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What to do if your gas pedal gets stuck

  • Tap the gas pedal to try to unstick the throttle linkage.
  • Hook your toe under the pedal to try and free it.
  • SHIFT GEARS to neutral and apply firm pressure to the brakes without locking the wheels.
  • REMOVE floor mat under gas pedal. Gas pedal may be caught on floor mat.
  • If your automobile has power steering or a locking steering wheel, DO NOT TURN OFF THE IGNITION or you will lose either your power steering, or the ability to steer.
  • Tap brake pedal to disengage cruise control or manually cancel your cruise control.
What to do if your brakes fail

  • Shift into a lower gear, release the clutch pedal (for manual transmissions) and apply the emergency brake.
  • If your automobile has an automatic transmission, apply the emergency brake and move the gear lever into the low range position.
  • Be Advised: This action can potentially cause damage to the emergency brake and to the transmission, but under the circumstances of brake failure, there is no better choice.

If your brakes become wet, you can dry them by:

  • Drive the vehicle a short distance
  • Apply light pressure to the brake pedal.
  • The heat generated by the friction of the brakes against the brake drum will evaporate the water from the brake linings.
  • To prevent excessive wear on brakes when moving down a long hill or steep grade, use a lower gear instead of the brake pedal to control speed. Shift to the lower gear at the top of the hill, before you descend.
What to do during a tire blowout

  • The goal in any rapid loss of tire pressure or "blowout" is to keep the vehicle balanced and controllable. Do not panic. Any over-reaction by the driver -- including slamming on the brakes or abruptly removing your foot from the accelerator -- can result in a loss of vehicle control.
  • In any blowout situation, it's most important to first remember the 2 things you should NOT do:
  • Do NOT jam your foot down on the brake pedal. As instinctive as it may be, it's the worst mistake you can make in any tire blowout situation. Maintain control. Applying the brakes will cause an even greater imbalance on the vehicle's stability.
  • Do not abruptly release your foot from the accelerator. This is the second worst mistake you can make. Rapidly releasing the accelerator causes the vehicle to transfer more of its weight from the rear tires to the front tires. With a flat tire, this can lead to loss of control of the vehicle.
  • Instead, in any blowout situation, you should follow these 3 steps:
  • Gradually release the accelerator .
  • Correct the steering as necessary to stabilize your vehicle and regain control. Look where you want the vehicle to go and steer in that direction.
  • Once your vehicle has stabilized, continue to slow down and pull off the road where and when you judge it's safe to do so.
  • Remember, no matter which tire blows out -- front or back -- the do's and don'ts for safely maintaining control of your vehicle are exactly the same. The only difference between a front and rear tire blowout is that you will feel the force of a front blowout more in the vehicle's steering, while you'll feel a rear blowout more in the seat or body of the vehicle.
What to do when you have a breakdown

  • Move the vehicle to the right side of the road out of the flow of traffic, if possible. Stopping on the left side of a divided highway is extremely dangerous but sometimes unavoidable. Do not leave the vehicle stopped in a traffic lane.
  • Move the vehicle as far away from the traveled portion of the roadway as you can. At the very least you should be far enough away that you can open the door without stepping out into traffic. You also want to be visible enough so that people can see you.
  • Show clear signs that there is a problem and you need assistance by raising the vehicle hood. This is an internationally recognized sign of distress.
  • In addition, turn on your emergency flashers and display any signs you have that indicate you need help (such as shade screens with distress messages).
  • If you remain with the vehicle, another motorist will likely report your disabled vehicle to the police, and it will be easier for the police or others to provide assistance.
  • Always exit the vehicle by the passenger side, unless you are on the left side of a divided highway.
  • Do not allow passengers to remain in the vehicle.
  • Stay off of the road and away from the vehicle and do not stand in front of or to the rear of the vehicle.
  • Do not attempt to make repairs on a vehicle while it is in an area exposed to other traffic.

Be prepared for problem situations:

  • Keep items in the vehicle such as flares, flashlights, blankets, and a first aid kit. Mobile phones in the vehicle also become valuable safety tools during breakdown situations. In addition, have water available in hot climates, especially for children.
  • Know where items such as your spare tire, jack, and other tools are in the vehicle and how to use them. Check periodically to make sure they are in working order.

