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Summer Driving Tips

Summer Driving Tips for Teens (and Adults, too)

Summer months, specifically the period between Memorial and Labor Days, are historically the most dangerous for teen drivers, with the highest percentage of motor vehicle collisions. The roads are busy with vacationers, college students home from school and teens as they travel between summer jobs and social activities. We’ve put together 10 tips to help you beat the heat on the road and ensure a safe and fun summer.

Prepare yourself.

  1. Watch your speed. While driving through neighborhoods and backing up, watch out for kids playing and oncoming cars. According to SmartMotorist.com, most accidents are caused by excessive speed or aggressive driver behavior. An advantage of taking it slow? A lower speed means better gas mileage, and more money in your pocket. Rapid acceleration and braking also waste gas.
  2. Don’t rush. Allow extra time for you to get to work or meet up with friends. There are more people on the road and speeding is still the number one cause of accidents, and was found by the NHTSA to be a factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes. Defensive drivers get into fewer accidents and crash prevention programs like In Control in Massachusetts can offer you significant insurance discounts.
  3. Respect trucks. Trucks on the road, especially bigger ones, have significant blind spots to avoid. The general rule is that if you can’t see a truck’s side mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, large trucks and commercial vehicles caused over 5,000 fatal crashes and over 100,000 serious injuries in 2010.
  4. As the weather changes, your driving should, too. Always use headlights in the rain, and allow even more following distance between you and the next car (more than the general 3-second rule).
  5. Focus on the road. Save your calls and texts for after you are safety at your destination – nothing is that important, and if it is, pull over. Eating, putting on makeup and searching for music all add to the horrific statistics for casualties and injuries. Take a few moments to review these facts from the U.S. Government. For example, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field blindfolded. Distracted driving kills.

Prepare your car.

Rising temperatures can be tough on a car’s mechanics so keep your car’s owner manual close by. Keep the list for colder months, as many apply.

  1. Test your car’s battery. Hot weather can strain batteries, so if the vehicle’s battery is more than three years old, test it at a certified car repair shop.
  2. Get an oil change. Look for local Living Social or Groupon deals in your area, which often feature discounts on car services like oil changes.
  3. Tire inspection. Remove snow tires if you have them on (many in NH and Mass. do), and check tire pressure (refer to your owner manual). Ensure that your tires are in good condition as this is critical to the safety of your vehicle; according to the NHTSA, approximately 400 fatalities may be due to tire failures annually. Not sure about your tires? Check out seven steps to determine when your tires need replacing.
  4. Monitor fluid levels. Too little engine coolant/antifreeze can lead to overheating. Replenish brake, power steering and windshield washer fluid while you’re at it. Antifreeze will be your best friend if your car overheats; you can buy it as most gas stations, as well as larger chain stores like Target or Pep Boys.
  5. Keep a basic roadside emergency kit in your car. This should include roadside flares (1-2), jumper cables, a flashlight with fresh batteries, paper towels, extra washer fluid, antifreeze and a small first aid kit.

Finally, some tips for parents of teen drivers. Take advantage of cheaper GPS prices, and buy one for your teen’s car so they won’t need to use their smartphones for directions. Or, if they’re going to use their smartphones, ensure they’ve downloaded an app like the free Mapquest app that gives directions verbally and does not require the driver to look at their phone/map. If your children want to head to a summer concert or beach, offer to drive with them before to practice the route. Planning the trip in advance, having directions or knowing your route will ensure the main focus is on driving. While it might not make perfect, practice builds experience and skills that teen drivers desperately need.

For more information, contact Accredited Driving School at connect@accrediteddriving.com

Tips for New Drivers

Something as quick and simple as putting on your seat belt or getting your windshield cleaned can mean the difference between life and death. Being aware of yourself and other drivers and practicing good road etiquette is equally important. Below are some tips to keep you mindful and safe.

Driving Tips

Simple but Crucial

  • Obey the speed limits. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excess speed is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
  • Always wear your seat belt – and make sure all passengers buckle up, too. Don’t try to fit more people in the car than you have seat belts for them to use.
  • Adjust your car’s head rest to a height behind your head – not your neck – to minimize whiplash in case you’re in an accident.
  • Make sure your windshield is clean. At sunrise and sunset, light reflecting off your dirty windshield can momentarily blind you from seeing what’s going on.
  • Experts now recommend that you hold the steering wheel at either 3 and 9 o’clock on the wheel, or even lower at 4 and 8 o’clock. If you’re in an accident and the airbags go off, you’ll be safer with your hands not flying into your face from the impact of the airbags.

Consider Other Drivers

  • Don’t drive like you own the road. Drive like you own the car.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what other drivers are going to do. The only thing you can assume about another driver with a turn signal on is that they have a turn signal on. He/she might not be turning at all, and just forgot to turn it off.
  • Watch out for aggressive drivers, and try to stay out of their way. They are the cause of a lot of accidents – especially on freeways.
  • Never pull out in front of anyone or swerve into someone else’s lane.

Constant Awareness

  • Make sure your car always has gas in it – don’t ride around with the gauge on empty.
  • If you’re in the country, watch out for deer and other animals.  If you see an animal approaching, slow down and flash your lights repeatedly. Dusk and dawn are particularly bad times for running into animals, so be on the lookout for them.
  • When light turns green, make sure intersection clears before you go.

Merging / Turning  / Passing

  • Avoid making left-hand turns across busy intersections that don’t have turn signals. It takes awhile to learn how to gauge the oncoming traffic. It’s better to go down a block or two until you come to a light, or plan a route that doesn’t need this turn.
  • When there’s an obstruction in your lane, wait for oncoming traffic to clear before you pull around. Just because someone’s blocking your lane doesn’t mean you have the right of way in the next or oncoming lane.
  • Use turn signals to indicate your intention to turn or to change lanes. Make sure to give the cars behind you enough time to react before you take the action. Then make sure to turn your signal off.

