Blog

FREE Car Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top car insurance companies and save!

Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Latest Articles

Have a question about your car insurance? Check out our latest articles from state and city guides to car and company reviews and everything in between.

The 20 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities for Cyclists [+Death Totals]

The 20 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities for Cyclists [+Death Totals]

Commuters looking to reduce their environmental footprint may want to think twice about safety before hopping on a bike. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of cyclist deaths has been rapidly increasing over the past several years. In 2017 alone, there were 783 cyclist fatalities nationwide, a 25 percent increase since 2010.

Increases in cyclist fatalities have occurred alongside increases in bike share programs and the number of cyclists commuting to work. In 2017, there were nearly 800,000 commuters nationwide who rode their bicycles to work, representing 0.5 percent of all commuters. While the share of bike commuters has remained steady in recent years, the fatality rate per 100,000 bike commuters is at a ten-year high.
Although cyclist fatalities have been on the rise nationwide, the risk varies widely by location.

Between 2014 and 2017, California, Florida, and Texas, were responsible for about 41 percent of all cyclist fatalities in the U.S., despite accounting for only 27 percent of the population.
When comparing fatality rates (per commuter or per resident), the most dangerous areas are clustered in the Southeastern U.S. Despite warmer weather, these states also report below-average rates of bike commuters—possibly the result of dangerous riding conditions.
With the rise of bike share programs and an increased emphasis on more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, cycling is likely to continue growing in popularity, especially in major cities. To identify which cities are most dangerous for cyclists, our researchers here at CarInsurance.org analyzed fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the period 2014-2017, as well as population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
They ranked cities by the number of bike fatalities per 100,000 bike commuters. Only cities with at least one cyclist fatality per year and at least 100,000 residents were included in the analysis. Consistent with the findings at the state level, 13 of the 20 most dangerous cities for cyclists are in Florida, California, or Texas.

Keep reading to discover the full list of the most dangerous cities for biking in the United States.

Top 20 Most Dangerous Cities for Cyclists

#20 - Miami, Florida

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 193
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 9.0
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 16
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 2,073
Population: 443,007

#19 - Phoenix, Arizona

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 201
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 6.5
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 41
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 12%
Number of bike commuters: 5,090
Population: 1,574,421

DID YOU KNOW?
Making smart choices behind the wheel can be both safer and cheaper. Learn driver safety tips and how to save money on gas here at CarInsurance.org.

#18 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 204
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 14.1
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 10
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 1,225
Population: 177,175

#17 - Modesto, California

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 239
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 4.8
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 4
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 419
Population: 210,166

#16 - San Antonio, Texas

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 243
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 2.2
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 13
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 8%
Number of bike commuters: 1,340
Population: 1,461,623

#15 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 250
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 2.4
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 6
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 601
Population: 629,191

TRENDING
Do you have to call the police after an accident? Learn about this and other driving laws and tips here at CarInsurance.org.

#14 - Lafayette, Louisiana

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 251
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 13.8
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 7
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 696
Population: 126,476

#13 - Arlington, Texas

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 262
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 2.6
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 4
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 382
Population: 388,225

#12 - Charlotte, North Carolina

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 267
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 2.7
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 9
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 11%
Number of bike commuters: 843
Population: 826,060

#11 - Bakersfield, California

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 293
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 6.0
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 9
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 768
Population: 372,680

#10 - Lakeland, Florida

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 299
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 9.6
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 4
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 25%
Number of bike commuters: 335
Population: 104,165

#9 - Memphis, Tennessee

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 309
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 2.7
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 7
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 567
Population: 654,723

#8 - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 319
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 8.8
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 8
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 627
Population: 227,549

RELATED
Our researchers at CarInsurance.org recently published one of the internet’s most comprehensive insurance resource centers. It includes agent and broker reviews, company financial ratings, guides, regulatory information, and more.

#7 - Stockton, California

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 327
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 7.4
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 9
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 688
Population: 304,358

#6 - Chula Vista, California

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 358
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 4.7
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 5
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 349
Population: 264,101

#5 - Pompano Beach, Florida

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 417
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 16.3
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 7
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 420
Population: 107,542

#4 - Dayton, Ohio

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 459
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 7.1
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 4
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 25%
Number of bike commuters: 218
Population: 140,939

#3 - San Bernardino, California

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 578
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 8.1
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 7
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 14%
Number of bike commuters: 303
Population: 215,252

#2 - Abilene, Texas

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 1,116
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 10.2
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 5
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 112
Population: 122,762

#1 - Cape Coral, Florida

Annual bike fatalities per 100K commuters: 1,333
Annual bike fatalities per 1M residents: 5.8
Total bike fatalities (last 4 years): 4
Share of fatalities where cyclist wore a helmet: 0%
Number of bike commuters: 75
Population: 173,679

Methodology & Detailed Findings
Cyclist fatality statistics were obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the period 2014-2017. Population statistics, including total city population and age distribution, as well as cyclist commuting rates, were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

The cities in this analysis were ranked according to the cyclist fatality rate.
Cyclist fatality rates were calculated as the average number of cyclist fatalities in the city for the period 2014-2017 per 100,000 estimated cycling commuters in 2017.
All cities included in the final list had a population of at least 100,000, as well as at least one cyclist death per year.

