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MDOT warns motorists, private plows of winter hazards

CAR-Fast-FactsA private snowplow pushes snow into a state highway, causing a public plow to crash and roll over, injuring the driver. Meanwhile, in another area a motorist disregards winter conditions, traveling too fast and crashes into the rear of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plow, disabling it.

Those are just two cases of hazardous actions in winter resulting in crashes earlier this month in Michigan, and in both cases taking two winter maintenance vehicles out of commission.

“Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and excessive speeds greatly reduce the margin of error in winter driving,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We implore private plow operators and motorists to be extra cautious, and avoid doing anything that adds to the hazards of winter driving or roadway maintenance.”

Two main concerns are when residents and businesses pile snow at the ends of driveways along the highway shoulder, and when snow is pushed across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface.

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits depositing “snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway,” and “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.” This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway. Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can create an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel.

Motorists also should be particularly careful around winter maintenance snowplows and salt trucks. These large, powerful vehicles may be traveling at slower speeds than vehicles around them, and may be obscured by blowing snow.

“For your safety and the safety of our operators, it’s important to give snowplows a buffer to do their work,” Steudle said.

Some tips for motorists encountering snowplows:

• Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks;

• Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them;

• Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash; and

• MDOT snowplows throughout Michigan will be driving at 25 mph when applying salt, which helps keep more salt on the roadway driving lanes where it is most effective. Snowplows may travel at up to 45 mph when plowing only.

MDOT says: Drive like you want to make it home tonight.

 

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Tips to keep you trekking this winter

CAR-keep-trekking-this-winter-web(BPT) – Winter is in full swing, and with the magical season come the potentially unpleasant snow, ice and slippery conditions that can make driving a challenge. But, even in this less-than-ideal driving weather, Americans are ready to take on what Mother Nature throws their way. Even though 63 percent of Americans say icy roads are their top winter driving concern, 76 percent also say they are comfortable driving in snow, according to Hankook Tire’s Winter Gauge Index.

And, if Americans are right – 41 percent of all Americans polled expect more snow this winter, as compared to last year – there will be plenty of opportunity to drive through a winter wonderland.

Confident and prepared is the resounding tune among drivers, and that’s not just in the area of getting behind the wheel in slick conditions; Seventy-one percent of Americans spend less than one hour digging their car out of the snow and nearly half (49 percent) maintain their driveway themselves, according to the survey.

So, clean up that driveway, embrace the cold weather and get out and enjoy the winter season.

Before hitting the road for the ski slopes or embarking on a winter excursion, keep in mind Hankook’s top winter driving tips:

• Keep your tires ‘aired up’: Ensure your tires are properly inflated. For every 10 degree Fahrenheit change in outside temperature, your tire’s inflation pressure will change by about 1 pound per square inch (psi). Improperly inflated tires can lead to poor traction, decreased control and skidding.

• Slowly accelerate and decelerate: Applying engine power slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry, and take extra care and time to-slow down when stopping.

• Invest in a set of dedicated winter tires for your vehicle: Winter tires, like the Hankook Winter i*cept evo, are specifically designed to provide improved traction in cold, snowy and icy conditions. Whether your vehicle is front, rear or all-wheel drive, winter tires can offer an additional element of performance to get you through those tricky winter driving months.

• Check your tread to beat the snow: Worn or insufficient tread can cause skidding during the winter season, so it is important to make sure your tires are ready for the winter conditions before hitting the road. A quick way to do this is to check your tires’ tread depth indicators. Tread depth indicators are small raised bars that run in-between a tire’s tread blocks. When a tire’s tread is worn down to these indicator bars, it’s time to change to a new set of tires.

By preparing for winter’s snowy surprises, you can keep on rolling throughout the slippery season.

 

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Great Car Care Tips for Seniors

CAR-Senior-Car-Care(StatePoint) Car repair and maintenance can put a strain on both a senior’s budget and back. With some smart and simple preventive care, you can reduce automotive troubles down the line.

Tread and Tire Pressure

The last thing any senior needs is a blown out tire while driving. Avoid this dangerous scenario by checking the tread on your tires and the air pressure once a month. Tires with little or no tread and that are showing threads are unsafe and should be replaced immediately.  For the recommended air pressure for your tires, do not go by the numbers on the sidewall of the tires. Instead, refer to the owner’s manual or sticker on the driver’s side door. Not only does proper air pressure decrease the likelihood of a blowout, but it increases your car’s gas mileage, and gives your vehicle better traction.

