Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Right Idea: Lane Courtesy

As you take to the road this summer, don’t let the heat and the hectic traffic stress you out and cause you forget the rules of driving and common courtesy to your fellow drivers. In most states, the concept of lane courtesy is not an official law on the books, but rather an accepted rule where slower drivers yield to faster drivers. A breakdown in this practice can lead to both frustrating and dangerous driving situations.

In an attempt to remind us of the importance of these basic driving rules and courtesies, the National Motorists Association has deemed June “Lane Courtesy Month” wherein they are encouraging drivers to drive in the right lane, keeping the left lane clear of traffic unless using it to pass slower vehicles. According to NMA, lane courtesy is especially important in periods of high traffic congestion, which is a frequent occurrence during the summer months.

Applying this simple concept to your driving and encouraging others to do the same can help to make the collective summer driving experience more enjoyable and considerably safer because the flow of traffic will move more efficiently and drivers will not be forced to wait in frustrating traffic jams or risk dangerous maneuvers such as passing vehicles on the right side of the road.

~ R. Quick

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How to handle driving near emergency vehicles

Uh-oh. You’re driving down the road and suddenly you hear sirens in the distance. What now?

Although driver’s ed courses address what to do in these situations, no one seems to remember how to respond appropriately.

Approaching from the Rear

The DefensiveDriving.com team has compiled a step-by-step list of how to react when an ambulance, fire truck or police car is approaching from the rear:

1. Slow down and check the flow of traffic around you.
2. If you’re leading the pack, put your hazard lights on so cars behind you know there’s an emergency ahead.
3. Turn on your blinker and pull over as far to the right as you can so the vehicle can pass you. It is important to drive as safely as possible so you don’t cause an accident or disrupt traffic further.
4. Come to a complete stop.
5. Pull back onto the road only after the emergency vehicle is a safe distance ahead of you.
6. Stay at least 500 feet behind any emergency vehicle with its lights on.

Approaching from the Front

While the appropriate response to an emergency vehicle approaching from behind is fairly uniform across the country, what to do if the vehicle is coming from the opposite direction varies from state to state.

According to the National Safety Commission, the correct response is to be prepared to slow down or stop in case the vehicle needs to turn into your lane. However, according to Texas law, drivers are required to pull over to the right until the vehicle passes no matter which direction it is coming from. In New York, drivers must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles approaching from the opposite direction on a two-way roadway. The DefensiveDriving.com team recommends that you consult your state laws on how best to respond in these situations.

Over the last 10 years, 47 states have enacted some form of a “Move Over Law.” These laws were created in an attempt to lower the number of law enforcement officers injured or killed during traffic stops; they require drivers to move into the opposite lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle. If unable to move into the next lane, drivers must slow to a speed as much as 20 mph less than the speed limit.

According to the National Safety Commission, studies show that although most drivers are unaware of these laws, law enforcement officials are enforcing them by ticketing anyone who does not slow down or move over.

Stopped

If you are driving and come upon a stopped ambulance, fire truck or police car with its lights flashing:

1. Vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle.
2. Slow to a speed not more than 20 mph less than the speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 mph or more; or
3. Slow to a speed not more than 5 mph when the posted speed limit is less than 25 mph.

Also, it is important to remember that emergency vehicles always have the right of way at intersections – no matter what.

A good rule of thumb in these instances is simply to drive as safely as possible. By giving emergency vehicles enough space to get where they need to go, you’ll ensure your safety and will help EMTs, firemen and police officers do their jobs!

~ B. Waldman

The Best Deals for your Summer Wheels

If you need a rental car for your summer vacation or road trip, you may need to put in some extra effort this summer season to keep the rental from busting your travel budget. Rather than rethinking your travel plans, we have compiled a list of the best ways to help you cut costs and find savings with your summer car rentals.

Avoid Unnecessary Fees
Opt out of any unnecessary extra rental fees such as additional insurance. Your existing auto insurance should provide adequate coverage, but you should definitely check with your carrier before opting out. The Independent Traveler, a travel website, also recommends checking with your credit card company as your card membership may offer rental car insurance as a member perk. You can also save on the cost of the GPS addition by bringing your own or using a GPS application on your smart phone.

Join Company Loyalty Programs
Consider joining a membership or loyalty program at your favorite car rental company. These memberships, which are often free, can pack a punch in the savings department as the points you earn from your car rentals can add up to considerable discounts, VIP benefits and even free reward rentals.

Comparison Shop
Shop around for the best possible deal by starting early and reserving ahead, but also continuing to comparison shop until the last minute. Some travel sites and rental companies will offer last minute discounts if they have leftover cars, and at most locations you do not pay until your pick-up your vehicle, so you are available to take advantage of last minute pricing slashes.

Look for Online Deals
Monitor travel blogs and vacation and travel websites such as Orbitz or Travelocity to find special online deals and discounts. Your diligence may also pay off by finding your codes or coupons for upgrades to a better car or additional amenities.

Buy Your Own Gas
Think twice before taking advantage of car rental companies that offer to fill your gas tank for you in advance because you run the risk of not using all the gasoline and getting your money’s worth. Additionally, be sure to fill up the tank before returning the car to the rental agency. Not only will they charge you a fee to refill the tank, but you are also not able to shop around for the best gas prices.

~R. Quick

Purchasing Pre-Owned Vehicles: Savvy Shopper vs. Scammed Consumer

Buying a used or pre-owned vehicle is a great option for a budget conscious consumer that cannot take on the financial burden of a new car. A good driver thinks defensively on the road, but it is also important to be defensive when shopping for used cars to ensure that you get a good deal on a quality vehicle and protect yourself from scams and fraud.

One such scam that has been increasingly on the rise is odometer fraud, which includes disconnecting, resetting and altering official mileage readings on the odometer. This is especially prevalent when selling used cars that have older odometers that are easier to tamper with. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 450,000 vehicles sold with false odometer readings each year, costing car buyers upwards of $1 billion dollars each year.

There is no reason that you should fall victim to consumer fraud if you approach the process with a prepared and cautious outlook and follow these savvy car shopper guidelines:

• Hire a mechanic to inspect your prospective vehicle for any problems and to ensure that the mechanical soundness and safety features of the car are up to par. If there is an issue that needs to be repaired, you can use this information to make a lower counter offer with the seller.

• Ask to see the vehicle title and compare the listed mileage with what is reflected in the odometer.

• Review the history of the vehicle by requesting an official report. This can easily be acquired through sites like carfax.com and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. These reports are an invaluable resource in determining any previous accidents and issues with the car, which will help to give you a better idea of what to expect in the future.

• Test-drive the vehicle in various conditions to get a better idea how the vehicle handles on the road. Multiple test drives will also help you to gauge if there are any persistent issues with the car such as soft breaks or engine knocking.

• Request the name of the previous owner’s mechanic and obtain a full account of the preventative and reparative maintenance that has been performed on your potential vehicle.

 

~ R. Quick