Be familiar with the operation of your vehicle:

  • Read your owner's manual. A motorist who understands how his/her vehicle operates is better able to detect and address problems with the vehicle.
  • Conduct periodic and regular maintenance of the vehicle.
  • If you hear or sense that something is wrong with the vehicle, have it checked.
How to deal with aggressive drivers

Common aggressive driving behaviors

  • Running stop signs and red lights
  • Speeding, tailgating, and weaving between lanes
  • Passing on the right of a vehicle
  • Making inappropriate hand and facial gestures
  • Screaming, honking the horn, and flashing headlights

If you are confronted by an aggressive driver, or witness aggressive driving behavior, follow these guidelines:

  • Make every attempt to safely move out of the aggressive driver's way.
  • Do not challenge an aggressive driver by speeding up or attempting to "hold your own" in the travel lane.
  • Always wear your seat belt -- not only will it hold you in your seat and behind the wheel in case you need to make an abrupt driving maneuver, but it will also protect you in a crash.
  • Avoid eye contact with the aggressive driver.
  • Ignore gestures, and refuse to return them.
  • Report aggressive drivers to the appropriate authorities by providing a vehicle description, license number, location, and if possible, direction of travel.
  • If you have a cellular phone, and can use it while driving safely, call the police. Many have special numbers such as 9-1-1.
  • If an aggressive driver is involved in a crash farther down the road, stop at a safe distance from the crash scene, wait for the police to arrive, and report the driving behavior that you witnessed.
How to Drive During Earthquakes

Experiencing an earthquake while in a moving vehicle has been compared to driving on four flat tires. If an earthquake occurs while you are driving:

  • Gradually decrease speed.
  • Pull to the side of the road when it is safe to do so.
  • Do not stop on or under overpasses or bridges.
  • Do not drive until local authorities have deemed it safe to do so.
  • Avoid parking near trees, downed power lines and buildings.
  • Stop the car and keep your seat belt fastened.
  • Remain in your car until the shaking stops.
  • Keep in mind that aftershocks follow the initial earthquake.
  • Turn on your car radio and listen for advisories (most radio stations are prepared to broadcast emergency information).
  • If driving on the freeway, and if it's safe to do so, exit at the first opportunity.
  • Be especially careful for mudslides and rockslides as earthquakes can jar loose these materials.

Be prepared by stocking the following items in your vehicle:

  • Fully equipped first aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Flashlight with extra batteries and bulb
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket radio with extra batteries
  • Local maps
  • Matches
  • Prescription medicine
10 Things to Know about Flood Safety

Flooding can occur as streams and rivers overflow their banks, when dams or levees break, with run-off from deep snow cover, or any time there is rainfall with significant duration and intensity.

Keep these facts in mind to stay alive and dry.

  1. Flash floods can come rapidly and unexpectedly. They can occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, or when a dam or levee fails and even a sudden release of water held by an ice or debris jam. Be cautious during storm seasons, or any time that flooding is common in your area.
  2. You may not have warning that a flash flood is approaching.
  3. Do not drive unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Do not drive through flooded areas. If you see a flooded-out road ahead, turn around. Find another route to your destination.
  5. If there is no other route, get to higher ground and wait for the waters to subside.
  6. Even if the water appears shallow enough to cross, don't try it. Water hides dips in the road. Worse yet, there may be no road at all under the water. Flooding can scour away the entire road surface and a significant amount of ground beneath.
  7. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
  8. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control or possible stalling.
  9. One foot of water will float almost many vehicles.
  10. Two feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles — including
Hail Storms

  • Tune in to your radio to stay informed of approaching storms.
  • If you see a tornado or hear a tornado warning, don't try to outrun it. View tornado driving safety tips.
  • Turn on your headlights (low beams) and slow down. Many states require the use of headlights during rain.
  • Allow extra distance for braking.
  • Do not drive unless necessary.
  • Pull safely onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall on the vehicle.
  • If at all possible, pull into a sturdy garage, parking garage, or under a shelter to minimize hail damage.
  • Stay in the car and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside.
  • Avoid downed power lines.
  • Approach intersections with caution
  • Treat traffic lights at intersections as stop signs
  • After the storm, thoroughly evaluate your vehicle for damage.
  • If you find glass damage, carefully remove any glass from the interior of your vehicle, and cover the damaged area to prevent further water damage to your interior.
High Winds