Change the Oil

The truth is that oil changes take time and money. However, if this task is not done routinely, then the overall health of your engine can be jeopardized.

When using conventional oil, it’s recommended to change the oil every 3,000 miles. However you can save yourself some work and better protect your investment by using high-quality synthetic motor oil instead. For example, Royal Purple HMX is specifically designed to minimize wear and tear and restore performance in engines with more than 75,000 miles. Instead of the typical oil change once every 3,000 miles, synthetic oil can reduce the frequency to once every 10,000 to 15,000 miles, or once every 12 months, depending on how much your vehicle is used.

For more information on how you can maximize your engine’s longevity and save money, visit www.RoyalPurpleConsumer.com.

Check Lights

Don’t be the one left in the dark. Regularly check your headlights, taillights, turning signals and brake lights. Thousands of accidents a year are the direct result of failed lights. Check your lights by asking a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to walk around your car as you turn the headlights, taillights and turning signals off and on. Also, apply light pressure to the brake to make sure your brake lights are working as well. If a light is out, check the fuses. An easy do-it-yourself replacement can save you time and money.

You don’t have to be a professional mechanic or overextend your budget to increase the lifetime of your car. Some simple proactive and regular care will go a long way in keeping you and your car together, far down the road.

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Prepare for Holiday Travel Season by Placing Emergency Preparedness Kits in Vehicles

LANSING. The Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) encourages Michigan citizens to prepare for the holiday travel season by placing emergency preparedness kits in their vehicles.

Michigan winters can produce extremely cold temperatures, large amounts of snow and bursts of freezing rain. In the event of an emergency, help may not be immediately available. By having an emergency preparedness kit in a vehicle, a person can survive until help arrives.

“Road conditions can quickly change for the worse during the winter months,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “A vehicle emergency preparedness kit adds a sense of safety and security when traveling to destinations this holiday season. If an incident does happen, you will be prepared and ready.”

Michigan weather is unpredictable any time of year, but especially during the winter months. If you are stranded in a winter storm, do not leave your vehicle. Stay with the vehicle and wait for help.

Essential items to include in a vehicle emergency preparedness kit include:

· Hand-crank radio

· Hand-crank flashlight

· Cell phone charger

· Windshield scraper

· Blanket and extra clothes

· Tire repair kit and pump

· Emergency contact list

· De-icer and extra anti-freeze

· “Call Police” or other “Help” sign

· Jumper cables

· Tow chain or rope

· Fire extinguisher

· Cat litter or sand for better tire traction

· Shovel

· Flares

· First aid kit

· Bottled water and nonperishable, high-energy foods (e.g., granola bars, canned nuts, raisins, hard candy, trail mix, peanut butter and crackers)

In addition to having a vehicle emergency preparedness kit, the MSP/EMHSD reminds motorists to take extra precautions when stopping and driving in the winter weather.

Remember to do all of your braking before the turn is made and take proper line of travel through the turn to reduce the potential for a skid to occur. If your car begins to skid, let off the throttle and brakes and use a quick hand-over-hand steering technique to turn the front tires in the direction you want to go.

“A vehicle’s handling capability is drastically reduced in winter weather, so take it slow on ice and snow,” Kelenske said. “Be sure to leave enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Always keep your focus on the road and avoid cell phone use while driving.”

Safe winter driving tips:

· Keep tires at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure and routinely check tire pressure during cold weather.

· Keep windshield solvent at full strength and make sure the reservoir is full, and keep new wiper blades on front and rear wipers, if so equipped.

· Wash your vehicle for better visibility to other drivers, and remove ice and snow from all lights, windows and the license plate before driving.

· Periodically check all lights and replace when necessary.

· Have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic before making long-distance trips.

Travelers are encouraged to go to www.michigan.gov/roadconditions and www.michigan.gov/drive to check road conditions before traveling. Weather and road conditions are also available by calling the MSP Travel Hotline at 1-800-381-8477. The MSP/EMHSD asks that you view these websites or call the Travel Hotline rather than calling your local MSP post or 911.

