safety tips

Texting While Driving

Texting While Driving


No more excuses. It’s time to stop texting and driving. While we’re all saying we’ve stopped, a new poll by AT&T proves otherwise.

According to the National Safety Council, approximately 210,000 accidents in 2011 involved a driver who was texting. Not scary enough? How about the fact that 9 drivers a day are killed by distracted driving? That’s what the Center for Disease Control reports. Yet every minute of every day thousands of drivers have their phones in their hands instead of their hands on the wheel. This epidemic is getting, well, out of hand.

As part of their “It Can Wait” campaign, AT&T has taken a lead in the charge toward changing our distracted driving habits. You’ve probably seen their emotional commercials where family and friends share their stories of loss as a result of texting behind the wheel. As a next step to raise awareness, AT&T polled 1,000 adults about this dangerous behavior. According to a story published today by CBS New York, the cell provider discovered that nearly 49% of those polled admitted to texting while driving. Embarrassingly, this is 6% higher than the number of teens who admitted to texting. Yet of those polled, 98% said they knew it was dangerous. So, unfortunately, adults are not doing a very good job of setting a safe-driving example for the younger generation.

What now? While legislators nationwide scramble to think up new ways to promote safety and discourage this dangerous habit, there’s one simple way for all of us to take action: Put down your phone. To hold ourselves accountable, we can take a pledge, like the one supplied by AT&T, and publicly state our intent to drive safer.

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may have served car owners well back in the old days, in modern times, some of those “wise tips” are not only outdated, but are also a huge waste of money.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.

Preventing a Car Break-In: Your 10-Step Strategy

Preventing a Car Break-In: Your 10-Step Strategy


Though many cars are stolen each year, you’re far more likely to have someone steal something out of your vehicle than steal the vehicle itself. In the U.S., a car break-in occurs every 17 seconds, resulting in well over $1 billion in annual losses.

Below are 10 steps you can take to prevent a car break-in and protect your valuable belongings.

1. Lock the doors. About a quarter of all car break-ins don’t require any breaking, because the cars were left unlocked or with rolled-down windows.

2. Take your keys. Besides locking the doors, don’t leave a spare key hidden on or in the vehicle. Hidden things often get found.

3. Set the alarm. If you don’t have an alarm, you may consider getting one installed.

4. Park in a visible area. You want to leave your car in a well-lit public place. The potential for witnesses or security footage can deter or at least help catch many car thieves.

5. Watch for suspicious activity. If you see someone in or around the parking lot who may be looking for an opportunity to steal something out of a vehicle, notify the police and park somewhere else.

6. Take your valuables. When feasible, don’t leave anything for a thief to steal.

7. Hide your valuables. If you can’t take it with you when you go, at least don’t leave expensive items visible inside the cabin. Hide them or lock them away in the trunk.

8. Don’t leave clues. Hiding that laptop or GPS device might not make much difference if you leave a power cord or windshield mount for the device in plain sight.

9. Don’t be obvious. One potential problem with hiding valuables is that thieves might see you hiding them. It’s better to have said items hidden before you park (though, of course, not while driving).

10. Choose the right car. You can lower the chances of a car break-in by having an integrated alarm, in-dash navigation system and GPS tracking, such as in many luxury lease vehicles.



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 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!



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.



Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving



While Americans may be distracted drivers, we’re certainly not alone, according to a new six-country survey. If you thought distracted driving was only caused texting and talking, you’ll be surprised by what people admit to doing while driving.


 A survey of 1,800 drivers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and Japan by GN Netcom, a headset manufacturer, found that 72% of drivers admitted to eating food on the road, 35% have changed clothes while driving and 23% have styled their hair.


 Then again, 29% admit to having “kissed others” while driving, and 15% said they’ve performed a sexual act while driving.


 Also, 28% admit they’ve sent text messages, 13% have applied makeup, 12% have read emails, 10% read the newspaper or a magazine and 5% have played video games while driving.


 That’s the one that got me: video games? I guess I just found the line between dangerous driving behavior and something that makes your eyes bulge out of the sockets when you see another driver doing it.



Highway Deaths Rise May Highlight Need for Newer Cars, Safer Technology

Highway Deaths Rise May Highlight Need for Newer Cars, Safer Technology


(Courtesy ABCNews)

For the first time in seven years, fatalities on the nation’s roads went up 5 percent in the first half of 2012, according to the National Safety Council.

For teenagers ages 16 and 17, the results were even more staggering, with a 19 percent increase in deaths and 240 youngsters killed over the same time period, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

So why are highway deaths on the rise?

