Back to School: Hitting the Roads Safely

Summer’s officially over, and the beginning of the school year is upon us, bringing with it increased traffic as parents and school buses hit the roads again to get kids to and from school safely. Keeping this increase in traffic in mind is important for year-round commuters and all drivers, and a quick refresh on the rules of the road helps to keep everyone safe.

School Bus Basics

safebus(photo courtesy of)

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. The greatest risk is not actually riding on the bus; but rather when kids are outside of the bus, either approaching or leaving the vehicle.

To help ensure safety of its passengers, it is illegal in all 50 states for a motorist to pass a school bus that has stopped to either load or unload children. Motorists are alerted that a bus is about to stop by flashing yellow lights mounted on the bus. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign signal that the bus has come to a complete stop to load or unload children.

When a bus is stopped with its lights flashing, traffic in both directions of an undivided roadway must come to a complete stop to allow students to safely enter or exit the bus. State laws differ on whether or not drivers on a divided roadway going the opposite direction of the bus must stop. Traffic that is traveling the same direction as the bus (cars behind the bus) must always stop regardless of if the roadway is divided. Never pass a school bus on its right side. This is not only illegal, but also very dangerous.

Children are in most danger of being struck in the 10-foot radius around the bus. Be careful to stop your vehicle outside of this area to allow for the safest passage for bus riders. Whenever you find yourself in an area that has bus stops, be on guard. Children walking to and from the bus can be unpredictable and more likely to take risks that could result in an accident.

Child Pedestrians

walking-school-bus-lg(photo courtesy of)

Generally speaking, pedestrians always have the right-of-way at all intersections. Stop to allow pedestrians plenty of time to cross safely. Children are the least predictable pedestrians and because of their smaller size, they can also be very difficult to see. When in school zones, residential areas, or near playgrounds and parks, slow down and take extra caution to look for child pedestrians.

When stopping at a crosswalk, try to avoid blocking the walk with any portion of your vehicle. Blocking the walk forces pedestrians to walk around your car and can put them in a dangerous situation.

In school zones when warning flashers are active, you must stop to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the road in marked crosswalks or at intersections with no marked crosswalk. Be sure to always obey the instructions given by school patrol officers and crossing guards.

Child Bicyclists

bike to school (photo courtesy of)

About 12 percent of American children either bike or walk to school. Sharing the road with bicyclists is something that can cause a lot of frustration for drivers. However, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other roadway users in most cases. On most roads, bicyclists share the same travel lane as cars. Riders can be hard to see, and because they are not as protected, they can be severely harmed in a collision.

When passing a bicycle, try to pass as slowly as possible while keeping a minimum distance of three feet between your vehicle and the bicycle. Most accidents involving bicycles are the result of drivers making a left in front of an oncoming bike, or drivers turning right across the path of a bike. Take time to check if there are any cyclists before turning and if there are let them pass before you make your turn. Always remember to use your turn signals to let others know when you are about to turn. Take extra care to look for bicyclists coming out from driveways or in between parked cars.

By respecting the rules of the road and taking time to be aware of your surroundings everyone can expect to have a safe trip to and from school.


Is Your Car College-Ready?

It’s that time of year–students are heading off to college campuses across the country, some for the first time. It can be a stressful time for both parents and students. Help make the transition easier by ensuring your student’s vehicle is college-ready.

cars-on-campus(photo credit)

Choose the Right Vehicle

Selecting the right vehicle for your student to take to school is an important choice. You’ll want to focus on a car that offers  safety, long-term reliability and low maintenance, so that your child can focus on their studies without worrying about how to get to class. College students are notoriously low on cash, so you’ll also want to look closely at fuel efficiency to make sure that your son or daughter doesn’t have to blow their money for books on gas instead.

To save, consider going with a high-quality used vehicle as opposed to a brand-new car. There are many options out there that are reliable, fun to drive, and fuel-efficient. Check out helpful tools from Edmunds.com, Kelley Blue Book, or Consumer Reports to help guide your decision to the best ride in your price range.

packing-car-6(photo credit)

Pack Strategically

Moving is never a fun task. Trying to fit a whole dorm room into your trunk is no exception.

