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Top tips for holiday family road trips

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Nickolya - Fotolia.com

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Nickolya – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) The holiday season is one of the busiest travel times of the year, which means congested roads under potentially difficult driving conditions. To keep holiday road warriors comfortable and content on their drives, Autotrader editors offer some of their top holiday travel tips.

• Tune up. Do a quick check on the essentials before you head out. Check the wear and pressure on your tires, and be sure your fluids (oil, coolant and wiper fluid) are topped off. For do-it-yourselfers, you can perform these quick and easy inspections on your own. For added peace of mind, visit your local mechanic or dealership where you can have your car serviced by an accredited technician. Tending to potential issues proactively means you are more likely to avoid having to deal with them while you’re on the road.

• Avoid “are we there yet?” Technology features like built-in screens and DVD players can be saviors on the road, but if your car doesn’t come equipped with these, consider bringing along a handheld device so kids can play games or watch videos. And if technology isn’t your thing, remember that magnetized board games and word games can work just as well. You can also encourage kids to stay occupied by having them help you navigate and by playing DJ.

• Have patience. These days, your car’s navigation tools can offer realistic travel times, but be prepared for the unexpected. Inclement weather, traffic and bathroom requests can set you back. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination.

• Have fun! Holiday road trips can be a great pastime for the whole family while creating wonderful memories. Enjoy the adventure of it!

To learn more, visit Autotrader.com/HolidayDrivingTips.

“Family time this holiday season starts the moment you hit the road,” says Tara Trompeter, managing editor at Autotrader. “A little bit of planning ahead before you get on the road will go a long way toward filling the experience with more fun and laughter for everyone involved.”

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Reality Check

car-mdot-reality-checkMyth #8: MDOT is replacing perfectly good signs.

Reality: MDOT replaces signs and posts regularly to keep them visible at night and current with federal safety guidelines.

MDOT regularly replaces signs along our highway corridors as part of a 100 percent federally funded statewide program, on a rotation about every 15 years. This is to ensure these signs are visible both day and night and meet federal standards.

Modern road signs have a reflective surface directing lights from a vehicle’s headlights back to the driver’s eyes. This allows drivers to see and read signs much sooner than those without this feature. By 2030, one in five drivers will be 65 or older. While a 65-year-old needs eight times the light to see as a 25-year-old does, bright, highly reflective signs help drivers of all ages see, and react, more quickly to signs’ information.

The reflective surface degrades over time due to weather, sun exposure, or other damage. When this happens, the signs become difficult to see and read at night. While only 25 percent of all travel occurs at night, about half of all traffic fatalities happen after dark. It’s the same reason we regularly repaint pavement markings.

As with the signs themselves, sign posts must meet state and federal safety standards, and degrade over time. When we replace the signs, we usually replace the posts at the same time to make sure they’ll break away as they should if struck by a vehicle. Replacing the signs and posts together is more cost-effective than doing it separately.

Looks can be deceiving, and just because a sign looks good in broad daylight doesn’t mean it’s as visible once the sun goes down. MDOT’s sign replacement program is designed to make sure that when motorists need the information highway signs provide, they can find it – day or night.

For more on this transportation myth, visit www.michigan.gov/realitycheck.

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Kid’s identification sticker updated as advocates focus on

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Child passenger safety week

When first responders arrive at the scene of a traffic crash, it’s important to have quick, accurate information about the vehicle occupants. That’s why traffic safety officials today unveiled an updated kid’s identification sticker for car seats.

For more than 20 years, the Office of Highway Safety Planning’s (OHSP) kid’s identification sticker has been an easy and effective way to provide crucial details during an emergency. When affixed to a car seat, it gives immediate access to vital facts about a child passenger if injured caregivers or an injured child are unable to do so.

The updated sticker includes spaces for the child’s name, as well as larger fields for medical information and allergies. There is additional room to list parents or guardians, the child’s physician and the name and phone number of an emergency contact. The new sticker comes with a flap that offers privacy and protects the information from fading.

