safe driving


Quick Tips to Prepare Your Car for Fall

It’s here! The weather is getting chillier, the sun is setting earlier, and the leaves are beginning to turn. Football season has returned and coffee shops across the Bay State are offering pumpkin spice lattes. Fall has arrived!

Though it is sad to bid summer in New England goodbye, autumn in New England is beautiful. Don’t forget that the changing weather and beautiful foliage can present risks to Massachusetts drivers, keep yourself safe on Massachusetts roads and enjoy the season safely with these tips!

Tires

As the weather cools, your tire pressure can change and fall weather can leave you with low tire pressure. Be sure to take a look at the pressure on your tires and also check their tread and traction – leaves and frost can make the roadways slippery, you’ll need the grip!

Brakes

Roads are more slippery in the fall, so getting your brakes in tip-top shape is extra important.

Heater, defrosters, anti-freeze

The colder weather is coming and before it hits it’s wise to get your car ready! Ensure your car’s heat works and that your coolant (anti-freeze) is at the correct levels for protecting your engine.

Wiper blades

Did you know November is typically the wettest month of the year in Massachusetts? Check that your windshield wiper blades are functioning properly and have no tears that could interfere with use or grow over time.

Be aware of the changing weather

As it gets colder, the road can fill up with hazards, like frost and falling leaves. When driving on leaves, be sure to slow down and give yourself time to stop. Wet or frozen leaves can make roads slippery, and leaves on the road can conceal other hazards like pot holes and bumps. Frost acts just like black ice and can cause dangerous conditions. During a frost, be extra careful on bridges, as they freeze before roads, and take it slow.

Get Your Car Ready For Winter!

Car Ready for Winter?

Winter weather is here! Is your car ready?  When the temperature drops it can have some seriously negative effects on your vehicle, which is why it is so important to winterize your car.  Basic maintenance and simple adjustments make a world of difference when it comes to prepping a car for winter and safe winter driving.  To make it easy for you, we’ve listed some of the most important steps to winterize your vehicle in the upcoming months:

  • Get your tires checked.  Cold weather causes tires to lose their air quicker than usual.  Checking the air pressure is crucial during the winter season, especially because roads are so slick and icy, you need your tires to be at top performance more than ever.  If it is an option financially, snow tires are a great option as they can reduce travel time while increasing safety of the vehicle.
  • Winter wiper blades are a cost effective preventative measure as they usually range from about $8-$10 each.  These blades have a thicker and wider rubber covering and are able to power through snow and ice more effectively than normal wiper blades.
  • Check windshield washer fluid levels!  Switching to a winter grade solvent windshield washer fluid during this time of year is helpful because it doesn’t freeze.   It is also especially important in the winter because it is able to assist in clearing away snow and ice on the windshield if you are in a rush and don’t have much time to scrape off ice.
  • Keep your gas tank as full as possible during the next few months.  This prevents the gas line from freezing.  Condensation typically builds up inside a gas tank but during the winter it is especially dangerous because it can freeze.  Should this happen, the water will sink to the bottom of the tank, freeze, and consequently make it impossible to drive.  If you are not able to pump a full tank’s worth of gas, adding a bottle’s worth of fuel de-icer to the tank can keep the line from freezing.
  • Salt is one of the most harmful elements to cars during the winter.  It is necessary for keeping the roads safer and less icy, but in turn salt gets into the undercarriage of a car, causing parts to rust and erode over time.  Getting your car washed (at least once a week) in the winter washes away the salt which can be detrimental to both the car and your wallet should it cause erosion.  Be sure to ask for an undercarriage rinse for best effects.
  • Despite the cold temperatures, an engine can still over heat in the winter.  The cold causes oil to thicken which makes it move more slowly between different parts of the engine, which results in it getting too hot.  A simple oil change, which is recommended about every 3,000 miles, is the best way to keep this from happening.
  • On the other hand, you don’t want your engine to freeze either, which is why antifreeze is essential to ensure that your vehicle survives the cold.  Putting the right amount is crucial to the engine’s performance as well.  Creating a mixture of about 50% antifreeze and 50% water is the ideal fluid to put into the engine.
  • Check the battery, belts, and hoses.  The engine has to work much harder in the cold which puts extra strain on the battery.  They typically last about 3-5 years but it is important to keep track so that you don’t end up stranded in the snow.  Belts and hoses are weakened by the cold which makes it easier for them to snap or break.  Have a mechanic take a look at these when you bring your car in for an oil change.
  • Should you ever find yourself stranded in the snow with a broken down car, one of the most important things to have is an emergency kit specifically for winter.  This should include blankets, boots, gloves, flares, a flashlight, ice scraper, spare tire, and energy bars.
  • Make sure your Mass auto insurance policy is squared away before hitting the road, just in case. Call your MassDrive agent today to learn more.