A closer look at the data yields additional insights into fatal cycling accidents. For example, adults over 45 are more likely to be involved in a fatal bicycling accident than younger people. More specifically, nearly 60 percent of cycling fatalities between 2014-2017 involved victims over the age of 45.

Furthermore, more than 60 percent of fatal bike accidents occur outside of intersections on open roads. In 38 percent of fatal bike accidents, the motorist was at fault. By contrast, the cyclist was deemed to be at fault only 31 percent of the time. In the remaining cases, fault was unknown or not reported.

Despite rising cyclist fatality rates, there are many things that can be done at the individual level to improve cycling safety. According to NHTSA, bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent.

Interestingly, only about 16 percent of cyclists involved in fatal accidents were known to be wearing helmets. For cyclists, wearing a helmet and adhering to traffic rules (such as riding in the same direction as cars) can reduce the risk of collision or fatal injury. In addition, reducing distractions such as texting can make cycling a safer mode of transportation.

Chart Showing All Study Results

Read More
How have cars gotten safer in the past 40 years?

How have cars gotten safer in the past 40 years?

It is estimated that over 87 percent of people wear their seat belts. Laws require babies and young children to have the proper seat restraint, and children under the age of 12 cannot sit in the front seat. However, it wasn’t always this way.

Over the past 40 years, several modifications have been made to cars and new laws and practices have been introduced. Other technological advances that have been made, such as GPS have revolutionized the way that we get around today. We interviewed car experts to find help us put together a comprehensive timeline of the past 40 years. Let’s take a look at the timeline and see how far we have come:
The 1980s
1984: “New York State passed the first U.S. law requiring seat belt use in passenger cars. Seat belt laws have since been adopted by 49 states (New Hampshire has not). NHTSA estimates the resulting increased seat belt use saves 10,000 lives per year in the United States.” – Lauren Fix, the Car Coach

1985 - 1998: The NHTSA (National HighwayTraffic Safety Administration) began using crash test dummies in vehicles and slamming them at high speeds in cement walls.
"They would videotape these crash tests and televise them countrywide to scare people into wearing their seat belts. Since then, many states will ticket you if you aren't wearing your seat belt.” - Ethan Lichtenberg, research expert here at CarInsurance.org.
These ads portrayed Vince and Larry, crash test dummy characters. The ad used humor and the negative examples of Vince and Larry to help viewers understand the importance of wearing a seat belt. Often, the punchline was that they didn’t wear their seat belts because they were “dummies.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANAlT4pjRDI

1986: “The central third brake light was mandated in North America with most of the world following with similar standards in automotive lighting.” – Lauren Fix

Congress enacted the Motor Vehicle Enforcement Act in order to reduce motor vehicle theft. They provided simple steps to follow in order to help with this.

Park in a well-lit area
Take your keys with you
Close and lock all windows and doors when you park
Never leave valuables in your vehicle

The 1990s
1991: We Have a Little Emergency (W.H.A.L.E) was implemented. W.H.A.L.E requires drivers with children in the car to place stickers on both of the rear windows of their vehicle so that, in the case of a wreck, emergency personnel can identify that there is a child if the parent is not able to tell them.

1993: The NHTSA implemented the 5-Star Safety Rating Program so that consumers would be better informed on how safe certain vehicles were. A vehicle that received a five-star rating was the safest.

1995: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began frontal offset crash tests. Also in the same year, Volvo introduced the world's first car with side airbags.

1999: Dual airbags were required by the Federal Government, one for the driver and the passenger.

The 2000s
2000: The NHTSA instituted a new regulation, making trunk releases mandatory for new cars by September of the following year. They also made it mandatory for vehicle manufacturers to report safety recalls and information on injury or death related to their products.

2003: The IIHS began conducting side-impact crash tests.
The “Click it or Ticket” campaign went National.
2004: NHTSA released new tests designed to test the rollover risk of new cars and SUVs. Only the Mazda RX-8 got a five-star rating.

2007: Electronic Stability Control is introduced which uses computer-controlled braking to individual wheels to help drivers keep control of their car. Between 2008 to 2018, the NHTSA estimated that this advancement saved 2,202 lives.

2009: NHTSA upgraded its roof-crush standard for vehicles weighing 6,000 pounds or less. The new standard increased the crush load requirement from 1.5 to 3 times the vehicle's curb weight.
The 2010s
2010: The statistics on every vehicle produced in the United States were made available to determine the safety of vehicles. This leads to car manufacturers making safer cars so they can shoot to the top of this list.

2012: All cars under 10,000 lbs sold in the United States are required to have Electronic Stability Control.

