time to simply “zoning out” and losing all focus on the road. At highway speeds, one or two seconds of inattention can lead to disaster.

 

The solution is simple: Get a better night’s sleep! Make sure you get a solid eight hours of sleep, not just on the night before a long drive, but on a regular basis. Failure to get enough sleep every night builds a sleep deficit that can leave you drowsy and unable to focus. If you’re driving and feel the least bit groggy, take action immediately. Don’t think you’ll get any kind of warning before you fall asleep, or that you can fight it off. People can move from drowsy to sound asleep without warning. If this happens to you, have a friend take over behind the wheel, find a rest area where you can catch a few hours of sleep or take a break until you’re feeling more alert.

 

6 – Wear Your Seat Belt

Seat belts save lives. Worn properly, they prevent you from being thrown around the inside of a crashing vehicle or, worse, thrown through the windshield and flung completely out of the vehicle. NHTSA statistics reveal that more than half of all accident fatalities were people who weren’t using seat belts [source: NHTSA]. The numbers are much scarier for young drivers and passengers: A staggering 70 percent of fatal crash victims between the ages of 13 and 15 weren’t wearing seat belts.

 

Everyone has heard horror stories about people who were killed in bizarre freak accidents in which they’d have lived if only they hadn’t been wearing a seat belt. Even if these stories are true — many of them are exaggerations or urban legends — they’re also anomalies. In the overwhelming majority of car crashes, you have a greater chance of surviving if you’re wearing a seat belt.

 

Even a low-speed crash can send an unbelted person careening into the dashboard or side window, resulting in severe head injuries or broken bones. At higher speeds, the possible fates of the unbelted occupant are gruesome: severe lacerations from being propelled through the windshield; struck by other cars because you landed on the road; slammed into a tree or a house at 50 mph (80 kph). Sound scary? Then buckle up.

 

5 – Be Extra Careful in Bad Weather

If you’re driving through fog, heavy rain, a snow storm or on icy roads, be extra cautious. Take all of the other tips presented here and make full use of them: Drive below the speed limit if necessary, maintain extra space between you and the car ahead, and be especially careful around curves. If you’re driving through weather conditions you don’t know well, consider delegating driving duties to someone who does, if possible. If the weather worsens, just find a safe place to wait out the storm.
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If you’re experiencing bad visibility, either from fog or snow, and you end up off the side of the road (intentionally or otherwise), turn off your lights. Drivers who can’t see the road will be looking for other cars to follow along the highway. When they see your lights, they’ll drive toward you and may not realize you’re not moving in time to avoid a collision.

 

4 – Don’t Follow Too Closely

Safe driving guidelines advise drivers to keep a safe distance between themselves and the car ahead. Drivers need enough time to react if that car makes a sudden turn or stop. It can be too difficult to estimate the recommended distances while driving and the exact distance would have to be adjusted for speed, so most experts recommend a “three-second rule.”

 

The three-second rule is simple. Find a stationary object on the side of the road. When the car ahead of you passes it, start counting seconds. At least three seconds should pass before your car passes the same object [source: SmartMotorist]. Once you have some driving experience and have practiced keeping this minimum distance, you’ll develop an instinct for it and know how close to follow without having to count. However, even experienced drivers should count off the three-second rule now and then to make sure.

At night or in inclement weather, double the recommended time to six seconds.

 

3 – Watch Out for the Other Guy

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how safely you drive. You could be driving the speed limit and obeying all traffic rules and someone else can crash into you. One good rule of thumb to use is, “Assume everyone else on the road is an idiot.” In other words, be prepared for unpredictable lane changes, sudden stops, quick turns without signaling, swerving, tailgating and every other bad driving behavior imaginable. Chances are, you’ll eventually encounter someone like this — and it pays to be ready when you do.

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It’s impossible to list all the possible things another driver might do, but there are a few common examples. If you’re pulling out of a driveway into traffic and an oncoming car has its turn signal on, don’t assume it’s actually turning. You might pull out only to find that turn signal has been blinking since 1987. If you’re approaching an intersection where you have the right of way, and another approaching car has the stop sign, don’t assume it will actually stop. As you approach, take your foot off the gas and be prepared to brake.

 

Of course, being prepared requires awareness, so make sure you check your mirrors and keep an eye on side streets so you’ll know which other cars are around you and how they’re driving. Don’t focus only on the road in front of your car — look ahead so you can see what’s happening 50 to 100 yards (46 to 91 meters) up the road.

 

2 – Practice Defensive Driving

This tip is pretty simple to understand if we just put the proverbial shoe on the other foot. Remember that one time when that jerk came flying down the street out of nowhere, totally cut you off and almost caused a huge accident? Don’t be that jerk.