“This sticker is a great item in any child safety advocate’s toolkit,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. “Michigan has a network of more than 1,000 Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technicians who regularly meet with parents and caregivers to educate them about proper car seat use.”

Those technicians and safety advocates are observing CPS Week from Sept.18-24.  This national initiative raises awareness about car seat use and encourages caregivers to have their children’s car seats inspected by a certified CPS technician.  The event culminates on National Seat Check Saturday.

“During Child Passenger Safety Week, take time to get your car seat checked out,” said Jennifer Hoekstra, injury prevention specialist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. “Learning how to properly install your car seat can be a life-saving lesson for you and your entire family.”

Children must be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. Children younger than age 4 must ride in a car seat in the back seat if a vehicle has a back seat. Babies and toddlers should ride rear-facing until at least age 2 or the upper weight or height limit of the seat.

To order the kid’s identification stickers, go to Michigan.gov/carseats. The website also includes links to child safety seat inspection stations, a list of CPS Week events and a series of educational videos on using car seats properly.

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Final Adopt-A-Highway cleanup of year starts Saturday

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It’s that time again: a chill is in the air, leaves are beginning to turn, and crews are getting ready for the year’s last Adopt-A-Highway pickup along state roadways. Participants in the popular Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) program will be picking up litter along highway roadsides from Saturday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Oct. 2.

“We’d like to thank our thousands of Adopt-A-Highway crews for their dedication and hard work to help keep Michigan roadsides clean,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “Every year, these volunteers provide a financial boost for MDOT and our entire state. Their service is greatly appreciated.”

car-final-adopt-a-highway2There are three scheduled Adopt-A-Highway pickups each year: one each in the spring, summer and fall. Michigan volunteers have been participating in the program since 1990. Every year, Adopt-A-Highway crews collect about 70,000 bags of trash. The volunteer efforts of nearly 3,200 Adopt-A-Highway groups generate about $5 million annually in value for state taxpayers.

During the pickup period, motorists should be on the lookout for volunteers wearing high-visibility, yellow-green safety vests. MDOT provides free vests and trash bags, and arranges to haul away the trash.
Volunteers include members of civic groups, businesses and families. Crew members have to be at least 12 years old and each group must number at least three people.

Sections of highway are still available for adoption. Interested groups should check the MDOT Adopt-A-Highway website at www.michigan.gov/adoptahighway for more information and the name of their county’s coordinator, who can specify available roadsides. Groups are asked to adopt a section of highway for at least two years; there is no fee to participate. Adopt-A-Highway volunteer groups are recognized with signs bearing a group’s name posted along stretches of adopted highway.

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Whatever your party, choose a designated driver 

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Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign supports driving safety  

Law enforcement officers from police departments, sheriff’s offices and the Michigan State Police are hoping the designated driver gets your vote this election season, as stepped up drunk driving patrols continue through Sept. 5 across the state. The patrols are part of the annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

“When it comes to traffic safety there is no debate, the designated driver always wins, yet Michigan alcohol-and/or drug-involved fatalities were up 20 percent in 2015,” said Michael L. Prince, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) director. “Hundreds of families are suffering tragic consequences because drivers made the wrong choice to drive drunk. The law enforcement officers participating in this campaign are dedicated to changing that.”

Fifteen people died in 12 traffic crashes during the 2015 Labor Day holiday period, a significant increase from six fatalities during the 2014 Labor Day holiday. Nearly two-thirds of the 2015 Labor Day holiday cashes involved alcohol. During last year’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement, officers arrested 351 drunk drivers and issued 2,630 seat belt and child restraint citations.

This year’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will also include stepped up seat belt enforcement. A recent observation study indicates Michigan’s seat belt use rate is increasing this year after remaining fairly constant for the last five years.

In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer believes they are impaired. Motorists face enhanced penalties if arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 BAC or higher. Michigan law requires drivers, front seat passengers and passengers 15 and younger in any seating position to be buckled up. Children must be in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4’9” tall, and children under 4 years old must be in the back seat.

