safety tips

Winter Travel

Winter Travel



TxDOT’s #1 priority is the safety of the traveling public. We use every resource available to keep the roads open and passable during winter storms. Hazardous weather can unexpectedly change from freezing ice to snow to fog in some areas of the state.

You can reduce your risk by simply practicing a few road safety habits. Avoid getting caught by surprise, plan ahead and be aware of alerts and advisories in your area. Winter road preparedness includes the following:

  • Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained.
  • Stay tuned to local news for road closures, changing conditions and weather alerts.
  • Check highway conditions at DriveTexas.

For additional road safety preparedness information and tips, download the TxDOT Safety Guide for Winter Travel.

Highway Road Conditions Hotline

Call (800) 452-9292 for current information.


Follow the TxDOT Twitter feeds for more road information.

More Information


24/7 Texas Driver Safety

24/7 Texas Driver Safety


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Safe Driving Information and Tips for Improving Your Gas Mileage

Safe Driving Information and Tips for Improving Your Gas Mileage


Things You Can Do Before Driving:
• Get a smaller vehicle. Do you drive an SUV that can carry a small army? Consider a vehicle that is more modest in size. Even if a compact car is too small for your family, consider a crossover vehicle (SUV built on a car platform), a mid-size car, or even smaller SUV hybrid. Even if it can fit 12 adults, unless you’re doing it every day, you’re just hauling around those couple tons of extra vehicle the rest of the time.
• Don’t fill your tank all the way. Unless you’re doing some long-distance driving, you’re hauling around an extra 50-100 pounds for no reason, though you should always keep enough fuel in your tank to make it at least 50 miles.
• Remove useless items from your car. If you have a bunch of junk you don’t need in your trunk, it’s time to clear it out. Professionals get paid to haul cargo around town, but even they eventually drop it off. You’re frittering away money for fuel to transport the items in your trunk across town and back every day.
• Remove unused bike, luggage, or ski racks. Any object protruding from your car, such as luggage, bicycle, or ski racks, will create more drag on your car. Years of scientific research has gone into the aerodynamic shape of your car’s exterior, but if you’re keeping your ski racks on in the middle of summer, you’re paying the price. Some racks alleviate this by including a flat panel at the front to direct air over the rack. While this helps, the rack as a whole still increases drag and lowers your fuel efficiency.
• Fill your tires. Your tires are your car’s only points of contact with the road. If they are improperly inflated, more rubber will be in contact with the road, causing more friction. During turns, you might notice a “mushy” feeling. That feeling is your tires rolling slightly on their sidewalls from under inflation. As your wheels heat up and are forced to flex more, they cause further friction with the road and excessive wear on the tires themselves.
• Tighten your fuel cap. Most modern vehicles have instructions on the fuel cap telling you to tighten the fuel cap until it clicks. If your fuel cap is an older type (one that is metal, and not plastic), make sure it’s tightly screwed on.
While Driving:
• Leave earlier. Even if you don’t avoid traffic this way, you won’t be in a rush to get to your destination. You can get away with lower amounts of acceleration since you won’t be racing everybody else to make it on time.
• Don’t use 4-wheel drive. If you can turn your 4-wheel drive function off, do it. The overhead of spinning the extra axle and wheels on dry pavement doesn’t normally provide more traction or control; it only uses gas much faster.
• Keep your speed down. You have probably heard this before. Not only does speeding make driving far more dangerous, it wastes fuel because you’re putting your car’s engine against wind resistance. As you further increase your speed, wind resistance increases with it.
• Use your air conditioner less. In some states, this isn’t a practical solution on most days of the summer. If you can, try to keep your windows down while you drive at lower speeds. At higher speeds, downed windows can increase the drag on your car, but at lower speeds ( • Don’t show off. When you are revving your engine and taking off from stop lights, you’re just wasting fuel. Hard acceleration will usually only get you to the next red light faster, and revving is a complete waste, as none of the increased fuel input is creating any kinetic energy output.
• Try not to idle. If you’re waiting on somebody inside a store, or leaving your car running for just a minute or two, just turn it off. There’s no point in using your engine for nothing. If you want to listen to the radio, almost all cars have an “Accessory” position which will run the car’s accessories while the engine is off.
• Stop searching for that parking spot. Many people spend almost ten minutes looking for a spot that’s three cars closer than a different, open spot they saw earlier. If your groceries are too heavy to carry 20 additional feet, use a grocery cart.