 

Aggressive driving is hard to quantify, but it definitely increases the risk of accidents. Studies show that young male drivers are more likely to drive aggressively [source: NCHRP]. An aggressive driver does more than just violate the tips in this article — they may intentionally aggravate other drivers, initiate conflict, use rude gestures or language, tailgate or impede other cars, or flash their headlights out of frustration. These behaviors aren’t just annoying, they’re dangerous.

 

Defensive driving incorporates the other tips shown here, such as maintaining a safe distance and not speeding, but remaining calm in the face of frustrating traffic issues is another major part of the concept. Accept small delays, such as staying in line behind a slower car instead of abruptly changing lanes. Yield to other cars, even if you technically have the right of way.

 

Defensive driving is not only safer, it can save you money. Many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who complete defensive driving courses.

 

1 – Keep Your Vehicle Safe

Vehicle maintenance isn’t just an important way to extent your car’s life — it’s a major safety issue. Many maintenance issues are addressed by state mandated vehicle inspections. If your car is unsafe, the inspecting mechanic will let you know what you need to do to fix it. However, there could be a year or more between inspections, so car owners need to be aware of any potential safety issues and get them repaired before they lead to an accident.
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One of the most common maintenance problems that can lead to a crash is improper tire pressure. Uneven tire pressure, or pressure that is too high or low, can impact performance or lead to a blowout — especially in high-performance cars or heavy vehicles like SUVs. You can buy a cheap pressure gauge at any auto parts store and check the pressure against the recommendation in your owner’s manual. While you’re at it, you might want to rotate your tires to promote even wear and consistent performance.

 

Another key area is the car’s brakes. If you notice some “softness” in the brake pedal, or feel a vibration when the brakes are applied, get them checked out by a professional mechanic. The brakes could be wearing out or you could have a problem with the car’s hydraulic system.

Multitasking is Dangerous

Multitasking is Dangerous

 

If you think that your ability to text, talk, or email while driving is impressive… think again! It’s dangerous, and it can lead to a dangerous situation on the road.

We may feel compelled to check our phones whenever we hear our alert tones— and, maybe you have been able to do so without any negative consequences. But, how many times have we heard people involved in a crash say, “I just took my eyes off the road for a second”? It only takes a second of not paying attention to run over a young child, to crash into another car, or to hit a bicyclist who is turning in front of you.

Drivers in the United States who talk, text, or read emails significantly increase their chance of being involved in a crash. In fact, Americans ages 18­­–64 read or sent more texts or emails while driving than their European counterparts.

And every day, more than nine people die in crashes that involve a distracted driver.

As if texting and emailing weren’t enough, many U.S. drivers also succumb to other kinds of distractions while behind the wheel.  Eating while driving, adjusting the radio or using navigation technologies are also distractions. Anything we do while driving that gets in the way of us watching and seeing the road, handling the steering wheel, or focusing on driving should be avoided.

Understanding how easy it is to lose your focus on driving, if only for a moment,  is the first step in realizing how important it is to resist multitasking behind the wheel and to prevent distracted driving. Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, and your mind on driving. Your life and that of others depend on it!

How do you avoid distractions while driving?

More Car Safety Tips

More Car Safety Tips

Keep your car properly maintained

If your car is well maintained, it will be safer to drive. You’ll need to make sure that all the parts of your car (like the engine, windows, lights, belts, tires, etc.) are in good working order. Keep with the maintenance schedule as noted in your vehicles’s manual. Not sure where to find your car’s manual? You should be able to find it on your vehicle’s manufacturer’s website if you don’t know where to locate the copy that came with your car. You can also visit Edmunds.com to get the maintenance schedule as well as the estimated costs for your car’s specific make and model (you’ll need to know this information along with the year, current mileage, and a few other details). Also, check for safety recalls at SaferCar.gov.

Plan ahead

Before leaving for your destination, figure where you need to go and how long it will take for you to get there. Google Maps is a good resource for getting directions and alternate routes in advance (even if you will ultimately use a GPS unit). This will help you get ready and arrive on time without feeling stressed and reduce your temptation to speed or drive aggressively.

You should also stock up on emergency supplies (mylar blanket, emergency kit, snacks, water, map) just in case things don’t go as planned.

Drive only when you are alert

This tip is well known but it’s still a good reminder. Drive only when you’re alert and keep in mind that some medications can affect your vision, decision making ability, and reaction time. If you’re feeling sleepy or are otherwise impaired, do not get behind the wheel. Give the keys to someone else (who is unimpaired) or make alternate plans. And, make a habit of putting your mobile phone out of reach so that you’re not tempted to text while driving. The same goes for makeup — put it on before you leave the house, not while you’re driving.

Keep your car uncluttered

What does having an uncluttered car have to do with car safety? Well, when you have lots of things in your car, they can become projectiles in the event of an accident. Use your trunk to store things you’re traveling with (like groceries, gym bag) and keep loose items inside the console and storage compartments. Something else to keep in mind — you can also become a projectile if you’re not buckled in, so you should wear your seat belt at all times.