The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is supported with federal traffic safety funds coordinated by the OHSP. Grant-funded impaired driving and seat belt enforcement is part of Michigan’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013.

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American drivers aren’t securing their loads on the road

 

More than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways during the past four years, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Those crashes resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014. AAA is calling for drivers to properly secure their loads to prevent dangerous debris.

AAA researchers examined common characteristics of crashes involving road debris and found that:

  • Nearly 37 percent of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object. Overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris can increase a driver’s risk of losing control of their vehicle and make a bad situation worse.
  • More than one in three crashes involving debris occur between 10:00 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., a time when many people are on the road hauling or moving heavy items like furniture or construction equipment.
  • Debris-related crashes are much more likely to occur on Interstate highways. Driving at high speeds increases the risk for vehicle parts to become detached or cargo to fall onto the roadway.

“This new report shows that road debris can be extremely dangerous but all of these crashes are preventable,” said Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Drivers can easily save lives and prevent injuries by securing their loads and taking other simple precautions to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.”

About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads. The most common types of vehicle debris are:

  •  Parts becoming detached from a vehicle (tires, wheels, etc.) and falling onto the roadway
  •  Unsecured cargo like furniture, appliances and other items falling onto the roadway
  •  Tow trailers becoming separated and hitting another vehicle or landing on the roadway

Drivers can decrease their chances of being involved in a road debris crash by:

• Maintaining Their Vehicles: Drivers should have their vehicles checked regularly by trained mechanics. Badly worn or underinflated tires often suffer blowouts that can leave pieces of tire on the roadway. Exhaust systems and the hardware that attach to the vehicle can also rust and corrode, causing mufflers and other parts to drag and eventually break loose. Potential tire and exhaust system problems can easily be spotted by trained mechanics as part of the routine maintenance performed during every oil change.

• Securing Vehicle Loads: When moving or towing furniture, it is important to make sure all items are secured. To properly secure a load, drivers should:

  1.  Tie down load with rope, netting or straps
  2.  Tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer
  3.  Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting
  4.  Don’t overload the vehicle
  5.  Always double check load to make sure a load is secure

“Drivers have a much bigger responsibility when it comes to preventing debris on the roads than most realize,” said Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA. “It’s important for drivers to know that many states have hefty fines and penalties for drivers who drop items from their vehicle onto the roadway, and in some cases states impose jail time.”

Currently every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road. Most states’ penalties result in fines ranging from $10-$5,000, with at least 16 states listing jail as a possible punishment for offenders. AAA encourages drivers to educate themselves about specific road debris laws in their state. Drivers should also practice defensive driving techniques while on the road to prevent debris related crashes from occurring.

“Continually searching the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead can help drivers be prepared in the case of debris,” said William Van Tassel, Manager of Driver Training Programs for AAA. “Always try to maintain open space on at least one side of your vehicle in case you need to steer around an object. If you see you are unable to avoid debris on the roadway, safely reduce your speed as much as possible before making contact.”

AAA also recommends that drivers avoid tailgating and remain alert while on the road. Additional tips on defensive driving and how to report road debris to the proper authorities are available online at AAA.com/PreventRoadDebris.

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Five things to know before hitting the road 

 

From RepairPal

Check out these tips before hitting the road on Labor Day weekend:

Changing brake pads more frequently actually saves you money

Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true—changing brake pads actually does save you money. By leaving brake pads in too long, the brake rotors—much more expensive pieces of equipment—wear down at a much faster rate. This is an expensive repair that you don’t want or have to make—you’ve got a tan to catch!

Rotate tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles to save your suspension

It’s common to get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we can forget to rotate our tires. However, this causes them to wear out faster, and can damage your suspension, steering, and traction. On your long summer trip, switch up your tires so that you can cruise smoothly to your destination.

Dirty air filters waste your fuel and damage your car

Replacing your air filter regularly is a simple—yet often overlooked—procedure that costs drivers lots in wasted fuel and damaged system components.

