Trucks & teens: Tips for safely sharing the road


trucks on the highway

Learning the rules of the road is essential for all new drivers, both teens getting their first driver’s license and adults venturing behind the wheel for first time. More and more Americans are delaying getting their licenses, and in an age that promises self-driving cars in the near future, that makes sense. But right now driving is still an important part of our lives, and safe driving is a rewarding skill that results in fewer accidents and injuries, lower insurance premiums, and lower public safety costs.

One of the scariest things that new drivers face on the roads are 18-wheelers. Big trucks are, well, big. And powerful. And they aren’t particularly nimble. New drivers tend to take them for granted or to become distracted by them. Both mistakes can have tragic outcomes. Knowing the rules and knowing what to look for around big trucks is an important part of road safety.

Scott Felthousen, a professional truck driver with more than a decade of driving under his belt, has put together a useful guide to safe driving around semis. While his tips are aimed at keeping teen drivers safe, the advice he dispenses is applicable to everyone.

In short, he advises:

  • Be aware of blind spots. Don’t assume the truck driver is regularly checking her mirrors.
  • Don’t linger. The safest place to be is as far from the truck as reasonable. If traffic allows, slow down or speed up to avoid driving in the trucker’s blind spot right next to the trailer.
  • Before passing a semi, check your rear-view mirror. Can you see both of the truck’s headlights in the center of your mirror? When you see those there, that’s the minimum distance you need to safely move ahead.
  • Give 18-wheelers the space they need. When encountering a big truck at an intersection, remember that truck needs a whole bunch of space to safely turn. A big rig turning onto a two-lane street is always going to need more space than the lane can accommodate.

Thinking ahead and being aware of your surroundings is a key part of safe driving for everyone,not just new drivers. Recognizing situations before they become dangerous and taking the right steps to prevent them from happening is a learned skill that new drivers should start practicing from the moment they grip the steering wheel.

Keep on top of vehicle recalls


illustration of cars in a car lot

Do you ever worry that you might have missed notice of an important vehicle recall for your car or truck? Who can keep up! Experts say that going into 2018, there are open, unfixed recalls on more than one out of every five cars. Thanks to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there’s an easy way to check if your vehicle has a recall notice.

First find your ride’s vehicle identification number( VIN). It’s unique to your car, and it’s located on the inside of the driver’s side door and on your sales documents. Snap a pic of it with your smartphone and save it with your important documents for quick retrieval. Then visit this handy NHTSA website and type in that VIN. Voila! Any recall notices you might have missed will pop up.

“Be sure that you are keeping yourself and your family safe, check your vehicle for important safety recalls today,” said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. “Did you know that you don’t have to pay to fix safety recalls? Please visit NHTSA.gov/recalls to find out if your car or truck has an outstanding recall, and call your dealership for your free repair.”

For another source to check, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers and Carfax recently announced a partnership to offer a free service to check on vehicle recalls. You can check by VIN number or enroll for alerts.  According to current Carfax research, more than 57 million vehicles on U.S. roads have unfixed recalls, despite the fact that voluntary recall remedies are completed free of charge to the consumer.

Recall notices can be issued long after a vehicle’s manufacturing date, so it’s important to check regularly (twice a year is good). It just takes a moment, the repairs are free, and it ensures you and your family are riding in safety!

 

Attention MA drivers: 2 important MA Registry of Motor Vehicles alerts


Car document icon

If you are a Massachusetts driver, here are two important notices from the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles.

1. Temporary shutdown this week:

The MA Registry Of Motor Vehicles is converting to a new computer system so plan accordingly if you need services. All services will be shutdown from Thursday 3/22 at 7:00 PM and will reopen on Monday 3/26 at 8:00 am.

The shutdown will affect:

  • All RMV offices
  • All RMV services offered through AAA offices
  • All online services
  • All inspection services at stations that inspect
  • All inspections through dealerships that inspect

For more information, click for the MA RMV shutdown alert.

2.  New Massachusetts Licensing & Renewal Requirements as of 3/25

On March 26, 2018, to get or renew any driver’s license, ID card, or learner’s permit, you need documentation showing U.S. citizenship or lawful presence as required by federal and state law.

Related: After October of 2020, you will need either a passport or REAL ID when you fly in the U.S. or enter certain federal buildings.

See the MA RMV Guide for more information on meeting these requirements.

Insurance basics: filing claims for home and auto


It’s smart to review insurance basics every now and again and the Insurance Information Institute has produced some quick, simple videos on what you need to do to file a home or an auto claim. One important first step is to take the time to review your policies each year and understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover – ask your local agent if you have any gaps or exposures that leave you vulnerable. For example, most homeowners policies don’t include flood coverage. Or if you have valuables such as antiques, jewelry, or special collections, you may want to add coverage for those because your standard homeowners has coverage limits.

As for autos, here’s an interesting post on Gap Insurance and when it might make sense. Today’s long-financing options mean that you might owe more than your car is worth and you could be stuck should you total your car unless you have Guaranteed Replacement Cost coverage or Guaranteed Auto Protection (Gap insurance).

One other option is an umbrella policy, which would boost your coverage on your home and auto should you have a large lawsuit. Umbrella policies typically kick in after your regular insurance is exhausted. Learn more here.

OK, with those reminders, here are some basics about filing home or auto claims.

High tech cars equal high cost repairs


schematic of headlight depicting costly technology in cars

It used to be that when you opened your car’s hood, you could look straight down and see the pavement beneath the engine. There was room to get your hands in there; to change a belt, tighten a hose clamp, pull a spark plug, or swap out an air filter. Try that with a new car and you’re in for a frustrating time: every gap under the hood is filled, every available space crammed with technology. Our cars are no longer simple mechanical chariots of iron and fire. They’re sleek, smart, and integrated into the wider world in ways that would sound like science fiction to the shade-tree mechanics of yesterday.

A new car runs on average 100 million lines of code. That’s more software than the Large Hadron Collider, the Mars Rover, and the Hubble Space Telescope – COMBINED. Everything from braking and the firing of pistons to the temperature of the seats and the mix of air in the passenger compartment is regulated and monitored by software.

Higher repair costs translate to higher insurance rates

All those sensors add up. As vehicles get more complex, the costs to repair them are rising. This, of course, increases insurance rates. Nationwide, the average cost of auto insurance went up from $915 in 2015 to $980 in 2016.  By 2017 the average cost of auto insurance was $1,060. This is expected to climb to $1,150 in 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

An important contributing factor is where these expensive sensors are placed: they’re often on bumpers, front grilles, and side mirrors, the same spots that see the most incidental damage. Even an undamaged sensor can get knocked out of calibration in a seemingly minor fender-bender, affecting everything from adaptive cruise control which relies on front-facing radar to automatic headlight-dimming that uses tiny cameras to “see” oncoming traffic.

“The insurance industry is very focused on the repair costs associated with these new technologies,” said Matt Moore, senior vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “When the reduction in the crash risk associated with any advanced driver assistance system is greater than the increased repair costs then insurance premiums will likely go down,” Moore said. But in the short term, he expects the dollar value of collision claims to rise approximately 2% per year.

Of course, not factored into this accounting are all the injuries and deaths that these expensive safety features prevent. Maybe paying a little more for repairs now is worth it, when you consider that now drivers are walking away unscathed from accidents that in the past would’ve meant disability or death. It’s up to us as responsible drivers to use the tools we’re given to drive smart and drive safe – and when we do that, everybody wins.