Traffic Ticket Myths

Traffic Ticket Myths


We’ve all heard them. “You can’t get a traffic ticket for going exactly the posted speed limit.” Or, “Driving with the flow of traffic prevents you from getting a speeding ticket.” The opinions out there are just as numerous as actual traffic laws. But what’s the truth? We chatted with a few ex cops to set the record straight. And the myths they busted just might stop you in your tracks.
Fact or Myth:
1)   Driving the posted speed limit won’t get you a traffic ticket.
Myth. The posted speed limit is the maximum legal speed during ideal road conditions. If it’s pouring rain, icy out or the roads are covered in slush, going the speed limit might not be safe. Therefore you could get a traffic ticket for driving the exact speed posted on the side of the road.
2)   Following the flow of traffic is a valid excuse for speeding.
Myth. Not only might you annoy the traffic cop by stating your reason for breaking the law, you’re also admitting guilt. Surprisingly, when we polled our users, many said moving with the flow of traffic won’t land you a speeding ticket. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
3)   Traffic cops have quotas.
Myth. Well, kinda. We couldn’t find a law enforcement officer who said this was true. In fact one ex-cop we interviewed said, “If there is any law enforcement agency that acknowledges that they have a ticket quota, then Rip Van Winkle must be their chief. Not to say it isn’t possible somewhere, somehow in some no name, jerk water town. But very, very unlikely.”
4)   There is a range above the posted speed limit that is legal for driving.
Myth. While many drivers think a cop can’t ticket them for only going a few miles over the posted speed limit, the truth is traffic laws offer no range that makes it legal to speed. Former Maryland cop Tod Burke adds that drivers who trust this myth often get themselves into a stickier situation. “People believe the police have to give them a range such as five over, and even tell the officer, ‘You can’t pull me over.’” He says the common response to this reaction is a traffic ticket.
5)   A few tears, a winning smile or a little cleavage never hurts.
That’s a tough one. Many women swear by this, including one of our users who advised drivers on our Facebook page to “flirt or name drop like crazy.” When we checked in with our law enforcement contacts they laughed. One former cop even said tears often caused him to quickly turn a warning into a traffic ticket.
What’s more truth than myth is that traffic laws exist to protect us. While getting pulled over and slapped with a ticket blows, the presence of cops on our roadways is a good thing. So please drive safely, stay up to date on your state’s traffic laws and the next time you hear a traffic stop myth, leave a comment below. We love debunking these bad boys.

New Texas Defensive Driver Online Course

New Texas Defensive Driver Online Course


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When To Use Your Lights & Blinkers

When To Use Your Lights & Blinkers


Modern vehicles are equipped with a variety of lights designed to help drivers see the road and announce their intentions, but misuse or lack of use can leave other motorists in the dark.

Last month, I asked Traffic Talk readers to describe what frustrates them most about their fellow drivers. Several readers responded with questions or complaints about headlights, high beams and blinkers.

“I wish everyone would use their headlights whenever conditions limit visiblity, such as dusk, snow, rain and fog!” wrote one driver. “That would truly be defensive driving. Sometimes I can only hope that it is safe to turn onto another street because I don’t see any headlights, only to find I nearly hit somebody who didn’t have headlights on.”

Michigan law requires motorists to use their headlights from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise and “at any other times when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead.”

The law allows for extra time after sunset because the road remains visible during twilight, according to Sgt. Mike Church, a traffic code expert with the Michigan State Police.

Last year, Democratic State Rep. George Darany of Dearborn introduced legislation seeking to require motorists to use their headlights when driving in any form of precipitation, but the bill has not advanced past committee.

Current Michigan law “doesn’t specify anything about rain or snow,” Church said, “but if it’s too dark because of those conditions then you must use headlights.”

When headlights aren’t bright enough, many motorist will use their high beams on poorly-lit roads, and some even use them to send signals to other drivers.

Richard Wagonlander of Flushing said he likes to use the “flash” feature on his high beam control arm to alert a driver traveling too slowly in the passing lane.