Properly inflate tires to improve gas mileage by up to 3 percent

When tires are not properly inflated, it causes fuel efficiency to drop. Plain and simple: more money wasted on gas means less money for your summer BBQ snack list.

Individual mechanics are often far cheaper than dealerships but how do you know who is reliable?

RepairPal [repairpal.com] was created to solve the costly problem of untrustworthy repair shops, and independently certifies auto repair shops nationwide for superior training, quality tools, fair pricing and a minimum 12-month/12,000-mile warranty.

Using RepairPal’s cost estimator, mobile website and certified network before your trip eliminates the need to shop around to find a quality auto mechanic near you. They provide fair prices, excellent warranties, and trusted customer reviews.

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Drive away distractions to protect teens behind the wheel

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(BPT) – Today’s teens face more distractions than any generation before.

Many don’t recall a time when they were not continuously connected to their friends. Cell phones, which might have been provided as a safety precaution in case Mom or Dad was running late picking them up from school, are now the source of constant messaging, sharing and media consumption.

Teens send texts instead of passing notes in class. They share moments with their peers and the world in the form of photos and short videos. Music, food and transportation can arrive on demand, all with the swipe of a finger. Being away from their phones, even for a short period of time, can even cause a form of separation anxiety expressed in the acronym FOMO (fear of missing out).

So it should come as no surprise that cell phone use is the offense most commonly associated with distracted driving. However, it’s not the only type of distraction.

“A lot of people think they’re better drivers than they actually are, which is why they take unnecessary risks when they’re behind the wheel,” said Randy Petro, chief claims officer for Mercury Insurance. “We see a lot of claims related to distracted driving, including parents turning to scold arguing children, adjusting the infotainment system, and even taking photos while driving. Your first priority once you start piloting any vehicle should be to focus on the task at hand—driving.”

Ten percent of all drivers ages 15 to 19 who were involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA also reports that 660,000 people drive distracted every day.

Teens aren’t the only ones who feel the need to be connected; adults are guilty of it, too.

Many of the teens who are glued to their smartphones have witnessed their parents answering emails at the dinner table or have seen them shoot a “quick text” while driving. Teens have grown up learning that this type of behavior is acceptable and maybe even expected. However, there’s a right time and a right place for everything.

“The first thing parents need to do is practice what they preach. Teenagers won’t always be receptive to ‘because I say so’ or ‘because I’m the adult,’ especially if they witness their parents actively engaging in a behavior they’re being told is bad,” adds Petro. “We as adults need to set a proper example – after all, we do have the advantage of more life experience.”

Parents should set a powerful example by committing not to drive distracted if they want their children to do the same. If necessary, parents can also invest in technology to monitor and disable phones while their teens are driving to eliminate the temptation altogether.

“No Instagram post, bite of a burger or playlist selection is worth someone else’s life. People are mainly in a car to get from point A to point B, and our wish is for them to do it safely,” says Petro.

There are several excellent online resources that provide tips and information to help prepare teens for life behind the wheel, including Mercury Insurance’s Drive Safe Challenge and NHTSA’s Distraction.gov.

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Crash fatalities could drop by half with proven strategies 

 

From the CDC Newsroom

About 90 people die each day from motor vehicle crashes in the United States, resulting in the highest death rate among 19 high-income comparison countries. Our nation has made progress in road safety, reducing crash deaths by 31 percent from 2000 to 2013. But other high-income countries reduced crash deaths even further—by an average of 56 percent during the same period, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Lower death rates in comparison countries, as well as the high prevalence of risk factors in the U.S., suggest that we can make more progress in saving lives. Compared with other high-income countries, the US had the:

  • most motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 population and per 10,000 registered vehicles;
  • second highest percentage of deaths involving alcohol (31 percent); and
  • third lowest front seat belt use (87 percent).

