It’s That Time – Back to School Safe Driving

Back to School Safe DrivingEven if you don’t have students in your home, back to school time effects everyone when it comes to driving. Now is the time of year when the school buses and backpacked pedestrians begin appearing everywhere and we all need to think about back to school safe driving.  While we all can relate to the frustration of being “stuck” behind a school bus, it is important for everyone’s safety that we exercise patience and also know school bus traffic laws. It is equally important that we pay attention for students in school zones who may be excited or distracted as they make their way to and from school.

The National Safety Council reports that school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation for students. They caution, however, that more children are hurt or killed outside of the bus when they fail to watch where they are going, or when a motorist does not pay attention and illegally passes a stopped school bus.

The council offers the following points to remind drivers of school traffic safety laws and procedures:

  • In all 50 states it is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children.
  • In all 50 states traffic in both directions is required to stop on undivided roadways when students are being picked up and dropped off.
  • State laws vary on divided roadway requirements, however in all cases, vehicles driving behind the bus, and moving in the same direction must stop when the bus does.
  • Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate the bus driver is preparing to stop to load or unload passengers. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals that the bus has stopped and children are exiting or entering the bus.
  • A required distance of 10 feet around a school bus must be observed to allow sufficient space for children getting on or off the bus.
  • Be on the lookout for children who may run or fail to observe safety rules when moving to and from the bus stop.
  • Drivers should never block crosswalks when waiting to turn or stopped for a red light.
  • In school zones be alert for warning flashers, and while you are in an active zone, be sure to yield the right-of-way to students crossing in the marked crosswalk.

If you know your morning route includes an area with school bus stops, come up with ways to help you safely share the road. Listen to music or a podcast to help you exercise patience with frequent stops. Leave  a little early so you won’t have to stress about delays. Remember, the most important thing is that EVERYONE arrives at their destination safely!

Buying New Tires? Five Questions to Consider

buying new tiresAt some point, every vehicle owner needs to think about buying new tires. Depending on the number of miles you put on your vehicle annually, that time may come sooner rather than later. According to Edmunds, if you drive your car around 12,000 to 15,000, your tires should last about three to four years. Other factors that will influence how soon you need tires including the type of driving you do, roads you travel, and whether or not you’ve kept up with maintenance services like tire balancing and wheel alignment.

If you are thinking about buying new tires, here are five questions for you to consider to help in the decision process and to aid in protecting your investment.

How does your tread look?

Tread wear is one of the most critical factors in determining whether or not you need new tires. Most tires have built-in tread wear indicators, but the penny test is another simple way to gauge your tread depth. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into five different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head.  If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are excessively worn, and it is time for a new set of tires. If Abe’s head is covered to about the forehead hairline, the tread is in good shape and you probably do not need new tires.

Have you looked for promotions?

If you have determined your tires should be replaced, you will need to start shopping. Tires are expensive, so begin by looking for promotions to see where you can save money. There are plenty of nationwide rebates and promotions each month that are available through your local tire professionals. Take some time to browse online for not only the right tires, but the best value.

What size tires do you need?

Tires are identified with an alphanumeric tire code that might not make a lot of sense to the untrained eyed.  Actually that code that gives you a host of information about its characteristics, including the size. For example, P195/70R15 43H M+S, shows you the type, width, aspect ratio, diameter, tire speed rating, and indicates the tire is an all-season tire. By checking out the tire code on your current tires, you will have some basic information about what you will be looking for when buying new tires.

Which type of tire is best for your driving?

The climate you live in, your driving habits, and your own personal preference can all factor in when determining the tire type that will be best for you. Generally speaking, an all-season tire is a good choice for most climates and vehicles. The all-season tire can be changed out for a winter tire if you live in a northern climate that gets a great deal of ice and snow.

How do I maintain my new tires?

Regular tire maintenance is the key to protecting your tire investment. Once your new tires have been installed you will want to keep them inflated to the proper pressure to prolong their service and prevent tire failure. PSI should normally be 30-35, but always refer to the specific recommendations for your particular tire and vehicle. Tire rotations, wheel alignments, and tire balancing should be part of your regularly scheduled maintenance to extend the life of your tires and your vehicle.