2014: ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) were introduced, which also added the driver seat belt reminder.
What’s in store for the future?

Today, we have more technological advances available in cars than we have ever had before. Items such as V2V, which is in the test phase, will provide Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication with the hopes of reducing accidents. This technology will send information to nearby other cars about speed, location, and direction.
Self-driving cars are also being tested, with Tesla leading the pack with their model Y releasing in 2020.
This will help with the growing number of fatal crashes each year that are caused by distracted driving. Who knows what will be possible with cars in the next 40 years?

Guest Author:
Riley Clark is a marketing writer for BestCompany.com. She specializes in car warranties and mortgages.

Read More
If I crash my motorcycle on debris left in the road, who pays?

If I crash my motorcycle on debris left in the road, who pays?

It’s no secret that insurance can get a bit complicated. Perhaps one of the most complicated areas of insurance is determining who is responsible for paying for damages when accidents occur. A lot of times the answer is cut and dry, but other times it isn’t so simple.
One of the areas where insurance can get a little complicated is when a wreck is caused by debris on the road, more specifically when a motorcycle wrecks on debris in the road.
No matter how vigilant or careful you ride, some accidents are unavoidable. Even with all of the modern motorcycle safety features, accidents still occur. So if you hit debris in the road and wreck your motorcycle, who pays? Let’s take a look at four scenarios and see what type of insurance coverage will likely be footing the bill.

Let’s jump straight into the first scenario!

#1 - Truck Litters Roadway with Debris
With all of the trash being hauled up and down the roads each day, it’s no surprise that sometimes it falls into the road from time to time. Whether it’s construction debris, limbs from a downed tree, or trash being transported, these objects can pose risks to unsuspecting motorcyclists.

The Scenario- Here’s the scenario. You are riding your motorcycle behind a truck hauling debris that isn’t properly covered. While you are behind the truck, some debris falls out of the truck and causes you to wreck your motorcycle.

Who Pays? According to Personal Injury Law, if the debris was not secured properly, the damage would be covered under the truck driver’s auto insurance policy. Alternatively, if it was a work or construction vehicle, their business liability or umbrella insurance may cover the incident.

In either scenario, whether the offending driver is distracted, or simply doesn't notice what happened behind them, it is unlikely they will stop. So you will want to collect any information you can immediately, which may be difficult if there are no witnesses.

But what if you don’t know where the debris came from? Then you will have to check out scenario two.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK09nGUhKr8
#2 - Debris Left By Unknown Source
Debris on the roadway can be caused by a lot of things. Trees drop their leaves in the fall. Branches break in a storm and fall into the road. And of course, as with the previous scenario, a truck’s uncovered litter can fly out. The list truly goes on and on. Of course, leaving debris such as grass on the road is illegal, but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it from happening.

The Scenario - You are riding down the road on your motorcycle. As you round a turn, you strike debris in the road, causing you to lose traction and wreck. Unlike the first scenario, you don’t know who left the debris, or whether it was a natural occurrence. Either way, there is no responsible party to be found.

Who Pays? If you strike debris on the roadway, and can’t determine the source or the source is natural, you will have to turn to your own auto insurance or Med Pay will cover the bill.

#3 - Company Leaves Debris on the Road
In the previous two scenarios, we looked at incidents where a vehicle left debris on the road. What if a company deposits debris into the road, but this time it’s not dropped from a vehicle? What type of insurance will foot the bill then? Let’s take a look.

The Scenario - This scenario can occur in several ways. Perhaps it’s lawn clippings blown into the road by a landscaping company. Or maybe a construction company puts trash on the road or curb for pick up. Either way, the debris causes you to wreck your motorcycle.

Who Pays? In this scenario, if negligence is proven, a claim would go against the company’s liability or umbrella insurance.
#4 - Homeowner Leaves Debris on the Road
This one is quick, but the insurance is very specific, and it’s worth mentioning. Let’s look at a slight variation of scenario three.

The Scenario - In this scenario, debris is left on the road again as in scenario three. However, this time the debris is left in the road by the resident of the home itself.

Who Pays? In this instance, it will be the resident’s renters or homeowner’s insurance covering the cost.

What’s the bottom line?
Even the most avid motorcycle collectors can be easily overwhelmed by all of the nuances posed by insurance coverage. Hopefully, these four scenarios will simplify the situation a bit.
It should be noted that anytime you wreck your bike on debris in the road you can turn to your own insurance for coverage. Additionally, negligence will also have to be proven to determine the fault of an offending party. But that is a different article entirely!
However, you should always try avoiding an insurance claim and potentially raising your rates. It only makes sense to do so. If you have any more questions about a motorcycle or car insurance, be sure to search for other topics on this website.

Author Bio: Douglas Dedrick is a landscaper with over a decade of experience and a writer on several topics including lawn care, landscaping, and law. Connect with him or read more at Healing Law.

