March 2019 – Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving picture

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.

Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.

This article will cover the top techniques you can use to scan the road, ensure a safe following distance, and allow adequate stopping distance to help you reduce your risk of a crash.

Scanning the Road

To be a defensive driver, you must see what’s going on. The best way to spot potential trouble is by scanning. Avoid a fixed, straight-ahead stare that may let you drift off into daydreams while on the road. We are all subject to many distractions while driving, both inside and outside the motor vehicle, which can reduce a driver’s concentration on the driving task.

Inside your vehicle, devices such as cellular phones and stereos can interfere with driving. Reaching for a ringing phone, searching for your tunes, eating, and reading (i.e., maps or directions) can increase the potential for a traffic crash. Even conversation between vehicle occupants is a driving distraction.

  • Look ahead: Good drivers keep an eye on what’s happening about 10 to 12 seconds ahead. That’s about a block in city driving
  • Look to the sides: As you approach any place where other cars, people, or animals may cross your path, look to both sides
  • Look behind: Check the traffic behind you frequently (several times a minute) so you’ll know if somebody is tailgating, coming up too fast, or trying to pass
  • Be aware of blind spots: These are areas near the left and right rear corners of your vehicle that are not visible in your mirrors (never rely on your mirrors alone)

Maintain a Safe Following Distance

A safe following distance is a minimum of two (some states suggest three) seconds of space that you should maintain in front of your vehicle.

  • It should take at least two seconds (by counting “one thousand and two…”) for the front of your car to reach the same checkpoint as the car in front of you. Based on the GVWR of your vehicle and the current road conditions, you may need to add additional seconds to ensure safe following distance

Dealing with a Tailgater

Drivers being tailgated are advised to slow down to encourage the tailgating driver to pass. If possible, change lanes and allow the tailgater to pass. If the tailgater persists, go to a well-lit public place or police station and pull off the road.

If a crash is inevitable, letting off the brake in some instances (make sure no car is in front of you and you are not at an intersection) might also ease the force of the impact.

Try not to let other drivers intimidate you by closely tailgating you and possibly blowing their horn. Not everyone is patient or considerate of other people’s travel plans.

Stopping Distance in Relation to Speed

Any regular passenger vehicle traveling at a speed of 20 MPH should be able to stop within a distance of 25 feet. Heavier vehicles and vehicles traveling in combination with other vehicles (towing) have longer stopping distances. Yet, remember that having stopping distance between vehicles is the best braking device.

The four parts to stopping distance are Perception Distance (1) + Reaction Distance (2) + Braking Distance (3) = Total Stopping Distance (4).

  • Perception Distance (1) – This is the distance your vehicle travels from the time your eyes see a hazard until your brain recognizes it (from your eyes to your brain)
  • Reaction Distance (2) – The distance traveled from the time your brain tells your foot to move from the accelerator until your foot is actually pushing the brake pedal (from your eyes to your foot)
  • Braking Distance (3) – The distance it takes to stop once the brake is pressed (from your foot to your muscle input)
  • Total Stopping Distance (4) – At 55 MPH, it will take about six seconds to stop; and your vehicle will travel about the distance of a football field

As speed increases, so do all the above elements. Whenever you double your speed, it takes about four times as much distance to stop, and your vehicle will have four times the destructive power if it crashes.

For further tips on how to avoid distracted driving, please click the link on the following video by AAA Driver Training, The Challenge of Distracted Driving

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February 2019 – Car Maintenance

car maintenance

Proper vehicle maintenance should go hand-in-hand with good defensive driving. If an individual can ascertain a problem issue with their vehicle prior to taking it on the road, a great many accidents can be prevented.

 Fluids

Begin by checking under the car for obvious leaks. Driving with leaking fluid may cause failure of the steering, brakes, or radiator. Also familiarize yourself with the location of the fluid reservoirs under your hood, as this can vary from vehicle to vehicle.

