- Special Sections
(BPT) - When cousins Bo and Luke Duke from the television series The Dukes of Hazzard named their car “The General Lee,” they had the famous General Robert E. Lee in mind. Why? The show was set in the South, so perhaps it was to capture the Southern vibe of the Duke lifestyle. Maybe it symbolized rebellion against authority. Who knows? There are as many reasons for naming a car as there are drivers, and the Dukes were in good company when they named theirs.
Thirty-five (35) percent of Americans have named their car in the past, proving that our cars can have a deeper emotional hold on us than just a way to get from point A to point B, according to Hankook Tire’s quarterly Spring Gauge Index.
Gender influences choices. The Gauge showed that women are more likely to consider the car they drive a female, and men are more likely to consider their car male. On the other hand, approximately half of those surveyed stay gender-neutral when it comes to cars, considering their vehicle neither male nor female. Some of the most popular names were “Betsy,” “Bessie,” and “Baby.” On the other end were the more unconventional, exotic titles including “The Accordion,” “Petunia” and “NellyBelly.”
Whether or not you name your car, treat it like a friend and it will take better care of you. This season, treating your car right includes:
Anticipating slick surfaces - Stopping on a wet road can take up to four times the normal distance on a dry road. During wet weather conditions, drive slowly and keep in mind that stopping distances will be longer. Tires like the Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 have circumferential and Aqua Jet lateral grooves that promote efficient water evacuation from the center of the tire’s contact patch to enhance hydroplaning resistance and wet traction.
Learning to change a tire – Whether it’s from a class, a friend, or dear ol’ dad, take a few pointers on changing a tire. And always make sure you pack a spare tire in your trunk. You never know when you’ll find yourself in an unfortunate situation on the road.
Rotating your tires – Tire rotation extends the life of your tires and ensures optimal performance. Many don’t do this routinely, but when done correctly, tire rotation promotes even wear and improved tread life giving you the maximum life out of your tires. A professional tire dealer can get the job done for you in a quick visit.
(BPT) - Babies are measured and weighed frequently in the first few years of life so parents and pediatricians can be sure they are getting a healthy start. But as kids get older, many parents don’t know exactly how tall or heavy their children are. Knowing your child’s height and weight, and using the right car or booster seat when they travel, could save their life.
Booster seats protect children who are too big for a car seat but too small for a seat belt. And yet, according to “Buckle Up: Booster Seats,” a new study released by Safe Kid Worldwide, an alarming number of parents are allowing kids to use a seat belt alone before they are big enough. The report, funded in part by a $2 million grant from the General Motors Foundation, surveyed parents of children ages 4 to 10 and found that seven in ten do not know that a child should be 57 inches tall to ride in a car without a booster seat. Furthermore, in practice, nine out of ten parents move a child from a booster seat to a seat belt too soon.
While car seats, booster seats and seat belts are engineered to offer more protection than ever, anyone who drives a child needs to remember to use a booster seat until a seat belt alone fits safely. Safe Kids offers this easy tip: a child needs to be at least 57 inches tall (4 feet 9 inches) and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds to ride with just a seat belt.
Motor vehicle crashes are the second-leading cause of death for children 4 to 10 years old in the U.S. In 2012, 340 children of this age died in motor vehicle crashes. A third of these children were riding without a restraint that could possibly have saved their lives. Booster seats can reduce the risk of serious injury by 45 percent compared to seat belts alone.
The report also found that carpooling can be a particularly risky time for small passengers. One in five parents whose children carpool say they “bend the rules” when driving, letting children ride without seat belts and without the car seat or booster seat they would normally use. And 61 percent of parents say they notice other carpool drivers bending the rules.
Safe Kids Worldwide also recommends these tips for parents:
* Buckle up every ride, every time, in the right seat. This is important for everyone, both drivers and passengers. Make buckling up a habit starting when kids are young.
* Remember: A child needs to be at least 57 inches tall (4 foot 9 inches) and weigh 80-100 pounds to ride with just a seat belt. Weigh and measure your child today.
* Be confident that a car seat is installed properly. Learn more about car seat safety and find a car seat inspection event near you by visiting safekids.org.