Read More
Car Insurance with Telematics (The Complete Guide)

Car Insurance with Telematics (The Complete Guide)

Insurers use a wide variety of factors to determine your insurance rates. The underlying assumption is that all these factors will help them determine how likely are you to file a claim.

Since the insurance company is looking to earn a profit from every policy they write, it wants to make sure that the price (i.e., your premium) is proportional to the risk.

Each claim that you file is an outlay and will reduce the profit of the insurance company. Therefore, your insurer will ask you about your age, marital status, gender, your credit score, and your driving history.

Each of these is used to estimate your driving behavior. E.g., teens are considered high-risk drivers and therefore pay the highest premium amongst policyholders in the voluntary insurance market. On the other hand, insurers may consider a married individual risk-averse.

However, all these are estimations of your driving behavior. Some teens can be risk-averse, whereas a married person can drive recklessly.

What if you do not need to estimate driver behavior? What if your insurance premium is customized based on your driving style?

You stand to save a lot on premiums by driving safely. Whereas, your insurer can accurately price your premium based on driving behavior. Your insurer can quote a competitive rate and at the same time, correctly manage their risk.

No more estimators but data-driven insurance assessment.

This is the promise of telematics.

In this guide, we will help you understand everything that you need to know about telematics in car insurance.

Ready to compare car insurance rates? Enter your zip code in our free tool above.

Telematics in Auto Insurance
Before understanding the benefits of the use of telematics in auto insurance, we should understand the current statistics in road safety.

Road safety is important for only you or the insurer but also for the government. While safer roads would mean fewer claims for insurance companies, the government wants to make roads safer for the residents.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 37,133 fatalities due to crashes in 2017. According to NHTSA, speeding resulted in 9,794 deaths in 2017.

If you count major and minor crashes, there were 6.5 million crashes with 2.7 million injury victims.

All stakeholders, including you, insurance companies, and the governments, will want to reduce these trends.

However, how do you do it?

Governments use traffic tickets, license points, and educational programs to improve driving behavior on the road.

Insurance companies may award discounts for a clean driving record.

But all the incentives and fines do not measure driver behavior. Instead, insurance companies calculate these based on past data rather than present patterns of behavior.

Telematics can provide real-time data that measure driver behavior and help insurance companies understand their risk.

Vehicle telematics is a method to monitor a moving vehicle with GPS and onboard diagnostics to provide a real-time stream of data.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT0Ax1SMM5U

The data collected by the telematics system can then be used to measure your driver event data.
Driver events data may include miles clocked, acceleration & deceleration, cornering speed, etc.
The data from telematics systems can be used to track stolen cars or help manage the maintenance schedule.

However, the first products introduced in the market are basic usage-based insurance policies. This basic pay-as-you-drive (PAYD) insurance products are essentially priced based on the number of miles you drive.

PAYD or otherwise called usage-based insurance, determine your insurance rate based on the following:

How much you drive
When do you drive
Where do you drive

Watch this brief video to understand usage-based insurance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht6N9Fkauts&t=80s

This data will help insurance companies determine the risk associated with your driving events.

However, the telematics insurance industry has evolved beyond the basic PAYD. In this section, we will understand the different types of telematics systems in the market and the type of data collected by insurance companies.
— What are the types of usage-based car insurance?
The basic usage-based car insurance (UBI) is only concerned with the miles you clock. The parameters measured include distance, time, and location.

Now, let us understand how this basic system useful for an insurance company:

Let us assume that you are driving a reasonable distance but are usually out in the night-time.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nighttime driving is three times more fatal than daytime driving. Insurance companies generally consider after dark to be riskier than day-time driving and, therefore, may tag your driving schedule riskier than average.

However, there are now more sophisticated systems to understand driver behavior.

While UBI or PAYD gives financial incentives to drive less, other programs such as pay-how-you-drive (PHYD) plans will measure your driving style to calculate risk.

In a PHYD plan, the car's telemetric system will measure vehicle speed, acceleration, braking, corning speed, etc.

The factors used in pay-how-you-drive systems utilize real-time data to create a bespoke insurance plan.
— How do insurers collect driving data?
But, how does telematics systems record your driving data?

Different applications require different types of devices or methods to record your data.

Some insurance companies may use your phone to record and report the driving behavior using an application. However, some systems may require you to install a device in your car that will record and transmit driving events.

However, before we understand the different devices, let us first understand what a telematics device is?

Insurance companies provide telematics devices that connect with GPS and onboard electronics to record your driving behavior.
— Devices used in Telematics Systems
As we mentioned, different telematics systems use different devices to record your driving data.

Here are the common devices used:

Most conventional systems use either mobile applications or devices that can be plugged into the on-board diagnostics port (OBD II Port). OBD II port is available in all cars manufactured in the last 25 years.

Watch the following video to learn how to find the OBD II port in your car:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKvNft0dLBU
What is an OBD II port?