Never Pass …

  • If you don’t know if there’s enough space or time.
  • Because you’re playing “passing games” with a friend.
  • If the car you’re trying to pass is going the maximum speed limit.
  • When there is another car passing you.
  • When passing one car doesn’t make a difference.
  • Over a solid yellow line on your side (you need a dotted line to pass).
  • In dangerous weather conditions.
  • When there’s a blind spot in front of you, like a hill or a curve.
  • When there is oncoming traffic in the other lane.
  • If there is road work or construction going on.
  • Through tunnels, on narrow roads, or on bridges.
  • On two lane roads, never pass trucks or other vehicles you can’t see around.

How to Pass with Caution

  • Pass at least ten miles per hour faster than the car you’re going around, but do not exceed the speed limit.
  • Be sure you’ve completely cleared the passed car with enough space before pulling back into your lane.
Winter Driving Tips

Winter Driving Tips: How to Drive in the Snow

In a perfect world, all roads would be dry and untrafficked. But in the real world, drivers face a wide variety of weather conditions, and when snow is added to the mix, the potential for automotive disaster can increase exponentially.

Whether you venture to the ski slopes once in a blue moon or spend six months of every year in snowy climes, we’ve assembled a few crucial points to remember while braving snow-covered roads. Follow these tips, and you might even look forward to cold weather driving.

Slow, Turn, Go!
Dynamically speaking, a car can only do three things: accelerate, turn and brake. While it’s possible to combine those commands from the behind the wheel, vehicles are far easier to control when those actions are performed separately. Let’s say you’re approaching a sharp bend on a snowy road: first, gently apply the brakes in advance of the turn. After taking your foot off the brake, coast through the corner while turning the wheel. Only after you’ve exited the turn and straightened the steering wheel, gently accelerate. “As easy as that sounds intellectually, it’s really hard for most people to put into practice,” says Jessica Guffey, Principal of the Accredited Driving School.

Limit Your Speed, and Think Ahead
Excessive speed is the single biggest reason people lose control in the snow, and slowing down will give you enough wiggle room to correct your course in case your vehicle loses control. “It takes 4 to 10 times longer to stop in ice and snow,” explains Guffey. “Adjust your speed to the conditions,” she adds, “but also remember that going too slow can be just as problematic as going too fast.”

If You Start to Slide…
… don’t panic! A proper response will ensure that car control is regained. If the vehicle oversteers (i.e., the back end swings out), accelerate lightly in order to transfer weight to the rear and increase traction. It may feel counterintuitive to press the gas pedal while a car is sliding, but that action can straighten out the tail-happy yawing motion. Conversely, if the car understeers (i.e., slides forward without turning), straightening the steering and gently touching the brakes will shift more weight over the front wheels and enable the tires to “bite” again. As with all winter driving maneuvers, using a gentle hand and not stabbing the gas, brake or steering wheel is the most effective way to recover from a slide.

Humans tend to target fixate. Couple that with the natural reflex to go where you’re looking, and it’s no wonder so many out-of-control cars head straight into curbs and lampposts. By training yourself to look where you want to go, your hands will follow your eyes and steer away from danger.
Smooth and Easy Wins the Race
Race drivers swear by smoothness when it comes to driving technique, and that practice becomes even more important in wintry conditions. “Pretend you’ve got a cup of coffee on the dashboard,” advises Chuck Good, Principal / Instructor of Accredited Driving School. “If you make sudden or abrupt movements, you’ll go from grip to no grip very quickly.” On the other hand, “[smooth inputs] will help you sense the limits of your tire’s grip before your car starts to slide.”
Know Your Limits and Your Car’s Limits
Becoming familiar with your car’s handling dynamics will prepare you for the unexpected. When the going gets slippery, does your car understeer (plow forward), oversteer (fishtail) or drift sideways? Weight distribution, suspension and drivetrain setups (like front-, rear- or all-wheel drive) affects how your car reacts to adverse conditions. If you can’t attend a driving school and learn about vehicle dynamics from the pros, carefully explore your car’s limits in a safe area like an abandoned parking lot. Once your sense memory develops, you’ll be better prepared to handle a slide when it arrives unannounced.
Don’t Rely Too Much on Technology
Electronic aids like anti-lock brakes and traction control have done wonders for vehicle safety, but icy conditions can render those features useless. Once a tire loses its mechanical grip on a slick surface, all the high-tech gizmos in the world won’t stop that vehicle from spinning out of control. Avoid the inescapable laws of physics by keeping your speed reasonable and maintaining a safe distance from cars and objects around you.
Pick Your Tires Like You’d Pick Your Shoes
“Some shoes are good at everything, but not great at one thing,” says Edmonds. Following that logic, you wouldn’t wear flip-flops in the rain—and likewise, you shouldn’t drive through winter snow on summer tires. Edmonds advises looking for the international symbol for winter tires, which is a snowflake on a mountain. A number of winter tire varieties exist; snowbelt states call for dedicated winter rubber which is referred to as a “studless ice and snow tire,” featuring more aggressive tread and deeper blocks. In regions where snow falls more occasionally, you might opt for so-called performance winter tires, which offer better grip under dry conditions.
Keep Your Car Maintained
A reliably running car can help avoid a world of complications in inclement weather. Make sure your tire pressure hasn’t dipped with the drop in ambient temperature, and your vehicle will be easier to control as a result. Install winter wiper blades in order to maximize visibility, and test your battery to make sure it can handle the challenges of cold weather cranking. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.