For more information about being prepared before, during and after an emergency or disaster, go to the MSP/EMHSD’s emergency preparedness website at www.michigan.gov/beprepared or Twitter at www.twitter.com/MichEMHS.

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Avoid a car-deer crash

From the Kent County Sheriff Department

It’s deer season, which means they will be on the move more than ever.

There were over 49,000 car deer accidents in Michigan last year.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a crash.

The two most important ways to avoid a deer-vehicle collision are: slow down and SLOW DOWN.

If you are driving through an area known for high deer populations, slow down and observe the speed limit. The more conservative you are with your speed, the more time you will have to brake if an animal darts into your path.

Always wear a seatbelt. The most severe injuries in deer-vehicle collisions usually result from failure to use a seatbelt.

Watch for the shine of eyes along the roadside and immediately begin to slow.

Use your high beams whenever the road is free of oncoming traffic. This will increase your visibility and give you more time to react.

Deer can become mesmerized by steady, bright lights so if you see one frozen on the road, slow down and flash your lights. Some experts recommend one long blast of the horn to scare them out of the road, as well.

Pay close attention to caution signs indicating deer. These signs are specifically placed in high traffic areas, where road crossings are frequent.

If you’re on a multi-lane road, drive in the center lane to give as much space to grazing deer as possible.

Never swerve to avoid a deer in the road. Swerving can confuse the deer on where to run. Swerving can also cause a head-on collision with oncoming vehicles, take you off the roadway into a tree or a ditch, and greatly increase the chances of serious injuries.

Deer are unpredictable creatures, and one that is calmly standing by the side of the road may suddenly leap into the roadway without warning. Slowing down when you spot a deer is the best way to avoid a collision. However, if one does move into your path, maintain control and do your best to brake and give the deer time to get out of your way.

Don’t rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer. These have not been proven to work.

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National Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 20-26

Nighttime and after school are high crash risk times for teens

When it comes to new and inexperienced drivers, nighttime and after school are the most dangerous time of day for traffic crashes nationally and in Michigan.

According to Michigan crash data, nearly 30 percent of crashes involving drivers age 16-20 occur in the after-school hours. More than 15,000 people were involved in a crash with a teen driver from 3-6 p.m. in 2012.

The highest numbers of fatal crashes involving teen drivers happen between 9 p.m. and midnight. In 2012, 34 people were killed, including 11 drivers who were 16-20 years old.  “After school tends to include more travel for teen drivers, whether for school activities, jobs or hanging out with friends, so it is not surprising this time period has the highest number of crashes,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP).  “National Teen Driver Safety Week is a good opportunity for parents and teens to talk about reducing common crash risks by limiting the number of passengers, putting away cell phones, obeying traffic laws and wearing a seat belt.”

Teen drivers with Level 1 or Level 2 licenses under the Graduated Driver License program are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving.  Teens with a Level 2 license also have enhanced driving restrictions after 10 p.m.

The data also show teen drivers have higher incidents of speed-related crashes than older drivers. They are also more likely than any other age group to crash because of following too close and being unable to stop in time.

Nationally, driver error is a contributing factor in two-thirds of fatal teen driver crashes.

To help reduce teen traffic crashes, fatalities and serious injuries, Michigan’s Strive For A Safer Drive (S4SD) program expanded in its third year. So far 35 schools in 15 counties are signed up for the program for the 2013-2014 school year including 14 first-time participants. The final deadline for applications is Nov. 1.

A public-private partnership between AAA Michigan, Ford Driving Skills for Life and OHSP, S4SD provides funding and resources to help teens talk to other teens about safe driving. For a list of participating schools, visit Michigan.gov\S4SD.

 

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Simple ways older drivers can save money on auto insurance

_CAR-Simple-ways-older-people (BPT) – Are your auto insurance premiums too high? Maybe they are, but not for reasons you might think. Insurance companies aren’t charging you higher premiums because you’re in an over-50 age group. You may be paying too much because you haven’t done anything to lower the cost of your premiums. Check out these money-saving tips – they could be right up your alley.

* Comparison shop. You don’t need to stay with the same insurance company forever. Prices vary from company to company. Just be sure you discuss the identical coverage with each company representative. Also, don’t go by price alone. Consider the company’s reputation, customer service and available discounts. Look online at customer reviews to get a better picture.