If your car is manufactured after 1996, you most probably can find an OBD II port (on-board diagnostics) in your car. It's an on-board computer that can connect to a range of scanners and provide data on speeding, mileage, emissions, and much more.
Various types of devices used in telematics systems include:

Mobile Application: Insurer provided mobile application uses smartphone sensors to track driver-behavior data. The smartphone app transmits data from your phone to the central server of the insurance company. Mobile applications can monitor braking, speed, acceleration, and cornering.
All major insurers provide an option to use mobile applications in select locations.  E.g., State Farm offers a mobile app in its 'Drive Safe & Save' plan.
Bluetooth Assisted Devices: These are self-powered fixed vehicle devices that use your smartphone network to relay driving data to the insurer. These fixed devices enable direct association of the trip data with the insured vehicle. E.g., telematics systems may use Bluetooth-assisted devices to track driver behavior.
OBD II Port: This is an onboard computer that monitors all vehicle data, including driver behavior, vehicle maintenance, emissions, etc. The device is plugged into the OBD II port and can transmit the data using the cellular network. E.g., Progressive provides customers an option to use the OBD II port for their telematics insurance plan.
12 V Connector: Companies such as Bosch offers plug and play devices that are useful for customers who may not OBD II connectivity. These are easy to use and doesn't require a battery backup. The device can transmit driver behavior data to your smartphone over Bluetooth.
OEM: Auto manufacturers may also equip a vehicle with in-built telematics functionality. Usually, these are devices independent and provides additional functionality for the users.  E.g., OnStar (by General Motors) or mbrace (by Mercedes) are two examples of OEM installed telematics systems that come with additional functionalities.

Here's a brief introduction to the mbrace system from Mercedes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2r4Ks0FKSA
— What data is collected using different Telematic Systems
Different telematics systems collect different levels of data.

The detail provided with each device is directly proportional to the expense or complexity of installing that device.

Here's a brief comparison of different telematics systems:

 

As you can see, OEM devices can provide you the highest level of detail. However, the cost to implement and update such systems is also the highest for the car manufacturer.

While smartphones are the quickest and cheapest to implement, they are also restricted by the quality and availability of onboard sensors.

The two devices that can connect to your car and are most comfortable to manage are 12 V connector and OBD II port scanners. These devices are easier to install and can capture additional data points with better accuracy. They use the smartphone Bluetooth and cellular network to transmit the data to the central database.

Here's the summary of the data collected using different systems:

Now, let us review the different options offered by some of the major car insurance providers:

Progressive: Under their SnapShot coverage, Progressive provides telematics-based insurance. The product relays your driving behavior data along with miles, location, and time through a smartphone application.

Travelers: The Intellidrive program from Travelers is a telematics system designed to tailor insurance plans based on driving behavior. Intellidrive uses a mobile application that you need to install on your smartphone. The app will record and score your driving behavior for 90 days, after which Travelers may tweak your insurance plan based on driving behavior.

MetroMile: If you drive less than 10,000 miles in a year, you can save on premiums using MetroMile. The insurance is solely a pay-per-mile insurance product and doesn't record your driving behavior.

Esurance: Esurance offers telematics insurance under DriveSense that requires you to install an application on your smartphone to record driving behavior. You will have to log at least 50 trips in an insurance term to benefit from insurance discounts.
Growth of Telematics in Auto Insurance
Technology is now in everything that we do.

Data availability is changing and evolving many traditional ways of our lives, including auto insurance.

In this section, we will understand how telematics insurance started and where are we headed with this new technology.
— What is the history of telematics technology?
The growth of computation power, coupled with the ability to record real-time data, has created a lot of possibilities for data-driven decision making.

Telematics insurance is also an example of real-time data collection, creating a whole new way of revolutionizing auto insurance.

Telematics technology became a possibility when, in 1996, President Clinton made GPS an international utility. This declaration meant that the use of GPS is available for private citizens for free.

The turning point in telematics implementation was when Progressive Insurance filed for a user-based insurance patent "Motor vehicle monitoring system for determining a cost of insurance." This paved the way for the current of user-based insurance products available in the market today.

The first products to hit the market were the vehicle tracking fleet management systems. Slow data transmissions, the tracking was limited in frequency.

However, with data transmission dropping in price, the systems were able to track vehicles with more real-time updates.

The first smartphone application that tracked vehicle miles was launched in 2010. Metromile introduced its pay-per-mile product in 2011 that offered consumers discounts for driving less.

However, modern telematics systems are increasingly complex due to the advancements in technologies across automotive, smartphone, and data transfer speeds.

— What is the future of telematics-based insurance?
From simple location tracking, telematics systems of today are equipped to record your driving behavior, vehicle status, emissions, etc.

In a fleet management system, the operator can now remotely identify the type of maintenance required, provide in-trip feedback to the driver, and manage fuel consumption.

However, telematics technology is still in infancy. Telematics insurers are providing discounts to users for merely signing up for the product.

Why?

Well, both insurance and automotive manufacturers are realizing the potential of telematics technology.