(BPT) - Aggressive drivers speed, drive too fast or carelessly, change lanes without warning, cut off other vehicles, tailgate and pass in ways that endanger others. Aggressive driving likely causes “a substantial number” of the 6.8 million crashes that occur every year on American highways, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. Everyone is aware of aggressive drivers, but you may be surprised to learn how many people think that other drivers are the only offenders; the truth is that most drivers should take a closer look in the mirror – aggressive drivers may be closer than they appear.
Eighty-five percent of motorists describe other drivers’ behind-the-wheel behavior as aggressive, yet only 36 percent admit their own driving is aggressive, according to a survey by Safeco Insurance. Despite that discrepancy, the survey also revealed wide-spread agreement on two important points: 82 percent said they experience negative feelings because of how other people drive, and 72 percent said they would welcome the chance to improve the driving experience for everyone and make at least one change to their own behavior.
Recognizing the need to reduce aggressive driving, Safeco launched a “Drive it Forward Fridays” movement. Drivers can visit www.safeco.com/diff, or use the hashtag #DIFF, to pledge to be more courteous drivers, and to share how they’re making positive changes to their driving habits.
The survey also identified behaviors that, if stopped, would make driving more pleasant for everyone. This includes cutting off other drivers (59 percent), using high beams toward oncoming traffic (57 percent) and tailgating (56 percent).
“People’s emotions and anxieties often will play out on our roads and highways, putting us all in tense, high-stress driving conditions that can be dangerous,” says Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist and author of the book “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.” Alpert has also written about road rage. “Changing aggressive driving habits is not only good for society, but it's good for your mental health. Simple positive acts can have a huge impact on how you feel by activating the reward center in the brain - meaning it really can make you feel good.”
Alpert offers some tips to help drivers begin curbing aggressive road behaviors:
* Aggressive drivers cut off other motorists, tailgate, have unnecessary and excessive use the horn, speed and change lanes rapidly. If these behaviors describe your driving habits, resolve to make a change for the better.
* Model good driving behavior by being friendly and courteous on the road. Your good behavior can inspire others to be courteous as well. Give up a parking spot, and when it’s safe to do so, allow other drivers to move into your lane.
* Accept that some undesirable road conditions, such as heavy traffic, slow drivers or excessively fast ones are a normal and unavoidable reality of driving. If you normalize these irritations, you’re less likely to be frustrated by them.
* Don’t take it personally. A driver who cut you off was likely just being thoughtless, and didn’t intend to anger or endanger you. Consider other explanations; perhaps the driver is traveling to an emergency or simply didn’t see you.
In addition to improving your own behaviors and encouraging others to do so, too, avoid antagonizing aggressive drivers. NHTSA recommends you do your best to get out of the way of aggressive drivers and don’t encourage them by speeding up or attempting to block them. Avoid eye contact and ignore rude gestures – in short, don’t encourage bad driving behavior by behaving badly yourself.
(BPT) - It is summer and you can’t wait to get out on the road to head to the cabin, on vacation or just a nice carefree ride with the windows down. But while you may be ready to go, is your car? These quick vehicle inspection tips will help you make sure your vehicle is ready for the open road.
Is it cool in here?
Make sure your vehicle is ready to beat the heat by inspecting the air-conditioning (AC) and engine cooling systems. This means removing dirt and debris from the fins of the AC condenser and radiator.
While you’re near the radiator, check the coolant level. Look in the owner’s manual for the right anti-freeze. A newer car might require a completely different anti-freeze then what was used by that car’s brand a few years ago. “Mixing incompatible anti-freezes can instantly gum up the cooling system,” says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of auto parts retailer RockAuto.com.
Also check the cabin air filter that freshens the air flowing into the interior. This filter typically needs to be replaced annually, but it can clog up much faster if the car is driven on dirt roads or parked under trees. “Owners are so relieved when they discover their AC problems are solved by simply popping a new cabin air filter in place behind the glove box,” says Taylor.
Kick the tires
Wherever you plan to go this summer, your tires will take you there; make sure they’re in great shape.
Start by checking the tire pressure. Most tires have a maximum tire pressure printed on the side of the tire, but you want to inflate the tires only to the cold tire pressure printed on the decal inside the driver’s door jam. “With today’s low-profile tires, the difference between the maximum and cold pressures might be 20 PSI or more. Inflate a cold tire to the maximum pressure printed on the tire and it will be seriously over inflated once it hits the hot pavement,” says RockAuto.com’s Taylor.