 

Extreme Heat Means Vehicles Need Extra Attention

Open Road Sun ShiningDrivers know that winter weather and dropping temperatures mean that your vehicle will require additional care to assure it runs smoothly and dependably. What many drivers may not realize is that scorching summer temperatures can also take a serious toll on your car. To avoid the risk of being stranded, motorists should keep in mind that extreme heat means that vehicles need some extra attention.

According to a recent heat wave recap from AAA Mid-Atlantic, more than 9,000 stranded Philadelphia drivers had to be serviced within a seven day period. 40 percent of those calls for assistance were due to dead car batteries and flat tires that resulted from the heat.

In addition the dangers and inconvenience of being stranded, drivers need to be mindful of the detrimental effects extreme heat can have on the vehicle itself. Driving with an overheated engine can compromise engine components and cause serious damage requiring expensive repairs.

AAA advises all motorists living and driving in areas experiencing extreme heat to take extra precautions by following these preventative maintenance tips:

  • Batteries – Heat ruins batteries. Have your battery tested to be sure it is strong enough to endure the punishing summer temperatures.
  • Tires – Soft, under-inflated tires generate heat, which can result in a blowout. Keep your tires inflated to the pressure recommended for your vehicle.
  • Fluids – Check all fluids including the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed. The fluid level in the radiator should be checked as well, however, NEVER remove the radiator cap when the engine is HOT, as this can result in serious injury. Always perform your vehicle’s preventive fluid checks while the engine is cool.
  • Coolant – Drivers should have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer as part of scheduled maintenance. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is usually required every two to five years.

 

Keep Your Cool – Avoid Engine Overheating

Your car’s engine works hard to convert fuel into mechanical energy, and in the process Overheatingcreates a substantial amount of heat. To manage that heat, your vehicle has its own cooling system that assures your engine stays cool enough to function properly. Engine overheating is a dangerous situation that can quickly put you and your passengers in peril, and put your car at risk for expensive damage.  When the engine exceeds 230 degrees Fahrenheit, is overheated, and at temperatures above 245 degrees Fahrenheit, engine damage may result.  As the heat increases, the different rates of thermal expansion cause metal to distort.

Keep your vehicle’s cooling system working properly to avoid overheating. These components should be checked on a regular basis:

Coolant – Anti-freeze and coolant are critical to your car’s heating and cooling system. Having the coolant flushes performed per your owner’s manual recommendation is extremely important in assuring your engine runs clean and cool.

Radiator – Have your radiator inspected to be sure it is in good condition, and that the radiator core has not been damaged by salt corrosion. Another issue to watch for is a plugged radiator core. This problem can happen when coolant flushes are not performed.

Cooling Fans – A cooling fan failure can lead to engine overheating problems. In some cases, trouble with the air conditioning system can be a sign that you have a cooling fan problem. Cooling fans should be regularly inspected to avoid engine problems.

Thermostat – There is no set mileage that predicts when it will fail, but when it does, it’s important to replace it as soon as possible. A bad thermostat is a common cause of engine overheating. A failing thermostat can also  be indicated by the check engine light illuminating or the car heater not working.

Water Pump – A compromised water pump will often cause a coolant leak, so if you notice the coolant level dropping at a faster rate, you should have it checked as soon as possible. An experienced auto technician will be able to spot a water pump that is about to fail.

Belts and Hoses – The belts and hoses in your cooling system should be inspected to make sure they are tight and in good condition.  Cracks or deterioration of the rubber are signs of trouble.

New Holiday Travel Record Expected for 4th of July Holiday

4th of JulyAre you planning a trip for the 4th of July holiday? If so, you are definitely not alone. According to AAA, a record-breaking 46.9 million people in the U.S. will travel 50 miles or more to celebrate the Independence Day holiday. This number represents not only a 5 percent increase over last year, it is the highest volume ever projected over the 18 years that AAA has been tracking these figures.  If you are taking a road trip, AAA cautions,

“For the 39.7 million Americans planning a Fourth of July road trip, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be twice as long than the normal trip, with Tuesday being the busiest day.”