Tires

Evaluating the tires for proper inflation and any obvious damage or signs of excessive wear is essential. In a worst-case scenario, a blown tire could cause you to crash. Two methods for measuring tire tread depth are the “Penny Test” (simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you; if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it’s time to replace your tires), or by looking at the treadwear indicator bar that’s molded into most tires (the bars are located at the bottom of the tread grooves in several locations around the tire; when these bars become visibly flush with the adjacent ribs the tire has no more than 2/32 inch of tread remaining, this is a visible indication that the tire should be replaced).

Lights

Ask someone to stand behind your car to check the lights. Turn on the car and activate the directional signals, then apply the brakes and put the car in reverse so the person can see if lights are working correctly. Ask the person to stand in front of the vehicle, then turn on the headlights and activate the directional signals.

 Sights

Check your windows to make sure you have good visibility. Check mirrors to be sure they are aligned properly, giving you a proper view of the road.

Gauges

Know how the gauges on your dashboard should look when everything is working properly. Check the gauges every time you start your car. Check the engine temperature gauge after the engine has had time to warm.

Vents

Check the vents, heating system, and air conditioning to be sure they are in working order so you can defog or defrost the windows when necessary.

Long Trips

Check fluids in the car periodically. Check the oil weekly. Check the brake, power steering, and engine coolant transmission fluids monthly or before a long trip to be sure they are full. Check fluids when the engine is cold. Fill the wiper fluid if necessary. Read the owner’s manual for directions on how to check the fluids. Engine fluid levels—including oil, brake fluid, and power steering fluids—are easy to check via dipsticks found under the hood. Engine coolant is visible in a plastic container apart from the radiator on newer vehicles.

Have the battery tested before a trip. Although you can take have the battery tested by a mechanic, you can check for obvious signs of corrosion on the terminals or for signs of cracks or leaks. Have the battery fixed or replaced immediately if you find anything wrong.

Activate your windshield wipers and sprayer to be certain they work.

Check your air filter before a long trip, as it can affect fuel efficiency and engine performance.

Make sure the spare tire is inflated and serviceable and the jack is present. It’s a good idea to check them periodically even if you aren’t going on a long trip.

For a helpful demonstration on some of the topics covered in this article, please click the link on the following video created by Car and Driver Magazine, Basic Vehicle Maintenance.

January 2019 – Winter Driving Survival Guide

Severe weather can be daunting for automobile travel. Consider the following information to ensure your safety and that of your fellow humans: 

WINTER DRIVING TIPS

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • If the car is sliding on ice, turn your front wheels in the same direction that the rear of the vehicle is sliding. For example, if the back of your car slides to the right, turn the wheel to the right.
  • Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition.
  • Pack a cellular telephone, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.

TIPS FOR DRIVING IN THE SNOW

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember, it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you must stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

IF YOU SHOULD BECOME SNOW-BOUND

  • Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm; it’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Avoid overexerting yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible, run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

For further information about driving in the wintry elements, please click here to view a video provided by AAA.

December 2018 – Dangers of Driving on Wet Leaves

wet leaves

Fall is a fun time of year for a lot of reasons… Holidays, the return of football season, and stunning fall foliage – which can also can also make driving a bit more difficult too.  Before you hit the road during this time of year, here are a few ways you can make your trip a safe one and hopefully avoid an accident. Continue reading “December 2018 – Dangers of Driving on Wet Leaves”

November 2018 – Adjusting to the Time Change

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November 2018 – Adjusting to the Time Change

Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 AM on Sunday, Nov. 4, so now is a good time to remind fleet drivers to take extra precautions to adjust to the change.

The end of Daylight Saving Time generally means traveling in dusk and dark conditions more often, when visibility is a greater challenge.  Additionally, driving after dark more has the potential to raise the risk for drowsy driving. Continue reading “November 2018 – Adjusting to the Time Change”

September 2018 – Back to School Traffic Safety

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School days bring traffic congestion –  School bus drivers are picking up passengers, kids on bikes are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, rushed parents are trying to drop off their children before work.  Especially at this time of year, it is so important for drivers to slow down and pay attention when students are present. Continue reading “September 2018 – Back to School Traffic Safety”