* Combine policies with one carrier. You may save money if you insure all your vehicles on a single policy. Your premium may also go down if you have life or homeowners’ insurance with that company, too.

* Consider asking about higher deductibles. In some cases, if you increase your deductible, you could lower your premiums. Of course, that means you’ll have to pay more money out-of-pocket if you’re in an accident.

* Take an AARP Driver Safety course. Available both online and in the classroom – in English and Spanish – this course teaches valuable defensive driving techniques and provides a refresher about the rules of the road. When you complete the course, you could qualify for a multi-year discount from your auto insurance company (check with your insurance agent for more details). Visit www.aarp.org/drive to find a course in your area.

* Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage. It may not make financial sense to pay premiums over many years to maintain collision and comprehensive coverage. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). But don’t drop your liability coverage, which can help cover expenses for property or bodily damage you cause while driving your car.

* Take advantage of low-mileage discounts. Some carriers offer discounts to drivers who put less than a predetermined number of miles on their vehicles each year. If you’re only using your car to drive to your kids’ houses, the grocery store, the mall and the gym, this could be a money-saving opportunity.

* Ask about car-safety discounts. Some insurers give discounts for having certain safety devices in your car, such as air bags, automatic safety belts, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, or even an approved alarm system. In addition to lowering your premium, these features will help keep you safe on the road.

* If you’re in the market for a new car, consider purchasing a low-profile vehicle. It’s more expensive to insure a vehicle that’s expensive to repair, popular with thieves or known for not having a good safety record. To find out vehicles’ risk levels, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website.

Everyone’s trying to save money these days. By following these tips, you’ll be in the driver’s seat when it comes to auto insurance premiums.

 

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Police inspect 1,200 commercial vehicle brakes

From The Michigan State Police

 

When commercial vehicles and passenger cars collide, the result can be a deadly and costly mix of injuries, property damage and death. In an effort to reduce these crashes, Michigan State Police (MSP) motor carrier officers teamed up with enforcement officers from across North America to participate in Brake Safety Week.

During this year’s enforcement period, which ran from Sept. 8 – 14, 2013, MSP motor carrier officers conducted 1,273 commercial vehicle safety inspections on vehicles with air brakes. Officers checked 10,697 individual air brakes and identified 562 brakes out of adjustment. Based on officer’s findings, 130 vehicles were placed out of service for brake adjustment and other brake component deficiencies.

MSP motor carrier officers’ efforts also resulted in 693 citations for various commercial vehicle traffic, equipment and driver violations including speeding, hours-of-service and prohibited hand-held mobile phone use. Including brake violations and other equipment defects, a total of 116 vehicles were placed out-of-service due to serious equipment safety violations.

Brake Safety Week is part of the Operation Air Brake Campaign, an ongoing effort since 1998 that is dedicated to improving inspection, compliance, maintenance and performance of commercial vehicle brakes throughout North America. Throughout the week, specially trained inspectors checked vehicles for critical safety violations and talked with drivers and others about how important brakes are to the safe operation of large trucks.

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Driving with dogs: Tips to keep everyone in the car safe

CAR-Driving-with-dogs(BPT) – It’s only natural for man’s best friend to stay close by his master’s side, but for dog owners who drive frequently, bringing Fido along for the ride can be risky. The problem is particularly worrisome for older drivers; a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham showed that for people 70 years and older, crash rates were higher among those who frequently drove with pets in the car. But for many drivers, leaving precious pets behind isn’t an option. The best compromise is to find solutions that will get you from point A to point B without compromising the safety of human or animal passengers.

Distracted driving is a growing concern and a loose pet in the car certainly numbers among the potential hazards that can take your eyes – and mind – off the road and lead to accidents. While older drivers might not be as likely to be distracted by texting or smartphone surfing, even those who have spent many years navigating the roads need to honestly assess how having a pet in the car can divert their attention away from the road.