“By flashing them they would move to (the) right, if safe, and let you pass them,” he wrote. “No one, but me, seems to use the feature and cars do not move over anyway.”

Michigan law prevents motorists from using high beams when there is an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet, but in the absence of approaching traffic, nothing in the law specifically prevents drivers from flashing vehicles that are travelling in the same direction.

That said, some feel that flashing to pass is rude, and a guide published by the Michigan Secretary of State advises motorists never to use high beams when travelling behind another vehicle, citing the potential for distractions.

A few readers said they were frustrated by their fellow motorists who drive all day long with their fog lights on. Michigan law doesn’t prevent such behavior, Church said, but it does prohibit the use of bright lights aimed so that “the glaring rays” are projected into the eyes of an oncoming driver who is less than 500 feet away.

Several readers also criticized fellow motorists who either drive overly-long distances with their blinker on (perhaps obliviously) or only apply their blinker after they have already started their turn.

Michigan law clearly requires drivers to use a signal — either a blinker or an arm gesture — before turning, but it does not specify how far in advance they must do so.

Church pointed to case law going back to at least 1958 requiring motorists to use an “intelligible” signal to warn vehicles approaching from the rear.

“‘Intelligible’ is obviously subjective and fact specific,” he said. “I have seen driver’s education materials that give a specific distance to signal before turning, but that isn’t in the law. And the problem is that roadways vary. What may be an appropriate distance on a 55 mph country road might not be appropriate in a 25 mph zone that has a driveway every 50 feet.”

Bottom line: Use your headlights when it’s dark, your high beams only in the absence of oncoming traffic and your blinker before you turn.



Dog Safety Tips For Car Travel

Dog Safety Tips For Car Travel


1. Preparation: Don’t wait for the last minute! When you put it all together at the last minute that creates more anxiety and tension for your dog as well as you! When you are prepared your dog will have a more normal experience. If you planning to make hotel reservations there many pet-friendly hotels to choose from.

2. Car Safety: Items to consider having depending on your pet’s size and ability to ride in the car staying safe for both them, passengers and you: Pet Carriers, Car Barriers, Car Seats, Car Seat Belts. If you need to order any item on line, make sure you do it in plenty of time. If you are planning on going to a local pet store, again do it in plenty of time…for if they don’t have it and your pressing the clock, the anxiety is already high and you haven’t even left for your trip!

3. Take a long walk before driving off! A recently exercised dog will be in a more relaxed state during any long trip.

4. If your pet needs extra calming, instead of drugs from your pet’s vet, you may want to consider Lavender Scent. Any health food store has that and will not make him/her disoriented or feel uncertain during the trip.

5. Make sure your dog has access to water – enough to keep hydrated but not full. Bottled water is perfect. If you need feeders there are many to choose from that are effective and very low cost.

6. Don’t forget to bring your dog’s food, favorite toy and blanket to keep them happy and balanced.

7. Make sure your dog has clear and effective identification. Be sure that the identification has your contact information while you are still away from home.

8. Put together a doggy first aid kit for the trip. If you are not sure what that may include it’s best to call your vet for he or she knows your dog!

9. Always use a leash and stay with your pet at all times. Dogs are very curious and in new places may try to run off and explore. If you have trouble walking your dog any time you may want to consider mastering how to control your dog.

10. Never ever leave your dog or any other pet or child in a hot car even if you roll the windows down. A car in the sun can reach temperatures of near 200 degrees causing heat stroke and even death to pets & humans left in them.


11. Never leave your dog alone and unattended in his or her carrier. Unfortunately kidnapping of your dog is a very real possibility. You may want to consider a GPS system to ensure your pet’s safety.

12. Ensure your dog has the chance to potty every few hours. We have noticed when the owner is calm and relaxed throughout the trip (and that includes the preparation!) the dog will also maintain calmness. It is common in unfamiliar places like this your dog’s regular potty schedule will be interrupted and you don’t want any embarrassing issues. If traveling to a theme park check with employees about places setup for your dog to potty in. Most will have areas around the park for you to use.