If you are hitting the road this 4th of July holiday, take some time to make sure your vehicle is safe and ready for the road.  Here are a few tips:

– Test your battery

– Check your lights to make sure all are working

– Make sure wiper blades are in good shape

– Check fluid levels

– Check the pressure on all tires including your spare

– Pack roadside emergency items like jumper cables and travel compressor

Here are a few additional suggestions to consider for a smoother trip:

– Download an app like GasBuddy to make sure you find the best gas prices

– Check out the Waze app for real-time traffic info

– Pack snacks and drinks for the car to save time and money

– Make sure your maps are up-to-date – whether paper or GPS

– Plan your route and stops before you leave

– Bring along a cell phone charger with a car adaptor

– Bring an umbrella – no matter what the forecast says

Whatever your plans are, have a fun and safe 4th of July Holiday!

 

Digital License Plates -The Future of Vehicle Identification

Testing has begun in California on a new tech innovation that could completely change vehicle registration in the future – digital license plates. While they will initially be an optional accessory that vehicle owners purchase from dealers, if testing goes well, they could eventually replace those familiar government issued metal plates.

The new digital plates, developed by a company called Reviver Auto,  utilizes a technology similar to that used by the Amazon for its Kindle E-reader. According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento is first city to test the new digital license plates on 24 of the city’s fleet vehicles. The units will have the capability to display public service announcements, amber alerts, and other similar types of information.

The California DMV plans to offer the new plates through dealers in conjunction with Reviver Auto. Vehicle owners who opt for the digital plate will be able to register their vehicles electronically, eliminating the need to put updated sticker tags on their plates each year.

The digital plates offer particular advantages for fleet managers, who can collect real-time information from fleet vehicles including on-road tracking.  The digital plates can be configured to display personal messages or even mini-billboard advertising, which displays only when the vehicle comes to a stop.

A security advantage that digital license plates offer fleet owners and drivers is that in the event of theft, the plate can tell both the owner and law enforcement the location of the vehicle. The digital plates are engineered with tamper-resistant and anti-theft features.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the digital plates will first be sold at dealerships in California and Arizona. Next, they will be available in Nevada, Maryland and Pennsylvania before going overseas to be tested in Dubai.

For private consumers who want the technology the price is steep. They cost $699 for individual consumers, plus installation, along with a monthly fee of about $7.

Beware the Dangers of Distracted Drivers

Distracted DriversSchool is out and summer is here! That means more people are out on the road, making plans, and driving while distracted. Not only do we all need to be on the alert for distracted drivers, we need to make sure we avoid becoming one. As people depend on their smart phones for looking up information and connecting with friends, the temptation to use the phone and drive is overwhelming. Unfortunately, no matter how adept someone thinks they are at using their cell phone, driving requires 100 PERCENT of a driver’s attention. Driving while distracted can be fatal!

On average, it takes about five seconds to send or read a text message. That might not seem very long, but did you know that at 55 miles per hour a car travels the length of a football field during that five second interval? A lot can happen during the five seconds of that distracted driver’s journey, including a life-changing accident.

Here are some practical ideas to help you avoid becoming a distracted driver:

Mute it. Take a moment before pulling out of your parking spot to silence your phone. Once you are on the road, it will be easier to keep your mind off of your phone if it is not humming, vibrating, or otherwise beckoning you.

Stash it. Putting your phone in your purse, glovebox, or storage console is another way to help reduce the odds that you will be distracted by it.

No peaking. A lot of drivers like to sneak a quick look at their phones while stopped at a red light. The problem with this is that if you are not looking at the light, you will not know when it changes.

Tell people. Let everyone you call or text with know that you have a strict “no phone” policy while you are driving. That way you will not have to worry about someone thinking you are ignoring them.

Pull over. If it cannot wait make sure to pull over before using your phone. There are usually plenty of parking lots around that provide a great place to stop and do what you need to do.

Plan ahead. Before you press the ignition button or turn the key, do what you need to do. Let mom know you are leaving. Type your destination into your GPS app. Whatever you feel you need to do, do not do it as you are pulling out onto the street.

While everyone likes to save time by multi-tasking, it is important to understand that multi-tasking on the road too often means becoming a distracted driver. The time saved could turn into a life lost – in just an instant. Stay off the phone and stay safe!

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

Tire Code Part 3: Load Index, Speed Rating, and M+S Designation

When shopping for tires, you can learn a lot about a particular tire by looking at the uniform tire code imprinted on the tire. This code not only identifies the tire, it also provides useful information about the tire. Previously we looked at type of tire and section width, next we discussed at aspect ratio, tire construction and wheel diameter. With this post, we complete our series with a look at last three parts of the uniform tire code: load index, speed rating, and M + S designation.