Also see the winter weather driving safety tips

  • Be aware of vehicles around you. High winds are more problematic for drivers of trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, campers, and drivers who are towing trailers.
  • Reduce your speed and correct your steering, especially when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, or when meeting large vehicles.
  • Wind is often accompanied by heavy rain or winter precipitation. Stay alert for slippery areas.
Severe Thunderstorms and Lightning

  • Tune in to your radio to stay informed of approaching storms.
  • If you see a tornado or hear a tornado warning, don't try to outrun it. View tornado driving safety tips.
  • Turn on your headlights (low beams) and slow down. Many states require the use of headlights during rain.
  • Allow extra distance for braking.
  • Do not drive unless necessary.
  • Pull safely onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall on the vehicle.
  • Stay in the car and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside.
  • An automobile provides better insulation against lightning than being in the open.
  • Avoid contact with any metal conducting surfaces either inside your car or outside.
  • Avoid flooded roadways.
  • Avoid downed power lines.
  • Check your windshield wipers and tires regularly to insure that they are ready for severe weather.
  • Approach intersections with caution
  • Treat traffic lights at intersections as stop signs.
  • How to deal with a hail storm.
  • Visit our flood safety tips for how to deal with flooding.
Tornado

Also see the thunderstorm driving safety tips

  • Do not drive during tornado conditions.
  • Never try to out-drive a tornado in a vehicle. Tornadoes can change direction quickly and can lift a car or truck and toss it through the air.
  • Get out of your vehicle immediately and seek shelter in a nearby building.
  • If there is no time to get indoors, or if there is no nearby shelter, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or a low-lying area away from the vehicle. Be aware of the potential for flooding
Driving in Fog

Fog can be thought of as a cloud at ground level. It forms when the temperature drops to the dew point (the temperature at which air is saturated), and invisible water vapor in the air condenses to form suspended water droplets. Fog can reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less, creating hazardous driving conditions. If you can't postpone your trip until dense fog lifts -- usually by late morning or the afternoon -- follow these tips:

  • Drive with lights on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the fog and actually impair visibility even more.
  • Reduce your speed -- and watch your speedometer. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding.
  • Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open your window a little, to hear better.
  • Use wipers and defrosters as necessary for maximum visibility.
  • Use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide.
  • Be patient. Do not pass lines of traffic.
  • Do not stop on a freeway or heavily traveled road. If your car stalls or becomes disabled, turn your vehicle's lights off, and take your foot off of the brake pedal. People tend to follow tail lights when driving in fog. Move away from the vehicle to avoid injury.
Driving in reduced visibility conditions

Reduced visibility conditions include twilight, darkness, rain, snow, fog, smoke, and bright sunshine.
  • Use moderation in judging a safe speed. Drive slow enough to maintain a safe stopping distance.
  • Don't slow down so much that you become a risk to other drivers.
  • Be aware that in reduced visibility conditions, drivers tend to follow the tail lights of vehicles in front of them.
  • If you must pull off of the road, pull as far off of the road as possible, turn off your headlights, take your foot off of the brake pedal, and turn on your hazard lights.
  • Make sure you have a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle in case of bright sunlight.
Driving at Night

Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day, according to the National Safety Council. Yet many of us are unaware of night driving's special hazards or don't know effective ways to deal with them.

Why is night driving so dangerous? One obvious answer is darkness. Ninety percent of a driver's reaction depends on vision, and vision is severely limited at night. Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision are compromised after sundown.

Older drivers have even greater difficulties seeing at night. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year old.

Another factor adding danger to night driving is fatigue. Drowsiness makes driving more difficult by dulling concentration and slowing reaction time.

Alcohol is a leading factor in fatal traffic crashes, playing a part in about half of all motor vehicle-related deaths. That makes weekend nights more dangerous. More fatal crashes take place on weekend nights than at any other time in the week.

Fortunately, you can take several effective measures to minimize these after-dark dangers by preparing your car and following special guidelines while you drive.