If you’ve got a long road trip to college ahead of you, consider paring down what you really need to bring with you. Many of the items you’ll need to outfit your dorm are likely available to purchase in or near your college town.

For those things from home that just can’t be replaced, try to condense as much as possible, making sure to secure any fragile items to ensure safe transport. Consider invest in clear plastic containers as opposed to cardboard boxes so that you can see their contents instead of having to rifle through boxes searching for a particular item.

When packing up the car for the big trip, be sure to place the largest objects in first. Then you can fill in the remaining space with smaller items. If it’s a long trip, don’t forget to pack a separate bag with necessities to keep with you in the front seat.

Be Security-Smart

While away at school, be sure your student is protecting their vehicle from break-ins. The easiest way to deter a would-be thief is to make sure that the doors are locked whenever the driver leaves the vehicle. Even if your student is running into the dorms to grab a forgotten book, stress to them the importance of always locking the doors. Thieves see an unlocked car as an easy mark; don’t let this be your student’s vehicle.

Keeping the interior of the vehicle clean also helps to deter thieves. Anything from an empty fast food bag to a blanket over the seat could be seen as a place to hide valuables. Remove the temptation and keep the interior as clean as possible. One easy trick is to do a quick clean every time you fill up. Throw any trash right into the gas station’s garbage can.

All valuables should be stowed away or removed from the vehicle when it is parked. Do not leave a GPS device, cell phone or iPod out in plain sight. Be sure to also conceal any adapters or chargers for these devices. Stow away these devices before you park to avoid inadvertently showing a thief where your valuable items are located.

You may also want to consider equipping your vehicle with an alarm. The noise from an activated alarm is enough to scare off many criminals. Most newer models now come with some form of factory installed alarm system, but an aftermarket system could be an option for vehicles without a factory alarm.

Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a highly visible, well lit area. Avoid areas that obscure your vehicle from view, which could allow for a would-be thief to gain uninterrupted access to the vehicle.

Easy Maintenance

While away at school, make sure your student keeps their car running its best by keeping up with basic maintenance. Set a calendar reminder to get the car’s oil changed based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations. Remember to check the oil level whenever you get gas. Taking this quick minute to ensure the engine is properly lubricated can save you (and your parents) from costly repairs down the road.

In addition to checking the oil levels, be sure to also check the transmission fluid, power steering fluid and coolant levels.

Treating your car well will ensure that your vehicle will be there for you in the long run.

i023282Can you name this classic college movie?
(photo credit)

Transitioning to college does not have to be a bumpy road. By selecting the best vehicle, packing strategically, protecting your belongings and keeping up with basic maintenance, you can be sure that your vehicle will be one less source of stress when hit campus this fall.


Across the USA: Must-See Summer Road Trips

Must See Road Trips
As July comes to a close tomorrow, you’re probably thinking of how you can soak up the last of your summer. Before schedules are overtaken once again by school and work, take time to get away one more time by hitting the road. Road trips are perfectly suited for quick, end-of-the-summer jaunts. With minimal planning, you can be on your way to exploring local destinations from the comfort of your vehicle. Here’s a few of our favorite spots.

Mid-Atlantic Magic
If a beautiful mountain drive sounds like your style of road trip you are in luck, Maryland is home to a portion of the Appalachian Mountains and has many wonderful sites to offer. Begin your journey in Baltimore headed west towards Frederick. Stop in for lunch at the Zagat rated restaurant The Tasting Room. Situated in Frederick’s historic district, the Tasting Room is a sophisticated Frederick favorite that has been described as the place to see and be seen. The restaurant offers modern American cuisine.

From Frederick, continue to Cumberland, Maryland, where you can learn the history of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal at the C&O Canal National Historical Park and Visitors Museum. Visitors to the museum can explore interactive exhibits and view a life-sized section of a canal boat.

Cruise down Route 70 to the town of McHenry to enjoy the great outdoors by scenic Deep Creek Lake. The town offers a host of seasonal attractions to satisfy any adventurer. Wisp resort’s mountain coaster is not to be missed. Riders enjoy a trip through the woods as the coaster zips down the mountain side. Visitors seeking a slower tour of the countryside will enjoy a scenic chairlift ride up the mountain. Enjoy a picnic on the mountain top and then either hike or ride the lift back down the mountain.

