- Special Sections
(BPT) - It’s a tough job driving to work – just ask the millions of Americans who commute every day. The average commute takes 25.5 minutes one way, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, 10.8 million people drive an hour or more to work each way. Some have it worse: approximately 1.7 million Americans commute 90 minutes or more each way.
The key to driving to work is getting there on time and that means having a trustworthy vehicle that’s in tip-top shape. “Tires are often overlooked but they should be a priority,” says Bob Abram, product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “They have an enormous effect on braking, steering, comfort, handling and fuel efficiency because tires are the only parts of a car or truck that actually touch the road.”
Commuters would be surprised at how today’s high-tech tires can help drive down the costs of driving, says Abram. “There are so many new, innovative technologies, such as the use of orange oil in our tires, which saves drivers money either by having tires that last longer or tires with increased fuel efficiency. We now incorporate orange oil in everything from light truck/SUV tires – like the GEOLANDAR H/T G056 – to the ADVAN Sport V105 for luxury and high-performance vehicles.”
However, no matter how much technology tires pack these days, nothing can take the place of proper maintenance in getting the most out of them. No matter what your daily commute is, the more driving you do, the more you should check your tires regularly, especially the air pressure. “By keeping the right tire pressure, you can begin cutting down on your annual fuel costs, which will pay dividends,” he says. “Tires that are under-inflated by 8 pounds per square inch can reduce vehicle fuel economy by as much as 2 percent. For the best gas-saving results, take five minutes each month and check your tire pressure.”
Abram recommends checking tires when they are cold (at least four hours after the vehicle has been driven). Check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep out dirt, water and foreign objects. You can find the tires’ proper inflation level (as recommended by the car maker) on a placard in the glove box, on the car door or in the owner’s manual.
* Tires that are balanced correctly will provide a smoother ride and help prevent improper wear. You can get your tires balanced at the same time as your regularly-scheduled rotation.
* Rotating your tires will also prevent uneven wear and promote a better ride. Because the weight distribution on your car or truck can vary, it’s best to rotate your tires a few times a year, such as every time you get your oil changed.
* Check tire alignment once a year. Misaligned tires create unnecessary tire wear and higher fuel consumption.
* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit) to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Best to replace before 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets). Winter traction and wet traction start getting compromised well before 2/32. For example, rural streets that aren’t regularly plowed would be different than city streets that are regularly plowed.
* Checking tread depth: place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with the proper amount of tread. If you can see all of his head, you should buy a new tire.
(BPT) - Babies change everything. Their arrival means that new parents need to become educated - quickly - on cribs, strollers and most importantly, child-safety seats and all their rules. And as federal recommendations on car seats continue to evolve, parents have one more thing to stay on top of.
The family car safety experts at Cars.com, in partnership with Toluna QuickSurveys, recently conducted a poll that asked parents what they worried about most when bringing a newborn home from the hospital. Results revealed that 93 percent of new parents listed the fear of other drivers on the road as a top concern when driving with a newborn.
“Every new parent wants to cover the car in protective bubble wrap when driving with their baby. I know my husband and I did,” says Cars.com editor and expert mom Jennifer Newman. “That isn’t realistic, but there are a few things you can take control of that will help ease your anxiety when driving with your newborn."
Instead of bubble wrap, Newman suggests:
* Car seat check: Make sure a certified child passenger safety technician inspects your car seat installation before the baby arrives.
* Practice safe driving: It’s going to be tough, especially if your newborn starts wailing, but remember to keep your eyes on the road. If you can’t stop yourself from turning around to check on the baby, pull over and then make sure everything is OK with your wee one.
* Keep the baby in the car seat: If one parent rides in the backseat with the baby, remember that it is never OK to remove the child from a car seat while someone is driving. The safest place for a baby - even one that’s screaming - is in a rear-facing car seat when the car is moving.
* Keep your car properly maintained: Take your car in for regular, scheduled maintenance to ensure everything is in working order and all fluids are topped. Keeping a safe car can create a safer ride for your little one.
These steps allow parents to focus on the road and should lessen some of their concerns about their child’s safety in the car. In addition, Newman also suggests parents skip using items such as a baby mirror in the car. Mirrors and other items like toys that hang from a car seat’s handle can become dangerous projectiles in a crash and harm your child or you.
For more information, visit Cars.com to learn more tips on child driving safety.
(BPT) - Driving your newborn home from the hospital is when you know your life has changed. Car safety before kids is relatively simple, but after your first child is born, it becomes more complicated, especially when it comes to proper car seat installation.