The National Safety Council recommends these steps:

  • Prepare your car for night driving. Keep headlights, tail lights, signal lights and windows (inside and out) clean.
  • Have your headlights properly aimed. Mis-aimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.
  • Don't drink and drive. Not only does alcohol severely impair your driving ability, it also acts as a depressant. Just one drink can induce fatigue.
  • Avoid smoking when you drive. Smoke's nicotine and carbon monoxide hamper night vision.
  • If there is any doubt, turn your headlights on. Lights will not help you see better in early twilight, but they'll make it easier for other drivers to see you. Being seen is as important as seeing.
  • Reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicle's speeds and distances at night.
  • Don't overdrive your headlights. You should be able to stop inside the illuminated area. If you're not, you are creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle.
  • When following another vehicle, keep your headlights on low beams so you don't blind the driver ahead of you.
  • If an oncoming vehicle doesn't lower beams from high to low, avoid glare by watching the right edge of the road and using it as a steering guide.
  • Make frequent stops for light snacks and exercise. If you're too tired to drive, stop and get rest.
  • If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible. Warn approaching traffic at once by setting up reflecting triangles near your vehicle and 300 feet behind it. Turn on flashers and the dome light. Stay off the roadway and get passengers away from the area.

Observe night driving safety as soon as the sun goes down. Twilight is one of the most difficult times to drive, because your eyes are constantly changing to adapt to the growing darkness.

Skidding and Hydroplaning in Rainy Conditions

Losing control of your car on wet pavement is a frightening experience.

Skids are scary but hydroplaning is completely nerve-wracking.

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car's weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires.

Taking these simple tips into account can save your life.

  1. You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.

  2. If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. This procedure, known as "steering into the skid," will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you steer into the skid.

  3. Avoid hydroplaning by keeping your tires inflated correctly. Maintain good tire tread. Don't put off replacing worn tires. Slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.

  4. If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car's computer will automatically pump the brakes much more effectively than a person can do.

  5. A defensive driver adjusts his or her speed to the wet road conditions in time to avoid having to use any of these measures.
Weatherize Your Passenger Car for Rain

When it comes to driving in rain, there is nothing more important than having a good set of wiper blades. Windshield wiper blades are not meant to last forever. Most experts believe they should be changed at least twice a year or every 6,000 miles. But studies have shown that the average motorist changes his or her wiper blades just once every two or three years. As a result, many drivers are using blades that are cracked or frayed and not able to properly clear rain from the windshield.

The rubber blade portion of the wiper is replaceable -- either as a rubber refill or a complete blade assembly -- and has a limited lifespan of just a few years. Leading wiper blade manufacturers like ANCO, Bosch and Trico, sell a range of blades for different weather conditions. Use their handy replacement chart to find the right one for your passenger car. Most consumers can replace the rubber refill or put on a new wiper blade assembly themselves by carefully following the directions on the package.

Goodyear engineers invented the original Aquatred tire over 10 years ago after listening to consumers who said they wanted longer tread wear and improved traction on rain-slick roads. Goodyear is now on its third version of the tire that helped define the "rain tire" category. Aquatreds range in price from $72 to $1,100, depending on tire size. Almost all tire manufacturers have at least one tire with wide center grooves and a tread pattern designed to remove water efficiently.

Last year I participated in a tire demonstration sponsored by Bridgestone/Firestone. One test had us slamming on the brakes at nearly 55 mph in a wet traction zone. From that experience I learned that having good tires that can stop quickly on rain slick roads is essential and potentially life-saving.

When looking for rain tires, there are a couple of important things to consider: wet-traction handling and wet-braking distance. Take time to compare results among the tire manufacturers to see how they stack up. You can find additional tire care and consumer safety information by visiting the Department of Transportation (www.dot.gov) and the National Highway Trafffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.dot.gov).

A good rain repellant will help give you a clear view of the road ahead. It is sprayed on your windshield before driving, providing an invisible film to repel rain from your window. The most popular brand is Rain-X, but other good alternatives are Amsoil Rain Clear Windshield Protectant and Aquapel Glass Treatment from Automotive International.