This season can result in extremely dangerous winter driving conditions which is why it is so important to be sure that your car is in the best shape possible!  These tips not only make driving safer in the present, but help to prevent potentially serious damage to your car in the future!

Photo by wanko

New Year’s Eve Safety Tips

Stay Safe this New Year'sNew Year’s is a time for celebrating, reflection, resolutions and some auld lang syne. One of the most hyped party nights of the year, there will be lots of festivities occurring this December 31st, which happens to fall on a Saturday this year. Whether you’re throwing a party, checking out the club scene or attending First Night, it is important to make sure you’re safe this New Year’s Eve. Drunk driving and New Year’s seem to go hand-in-hand according to the statistics, so please, take measures to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Drunk driving is especially common on New Year’s Eve, especially between the hours of 9:00pm and 6:00am. Every year, there are 16,000 alcohol-related car accidents. Someone is killed every half hour due to drunk driving and someone else is injured every other minute, according to Lifetips30% of Americans will be involved in a car accident involving alcohol – this year, resolve to not be one of them.

New Year’s Day is considered to be the deadliest day of the year, second to the Fourth of July, according to ABC News. Deaths shoot up 150% on New Year’s because of drunk drivers on the roads. Sadly, it isn’t just driving that’s unsafe. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway safety, New Year’s also has the highest amount of pedestrians killed than any other day throughout the year. Be aware however you travel this New Year’s.

New Year’s Eve Safety Tips:

  • When traveling, choose a designated driver. Sure, no one likes to be left out of the partying on New Year’s, but get all the passengers to pitch in for the driver’s cover charge at the bar, or owe them a big favor. Regardless, if you are going to be traveling by car, make sure your driver is sober. Not only will your journey be safer, a sober driver will be better able to respond to drunk drivers sharing the road.
  • If you are driving and may be tempted to drink, make sure to give your keys up upon arriving at the party. Listen to your friends if they think you are too intoxicated to drive. There are always other and better options than you getting behind the wheel, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.
  • If you are traveling by car, as the driver or as a passenger, bring along an overnight bag just in case. This will make it less tempting to drive drunk, and you’ll be able to stay over more comfortably.
  • Take public transportation! The MBTA will offer free service after 8pm on New Year’s Eve, and the subway is open until 12:45am. This will give you enough time to go out and take in the beautiful midnight fireworks!
  • Call a cab. Paying a cab fare is much less costly than the price you could pay driving drunk. Don’t want to deal with Boston taxis? Use Uber, a car service app that makes it extremely easy and hassle-free to get a pick up, and you won’t have to worry about paying with cash or calculating a tip when you’ve had a few drinks.
  • Call the Tipsy Tow! If you must get home with your car, call AAA. The Tipsy Tow will pick you, your car and as many friends will fit in the truck up and bring you back home. Call 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357), anywhere in the US and Canada, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
  • Book a room. Why not make a night of it? If you’re traveling to a party somewhere, book a room at a nearby hotel and circumvent having to drive after 6pm. Sites like Priceline and Hotwire always have great deals on hotels. Pamper yourself while staying safe!

Don’t make excuses – there are too many options that will get you home safely. Plan ahead and keep your loved ones in mind when making your New Year’s plans.

May you have a happy and safe New Year’s! This year, don’t let the New Year’s Eve drunk driving statistics keep you from having a good time, but be diligent! I’ll leave you on a positive note with my favorite version of Auld Lang Syne, one by the talented Martin Sexton! From all of us at MassDrive, we wish you the very best in the new year!

Photo by e_calamar

Winter Driving Safety Tips: Driving with Snow Plows

Driving with Snow Plows

Snow driving is one of the hallmarks of residing in Massachusetts. For some, driving in the snow is the next great adventure, for others, it’s a terrifying experience. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, there’s no denying that snow plows are a lifesaver during a storm. Helping remove snow and ensure safety, snow plows make it possible to get around during the winter months.

