Car Safety Tips

Check Twice Save A Life – Motorcylists are Everywhere

As the snow melted and floods subsided, March’s beautiful weather lured motorcyclists out early this riding season, a drastic change from last year when many motorcyclists did not ride until July. As of last September 182,215 motorcycles were registered in Massachusetts, which may sound impressive until it’s placed side by side with the 4.3 million cars also registered.

Today marks the end of Motorcycle safety week as proclaimed by Governor Deval Patrick. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles sponsors the Mass Rider Education Program, providing training, materials, new Rider Coach training and promotional and technical assistance to a statewide network of training sites. Numerous motorcycle safety courses are available for beginners and advanced riders throughout Massachusetts. For more information on safety courses visit the motorcycle safety page of the Massachusetts RMV website.

Driving through many areas of Massachusetts it’s difficult to miss the yellow signs with black writing, “Check Twice, Save a Life. Motorcycles are everywhere.” Originally thought up by Bob Doiron in 1982 the stickers and signs have caught a wave of popularity across the state. Doiron, a founder of the  Massachusetts Motorcycle Association (MMA), has now retired and transferred the rights of the “Check Twice” signs to Paul Cote of Amesbury, a fellow motorcycle activist. Both Doiron and Cote have fought for motorcyclist rights however above all, for their safety. Think to look twice before switching lanes or making a sharp turn, as the signs say – it may just save a life.

According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, an accident with a motorcycle is more likely when:

  • Making a left turn in front of a rider.
  • A motorcyclist is riding in your blind spot.
  • There are hazardous road conditions such as potholes, wet leaves, railroad tracks, and other obstructions that may force a motorcyclist to ride in a way you would not otherwise predict.
  • You have an obstructed line of sight. Sport utility vehicles, delivery vans, and large trucks and those with cars too full of cargo may block motorcyclists from your view.

Scattered Power Outages & Unruly Road Conditions Call for Cautious Driving

Heavy snow fell last night and this morning weighing down tree branches, roofs, and power lines. The snowstorm has dropped between four and twelve inches of snow over central Massachusetts as temperatures daunt around 30 degrees for the day. The recent snow storm has caught the blame for a number of accidents as morning commuters trudged through heaps of snow. Including a particularly dangerous one on Interstate 90 just past the Route 84 exit. A truck involved in the accident sustained a ruptured fuel tank spilling fuel over the road. The already challenging road conditions combined with this accident created a nine-mile back up.

Power outages also plagued Massachusetts as the snow fall cut power from a number households in many towns including Fitchburg, Lunenburg, Ashby, Townsend, Southbridge. Approximately 4,500 National Grid customers as well as 1,500 Unitil customers lost power for at least a portion of the day today. Support crews have been dispatched and expect to have power available soon if it has not been already.  Power outages and slippery roads are a dangerous combination. Drivers should do their best be on the roads as little as possible.

Road conditions varied throughout the state from sleet and slush to icy and snowy roads cautious driving is key. In many areas as the snow turns to sleet and rain it is imperative drivers are aware as the night temperature drops icy roads will become increasingly dangerous. State police have reduced the speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike and caution drivers to reduce their speeds where ice and snow have covered the roads.

Bundle up and drive safely if you must!

Older Drivers Get to Know Their Limits

As the baby boomers age the number of drivers 65 years or older rise on the road. Although new drivers joining the 65 + grouping drive further each year than generations before them, from 1997 – 2006 elderly drivers have experienced fewer fatal accidents than the same age groups in the past.

Although the causes for this decline are not clear the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compiled statistics and believes it may be due in part to a greater self awareness. According to the Institute drivers are limiting their own driving more often as they age and develop physical or cognitive conditions. Some impairments that come with age include a greater limitation in vision, hearing, and flexibility as well as medication side effects.

Many elderly drivers are pushed by their friends and family to hand over their keys; which may also contribute to the decrease in elderly accidents. In these cases the older driver will need to ask family members for rides or depend upon public transit. This may be difficult when someone needs to get to and from church, the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and other places throughout the week.

Older drivers, all drivers for that matter, may attend safety driving courses to increase road safety and awareness. Although some drivers need to be taken off the road, these classes may instill the extra caution and safety tips elderly drivers need to be safe on the road. Driver-safety classes are offered by AARP, AAA, and other organizations touching on defensive driving, new traffic laws, and safety tips. A new bill passed through the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week and is currently pending in the Massachusetts Senate that would require elderly drivers to take a vision exam every few years to renew their license. Measures such as these will increase everyone’s safety on the road.

Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Most drivers are well aware of the effects alcohol and drugs have on driving however few are educated on how fatigue impairs driving. According to being awake for 18 hours is the equivalent of a blood alcohol content of .08%, or legally drunk. Neglecting your body of sleep puts you, your passengers, and everyone on the road at risk.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of drowsy drivers every year, resulting in more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. The main message these stats should give to drivers is to sleep an adequate amount every night. Despite this the National Sleep Foundation’s 2009 Sleep in America poll found 54% of adult drivers say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year.

If you are sleepy and find yourself needing to drive take a 15 – 20 minute nap. Taking a nap longer than 20 minutes and waking before you are completely rested will leave you groggy. There are a million different coffee and energy drinks you may consider to help keep yourself awake while driving as well. Please remember before consuming these drinks caffeine takes about half an hour to reach the blood stream and effect. Also depending on the amount of caffeine consumed it will often leave you feeling more fatigued after wearing off. The most efficient and safe way to avoid drowsy driving is by getting enough sleep every night to feel well rested and alert the next morning.

Here are a few ways to avoid drowsy driving:

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep. The CDC recommends a 7 – 9 hours of sleep for the average adult each night.
  • If you will be driving for an extended time period, make use of rest stops.
  • Again if you will be driving for an extended time period ask a friend to ride with you. Talking to someone will keep you awake and possibly share time behind the wheel.
  • Do not take sedative medications and others that will impair your driving.
  • Do not drive during the night or times you would usually be asleep.

Tire Maintinance & Suggestions to Make Them Last Longer

Regular tire maintenance is an important safety precaution too often overlooked by busy drivers. Let me kindly remind you, tires are the only contact between your vehicle and the road. Taking great care with them will allow you a safer ride and probably save you a few bucks.

The number one most important concern of tire maintenance: regularly check tire pressures. Tires regularly lose about 1 psi per month from normal wear and tear. However keep an eye on the thermometer as well, tires will generally drop 1 psi per 10 degree temperature drop. Under inflation, according to, is the leading cause of tire failure. Not only will tire failure ultimately ensue, you may be experience less efficient gas mileage.

Another important aspect of tire care is to make sure you have sufficient tread. To check tire tread depth place a penny with the top of Lincoln’s head directly towards the tires into the tread. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head this is a sign of tread wear and you need new tires. A vehicle driving on tires with low or no tread can not properly hold a vehicle to the road. This is a danger not only to the driver and passengers of the vehicle, but anyone else on the road.

To prevent irregular and early wear and tear be sure to regularly rotate your tires. Most vehicles should have their tires rotated at least every 5,000 – 10,000 miles. For a more accurate rotation intervals check the owner’s manual. Rotating tires allow more uniform wear and usually a longer life. It is important to note if you are going to rotate the tires yourself there are specific patters in which tires should be rotated on different types of vehicles. Keep an eye on your tires and have a smooth ride!

Driving in a Winter Wonderland

Driving on a warm summer day is another world from the winter wonderland we’ve driven through this winter. If your vehicle breaks down in the summer, it is a great inconvenience, however you won’t be worried about walking through drifts of snow and below zero winds. If your car needs a tune up, oil change, or any standard care done do not put it off.

A standard service many people forget to check is tire pressure. The pressure will drop about one pound for ever ten degree drop in temperature. Not only does the proper air pressures in your tires help you get the most out of your gas mileage, it will affect how your auto handles. Whether you’re braking or maybe turning a corner downtown, the tire pressure will greatly affect the way your car responds.

Another important, yet basic, winter maintenance many forget is checking your windshield wipers and fluid. Be sure to keep the windshield wipers clean and great shape. There’s nothing worse than squinting through a dirty windshield in rush hour traffic. Keep your windshield wiper fluid at a decent level as well, although it may not snow or rain every day chances are one day or another you’ll drive behind a large truck spewing slushy snow and dirt your way. Also, it’s always a good idea to keep an extra bottle in the trunk for those extra slushy days.

A third important thing to keep an eye on is the gas tank. When driving in the winter it’s important to keep the gas tank full, or at least half full. Should you hit a patch of ice or find yourself stuck in the snow, your engine may be your only source of heat! When traveling from one side of town to the other, or maybe from one side of the state to the other, it’s important to maintain gas levels and avoid frost bite.

These are a few things you can do yourself, however if you notice anything strange or different about the way your car runs play it safe and take it into a mechanic. Many times by letting a small problem go, larger more expensive problems may occur. Save yourself the trouble, let a professional take a look.