Another rain accessory you might consider buying is WeatherFlectors. Made of lightly tinted cast acrylic, the product installs inside the top of the window channel using a precision-machined, micro-thin mounting flange. On rainy days you can partially open your window without getting soaked, allowing an added bit of ventilation to remove stale or smoky air. Expect to spend about $80.

Overheating

A common cause of breakdowns is overheating, especially during summertime.

Your cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled as recommended in your owner's manual. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.)

If your car overheats — or if you are doing regular maintenance at home — never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled.

A professional should check the tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses.

Tire Care

Tire care, while important throughout the year, is especially critical in warm weather because long trips, heavy loads, high speeds and higher temperatures all put additional stress on your tires.

  • Check your tires regularlyto be sure there are no visible signs of wear or damage.
  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated. Check your tire pressure often with a gauge, especially on long trips. Measure when the tires are cold, before you drive on them. You can find the recommended inflation pressure in your owner's manual, on a label frequently found in the glove box, near the door latch on the driver's side, or other locations on your vehicle. The recommended inflation pressure is not to be confused with the maximum inflation pressure shown on the side of the tire. At the recommended inflation pressure, tires will last longer and be less likely to fail, and the car will use less fuel. Serious injury can result from tire failure because of under inflation or overloading.
  • Never overload your vehicle. Your car and tires are designed to operate safely only up to their load limits. These limits are shown in your owner's manual and on the certification plate on the edge of the driver's door.
  • Make sure there is enough tread on the tire to operate safely, and make sure the tires are wearing normally. All grooves should be visible and deep enough to at least touch the top of Lincoln's head on a penny inserted head first in the tread. Low tread or bald tires are unsafe and need to be replaced.
  • If some spots on the tire seem to be wearing faster than others, see your service station or mechanic. You could have misaligned wheels, worn shock absorbers, or other potential problems. Make sure your tires are aligned and balanced properly.
  • Don't drive at a high rate of speed for a long time, particularly in hot weather. Obey posted speed limits. Lower speeds also mean better gas mileage.
Pop-up Storms

Storms can crop up suddenly and present substantial hazards on the road; especially during Summer. Follow these safety tips when severe weather hits:

  • Flash flooding: When driving, know the depth of water in a dip before crossing. Be aware that the road bed may not be intact under the water. If the vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately; seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away.
  • Tornadoes: Leave your vehicle, and go to a substantial shelter. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your hands shielding your head. Be alert for rapidly rising waters in the ditch.
Protecting children and pets

On hot days, the temperature inside vehicles can climb rapidly and may exceed 100 degrees. Be very careful with children and pets -- even when you're at home and the car is parked.

  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks -- even at home -- and keep keys out of children's reach.
  • Always make sure all child passengers have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't overlook sleeping infants.
  • When securing your child in a safety restraint system in a car that has been parked in the heat, check to make sure seating surfaces and equipment (child safety seat and safety belt buckles) aren't too hot.
  • Use a light covering to shade the seat of your parked car. Consider using shades on windows.
Air Quality

Summer sunshine, heat and car exhaust create a toxic cocktail -- ozone pollution. Ozone can cause respiratory problems and even permanent lung damage. Here are some steps you can take to cut down on pollution when you drive:

  • Drive less, especially during peak traffic periods or hot days.
  • Avoid revving or idling engine over 30 seconds.
  • Fill gas tank during cooler evening hours to cut down on evaporation.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned.
Driving in Snow and Ice

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Don't go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared (TIPS), and that you know how to handle road conditions.

It's helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you're familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner's manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Driving safely on icy roads

  1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  6. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  8. Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  9. Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your rear wheels skid...

  1. Take your foot off the accelerator.
  2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.
  3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
  4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid...

  1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.
  2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck...

  1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
  4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
  5. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
  6. Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.
Winterize Your Car

Driving in the winter means snow, sleet and ice that can lead to slower traffic, hazardous road conditions, hot tempers and unforeseen dangers. To help you make it safely through winter, here are some suggestions from the National Safety Council to make sure that you and your vehicle are prepared.

Weather
At any temperature -- 20° Fahrenheit below zero or 90° Fahrenheit above -- weather affects road and driving conditions and can pose serious problems. It is important to monitor forecasts on the Web, radio, TV, cable weather channel, or in the daily papers.

