Keeping Your Teen Drivers Safe: 3 of the Most Dangerous Activities for Young Drivers

Did you know that car accidents are the leading cause of death for 14-18 year olds? Teenagers learning to drive are at the highest risk for being involved in car accidents. During the month of October, we celebrate Teen Driver Safety Week, which was created to bring awareness to the dangers that face teens on the road and help create a conversation every parent should have with teenagers who are learning to share the road and drive independently.

Here are our top 3 dangers facing teen drivers today:

Texting-While-Driving

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Cell Phones

The most important message that parents should address with their adolescent drivers before they hit the open road is putting the cell phones down. Today, with the popularity of social media and constant access to communication, it is difficult for teens to take their eyes off their phones and focus on the road, but there is no place for Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter when driving.

Texting and driving is the leading cause of car accidents in the U.S. and has claimed a staggering number of lives (3,000 each year). Texting while driving makes a crash 23x more likely to occur, which accounts for more than 1.3 million accidents per year. Make sure when you talk to your teen drivers about road safety, you immediately address the need to put the phone away.

Creating a contract for your young divers to sign is a creative way of ensuring they leave their phones alone in the car. There are also new anti-texting apps you can download on your young driver’s phone to disable texting during their time behind the wheel. For more information on how to prevent texting and driving visit http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/.

 

Teens-Who-Drive-With-Passengers-Increase-the-Risk-of-Accidents

(Photo Credit)

Multiple Passengers

Many states across the country have initiated laws that prevent new drivers from having other passengers in the car outside of their immediate family. If your teen driver is allowed to drive other passengers, there are a few basic rules they must follow before they even start the car.

  • Make sure that everyone is seated in a seat with working seatbelt.
  • Everyone must be wearing a seatbelt before you start driving. Wearing a seatbelt greatly decreases the risk of injury if you do happen to be involved in an accident.
  • Do not squeeze more people in your car than there are seats. Driving with numerous passengers can be extremely distracting and may impair your ability to drive safely.
  • Make sure passengers are allowing you to focus on the road. If they are not, arrange other rides so that everyone can reach their destination safely.

 

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Rush Hour

Driving to school can be the most dangerous time to be behind the wheel. People are always in a rush, rarely paying attention, and the parking lots are crowded. Here are a few ways to keep you and your car safe when navigating heavily trafficked areas.

  • Arrive to school 5-10 minutes early and leave late so that you miss the mad dash to enter or leave the parking lot.
  • Always give school buses the right of way. They are much larger than you and may not be able to see as well as. Don’t pass them unless you have ample room, they are carrying numerous passengers and need a lot of space to maneuver safely.
  • There is nothing wrong with parking at the bottom of the lot if there is heavy traffic near the spots closer to school. Park at the bottom and walk. It is not worth getting into a fender-bender trying to sneak into a spot that someone else wants.
  • Follow the traffic patterns outlined by the school. Make sure you are familiar with them before driving to school. They are made to keep drivers safe.
  • Do not speed in the parking lots; it will only increase your chance of causing an accident. Driving slower allows you to have a better reaction time to other drivers in the parking lot.

 

To learn more teen driving tips you can visit these websites:

  • http://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/agreement/index.html
  • http://www.dmv.org/insurance/safe-driving-tips-for-teenage-drivers.php
  • http://teendriving.com

 

 


Know Your Car’s Numbers

We live our lives by the numbers—phone numbers, birthdays, PINs, passwords, anniversaries, addresses—the list goes on.

But do you know the numbers that are key to keeping you safe on the road?

If you own a car, you know that taking care of it is a big responsibility. Understanding a few key numbers about your vehicle can help you keep your car running smoothly and safely.

The Basics

VIN_estore(photo credit)

Before you slide into the driver’s seat, be sure that you know where to find these numbers.

  • VIN: Also known as your Vehicle Identification Number, a unique set of digits that relate to specific information about your vehicle. This number can be found on the dashboard, just below the windshield on the driver’s side; on the driver’s side doorpost where the door latches, or on the driver’s side door just below the latch mechanism.
  • License Plate Number: With a specific series of letters and/or numbers, your license plate indicates that your vehicle has been registered with your state. While all states require that license plates be affixed to the rear of your vehicle; only 31 states (and Washington, D.C.) require vehicles to display a second license plate on the front of your car. Be sure to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to see what the specific requirements are.
  • Driver’s License Number: Your driver’s license not only verifies that you are qualified to operate a motor vehicle, but is also often used to verify your identity. The number associated with your driver’s license can be found on your license itself, often at the top or next to your photograph and other personal information such as date of birth, sex, height and weight.
  • Title Number: Your title number serves as proof of ownership of your vehicle and can be found on your car’s registration document. Make sure to keep a copy of your registration in your vehicle—if you are pulled over by a police officer, he or she will request to see it.
  • Insurance Policy Number: If you are involved in an accident with another driver on the road, you’ll want to exchange insurance information, including your policy number. This number can be found on your insurance ID card that you keep in your vehicle as proof of insurance. You can also usually find your policy number on bills or statements from your insurance company.

Keeping Up

odometer(photo credit)

Now that you know how to easily locate the basic numbers that identify your car (and yourself as a driver and vehicle owner), there are a few other numbers to know that will help you properly maintain your vehicle.

 

  • Mileage: Make sure you’re regularly checking out the odometer. It’s important to know how many miles you have on your car, especially when you have to pay a visit to the mechanic. It’s often one of the first questions he’ll ask.
  • Gas Tank Capacity: The average gas tank holds between 15 and 18 gallons of gas. Check out your owner’s manual to find out how much your tank holds.
  • Miles Per Tank: Reset your odometer when you fill up with gas and keep an eye on how many miles it takes before you get to empty. If the average number of miles you get per tank changes drastically, it could be a sign to have the mechanic take a closer look.
  • Miles Per Gallon: If you know your miles per tank and gas tank capacity, it’s pretty simple to figure out your car’s level of fuel efficiency.
  • Date of Last Oil Change: When you have your oil changed by a professional mechanic, they often put a little sticker up in the driver’s side windshield to remind you when to come in for your next oil change. It depends on the car and the type of oil used, but a general rule of thumb is 3,000 miles or 3 months of driving between oil changes. Check your owner’s manual to find out what is best for your vehicle.
  • Warranty Length: The length of your factory or extended warranty is defined by a specific number of years OR miles, usually whichever comes first. Make sure you know when it expires to avoid getting stuck with a big unexpected repair bill.

 

Staying Safe

2011-09-20-ice-cellphone(photo credit)

To keep you and your passengers safe on the road, there are a few other numbers to keep in mind, and those are your “In Case of Emergency” numbers. Of course one of the most important things to keep in your car at all times is a fully-charged cell phone. Saved in your “Contacts” list should be:

  • 911 & other local emergency numbers
  • The phone number of your car insurance agent or company
  • The phone number of a close family member or friend
  • The phone number for your roadside assistance service

 

These are the numbers to know about your car to help maximize the life of your vehicle and keep you driving safely. You don’t have to memorize them all, but it’s critical to be aware of each one and know how to find them quickly and easily when needed. Knowing your numbers will give you peace of mind throughout your car ownership and driving experience.


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.

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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?
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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)


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