According to TomTom, 88 percent of all global cars will feature integrated telematics. Whereas according to Verisk, more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States by 2020 will be able to connect with the internet.
Consider that only 5 percent of cars in the United States were connected in 2016.
The surge of data available with so many connected cars will create new ways of product differentiation and even allow companies to spawn entire new lines of business. Consumers, automakers, insurance companies, and governments can benefit from the car data generated by telematics systems.

According to Mckinsey, the global car-data-monetization pool is expected to grow to $750 billion by 2030. The United States is leading the pack with the highest rate of penetration in the voluntary-use of telematics systems.

According to a report by Global Market Insights, the global usage-based insurance market is expected to grow to $107 billion compared to the current level of $37 billion.

The North American market will hold 34 percent market share of the global usage-based insurance.

Several factors can fuel the growth of the telematics insurance market:
In-built telematics: The increasing number of connected cars with OEM installed telematics solutions combined with rapidly growing cloud-based telematics solutions can increase the consumer base.

Ease of usage: The in-built systems may also make it very easy for consumers to use the telematics system. The user doesn't have to install anything on the car or smartphone.

Value-added services: What might tilt the needle towards the voluntary adaptability of telematics systems might be the value-added services provided by automobile manufacturers. The in-built telematics systems provide automobile manufacturers flexibility to include various value-added services such as predictive vehicle maintenance through remote diagnostics, car theft protection, roadside assistance, and much more.
Watch the following video by Mercedes as they explain the benefits of mbrace, their in-built telematics solution:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQP0x27Ubho&t=154s
Benefits of telematics-based auto insurance
Telematics systems have a wide variety of applications for insurance providers, fleet managers, automobile manufacturers, etc.

In this section, we will explore some of the benefits of using a telematics-based system for different stakeholders.
— What are the different types of telematics systems?
Before we understand the benefits of a telematics system, let us review the different applications.

We understand that many auto insurers are offering telematics-based auto insurance to consumers.

However, that is not the only use of a telematics system. Some companies and industries have been using different variants of the technology for several years.

Let us review some of the other applications of telematics systems.

Motorsports - You can find the most advanced use of telematics implementation in a top-tier motorsports event.

In a Formula-1 race, teams track their car's speed, engine performance, fuel consumption, tire degradation, maintenance diagnostics, steering angle, and much more.
Each F1 car has 120 sensors producing 1.1 million telemetry data points per second.
Watch this brief video to understand how telematics has changed the face of motorsports:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phCSmKjBfEc

Satellite Navigation - Mapping and navigation applications such as Google Maps, TomTom, and Garmin have been providing satellite navigation and traffic update to the consumer.

Companies providing navigation services can some times use your location data to calculate the vehicle density on the roads. It can use your location data to detect the estimated speed and distance to your destination.

Here's a short video explaining how the sat navs work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIELdEhiskc

Fleet Management - Fleet operators such as logistics companies, shipping companies, or taxi operators use telematics devices to manage and optimize their operations.

Fleet management companies were the first to use vehicle tracking.  Fleet telematics systems can help companies track vehicles, run diagnostics, providing drivers with real-time feedback, help save fuel, and much more.

Connected Cars - Automakers have realized that telematics technology can create a whole new revenue source. The automakers are now creating in-built systems that not only provide the relevant data for stakeholders (such as insurance companies) but engaging and useful for the consumers.

According to RBC Capital Markets, the connected car market will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 25 percent in the coming decade. The complex systems may provide different features to consumers based on vehicle manufacturers but will aim to track driving-related information that can be used in the future.
— What are the benefits of telematics systems?
We understand that telematics systems have a wide variety of applications across different industries. The recent growth in telematics systems is due to the benefits each stakeholder may achieve from the generated data.

In this section, we will analyze the benefits of using the telematics system.
— What are the benefits of telematics for motorists?

Lower premiums - The primary benefit for you is lower premiums. If you are a good driver, you can benefit from a lower rate that accurately measures your risk factor. Insurance companies will calculate your rates based on driving behavior and location rather than your lifestyle, home address, and credit score. A teen driver can hope to reduce the premium based on good driving behavior substantially.
Driver feedback - You can also receive reports and driver feedback from data generated from the telematics system. It can help you improve driving characteristics and may reduce the chance of an accident.
Connected cars - If your car has an in-built system, the chances are that you have access to a connected system that can provide you value-added services. E.g., you may have access to automatic emergency notification that dispatches emergency services to your car's location if airbags are deployed. Value-added services may also include vehicle locator, remote unlocking, etc.
Theft protection - Telematic systems can not only track your stolen vehicle but also prevent it from starting after the ignition has been turned off. A telematics system may also be able to reduce the speed of your stolen car in case of a police chase.
Transparent claim process: Accident data will help insurers to identify who is at fault, making the claim process transparent.