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If the U.S. had the same motor vehicle crash death rate as Belgium—the country with the second highest death rate after the U.S.—about 12,000 fewer lives would have been lost and an estimated $140 million in direct medical costs would have been averted in 2013. And if the U.S. had the same rate as Sweden—the country with the lowest crash death rate—about 24,000 fewer lives would have been lost and an estimated $281 million in direct medical costs would have been averted in 2013.

“It is important to compare us not to our past but to our potential. Seeing that other high-income countries are doing better, we know we can do better too,” said Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “People of our nation deserve better and safer transport.”

For this Vital Signs report, CDC analyzed data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). CDC determined the number and rate of motor vehicle crash deaths in the U.S. and 19 other high-income countries and reported national seat belt use and percentage of deaths that involved alcohol-impaired driving or speeding, by country, when available. Countries included in the study were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Each country included in the study was a member of OECD, met the World Bank’s definition for high income, had a population of more than 1 million people, and reported the annual number of motor vehicle deaths and vehicle miles traveled. In addition, the difference between the country-reported motor vehicle crash death rate and the WHO-estimated rate could not exceed 1 death per 100,000 population.

“It’s unacceptable for 90 people to die on our roads each day, especially when we know what works to prevent crashes, injuries, and deaths,” said Erin Sauber-Schatz, Ph.D., M.P.H., transportation safety team lead, CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “About 3,000 lives could be saved each year by increasing seat belt use to 100 percent, and up to 10,000 lives could be saved each year by eliminating alcohol-impaired driving.”

The researchers recommend using seat belts in both front and rear seats, properly using car seats and booster seats for children through at least age 8, never drinking and driving, obeying speed limits, and eliminating distracted driving. In addition, states can use proven strategies to support these actions that save lives, prevent injuries, and avert crash-related costs. (See the proven strategies at http://www.cdc.gov/psr/national-summary/mvi.html.)

CDC’s Injury Center works to protect the safety of all Americans, every day. For more information about motor vehicle safety, please visit www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety.

For this Vital Signs report, CDC analyzed data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). CDC determined the number and rate of motor vehicle crash deaths in the U.S. and 19 other high-income countries and reported national seat belt use and percentage of deaths that involved alcohol-impaired driving or speeding, by country, when available. Countries included in the study were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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Wait for the correct weight oil

CAR-Wait-for-correct-oil(BPT) Most vehicle owners know it is important to regularly have their motor oil changed. Many owners may not know that choosing any oil weight other than the one specified in their owner’s manual could damage their engine.

“My dad taught me to switch oil weight depending on the season and the driving conditions. I used 10W-40 or straight 30 weight oil in the summer and switched to 10W-30 in the winter,” says RockAuto.com Vice President, Tom Taylor. Conventional wisdom for old cars said oils with higher weight numbers had a thicker viscosity that would make them better for hot weather and hard driving while lighter weight oils were better for cold weather.

The newest engines are often designed to use only one specific oil with a weight number that may be unfamiliar, such as 0W-20 or 0W-40. Doing something like substituting “heavy duty” 20W-50 for 0W-20 in the summer could quickly result in big repair bills.

Oil does much more these days than simply lubricate and cool the engine. Engine oil may act like a hydraulic fluid in engines with variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation or other new systems that are pressure sensitive and route oil through tiny orifices. “We see variable valve timing solenoids that are clogged by dirty oil, but they also get clogged by clean oil that is just the wrong viscosity,” says Taylor.

Using the right weight oil is made more difficult by all the gas stations and convenience stores that still sell 10W-30 for old cars but do not have the shelf space to stock the many different oil types for newer cars. Do not top off your engine with the incorrect oil because that is all a store carries.

Also, do not choose 10W-30 simply because it is less expensive. Newer engines may take seven or 10 quarts of oil. When buying that much oil, it can be tempting to buy a cheaper weight. Putting the wrong oil in your engine could cost you much more money down the road.

If you hire a shop to change your oil, then make sure they use the correct oil for your engine.

Always wait until you can get the oil weight specified in the owner’s manual.

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