Plowing is done according to a hierarchy of importance – small public alleys, side streets and dead ends are the last to be plowed, so be sure to watch out if you live on any of these routes and plan accordingly during storms!

Winter Safety Driving Tips: Driving With Plows

Snow plows can be quite dangerous if you’re unsure how to drive with them. Follow these recommendations for driving with snow plows from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for safe winter driving:

  • Keep your distance, don’t assume plow drivers can see you. Their field of vision is limited – in addition to the blind spots of a traditional car, the snow that a snow plow stirs up may also limit the driver’s visibility. To be safe, stay 70 feet (4 car lengths) from the plow truck so the driver can see you.
  • Use extreme caution when passing a plow. There are no laws prohibiting drivers from passing a snow plow on the road, but it is extremely dangerous to do so. The wing plow blades of any given truck can extend 2 to 10 feet beyond the width of the truck, and are often hard to see because of the snow they push to the sides while plowing. Sometimes weighing as much as a compact car, you don’t want to hit one of these guys. If you must, snow plows push snow to the right, so avoid passing them on this side.
  • Turn on your lights. See and be seen by keeping your headlights on while driving in the snow.

Following these tips will help you drive safely and soundly around plows this winter, however, accidents do happen especially in winter conditions. If you do get in an accident, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation recommends that you assess the scene – is anyone hurt? Are you stranded? If so, or if if you feel you need to, call 911. If possible, move your vehicle off the road to clear the way for other drivers, and stay in your vehicle – it is safer than being outside during a storm. If it is dark, make sure to keep your light on with the engine running, but make sure to crack a window to keep fresh air circulating through your car – you never know if your exhaust pipe is blocked. If it’s light out, turn off your engine. Keep your circulation moving while you’re in the car by moving around and huddling for warmth, and if need be – make your car visible to rescuers. If you get in accident with another vehicle, make sure to exchange information, including your auto insurance information to settle any damage claims.

Driving in the snow can be dangerous, but sometimes it is necessary. When driving in a storm with plows, keep these tips in mind. Stay safe this winter!

Photo by bbearnes

Holiday Travel Tips

Holiday Travel in MA

The holidays! What’s not to love? There’s great music, pretty lights, parties aplenty and, if you’re lucky, a great gift waiting for you under some adorable holiday-themed paper. The holiday season does come its share of challenges amongst the joy, and one of my least favorites is holiday travel in Massachusetts and its surroundings, and all the traffic that goes along with it.

Like any good journey,  the holiday travel season requires some thinking ahead and preparation. Make sure you’re prepared to hit the road with these Massachusetts holiday travel and safety tips.

Be Mindful of Massachusetts Law

  • In the state of Massachusetts, all occupants of your vehicle are required to wear seat belts. Make sure you have a seat and working belt for every passenger and yourself when traveling this holiday.
  • The speed limit on most Massachusetts highways is 65mph, however, some can be as low as 55mph. Leave with plenty of time to get where you’re going this holiday season and pay attention to the speed limit – nothing says “Bah Humbug!” like shelling out for a speeding ticket.
  • If you hit any rotaries on your journey, remember to yield to those already in the rotary when entering and always enter to the right.
  • Texting while driving has been banned in Massachusetts. Let it wait until you get there or you could face $100-$500 in fines, depending on whether it is your first offense. This applies to when you’re stopped at red lights. Again, nothing says “Bah Humbug!” like a hefty ticket. Or a crash, for that matter.

Be Ready for the Road

  • Sign up to get a free FAST LANE transponder and cruise through the tolls on the Turnpike, the Sumner and Ted Williams Tunnels, and the Tobin Memorial Bridge on the way to Grandma’s. If you’re heading out of state, your FAST LANE transponder can be used anywhere E-ZPass is accepted.
  • New England weather is unpredictable, so make sure you’ve winterized your car. Snow tires, an ice scraper, and perhaps a foldable shovel will keep you safe on wintery roads.
  • With a lot of people on the road, wintery conditions and the stress of the holidays, anything can happen. Make sure you’re covered with auto insurance.

Have Fun! But Not Too Much Fun…

  • Turn up the Christmas music while you travel! Most stations will play Christmas music mixed in with their standards, but there are a few stations that play strictly holiday themed music. In Massachusetts, Oldies 103.3 and 105.7 WROR play Christmas music round the clock, and WROR has an adorable segment where kids can call into Santa.
  • Plan ahead if you plan on drinking, and make sure have a designated driver for when you need to get home. The legal limit is a blood-alcohol content under .08. Drunk driving increases over the holidays, and Massachusetts police will be on the lookout for drunk drivers. Not only does driving under the influence put you in danger of getting arrested, it puts everyone you pass on the road in danger. Err on the side of safety and avoid a drunk driving accident by making sure you have a sober ride home.