13. Take a break every hour. This will allow them to not only relieve themselves but keep the circulation on all vital organs. Plus, they will learn by smell that they are going to a different environment. It is important for a dog to experience the different temperatures, smells, and feelings that come with a new environment. This will help make them feel that they are part of the process of moving to a new area. Once the sun goes down, you can go eight hours non-stop!

14. Once you arrive at your hotel, or family/friends home, take your dog for a walk! If you are not sure where to go, ask the pet friendly hotel.

If you are driving to the beach:

1. Know the local laws. Not all beaches allow dogs! If they do, make sure you know if you have to keep them on a leash at all times or not.

2. Sunscreen: it’s not just for people. Pups need protection too! Talk with your veterinarian about protective goggles and canine sunblock.

3. Protect your dog from fleas. Sand fleas are abundant!

4. Get a Condition Check on the weather and ocean tides, undercurrents and Sea lice, jellyfish. All of these factors can pose just as much of a threat to dogs as they do to humans. Before you let your dog roam, verify with a lifeguard that the environment is safe.

5. Never let your dog drink the ocean Salt /bay / or lake water! Keep your dog hydrated with fresh water. Salt water can make them sick. Please watch for signs of dehydration. You may be use to being out in the sun and water, but your dog may not. Watch for signs. Sand and heat can make a normal exercise routine more strenuous. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, call your dog back to rest in a shady spot.

6. Watch them at all times, for you don’t want them to eat things that wash ashore, like dead fish, fishing lines, plant life.

7. Be prepared to pick up after your dog! Keep the water and beach area clean for others. Respect goes both ways and it is noticed.

8. When you and your dog are done for the day give him/her a bath with fresh water. Find out if the beach has an area to do exactly that before going back to the car or hotel. If not, find out from the hotel where the best place is. The chemicals and sea water can be harmful to your dog’s coat and general well-being.

These pet safety tips will help you and your best friend in having a safer, happy and balanced trip. Just remember to stay calm and positive with your dog and everyone will benefit. Stay safe and have an awesome trip!


Dangers of Driving While Drowsy

Dangers of Driving While Drowsy


A recent National Sleep Foundation study discussed on ‘Good Morning America’ showed that 37 percent of all drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel, and over 60 percent have driven while drowsy. In one year, 100,000 crashes involving drivers asleep at the wheel account for 1,500 deaths. Aside from the health problems associated with getting too little sleep, being sleepy also represents a serious safety issue for a wide variety of people, from semi truck drivers and pilots to ordinary people running errands in their car. According to some, the problem of sleepy drivers rivals that of drunk drivers. Driving while drowsy slows your reaction time, just like driving while under the influence. Similarly, drivers who are tired may have a difficult time paying attention to the road.

Have you ever fallen asleep while driving your car? You’ve certainly heard about crashes involving sleeping drivers, which make the news seemingly every week. Although it is more common among those working the graveyard shift or driving for long period of time, anyone who doesn’t get enough sleep each night is at risk. Millions of Americans drive while drowsy every day, putting themselves and everyone else on the road at risk. You may not realize how tired you are until you get behind the wheel. Most drivers have experienced the tiring effects of staring at the lines in the road mile after mile, especially after dark. Particularly if you’re alone in the car, it can be difficult to stay alert, especially for long trips.

If you are scared of the danger of falling asleep at the wheel, there are several different devices designed to keep you awake during the critical time you are on the road. The Nap Zapper is worn around the ear. When your head starts to nod as you doze off, a loud alarm wakes you up, alerting you to the problem and keeping you awake. The Nap Zapper is a simple and inexpensive way to prevent accidents caused by driving while drowsy. This Anti-Drowsy alarm could save lives, especially when worn by truckers and others who spend a large portion of their lifetime behind the wheel. Don’t wait to be awakened by the sound of a honking horn in the oncoming lane of traffic – the Nap Zapper can awaken you before you drift across lanes of traffic or cause an accident.

Whether you wear the Zap Zapper or not, stop every 100 miles during your trip. If you feel drowsy, pull over and get some rest. Even a 20 minute nap will help, although of course a full night of sleep is preferable. Don’t start your trip at night, when you will be most tired. On long trips, take turns driving or plan out your nighttime stops. Consider postponing your trip if you don’t feel awake enough to drive. Signs that you are too tired to drive include yawning, difficulty keeping your eyes open, feeling like you need a cup of coffee, or trouble remembering the last few miles you have driven.