Dangers of Texting and Driving

It’s amazing what  younger generations can accomplish with a few clicks of their cell phone. From making plans for the evening and shopping online to ordering a meal to go, texting and smart phones make life more convenient. While the novelty and ease of communication via texting is widely used, the dangers of this activity behind the wheel must be taken seriously. Many may say something to the effect of, “What? It’s not like I’m drinking and driving!” Which is the truth, the reaction time of someone with a blood alcohol content of .08 reacts four times more quickly than when they are texting sober according to a study by CarandDriver. While 17 states ban texting and driving and 7 states ban complete hand held cell use behind the wheel the temptation may still remain.

When the dangers are this evident that even driving drunk may be safer than texting should make someone think twice before picking up that cell phone behind the wheel. If you struggle with the temptation to check that e-mail or text here are a few ways to avoid it:

  • Give yourself a reality check and watch this video the Today Show featured in a texting & driving segment.
  • If you’re trying to find an address, pull over and park before checking your phone.
  • If you have someone in the car with you ask them to help you break the texting habit.
  • Place your cell phone out of reach.
  • If this isn’t enough to stop you, turn your cell phone off.

Drunk Driving Loophole

Drivers arrested on some MA college campuses have found an escape route from DUI charges. State Representative Lew Evangelidis observed a man was arrested on the Assumption College Campus for a DUI, however was released without a DUI charge. The judge was forced to release him with out this charge because the college campus was considered private property. Evangelidis submitted a piece of legislation this week to expose this loophole and stop students from using this technicality to get around the serious consequences a DUI brings.

Teaching Teens to Drive

When a teenager first learns to drive it can be just as nerve wrecking for parents as the new driver. Some parents are terrified for their son or daughter’s safety driving on the road, others should be more worried about their child’s parallel parking. When readying your teenager for their drivers test it’s important to have more than a few lessons to practice the necessary skills.

For the first couple lessons find a location without many cars, light posts or other obstacles – like a vacant parking lot. When your teen sits behind the wheel be sure to give precise and simple instructions far enough ahead of time they will be able to safely respond. Also avoid overloading your new driver with too much information. Allow enough time for your son or daughter to absorb information in segmented lessons. Teaching ninety degree turns, parallel parking, lane changes, and driving in reverse all in the same day will most likely confuse and stress your teen. Give one lesson on each driving skill, and keep practicing until they feel comfortable with each of the skills.

Above all set an example for your new teen driver:

If you run red and yellow lights, speed down the highway at 75 MPH, weave in and out of traffic, take chances on the road, ride the bumper of the car in front of you, scream at other drivers, or exhibit other signs of road rage, you’re showing your teen that the rules don’t count—and this can be fatal.   –

Although teaching a new driver can be nerve wrecking, it can also be rewarding. When your teenager passes his or her driver’s exam he or she will see it as an entryway to adulthood. With a license it’s important to remind them driving comes with responsibility, and your trust. If your teen exhibits responsible driving reward them. If your teen exhibits dangerous and/or unlawful driving, you will need to negotiate their driving terms. As a parent you have the ultimate say in your child’s driving, ensure they can handle their new responsibility before handing over the car keys.

Importance of Maintaining & Replacing Brakes

Replacing breaks can be a hassle, however it may be more significant than you know. It’s important to understand how breaks work and just how important it is to keep them in good shape. There are two types of brake systems: disc brakes and drum brakes. The disc brakes are the most widely used breaks today. When you step on your break pedal the break pads come together around a spinning disc rotor attached to the wheel, thus slowing or stopping the vehicle. Drum brakes have  brake shoes which push against the spinning break drum attached to the wheel.

Each break system holds a common theme, friction. The friction will eventually wear out the break pads, thus the need to maintain and replace them. It’s important to have the breaks checked regularly on any auto to avoid dangerous situations. If someone neglects an auto’s break pads, further damage may be done to more serious parts of the break system. Additional damages to an auto’s rotors, drums, calipers, etcetera may incur hundreds of dollars of damage. Some of the warning signs your breaks may be in need of maintenance or repair include: break light flashes on the dash, a shaky steering wheel, the car pulls to one side when breaking, stopping distance has increased, or any noise such as grinding or squeaking when  breaking.

Avoid the serious consequences of an accident and serious mechanical repairs by taking care of your vehicle. Have your auto regularly inspected it’s well equipped for a safe ride. When in doubt consult a mechanic, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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