Keep up that strict oil change schedule
If you want your engine to stay cool and last, it’s essential that you change the oil at the appropriate times and with the proper oil. With older cars, owners might have used lighter weight oil in the winter and heavier oil in the summer. Today’s engines often require the same weight oil year round. “Modern engines use oil as a hydraulic fluid for operating valves and doing other new things. Pour 10W-30 into a new engine that requires 0W-20 and there will likely be problems,” says Taylor. Use the weight of oil recommended in the owner’s manual and don’t forget to change the oil filter too.
Take care of your vehicle and follow these tips and you can be sure it will be there with you for every new mile marker and memory this summer and beyond.
(BPT) - There is much to love about the nuances of the changing seasons – from spending sunny days on the beach to hiking through autumn-kissed parks and skiing down snow-covered mountains. Throughout the year, just as you would protect yourself from seasonal elements like sun, rain and cold by applying sunscreen and dressing appropriately, it’s important to protect your vehicle from the great outdoors. Your car needs to be prepared for the varying weather ahead – just like people do. Here are a few easy DIY projects to keep your car looking new and running for seasons to come.
Fix-ups for fall
The crisp change in the air signals the exciting start of fall. However, before the cold-weather season kicks off, make sure to show your vehicle some love and touch up scratches that may have appeared during the road trips of summer months. By affordably fixing your car now, you can save yourself from a major, and costly, headache later.
Repairing nicks, scratches and chips on your car can be simple. Try a product like Dupli-Color’s innovative Scratch Fix All-in-1. Specifically designed to provide an easy-to-use and exact-match color, touch-up paint solution, the product contains a prep tool and fast-drying clear finish to seal and protect repairs. Scratch-Fix-All-in-1 is available in a variety of colors, tested and approved by vehicle manufacturers to ensure a perfect match.
Before the flurries start to fly, it’s important to pay close attention to vehicle maintenance. First, check all vehicle fluids to make sure they are at the appropriate levels. Things like oil, transmission fluid and brake fluid are especially important as they can cause engine damage and even prevent your car from starting on chilly mornings if they’re too low.
Also, check the air pressure in your tires and inflate them if necessary. You can reference your owner’s manual or sidewall of the tire for information about optimum air pressure. To ensure your vehicle will be safe in rainy, snowy and icy conditions, have your tires balanced and rotated before the snow starts. If you live in a particularly snow-prone or rural area, you might also consider buying snow tires and/or chains.
See spring clearly
Driving with worn or broken windshield wipers is dangerous, and recent statistics show the average driver only changes his wiper blades every three years. However, according to AAA, you should replace them every six to 12 months – about the same time you would purchase spark plugs, filters or other auto maintenance products. Often, car owners will try to stretch the limit by waiting to replace these items until absolutely necessary, but remember regular maintenance is more cost effective than accident repair.
Headlight clarity is also important. Clouded lenses can reduce the effectiveness of your headlights up to 80 percent and pose serious safety concerns, according to Consumer Reports. Like replacing windshield wipers, spending a few dollars and an hour on restoring cloudy headlights will not only enhance the appearance of your vehicle, but also keep you safe. Headlight restoration kits can be purchased affordably and they will enhance headlight clarity while also protecting lenses from damaging UV rays.
Fight the fade from summer sun
Automotive plastic and vinyl parts can fade over time and make cars look old and worn before you know it. Bring new life to faded areas like bumpers, trim, dashboards or seats with the new Plastic & Vinyl Restore Coating from Dupli-Color – an aerosol spray that bonds to substrates leaving behind a smooth, like-new finish with just three coats.
Additionally, there are steps you can take to prevent interior damage to your car. For example, use a sun shade to keep your dashboard – one of the largest plastic surfaces in your car – from getting too much light. This will keep any plastic or vinyl, as well as carpets and other surfaces, from becoming discolored and faded.
Don’t forget to check your owner’s manual throughout the year and look for any recommended maintenance based on your vehicles mileage. And remember, when seasons change, your automobile changes too. By keeping up with your vehicle’s regular care, you will not only have a car or truck that looks good, but you’ll save yourself from larger repairs down the road.