You can watch this brief video by Edmunds.com to get a brief overview of the benefits of a telematics system:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XziGeDA7mYw
— What are the benefits of telematics for auto insurers?
Telematics systems are also beneficial for insurance companies. The traditional process of providing insurance cover was that a customer signed up for insurance and paid premiums calculated based on factors that 'estimated' the driving risk.

If the driver files for a claim, the insurance company may not know the factors that led to the accident. It also meant that insurance companies were not pricing the current risk.

Telematics systems are expected to revolutionize the auto insurance market. Here are the possible benefits for insurance companies:

Accurate risk assessment - Insurance companies can find direct risks associated with your driving style. The companies can provide you feedback and reduce the chance of a claim. The information in aggregate can also improve the market understanding of insurance companies regarding certain sections of the road/city/town.
Fighting insurance fraud - Telematics systems can help insurance companies fight insurance fraud by providing play-by-play action of the events that led to the accident. The insurance companies can accurately ascertain who was at fault for the accident.
Reduce claim costs - Driver feedbacks and discount incentives for good driver behavior can result in a general improvement in driving habits that can lead to reduced claims.

— What are the benefits of telematics for organizations with fleets?
Let us analyze some of the benefits that organizations with large fleet may find from telematics systems:

Vehicle Tracking - Companies such as FedEx or UBS might use vehicle tracking to estimate the time of delivery accurately. Law enforcement can also use vehicle tracking to locate and retrieve a vehicle in case of theft.
Remote diagnostics - Vehicle downtime can prove critical for a fleet operator. Telematics systems can inform them about maintenance requirements before a breakdown.
Driver feedback - Operators can track driver behavior and provide real-time feedback. This can help prevent accidents and improve fuel efficiency. Companies can also develop customized training programs to help drivers improve their ability
Fuel-saving - Fleet operators can now identify and retrain aggressive drivers, choose more fuel-efficient route, or improve vehicle performance using a telematics system
Network Optimization - Companies such as UBS have been using telematics to improve their network efficiency. The data collected can help them remove idle time in the system and reduce overheads.

Telematics and the Auto Insurance Law
Regulators have been supportive of the first movers of the usage-based insurance providers. However, as the industry is evolving and new challenges come to fore, regulators might change their stance.

Companies offering usage-based insurance products are currently subscribing consumers so that they have a sufficient database for actuarial calculations. The companies are not penalizing customers who sign up and showcase unsafe driving behavior.

However, companies will look to leverage the data they are gathering and match the premium to their risk exposure. At that point, safe drivers will likely get discounts, whereas unsafe drivers will see their premium rise.

As the industry will reach a threshold, lawmakers and regulators may challenge parts of a telematics-based insurance program. The regulators might enforce greater transparency in premium calculations to protect against discrimination.

Overall, road safety may be the most crucial aspect of usage-based insurance for governments and regulators.

In this section, let us review a few laws and regulations that may influence the telematics-based insurance market.
— What are the regulations on telematics and data privacy?
Telematics-based auto insurance is still in infancy, and therefore, the laws are not yet clear on data privacy and data ownership regulations.

The law is still evolving regarding who owns the data right from the telematics systems.  There are a few instances of state insurance and privacy laws that help protect customer information.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), federal laws provide customers some remedies if their information is sold to a third-party for commercial purposes.

However, we are still unsure as to who owns the data generated by the telematics system. The federal laws imply that customers must be the owners of the generated data.

But the good news is that state regulators are supporting the adoption of UBI programs.

E.g., the New York State Department of Financial Services issued a press release encouraging all New York insurers to adopt usage-based insurance plans.
— What are the regulations regarding fleet telematics?
In the United States, laws regarding the use of tracking devices for fleet management vary from state to state.

A large majority of US states allow employers to track their fleet. However, to track a vehicle, an employer has to meet the following conditions:

Employer owns the vehicle
Employer informs the employee or vehicle operator that they are monitoring the vehicle
Employer tracks the vehicle during agreed business hours

Remember, law enforcement can jail or penalize you if you track a vehicle that you do not own.

The quantum of punishment varies across different states.

Trends in usage-based auto insurance
The adoption of telematics-based auto insurance has been rapidly growing globally. Globally, rising urbanization and improved internet connectivity are expected to drive the adoption of telematics.

The United States has been leading the world in telematics adoption. Connected cars and electric vehicles are the two most significant factors that will support the adoption of telematics in the US.

Electric vehicles - Growing consumer demand for electric vehicles will lead to investment by automakers towards in-built telematics systems. A telematics system is critical for operating an electric vehicle.

Apart from tracking the regular driving, telematics systems in electric vehicles are also expected to provide some of the following services:

Locate the nearest fast-charging station
Reserve the nearest charging station
Ability to check the vehicle charging status remotely
Ability to control when to charge the vehicles remotely
Receive notification of completion or interruption in the charging process
Remotely operate HVAC systems in the car
Run diagnostics for battery health

Connected Cars - Increasingly, auto manufacturers are offering value-added services through the in-built telematics system. OEMs are offering new services such as restaurant reservations, ignition on notification, remote diagnostics, access to traffic cameras, and much more.