Your Car
Prepare your car for winter. Start with a checkup that includes:

  • Checking the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts.
  • Changing and adjusting the spark plugs.
  • Checking the air, fuel and emission filters, and the PCV valve.
  • Inspecting the distributor.
  • Checking the battery.
  • Checking the tires for air, sidewall wear and tread depth.
  • Checking antifreeze levels and the freeze line.

Your car should have a tune-up (check the owner's manual for the recommended interval) to ensure better gas mileage, quicker starts and faster response on pick-up and passing power.

Necessary Equipment
An emergency situation on the road can arise at any time and you must be prepared. In addition to making sure you have the tune-up, a full tank of gas, and fresh anti-freeze, you should carry the following items in your trunk:

  • Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack
  • Shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow and tire chains
  • Bag of salt or cat litter
  • Tool kit

Essential Supplies
Be prepared with a "survival kit" that should always remain in the car. Replenish after use. Essential supplies include:

  • Working flashlight and extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles and brightly-colored cloth
  • Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Exterior windshield cleaner
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container
  • Scissors and string/cord
  • Non-perishable, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy.

In addition, if you are driving long distances under cold, snowy, and icy conditions, you should also carry supplies to keep you warm such as heavy woolen mittens, socks, a cap and blankets.

If You Become Stranded...

  • Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation.
  • To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.
  • If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.
  • To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm.
  • Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.
  • Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist.

Auto Insurance for Teenagers

Parents of newly minted drivers have much to fret about, with research showing that concerns about teen driving top all other parental worries. In addition to lost sleep, count on significant additional expenses, too. Parents can expect their auto premiums to nearly double when adding a teen driver, because 16-year-olds are nearly 10 times more likely to get into accidents than other drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Controlling Auto Insurance Costs for Your Teenager

You can impact these expenditures and still maintain good coverage with these ten effective ways to control teen auto insurance costs:

  • Add your teen to your policy rather than buying separate coverage. The premium rates will typically reflect a combined history of all drivers on the policy.
  • Unless your teen drives an insured vehicle more than anyone else, you will save additional money by designating her an “occasional driver” rather than a principal driver.
  • Insurance costs will be far higher on new and sporty cars, and higher on two-door cars than four-door cars.
  • If the car is more than six or seven years old, consider buying liability insurance but not collision or comprehensive insurance, or at a minimum get a high collision deductible.
  • Get plenty of liability coverage, at least 100/300/50.
  • If you don’t already have one, get an umbrella policy which adds at least $1 million to your auto or homeowner’s liability protection. It’s comparatively the
    Cheapest Car Insurance ® and it’s frighteningly easy to run up seven-figure medical and legal costs with catastrophic crashes.
  • Recheck your rates frequently. Many rates for teens drop every six months to a year.
  • Some insurers will give a discount if your child has a “B” average. Ask.
  • Have your teen be responsible for paying an affordable portion of her insurance costs. Determine from your agent exactly what the increased amount would be if she gets a traffic violation, and let her know that she will be responsible for the entire amount of any such increase.
  • Some insurers offer discounts if teens answer surveys about their driving attitudes and fill out a log sheet recording details of a specified number of driving episodes shortly after they are licensed. You may also be able to obtain a discount by following the Crashproof Plan or signing a Crashproof Contract with your teen.

Teen Safe Driving Practices

Avoiding crashes can save a fortune in repair and medical costs, too. Five key ways to help your teen avoid crashes:

  • To reduce rear-end crashes, teach your teen how to emergency brake and to maintain a four-second following distance from the car in front of them.
  • Reduce or eliminate distractions. Each teen passenger added to a car driven by a teen increases the crash risk by 50%. Making or taking a cell phone call while driving has the equivalent impact on mental focus of a .08 blood alcohol level—legal intoxication!
  • Insist on seat-belt use. Forty percent of teens still don’t use them, and many deaths and injuries could be avoided with their use.
  • Spend 50 to 100 hours behind the wheel with your teen in a variety of different driving and weather conditions over a 6 to 12 month period after they get their license.
  • Be a great role model. They’re watching (and imitating) you. If you roll through stop signs, exhibit road rage, or speed, so will your kids.


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