Enjoy a thrilling ride on the Mountain Coaster (Picture Credit)

Enjoy a thrilling ride on the Mountain Coaster. (Picture Credit)

Wilderness explorers will enjoy a visit to Cranesville Swamp, which is a 20 minute drive to the west of McHenry. The swamp results from a rare combination of altitude, temperature and precipitation which allows for a habitat that is usually found much farther north to develop. The landscape is reminiscent of a Canadian wilderness scene but can be viewed right in your backyard.

New England Adventure
New England is renowned for its stunning fall scenery, but in late summer, when everywhere else in the country is sweltering, this region’s more temperate climate is the place to be. Set out from historic Boston, Massachusetts on the 83 mile journey to Cape Cod, a road trip sure to delight summer travelers. Along the way sail, swim and snorkel along the over 600 miles of cape coastline. Be sure not to miss Chatham Lighthouse, a fixture on the cape since 1808.

The picturesque Chatham Lighthouse (Picture Credit)

The picturesque Chatham Lighthouse. (Picture Credit)

Grab a bite to eat at the Chatham Fish and Lobster Company, a local Chatham restaurant that offers a selection of fresh seafood. Be sure to try the restaurant’s lobster roll, heralded as the best on Cape Cod by the Cape Cod Times. After savoring one of the Cape’s famous “lobstah” rolls, be sure to carve out time off the road to go whale watching. Excursions offered by locals depart from various points along the cape.

Mid-West Exploration
America’s heartland offers road trippers plenty of room to roam and lots to see and do. Begin your journey in Cincinnati, Ohio and head towards Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, traveling the scenic byways across the picturesque Mid-West. If you take Route 71 out of Cincinnati, you can swing into Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby.

While in Louisville take time to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum. Learn the history of the Derby and follow the path a horse takes all the way from being a foal to standing in the winner’s circle. Swing by the museum gift shop to pick out an official Kentucky Derby Hat for next year’s Triple Crown races.

Hop back in the car and onto Route 65 from Louisville on your way to Mammoth Cave National Park, home to over 30 miles of the Green and Nolin Rivers. Visitors are welcomed to explore the river by either canoe or kayak. The rivers also offer muskellunge, bluegill, catfish, bass, perch and crappie fishing. Explore the cave’s more than 4400 miles of routes, both above and underground before setting up camp along the Green River for the night.

Visit the home of the historic Kentucky Derby (Picture Credit)

Visit the home of the historic Kentucky Derby. (Picture Credit)
California Cruising
Take advantage of the beautiful west coast on this drive from Santa Barbara to Monterey, California. Enjoy wonderful coastal scenery on this 4 hour, 15 minute drive. The hiking trails of Big Sur offer travelers a wonderful opportunity to explore the local terrain and stretch their legs. After working up an appetite, pick up some of the freshest local produce every Sunday at Monterey’s local farmers’ market. Monterey eatery LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle offers waterfront dinning, delicious food and a casual atmosphere that is sure to make visitors feel welcomed. Try their clam chowder, awarded first runner up in the West Coast Chowder Competition.

Take in the views at Big Sur. (Picture Credit)

Take in the views at Big Sur. (Picture Credit)

The local town of Salinas offers something for every art lover. The first Friday of every month the town hosts their “First Fridays Art Walk.” Artists, vendors and performers take to the streets the first Friday of every month to display their works.

No matter where you find yourself in the United States, there is surely a wonderful road trip destination to be seen. See all the sights across the country from the comfort of your own car. Road trips offer you the flexibility to cater the trip to fit your needs, making them perfect for short, spontaneous getaways. Live up the remainder of the summer by sneaking away on a road trip and take in these sights and scenery, guaranteed not to disappoint.

See America from the comfort of your car. (Picture Credit)

See America from the comfort of your car. (Picture Credit)


Freedom of the Open Road: History of the American Automobile

Ever since its debut in 1886, the automobile has been a symbol of American freedom. With the automobile, Americans were empowered to travel wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. This Fourth of July, let’s take a look back on one of America’s most important innovations, the automobile.

Hitting the Road
The first automobile was actually not invented in America. The honor of first perfecting the horseless carriage goes to Germany. In 1901, designer Wilhelm Maybach designed what is considered the first modern automobile for Diamler Motoren Gesellschaft. His vehicle was powered by a 35 horsepower engine and was capable of reaching speeds of 53 miles per hour.