Seat Can Detect Drowsy Drivers

Seat Can Detect Drowsy Drivers


Sleepy drivers could be warned by electrostatic non-contact heart rate sensing, claims Plymouth-based Plessey Semiconductors.

According to the firm, it is possible to tell when a driver is starting to become sleepy from beat to beat heart rate variability.

The firm’s proprietary sensing technology, branded EPIC, is capacitive and can detect body electricity, from the heart for example.

“It doesn’t rely on good skin contact and can measure ECG through normal clothing and seat cover fabric,” said the firm. “Plessey recommends an array of sensors built into the seat back, so that the optimal sensing location can be chosen, regardless of the driver’s height and build.”

Electric body fields due to movement are minimised by keeping the sensors away from the shoulders.

The proposed system uses a capacitive driven ground plane in the seat beneath the drive. “Further noise reduction can be achieved by coupling this driven ground to the steering wheel. The system has been shown to be completely immune to electrical noise sources within the car,” claimed the firm, “95% of heart beat peaks were detected during a ten minute trial over a variety of driving conditions.”

For car manufacturers and suppliers, there is an evaluation kit with six sensor back pad, a ground plane to sit on, and an interface box with a USB output to display and recording software.



Driver Aids For Mobile Phones

Driver Aids For Mobile Phones


A new Android app will bring lane derivation warnings and driver fatigue alerts to not just Volvos and Mercedes-Benzes, but AMC Pacers and Yugos. CarSafe, developed by computer science researchers at Dartmouth College and led by Professor Andrew Campbell, uses data from smartphone cameras and internal mechanisms to warn drivers if they’re being unsafe.

The phone sits on the dash, with the rear-facing camera looking out to the road ahead, and the front-facing camera to see the driver’s countenance. Because both won’t run simultaneously, the app switches rapidly between the two cameras. “We’ve spoke with people at Google and Samsung, not Apple, and it seems that it could be hardware limitation, maybe software too,” Campbell said. “Personally I think they saw no real need to do this.”

Rather than cycle between front and back cameras evenly, the app switches based on a set of rules. For example, it will watch the road more if the user is attentive and not registering any microsleep patterns, or it will watch the driver more if the driver is closing their eyes for more than 500 milliseconds, a symptom of microsleep.

When reading the front-facing camera, the app uses the gyroscope, GPS, visuals, and accelerometers to sense whether the driver is following a safe distance from the car ahead. The software uses grayscale images to detect potential obstacles like cars, lanes, or, eventually, pedestrians. These images are transformed into a top-down view, a 2-D rendering of the environment ahead, so the app can identify the objects individually.

Cars’ and trucks’ rear-windows, trunks, and bumpers comprise most of the horizontal structures in one of these renderings. Specifically, parts that are chromatically different from surrounding objects (as in, a metal bumper against the asphalt) are simple for the software to pick out and classify. Campbell said, “We exploited all these cues to locate the boundary of the nearest front obstacle, and calculate the distance between the detected boundary and the front end the car that CarSafe is used in.” Classification algorithms determine whether the object ahead is the back of a dump truck, or the rear of a Fiat 500 that you’re about to hit.

To detect lane derivation, the app runs visual processing that finds straight line segments. The app uses another algorithm to connect dotted lines belonging to the same lane marker. Once it has the lane layout, the software can sense when the car passes through a lane marking. To figure out risk, the app combines rear-camera data with front-camera events. For example, if the rear camera sees a lane change, the app will check the front camera to see if the driver checked the mirrors. Campbell said, “The key thing that CarSafe does for the first time is correlate classified events on the road and in the car by asking simple questions — Is the driver in danger because they are distracted and weaving? We aim to try and answer these questions by inferring dangerous events in real-time using only a phone.”

To evolve the app, Campbell hopes the next generation of smartphones can use both cameras simultaneously. “Current switching times on new top-end Androids are 400 milliseconds,” he said. “Each time you switch you might miss events.” He hopes, too, that with greater camera frame rates, they can evaluate more data.

The app that was demoed is currently running on Android only. No release date has been set, but look for more news soon.