More than 50 percent of new fathers and 40 percent of new mothers expressed concern over mastering the proper car seat installation as one of their top fears when bringing home a newborn from the hospital, according to research from Cars.com and Toluna QuickSurveys.
Since the majority of newborns spend multiple hours in the car, knowing how to properly install a car seat is essential, and all too often done incorrectly. Seventy-five percent of children ride in car seats that aren’t properly installed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although car seats (and the children in them) are all unique, Cars.com editor and expert mom Jennifer Newman offers these simple steps that are generally applicable to most car seat installations:
* Once you purchase a car seat, perform a car seat check in your own vehicle to see if your new car seat and car are compatible. Some stores will even let you try it out in your car before you buy.
* Make sure you’re using a car seat that meets the latest federal safety requirements and the height and weight of your child.
* Read both the car seat’s owner’s manual and your car’s owner’s manual to make sure you’re following the recommendations regarding installation.
* Locate your local child car seat inspection station, offered throughout the country to teach parents, both new and experienced, how to properly install any car seat.
* Car seats can be installed with either the latch system – the lower latch and tether anchors often found in the backseat – or with the seat belt. Use whichever is easier for you but never use both at the same time – this setup hasn’t been crash-tested and it could put too much stress on the car seat.
* After connecting the seat, using either method, make sure to push down on the seat as you tighten the latch straps or seat belt. The seat shouldn’t move more than an inch at the belt path.
* Register your car seat with the manufacturer and sign up for recall emails to ensure your child is not riding in a defective car seat.
* Visit Cars.com to learn more tips on child driving safety.
“Even seasoned parents should take some time to learn how to properly install the new car seats on the market. This will lower the risk of any injuries and will help keep your child protected if you ever get into a car crash,” Newman says.
Although many precautions should be taken by any parent before driving with a child, new parents should not be worried to take their child for a ride. By taking the proper steps parents should feel comfortable and confident while driving with their newborn so they can focus on the road and keep their child protected.
(BPT) - Every school year, busy parents tack on more daily chores to their to-do lists. In addition to packing lunches and getting kids dressed, they also have to make sure last night’s homework was completed. For many families, the morning routine also means getting everyone in the car and on the road in time so the kids aren’t late to class and parents aren’t late for work. With all this chaos it’s no wonder the morning’s mad scramble extends to the school gates, with traffic snarling and tempers flaring as people jockey for position at drop-off area.
“Stressed out and distracted drivers mixing with crowds of school kids can be a recipe for disaster,” says James Fults, vice president, personal insurance auto for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. “School zones can be difficult to navigate for drivers, many of whom are running late, might be receiving important work emails or calls on their smart phones, and trying to have last-minute conversations with their kids before they dash off for the day.”
In fact, as many as one in six drivers in school zones were reported as distracted in a 2009 national study of driving behavior around middle schools. The study was conducted in 15 states by the Safe Routes to School organization, which works to increase safety and reduce traffic around schools. Cell phones and electronics were identified as the leading distractors, followed by eating, drinking and smoking. Other distractions included reaching and looking behind the driver’s seat, grooming and even reading.
Drivers of larger vehicles like sports utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans were more distracted than car drivers, according to the study, and distracted drivers appeared more frequently in school zones without flashing lights and in school zones that had a daily traffic volume of 10,000 or more cars.
Sometimes these distractions have tragic results. Since 2003, 1,353 people have died in school-transportation-related accidents - an average of 135 fatalities per year - and more school-age pedestrians have been killed during drop-off and pick-up (from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m.) than any other times of day, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“Remember that your kids are learning from your driving example; don’t teach them to be a distracted driver,” Fults says. “To ensure that everyone makes it home safely at the end of the day, drivers should concentrate on the task at hand and exercise patience and caution when getting into and out of school zones.”
This is especially important since there are so many pedestrians in and around schools. In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, and another 76,000 pedestrians were injured, according to the NHTSA. In that year, more than one in every five children between the ages of 5 and 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
In order to be as safe as possible on the way to and from school, drivers should heed these tips:
* Be hyper-alert for children walking or bicycling to school.
* Slow down and always obey posted school-zone speed limits.
* Remember, children do not easily estimate vehicle speeds and often misjudge when it is safe to cross the street.
* Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state.
* Don’t use cell phones or mobile devices, including hands-free devices.
* Don’t eat, read, drink or groom in the car.
* Don’t tailgate or honk your horn.
* Don’t yell, glare or gesture to other drivers, pedestrians or cyclists.
* Try to be on time. Running late increases your chances of speeding and reckless driving.