Henry Ford stands next to a Model T

Henry Ford stands next to a Model T. (Photo Credit)

The age of the American automobile truly began with Henry Ford’s utilization of the assembly line to mass-produce vehicles, allowing Ford Motor Company to provide these vehicles at an affordable price. The Model T first hit the market in October 1908. It cost $825 and came equipped with a four-cylinder, 24 horse-power engine. The Model T was designed using interchangeable parts which made repairing the vehicle very simple. As production volume picked up, the price of the Model T began to decrease. In 1912 the Model T cost $575 which was less than the average American yearly wage. The Model T stayed in production until 1927 when it was pulled from the market. The final price for a Model T was $290. When production of the Model T stopped, 15 million units had been sold. Access to mobility had been made possible for most Americans through Henry Ford’s Model T.

Utilizing Ford’s assembly line technologies, other domestic manufacturers began to come into the market. General Motors, founded by William “Billy” Durant, began in 1908. When it was first founded, General Motors had only the Buick Motor Company in its holdings. In subsequent years, GM’s holdings would expand to include companies such as Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Pontiac. Chrysler Corporation joined the fold in 1925. Together with Ford, GM and Chrysler accounted for 80% of the automobile industry’s output in 1929.

Swings in Supply & Demand
By 1942, automotive sales had plummeted due to the Great Depression and World War II, which caused a large drop in civilian automobile production. After the war was over, Americans were ready for their next automotive purchase.

The post-war years saw great demand for automobiles. Companies offered many models and even more options to equip those models. Each year saw vehicles becoming longer, heavier, more powerful, equipped with more technology and increasingly more expensive to purchase.

The Age of the Muscle Car
The 1960s saw the emergence of the muscle car. These cars came as a response to pent up American consumerism that had been repressed in the decades prior. Detroit manufacturers saw the muscle car as a way to stave off the invasion of foreign makes such as Volkswagen, Fiat, Renault and Datsun. In addition to the muscle cars of the 1960s, domestic manufacturers began to produce lightweight cars like the Corvair, Falcon and Valiant. These models were Detroit’s answer to small, fuel efficient foreign makes.

The Pontiac GTO appealed to youthful buyers of the 1960s

The Pontiac GTO appealed to youthful buyers of the 1960s. (Photo Credit)

New government regulations and foreign disputes caused the vehicles of the 1970s and 1980s to undergo a drastic change. American consumers began to crave more fuel efficient and reliable vehicles due to the increase in the cost of fuel resulting from the Oil Crisis. Detroit manufactures failed to recognize this shift in consumer desires and continued to produce large, inefficient vehicles. As a result, domestic auto sales plummeted. Sales peaked in 1978 at 12.87 million units, and then dropped to 6.95 million units in 1982. Import makes increased their share in the market to 27.9%. Japan took the lead as the world’s leading automotive producer.

The Electronic Age
The automobile has been constantly developing and improving since its inception. Advances in electronic and computer technologies found their way into vehicles of the 1990s and 2000s. A push to develop electric cars in the early 1990s resulted in some of the first practical electric vehicles. GM, Chrysler and Ford all debuted new electric models. In 1997 Cadillac became the first American car manufacturer to offer electronic stability control in its vehicles. Vehicles continued to become more and more technologically advanced throughout the 2000s with the inclusion technologies such as satellite navigation and park assist features.

The evolution of technology continues to make its way into more and more aspects of the car. Now manufacturers are pioneering technology that will allow cars to drive themselves.

The automobile provided Americans with the freedom to go and see places that had otherwise been unattainable to them. America’s love affair with the car continues on till this day. From humble beginnings, the automobile has grown to become a fixture in the American lifestyle, and we at CARCHEX wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Fourth of July From CARCHEX. (Photo Credit)

Happy Fourth of July from CARCHEX. (Photo Credit)


Softening the Impact of an Accident

Liability insurance can be likened to a financial airbag, softening the impact of an accident on your wallet. Liability insurance is something that all drivers are legally required to have, but do they really understand what liability insurance does? This short video from our friends at Allstate explains what liability insurance is and what it covers.


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