With more than 320 million cell phones in America, distracted driving is one guess. In an effort to cut down on distracted driving, lawmakers have responded, with 10 states banning talking on hand-held devices and 39 states banning texting while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Experts from both the NSC and the GHSA say the reason for the spike is that we are driving more because of the improving economy and good weather. A better economy means more money for gas and more big rigs making deliveries.

But with the average age of a car on the road being 11 years old, many have kept their old cars that may not have the latest, safety technology.

“Certainly, a base model today is probably much more safe, or safer than a mid-level vehicle five years ago,” Jonathon Linkov, Managing Editor & Data Supervisor Autos for Consumer Reports, told ABC News.

For a closer look at the latest safety features designed to save your life, ABC News traveled to the Consumer Reports test track in rural Connecticut.

One Mercedes-Benz model can detect whether or not the driver is exhibiting signs of drowsiness.

The feature detects if you swerve or make moves to stay awake, and alerts you, even telling you where the closest coffee shop is.

With families in mind, Ford is installing inflatable seat belts in the back seats of some of its models. Think of it as an airbag for your kids in booster seats. In an accident, the inflatable seat belt disperses crash energy over five times more area of the body than traditional seat belts, according to a claim on Ford’s website. They are designed to provide additional protection for children and older passengers, who can be more vulnerable to head, chest and neck injuries.

One of the simplest contributors to accidents that can be fixed easily is proper tire inflation. Since 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has required all new passenger cars to come standard with a tire pressure monitoring system. A new feature from Nissan tells you when you’ve put enough air in the tire by emitting three quick beeps.

Consumer Reports hopes such technology to keep us safe will become standard on more vehicles soon.

“We don’t want to see safety be something you have to make a decision with your wallet,” said Linkov. “We want safety to be something you can get at an easy price point, making it safety for everybody.”



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 )



Safest Family Cars for 2013

Safest Family Cars for 2013


Several midsize models with the highest scores in recent crash tests, including one that some luxury cars failed.

When it comes to new cars, safety sells. Buying a vehicle with a higher fuel economy rating may keep a few dollars in a family’s coffers, but buying one that protects its occupants better in a crash literally can be a life-and-death issue.

Automakers love to promote top scores in government and insurance-industry crash tests in their advertising campaigns, though stricter testing standards are making them harder to come by.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington, D.C., revised its testing procedures and made it more difficult for new models to earn perfect five-star ratings in frontal and side-impact crashes. Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va., instituted an entirely new evaluation tool in 2012, the so-called small-overlap frontal crash test, in which many popular luxury cars earned poor scores for the first round.

The IIHS continues to test current models according to the new frontal evaluation system and has awarded 12 moderately priced midsize and entry-level luxury models as ìTop Safety Pick+î award winners. These cars earn top ratings in at least four out of five evaluations, including the small- and moderate-overlap frontal crash tests, as well as side-impact, roof-crush and rear-impact tests ñ with at least an acceptable grade in the fifth test.

These include the Acura TL, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord (sedan and coupe versions), Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Suzuki Kizashi, Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S60.

“Of the 29 models evaluated so far in our small-overlap frontal crash test, these 13 cars offer the highest level of all-around crash protection,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “We’re pleased to recognize them with our new Top Safety Pick+ award for 2013.”

These are in addition to 117 other models the IIHS cited as 2013 Top Safety Picks by virtue of their test scores in the Institute’s conventional front, side, roof and rear crash tests. The complete list can be found at the Institute’s website,

The new small-overlap frontal test smashes cars at 40 mph with only 25 percent of a car’s front end on the driver side striking a five-foot-tall rigid barrier. The Institute says the test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a car strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole in more of glancing blow, rather than a full-frontal or offset frontal collision.

The IIHS says small overlap crashes tend to evaluate the crashworthiness of a carís outer edges that tend not to be well-protected structurally by crush zones. They also test a vehicle’s airbags and seatbelts in more rigorous ways than frontal tests do. Crash forces in these types of collisions go directly into the front wheel, suspension system and firewall, which the IIHS says results in serious leg and foot injuries.

Apparently, the industry has already responded to the latest frontal testing procedure from the IIHS. “We’ve seen automakers make structural and restraint changes in response to our small-overlap test,” Lund says. “Five manufacturers redesigned their midsize cars to enhance small-overlap crash protection.”

The Institute reports that Honda specifically engineered the recently redesigned Accord to do well in the test, and both Ford and Nissan have reportedly made structural alterations to 2013 models already in production. Subaru and Volkswagen are said to have modified the side curtain airbag control modules on their models to afford additional head protection.

The IIHS will issue Top Safety Pick+ awards for small SUVs this spring.



