Monthly Archives: September 2011

Changing Leaves, Changing Driving Conditions

We have passed the hot days and crazy road trip traffic of summer and are not quite to the days of snow drift and icy roads in winter, but autumn is also a season that poses dangerous driving conditions that need to be observed with caution. Fall is a season of change, and this goes for the weather and road conditions. At Defensive Driving, we believe in being prepared and aware at all times out on the roads, so follow these tips to ensure your fall travel is safe and sound.

Check your Headlights and Taillights
Daylight savings is just around the corner, and with that comes shorter days and morning and evening commutes taking place in the dark. Ensure your headlights and taillights are in good working order and don’t hesitate to use them, even at the early parts of dusk. Keep a flashlight in your car in case you need to check on anything while driving in the dark hours.

Be Aware of Wet Leaves
Fall foliage is a beautiful aspect of the season, but leaves that fall to the roadways can pose a danger to drivers. These piles of leaves are especially dangerous when wet, so be sure to slow your speed if it begins to rain or you are driving in an area with recent rain or frost.

Check your Tire Pressure
Fluctuating temperatures are commonplace in the fall months, and these drastic changes can negatively affect your tire pressure. Check the pressure before heading out on a long trip and throughout the season to make sure the tires are maintaining a safe amount of air pressure.

Watch for Animals
Fall is prime time for animals such as deer and antelope to increase their activity and start moving to new locations for the winter months. Pay extra attention in wilderness areas where they can unexpectedly spring in front of your car. According to Drive Safe PA  the morning and evening hours are generally when the animals are the most active.

Prepare for Harsh Weather
The days of fall can still be warm and sunny, but the winter months are not far off, and oftentimes the weather can change quickly, so prepare yourself for unexpected winter weather. Ensure that your car has adequate tread on the tires and your heater is in working order. Create a winter safety kit including water, blankets, non-perishable food and a flashlight to prepare you for the possibility of being stranded.

~ R. Quick

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How to change a flat tire

A flat tire can happen to any driver anywhere at any time; and while it’s never an ideal situation, preparing yourself with the proper tools and knowledge can help you handle it appropriately.

To ensure that you’ll have everything you need in the event of a flat tire, the Defensive Driving team recommends you keep the following items in your car:

  • the owner’s manual for your vehicle, which you should consult before attempting to change a tire
  • an inflated spare tire
  • a car jack
  • a lug wrench or tire iron
  • bracing material (for example, a brick or a piece of wood)

Now, on to the how-to process:

1. Once you realize you have a flat tire, turn on your hazard lights and pull over immediately. Park on a solid, level surface a safe distance from the road and set the parking brake. *Do not attempt to change a flat tire on the road if it is not safe*

2. Block the tire (with your bracing material) that is diagonally across from the flat tire to keep the vehicle from rolling. Place your bracing materials in front of and behind the tire.

3. Locate and remove your spare tire, jack and lug wrench or tire iron.

4. Remove the hubcap so you have access to the lug nuts. Break loose the lug nuts by turning them counter clockwise. Do not remove the lug nuts until the vehicle is raised.

5. Consult your owner’s manual to locate the best place to put the jack under your car.

6. Jack up the car until the tire clears the road surface.

7. Remove the lug nuts, then remove the flat tire and set it aside.

8. Put the spare tire on and reinstall the lug nuts, tightening them just slightly. Make sure the wheel is sitting flush against the brake hub.

9. Lower the car to the ground using the car jack.

10. Finish tightening the lug nuts and reinstall the hubcap.

11. Put away your flat tire and tools and continue to your final destination (which hopefully will be the nearest service station!).

~B. Waldman

How Low Can You Go? Common Myths and Misconceptions about Tires

Kicking the tires is an action that is synonymous with checking the soundness and quality of tires, but in reality, this does not really tell you much of anything at all. This pretty much sums up most drivers’ knowledge about tires because there are a lot of myths and misinformation on the subject. More often than not, drivers do not know when to replace them, how to inflate them properly and other essential basic care details. Maintaining properly filled and quality tires will not only increase the safety of your vehicle, but can also make your car more fuel efficient, so you should take the time to brush up on your facts and bust the tire myths.

Myth: You should maintain a lower operating tire pressure in the winter than in the summer.

Fact: Some drivers will lower their air pressure in the winter in an attempt to gain more traction and control on icy roads, but in reality, driving on too-low tires can cause damage and make your vehicle less safe in dangerous conditions. Tire pressure will naturally lower itself in the winter without any action on the part of the driver, but you should check the pressure at least once a month, according to Tire Safety.com, and this is especially important in more dangerous winter months.

Myth: You should inflate your tires to the maximum pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire.

Fact: The maximum pressure is not the ideal air pressure for operating your vehicle with a normal weight load. Instead, you should consult your owner’s manual and use the air pressure guidelines set forth by the manufacturer of your vehicle.

Myth: You can tell that you tires are low just by looking at them.

Fact: Looks can be deceiving, so always check your tire pressure with an accurate pressure gauge. Gauges at gas stations can become faulty and worn by overuse, so invest in your own gauge to keep in your glove box.

Myth: You should check your tire pressure when your tires are warm after driving.

Fact: According to the Department of Motor Vehicles , tires should be checked when they are cold to get the best reading. If you are taking a measurement during hot weather, wait until the coolest part of the day to ensure increased accuracy.

Myth: There is a set amount of time that you should keep your tires before buying replacements.

Fact: Tire wear is very much dictated by each unique driver and vehicle pairing. Factors that can influence the speed of deterioration include harsh climate, rough road conditions, average driving speed and the weight and load of your vehicle. In addition to monthly pressure checks, Tire Rack.com  recommends rotating your tires every 3,000 to 5,000 miles (you can sync it up with your oil changes) in order to even out the wear on the tires. This rotation will also serve as a check-up where the mechanic will ensure that your tires are safe and operational for the next 5,000 miles.

 

~ R. Quick

Back to School Driving Safety Tips

As fall is ushered in and school starts to go back into session around the country, drivers should be on the lookout for the return of the big yellow school buses to roadways. According to the National School Transportation Association Go Yellow, Go Green booklet, 480,000 yellow school buses travel the nation’s roads each day, making it the largest mass transportation fleet in the United States. School buses offer a cost effective, environmentally conscious and most importantly, a safe mode of transportation for our school children. The American School Bus Council explains that buses are the best choice for your children because they are 13 times safer than non-commercial vehicles.

This influx of children on and near the roadways can cause increased danger for pedestrians and drivers, so we at Defensive Driving.com recommend you review the following safety rules and tips on how to drive near school buses:

  • Be aware of the peak school commuting hours in your town and pay extra attention while driving.
  • Drive carefully and at reduced speeds in neighborhoods where children congregate at bus stops and especially in school zones.
  • Slow down when driving behind a school bus as they may make frequent and sudden stops.
  • Learn the flashing light signal system used in your state. This generally consists of slowing down when the bus is flashing yellow lights and coming to a complete stop while the bus is flashing red lights.

The responsibility of the safety of our children does not rest solely with drivers, so it is imperative that we teach our kids bus safety rule and strategies, such as the following:

  • Arrive at the bus stop early to avoid a situation where you would need to chase after the bus or enter the road for any reason.
  • Stand at least two large steps away from the street at all times while waiting for the bus.
  • Line up on the sidewalk rather than in the roadway.
  • Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop before attempting to board.
  • Notify the driver if you have dropped and item or need to pick something up off the street to ensure they can see you and know where you are at all times.