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.

Snow day toolkit: Shoveling, sharing the road with plows & more


Snow day! Despite many closures in anticipation of a fast-moving storm today, some people still need to be out and about, and most of us will need to deal with the subsequent cleanup. We’ve ferreted through our archives to find some of the best tips we’ve found on cealing wiht the snow safely. And to get you in the spirit, we’re offering a few interesting snow related clips:

Here’s a mesmerizing extreme snow removal video that may make you feel better about a measly 8-14 inches

Snow shoveling 101: Best shovels, best techniques

Sharing the road with snow plows & more winter driving tips

Take care: Shoveling snow can kill or injure you

Snow shoveling and snow removal safety

And after it’s over:
Snowmageddon: Is your roof at risk of collapse?

Thanksgiving 2016: Best times to travel


Traffic jam

What’s America’s favorite Thanksgiving pie? If Google searches are any indication, then it’s pumpkin pie followed by apple. Unless you live in Alabama, Louisiana or Mississippi, where pecan pie is the favorite. At Google Trends, you can find out pie popularity by state, most searched for recipes, food and drinks and many other facts about what people are searching for this Thanksgiving. Popular searches include traditions like football, parades, and Black Friday shopping. The concept of “Friendsgiving” is gaining traction too.

One of the biggest searches is “best and worst times to travel” over Thanksgiving, and Google offers this handy infographic:

best driving times Thanksgiving

AAA projects that 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of one million travelers compared with last year.
Driving remains most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving – 89% of those who travel will drive.

According to GasBuddy’s 2016 Thanksgiving Travel survey, 52% of those traveling this year will be on the road for at least 4 hours; 20% of which will be driving 10+ hours. While these won’t be the cheapest gas prices we’ve seen int he last decade, they are stil pretty low. Gas Buddy says, “Over the Thanksgiving travel period, Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27, motorists will be collectively spending nearly $1.7 billion less at the gas pump than the five-year average.”

Although Thanksgiving dinner is the focal point, it’s also a huge weekend for shopping. Check out our post-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza safety tips. Whether you’re shopping online or in stores, we offer pointers on how to avoid scams, pickpockets and thieves!

Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it!


flat tire
People don’t usually think about spare tires until they need them – and if you have a flat tire, that’s a pretty bad time to learn that the spare tire you thought was in your trunk isn’t there. Drivers have been conditioned to think of spare tires as a standard feature with all new cars – but that is changing and consumers need to re-calibrate their expectations. According to AAA, more than a third of all new car models are being sold without a spare tire.

Part of the reason that auto makers give is saving weight to achieve fuel efficiency standards. It’s also space saving, particularly for hybrids and sports cars. More and more new cars are eliminating the spare tire and including inflator kits instead. Some cars are equipped with “run-flat” tires, but these tend to be available only in luxury models.

So how much can you rely on the inflator kits? According to AAA, they have limited use:

“AAA tested the most common tire inflator kits in today’s vehicles and found that the units worked well in some scenarios, but they are not a substitute for a spare tire. For an inflator kit to work effectively, a tire must be punctured in the tread surface and the object must remain in the tire. Used correctly, the kit then coats the inner wall of the tire with a sealant and a compressor re-inflates the tire. If the puncture-causing object is no longer in the tire, a sidewall is damaged or a blowout occurs, a tire inflator kit cannot remedy the situation and the vehicle will require a tow.”

Plus, AAA says that inflator kits can be a costly alternative: “With some kits costing up to $300 per use, a tire inflator kit can cost consumers up to 10 times more than a simple tire repair and has a shelf life of only four to eight years.”

Buyer beware: If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check to see if a spare tire is included. If not, a tire may be available as a purchase option.

This video demonstrates how to use a tire inflator kit on a Chevy Malibu.

Best & Worst Thanksgiving Driving Times


If you’ll be driving to visit friends or family on Thanksgiving, you’ll enjoy remarkably low gas prices. Gas Buddy reports that the national average per gallon is $2.139, down .73 from last year’s average of $2.876! And last year, we thought that was cheap! Here’s a map so you can see state-by-state gas rates.

It’s a good idea to plan your best routes and times now. You can get some tips about the best and worst times for Thanksgiving road travel via Waze, a community-based mobile app that tracks traffic trends around the world. Waze analyzed data from 2014 to make predictions for the best and worst times for traffic this Thanksgiving.

First, the best time for driving to and fro is Thanksgiving Day itself.

They predict a number of “worst days” for pre-holiday

  • Tuesday, November 24, beginning at 1 pm, with a peak between 4 pm and 8 pm
  • Wednesday November 25, starting at 11 am and lasting through the day

…and worst days for post-holiday

  • Sunday, November 29 – rush hour will last all day
  • Monday, Monday November 30 – expect a heavier rush hour from 10am through noon

Google Maps also offers a day-by-day breakdown of predicted traffic. They suggest that Tuesday is slightly better travel day than Wednesday for getting there – but one local place that might be an exception is in Boston, where Tuesday tends to be historically worse. For traveling back home, they suggest that Sunday is a better day to travel back home than Saturday, which can be 40% worse. We’ve excerpted a few visual tips from their 2014 blog, check them out below.

And if you plan to be on the road, Consumer Reports offers some good Thanksgiving driving planning and safety tips – check them out!

 

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