Car Merging Psychology

Car Merging Psychology


How and When To Merge — Without Losing Your Cool

Every morning I face a decision that twists my stomach in a knot. On my route to work a sign announces that I need to merge into the right lane to take another freeway. The merging point is nearly a mile away but I feel a deep desire to get into the right lane as quickly as possible — even though it is barely moving.

Once I’m in the right lane, I stew as cars shoot past and then swoop into my lane at the last second. I did the right thing, I think. I waited my turn. The way other drivers are behaving isn’t fair.

This little drama takes me back to elementary school. Lining up at lunch or waiting to use the monkey bars, there were always the kids who barged in line ahead of you, then challenged you to do something about it. I feel all those old emotions roaring through my system.

Why Late Merging Ticks Us Off
Merging is only one of a long list of driving situations that stir deep emotions. Yet, when best-selling author Tom Vanderbilt began his 400-page book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us), he zeroed in on merging as a universal measure of a driver’s personality. The prologue of his book is titled “Why I Became a Late Merger (and Why You Should, Too).”

Vanderbilt suggests that a driver’s merging style reveals his personality. There’s an old cliché in driving studies,” he says: “‘A man drives as he lives.'” New York Times columnist Cynthia Gorney boiled the debate down to two main driving personalities: “lineuppers,” who take their turn, and “sidezoomers,” who race to the head of the line and dart into an opening at the last second. This is maddening to the well-behaved lineuppers. In fact, a Minnesota Department of Transportation study revealed that 15 percent of drivers actually admitted to straddling lanes to block late mergers in construction zones.

Gorney finds her description of sidezoomers gets a spirited response from everyone she questions. “When I raised [this] with my father, who is 83, he startled me by suggesting a longer label that included more bad words than I believe I have ever heard him use at one time.” She even found a University of Washington engineer who had his own name for the two main merging personality types: cheaters and vigilantes.

Leon James, a.k.a. “Dr. Driving,” whose Web site has a string of articles under the heading “The Great Merging Debate,” says merging areas are especially challenging because there are basically two styles of merging that are often incompatible. When early mergers see the late mergers zip by, “most drivers feel irritated, some angry and roadrageous,” he says. Trying to block them is “dangerous, illegal and begging for a confrontation.”

James sees a connection between the different merging styles and a driver’s personality. “Motorists who are less aggressive and more accommodating tend to be early mergers,” James says. “They are more community-spirited drivers.” On the other hand, late mergers are “more aggressive and opportunistic.” And they don’t necessarily think of themselves as an exclusive club, either.

“They feel that everybody can be a late merger, and if they choose not to be, it’s their choice,” James says.

The Case for Late Merging
When you apply the term “sidezooming” to late merging, it conjures up all kinds of negative images. But there is an argument for late merging: It’s a more efficient use of the road.

Highway lanes offer a limited amount of space and, because of the volume of traffic, that space is becoming increasingly restricted. So the question becomes this: How can the maximum number of cars quickly move through a set space as that space narrows? Traffic engineers sometimes equate this situation to grains of rice flowing through a funnel. The analogy breaks down, however, when you realize that the grains are touching and sliding against each other as they move — we obviously don’t want that with cars. But the comparison is still relevant.

High accident rates in construction zones triggered the Minnesota merger study, says William Servatius, construction programs coordinator in the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Construction. He adds that when drivers are instructed to merge at construction areas: “Many times crashes occur due to aggressive driving, abrupt lane changes or sudden stops.”

Using speed-sensing devices that display different messages depending on the speed of traffic, Minnesota DOT engineers developed what they call a “zipper,” which meshes cars quickly. Signs advise drivers of the upcoming lane closure, tell them to use both lanes up to a point and then direct them to take turns merging. When traffic is flowing, drivers merge early to avoid unsafe maneuvers. But when traffic is congested, motorists make full use of both lanes. The data revealed that the change reduced traffic lines by 35 percent and also brought down “lane changing conflicts,” says Craig Mittelstadt, Minnesota DOT’s work zone safety specialist.

But most highways’ merging zones don’t display friendly signs that tell drivers it’s OK to merge late. And so the conflicts continue. And along with the conflicts comes the inevitable finger-pointing (or finger-giving, in many cases).

Kinder, Gentler Merging
The morning after reading these merging studies, I decided to create a third category of driver for myself. I would be neither a lineupper nor a sidezoomer. Instead, I would be a “sidesignaler,” politely cruising along by about a quarter-mile of stopped traffic with my turn signal on, requesting an opening. Sure enough, I reached the zipper and saw a gap between cars. In fact, it was a huge gap. I slid into the opening and held my breath. No blaring horns, flashing lights or angry shouts followed my maneuver. I risked a look in the rearview mirror and saw why. The driver was on a cell phone.