Performance Index
The tire performance index is displayed after the wheel diameter, and represents the tire’s load and speed ratings.

Common Speed Ratings

Letter L M N P Q R S T U H V
Max. MPH 75 81 87 93 99 106 112 118 124 130 149

All-Season Tires with Mud and Snow Designation
When a tire has M+S on it, that means that it meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) guidelines for a mud and snow tire. Similar markings for this include MS, M&S, and M/S. In order for a tire to receive the Mud and Snow designation, it must meet specific RMA geometric requirements.

A tire with the correct tire load index for your vehicle means you that your tires are made to handle the weight of your vehicle. The speed rating shows the maximum speed your tires can handle, which tends to be more important in countries with roadways that are not subject to speed limitations. Whether or not the mud and snow designation is important will depend on the climate in which you live and drive.

Once you’ve purchased your new tires, it is important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safety and best vehicle performance. Selecting a dependable, quality tire is just the beginning. Maintaining the proper tire pressure will help you extend the life of your tires .

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

 

Tire ShoppingTire Code Part 2:  Aspect Ratio, Tire Construction, and Wheel Diameter

It is important to familiarize yourself with the differences between the many available tire types when shopping for new tires. In this three-part series, we are looking at the tire code that is imprinted on all tires. Each part of the tire code alpha-numeric sequence identifies something about the tire. Being able to interpret that code can help you choose the best tires for you.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of a tire is calculated by dividing a tire’s section height by its section width when the tire is:

  • inflated to proper air pressure
  • mounted on the approved measuring rim
  • under no load

The aspect ratio affects steering stability. Generally, the shorter the sidewall, or the lower the aspect ratio, the less time it takes to relay the steering input from the wheel to the tire, for faster steering response. Aspect ratio also affects the tread contact patch. A low-profile tire typically produces a wider tread contact patch. This wider tread contact patch creates a firmer footprint that provides improved cornering traction.

Tire Construction

The construction of the tire is identified by the letter following the aspect ratio. The most common designation is R, which stands for radial construction. Other, less common construction types for modern passenger cars may include D for bias ply construction and B for belted tires.

Wheel Diameter

The number following the construction code indicates the size of the wheel that the tire will fit in inches. Tire sizes on most vehicles begin at 13-inches and go up to 18-inches. Custom package wheels can be 22-inches or even larger.

An important sizing calculation in tire fitting, aspect ratio should be considered with wheel diameter for the best tire and wheel combinations. Lower aspect ratio typically indicates a high performance tire, with better lateral stability. Most of the new tires will be marked R for radial construction, however if you are replacing old tires, you may see the D or B designations.

When considering aspect ratio, tire construction, and wheel diameter, you should always select your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safe and optimal tire performance. Just as choosing a dependable, quality tire is important, it also necessary to choose one that is developed for the best performance given the weight and design of your vehicle.

Next Up: Tire Code Part 3:  Load Index, Speed Rating, and Use Designation.

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your OptionsShopping for tires can be a little overwhelming with the wide range of styles and choices that are available. It is important to choose the right tire for your vehicle and the type of driving you do in order to get the best safety, performance, and gas mileage from your vehicle. So, how do you go about choosing the right tires?

Getting to know the differences between the many tire types that are out there is a great place to start. In this three-part series, we will look at the tire code that is imprinted on all tires. Each part of the tire code alpha-numeric sequence tells you something about the tire. Understanding that code can help you find the right tires.

Tire Code Part One: Tire Type and Section Width

Type of Tire

The type of tire and it’s intended use are indicated by the first letter in the code. Letter designations include P for passenger vehicles, T for temporary spare, LT for light truck metric, C for commercial, and ST for special trailer service.

Section Width

Following the tire type letter is the section width of the tire, which is listed in millimeters. This is the widest point from sidewall-to-sidewall, so a larger number indicates a wider tire.

The proper size and tire type are important to assure safety and the best tire performance. Buying a quality tire will not guarantee the best performance if the tire is not made to accommodate the weight and design of your vehicle. Also, since tire size is a factor in the calculations of the computerized functions of today’s vehicles, it is essential to install the recommended tire size.

Next Up: Tire Code Part 2:  Aspect Ratio, Tire Construction, and Wheel Diameter