To stay safe on the road when Fido is with you, remember these tips:

* Don’t allow pets in the front seats. Having a pet sit on your lap is obviously distracting, but if he’s in the front passenger seat, the problem can be just as bad. In the front seats, your pet is more likely to be within your line of sight and obstruct your view of the road. An unrestrained dog in the front seats could also be easily injured if you have to slam on the brakes or swerve, or are hit from behind. The force with which airbags deploy also poses a safety hazard for dogs in the front seat – if you’re in an accident and they inflate and hit your dog, he could easily sustain an injury.

* Create separation. There are a variety of pet barriers on the market that can keep your pet from moving between the front and back seats of your car. Installing a barrier will help keep your pet out of your way and diminish concerns about him being propelled forward in case you have to make a sudden stop.

* Restrain your pet. There are a number of options for pet restraints in your vehicle. Pet seatbelts and car seats will help keep a dog safely in place. Keeping a crate in the car is also a good option. Make sure it’s secured and large enough so that he can stand up, turn around and comfortably sit or lay down. Add a soft pad in the bottom of the crate and it might just become your pet’s favorite new way to travel.

* Brush up on your driving skills. Today’s driving environment is probably very different than it was when you first got your license. A refresher course, like those offered by AARP Driver Safety, is an ideal way to ensure that your skills are up to date. Brushing up on defensive driving techniques and the essential rules of the road will help keep everyone in your car safe – and you may even qualify for a multi-year automobile insurance discount from your insurance company (check with your agent for details). AARP Driver Safety courses are available in a classroom or online setting, in both English and Spanish.

Pets are important members of the family, so it’s only right that drivers consider their safety, just as they would for any other passenger. For more safe driving tips and information about AARP Driver Safety, visit www.aarp.org/drive.

 

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Beat the heat with these 10 summer driving tips

With the arrival of summer, more drivers will hit the American highways for summer vacations. Here are a few summer driving tips to help prepare your vehicle and ensure it is in optimal driving condition for your summer getaway or your day-to-day driving in hotter weather conditions:

1. Change your motor oil regularly.
Regular oil changes with the correct grade of motor oil can improve gas mileage up to two percent.* Synthetic oils are best for high temperature driving conditions and for added protection when towing.

2. Check your tire pressure.
Keeping your tires properly inflated can help improve gas mileage up to three percent.* Be sure to check your tire pressure before you begin driving for the day. This allows you to get a cold pressure reading (the number commonly referenced in your owner’s manual).

3. Clean your fuel system.
This helps improve fuel economy and maximize engine performance by removing dirt and deposits from the fuel system.

4. Use cruise control on highways.
This will help you maintain a constant speed, which in most cases helps improve fuel economy.

5. Do not idle.
It requires less gas to restart a vehicle than to let it idle.

6. Park in the shade or a garage.
The sun zaps fuel from your gas tank. Parking in the shade or garage will lessen the amount of evaporative emissions.

7. Check your cooling system (radiator).
It protects your engine from overheating in hot summer conditions. Follow your owner’s manual for regular maintenance.

8. Check your serpentine belt.
Replacing the serpentine belt when needed helps prevent breakdowns. It keeps your vehicle’s power steering, alternator, water pump and AC running.

9. Check your air conditioning system.
Nothing makes the summer heat more unbearable than traveling with an air conditioning system that will not cool properly.

10. Check your windshield wipers and wiper fluid.
The combination of bad wipers and a summer downpour can leave you with no view of the road. Be sure you have plenty of wiper fluid to help keep your windshield clear of dirt and debris.

Also, remember to follow the vehicle maintenance procedures outlined in your owner’s manual. These can help improve your fuel economy and prolong the life of your vehicle. The following should be included:

Check your transmission fluid: Changing the fluid when needed helps restore your vehicle’s operation by protecting the gears from grinding.

Rotate your tires regularly: This prevents uneven wear, which can shorten the life of your tires. It also improves vehicle handling and traction.

Check your gearbox fluid: Changing the fluid when needed restores additives to protect the gears from grinding. This is especially important for four-wheel drive vehicles because they have three gear boxes.

Follow these Summer Driving Tips and your vehicle’s regular maintenance schedule to get optimal driving conditions and good fuel economy for your vehicle this summer. So, get out there and enjoy your summer vacation, or at least, you can feel better about driving during the dog days of summer. To learn more or to find a Valvoline Instant Oil Change near you, visit vioc.com.

* As cited from the U.S. Department of Energy at fueleconomy.gov

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