Regardless of what you’re celebrating or where you are celebrating, we wish you safe and easy travel and a very happy holiday season!

Photo by freakapotimus

Senate Reviews Texting & Elderly Driving Bill

The Massachusetts Senate voted yesterday to ban texting while driving and to require elderly drivers to undergo regular cognitive and physical screenings every three years. The controversial bill finally made its way through the Senate with a 24 – 10 vote. The bill awaits a compromise between the House and Senate differences and lastly an approval by Governor Patrick Deval before it can be enforced by law. If this bill passes to law Massachusetts will join 19 other states that ban texting while behind the wheel. At any given time during the day in 2008 more than 800,000 drivers were using hand-held devices in their cars according to the United States Department of Transportation distracted driving website: distraction.gov.

The Senate rejected a portion of the House bill that would ban all cell phone use except by a hands-free device. The initial bill made proposed to make text messaging while driving a secondary offense, meaning an officer may only issue a citation if the driver was pulled over for a different violation than texting. The Senate rejected this as well and upgraded texting while driving to a primary offense.

The Senate’s revisions to the bill have created the following measures:

  • Require drivers over 75 to pass an examination of the motorist’s cognitive and physical capabilities.
  • Elderly drivers who fail the cognitive or physical examination may protest the RMV’s decision by taking a driving test demonstrating they hold the necessary driving skills for continued licensing.
  • Civil immunity would be granted to physicians and officers who report, or fail to report, an individual who demonstrated unsafe and improper use of a cell phone or is not physically capable of driving.
  • When a violation of the texting law has been reported to the RMV the driver’s license will be suspended.
  • Drivers who attain 3 surchargeable incidents in a 2 year time frame must either take a driver’s training course or face a suspended license. Current laws require this measure after 5 surchargeable incidents in a 3 year period.
  • Prohibits the use of cell phones for talking or texting for public transit operators.

The bills from both congressional bodies have been sent to a joint Senate and House committee to conjure a compromised version of the proposed measures. Keep an eye on the news for this piece of legislature, it is bound to affect every Massachusetts driver.

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!

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.

Highway Speed Cameras – A Word of Caution: Slow Down!

Late at night you drive home alone on the road. A bright flash comes from behind. you check the rearview mirror, still no one behind you. You think this odd but continue on your way. Some time later you’re reading through your mail and find a speeding ticket for that night.

According to Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, speed cameras are used in 48 communities nationwide, including areas of Massachusetts.

Giving the surveillance a whole police squad can not preform every hour of the day, the hope is our roads will be safer. According to the IIHS, “speed cameras ‘can substantially reduce speeding on a wide range of roadway types.'”

-“Speed Cameras on U.S. Highways?“, Craig Howie CNN

It’s important to acknowledge these cameras, even one speeding ticket will affect future auto insurance rates. Although the cameras have not been enforced nationally, they’ve slowly been creeping across the country. Driving at the posted speed limit will not only save you from spending on tickets, you’ll save on gas too!

We’ve all had the manic driver zoom up pushing us to go a few miles faster. Whether there’s a cop waiting down the block or a camera to flash your plates, you can never be sure. Follow the speed limits and you’ll reap the benefits.

Text and Drive? Companies are saying that's a no no.

Do you text and drive? Maybe you’re on your way to work updating your co-worker on the details of a big account. Or maybe you’re getting the directions for your saturday night out. More and more businesses are saying, “Not on our time!”

AMEC, a global engineering firm, banned cell phone usage while driving on company time. Bill Windory, an associate VP of safety for Nationwide Insurance noted:

“Early on, companies said, ‘Hey, phoning and driving is great. This will give us all kinds of increased productivity’… [However] now, we’re at a point where we better understand the risks involved.”  – ‘Can’t Talk Now’ by Maggie Jackson of the Boston Globe.

If you text and drive take into consideration the lives you are putting on the line. Pull off the road and stop to read your text or make that phone call. If you are distracted and hit another driver, or worse a pedestrian, you’ll not only have cost yourself in auto insurance premiums, you may have cost a life.

 

Drive safely.

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