(BPT) - If you’re feeling nervous about handing the car keys to your teenager for the first time, you’re not alone. It’s a common sentiment given some sobering statistics. According to teendriversource.org, 20 percent of all 16-year-old drivers will be involved in an accident during their first year behind the wheel. And studies show more teenage motor vehicle fatalities happen during the summer than any other time of year. But there are some things you can do to help keep your teenager from becoming a statistic. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has some tips and tools to keep your teen safe.
Though auto accidents are a fact of life for most drivers, even a minor fender bender can impact insurance rates, costing parents and teens for years to come. The good news is research shows teen drivers who follow rules are half as likely to get in an accident. Before your teen hits the road, consider establishing some simple guidelines to protect his or her safety and your wallet:
1. Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Set a curfew to keep your teen off the road during these times.
2. Limit passengers. A teen’s relative risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases with each additional passenger. More passengers equal more potential distractions.
3. Make the cell phone off limits while driving. Talking and texting can double the likelihood of an accident. If your teen must use the phone, instruct him or her to pull over before doing so and be sure to set a good example when you are behind the wheel.
4. Empower your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them. Remind your teens they are just as vulnerable in an accident as the driver, so they should speak up if they feel unsafe.
5. Be Prepared. Arm your teens with the knowledge of what they should do if they do get into an accident. Mobile apps such as WreckCheck can help take the guesswork out of a tense situation, guiding users through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. WreckCheck uses your device’s location service, camera and audio recorder to document all pertinent information about the incident and provides tips on how to file and follow up on a claim.
A Teen Driver Contract is a simple way to keep your teen accountable. It establishes basic driving ground rules and clearly lays out the consequences associated with driving privileges. The NAIC has developed an online tool to guide parents through building a customized Teen Driver Contract. There’s also a downloadable sample contract to help get you started.
Educating yourself and your new driver about the risks and insurance implications of unsafe driving can save lives and money. As your teen begins his or her journey on the roadways, take time to speak openly and candidly about your expectations for behind-the-wheel behavior.
(BPT) - New research on driver’s education and training shows a gap in teen drivers’ knowledge – one that, if closed, could help prevent some of the nearly 300,000 car crashes involving inexperienced drivers every year.
That knowledge gap concerns the only part of the car that actually touches the road: the tires. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) analysis of the 2.2 million car accidents in 2012 shows more than one in 10 (12 percent) were among inexperienced drivers and involved tire-related issues, such as insufficient tire tread or improperly inflated tires.
Despite the importance of tire safety, only 16 states include comprehensive tire safety information in their driver’s education curricula, according to new data from Michelin North America and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body for world motor sport.
Michelin and FIA conducted an audit of driver’s education curricula across all 50 states, as well as a survey of 1,001 teens and their parents. Surprisingly, only 49 percent of teens surveyed and 47 percent of parents believe their driver’s education program completely prepared them to drive.
“Auto accidents are the top cause of death among American teens, claiming more than 5,000 lives each year, NHTSA data shows,” says Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America. “Teenagers in this country are dying in car accidents or are involved in car crashes that are preventable, and require only very simple behavior changes.”
The need for a behavior change when it comes to vehicle and tire maintenance is apparent, Selleck says. Of the teens surveyed, 27 percent admitted they never check tires, and less than half (48 percent) said they check tires at least monthly (the recommended frequency).
Parents don’t have to wait for driver education courses to adopt tire safety lessons. They can begin teaching teenage drivers the basics of tire safety immediately. Michelin has joined with FIA to raise tire safety awareness through the “Beyond the Driving Test” educational program, and Selleck offers some advice:
* Teach teens to do “the penny test” on their vehicle’s tires at least once a month. Place a penny in the tire groove with Lincoln’s head pointing down. If you can see all his head, the tire treads are too worn to be safe.
* Demonstrate the proper use of a tire pressure gauge and teach teens to look for the recommended PSI on the label inside their car’s door jamb. Everyone should check tire pressure at least once a month.
* Log on to BeyondtheDrivingTest.com with your teenage drivers and watch the instructional videos on tire pressure and tread wear together.
“Tires are the only parts of a car that touch the road, so it makes sense that driving safety begins with tire maintenance,” Selleck says. “Driver’s education today has done many things well; however, it has generally ignored some key safety facts – driving with unsafe or improperly inflated tires – that can be life threatening.”
To download a handy glove box guide with five simple tips to help you stay safe on the road, visit BeyondtheDrivingTest.com.