V2X Connectivity - Apart from relaying data to the OEM or your insurance providers, the telematics systems in your car can also connect with other connected cars or devices. V2X capability will allow your car to interact with smart traffic lights, toll road sensors, and other third-party applications.

A V2X system can relay critical information over a network and aid in collision avoidance, traffic updates, road hazard warning, and much more.

Data-centric ecosystem - Due to a large amount of data that is generated through vehicle tracking, a large number of companies and business models are emerging that did not exist before. Here is a brief snapshot of different types of companies that are now in the automotive and transportation market:

Parking lot management to help locate available parking
Third-party applications for vehicle Telematics
Automated driving
Cloud service providers
OEMs
Big data tool providers
Connected fleet management companies
Application developer platforms for telematics systems
Diagnostics apps
Connected electric vehicles
Augmented HUDs
Usage-based insurance
Mapping applications
Safety and security
Smart cities
V2X communication provider

Criticisms of Telematics in Auto Insurance
The telematics systems are still in their infancy and will continue to evolve as more and more people adopt the technology. However,  there are a few criticisms of usage-based insurance that might impact the adoption process.

In this section, we will discuss why telematics-based insurance is attracting criticism from various stakeholders.
— What are the disadvantages for consumers?
Even though insurers are offering sizeable discounts, some customers are reluctant to adopt telematics-based insurance. These are some of the concerns that might influence a consumer negatively about usage-based insurance:

Rate hike for some consumers: Many good drivers can hope to reduce their premiums. However, drivers who have to drive during the rush hour or at night may see their premium rates increase.
Unable to differentiate driver behavior: If you drive well but have to brake hard to prevent an accident, the system will record it as risky driver behavior. If you are driving in cities such as New York, you may end up spending more on your car insurance due to telematics-based insurance.
Privacy and safety of data: The data collected by the telematics systems may have a lot of information about where, when, and how you are driving. After using the telematics system, you may end up handing over a lot of personal information to your insurer.
See this brief video about privacy and data concern regarding telematics insurance:
Unintended Driver Behavior: In a quest to get additional discounts, drivers can adapt their driving behavior for minimum penalties. E.g., you may be reluctant to apply brakes and increase the possibility of an accident.
Unable to distinguish drivers: Currently, the systems are not able to distinguish between different users of the car. If your teen is learning driving, their potential immature driving skills can increase your usage-based insurance premium.

— What are the disadvantages for insurance companies?
Insurance companies are expected to gain a lot of accurate data on their risk exposure because of the telematics systems. However, there are a few disadvantages of telematics for insurance companies:

Installation costs: Insurance companies usually offer the required telematics device to capture driving data from your car. The OBD II device is relatively inexpensive and provides accurate data, but cannot be used in cars manufactured before 1996.
Data accuracy: The companies have started using smartphone apps to reduce costs and make it interoperable. However, data collected from smartphones is dependent on the sensor quality of the smartphone.

— What are the disadvantages for third-party operators?

In the case of in-built telematics systems, third-party users such as local mechanics and insurance companies may not have real-time access to the driving data. Automakers may have control over who gets what data and how. Third-party users may able to provide value-added services with real-time or frequent access to data.

Regardless, usage-based insurance is here to stay. The genie is out of the back, and insurance companies cannot move back to status-quo. However, technology and evolve as we continue to utilize and adopt.

Ready to compare car insurance? Enter your ZIP code for free below.

Read More
Distracted Driving [Must-Know Facts + Statistics]

Distracted Driving [Must-Know Facts + Statistics]

In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 3,166 drivers and 599 non-vehicle occupants (i.e. bicyclists, pedestrians) lost their lives due to distracted driving in that year alone.

The NHTSA's study also revealed that of the people who died in crashes involving distracted driving that year, 297 were teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, comprising the largest proportion of motorists who were distracted when the fatal crashes occurred.
While cell phones are the most obvious distraction that comes to mind, the reality is, that distracted driving can stem from a variety of causes — with sometimes fatal consequences.
Depending on the state you live in, certain forms of distracted driving, like the use of hand-held devices while behind the wheel, are prohibited by law, incurring strict penalties. And that's not even to mention the impact a distracted driving violation could have on your auto insurance premiums. 

In the following article, we're going to take a deep dive into exactly what car insurance consumers need to know about distracted driving, including the different types and forms of distracted driving, important statistics, distracted driving laws by state, the effect a distracted driving violation could have on your insurance costs, and more.

Don't hit rubber to the road again without making sure you're protected by the best auto insurance for your driving needs. Just enter your zip code in our free online tool above.

Without further ado, let's get down to business.

What Car Insurance Consumers Need to Know About Distracted Driving
So, you might be thinking, what exactly is distracted driving? You probably already know that using your mobile device behind the wheel could be a major distraction, but that's just one instance of many.

Let's take a closer look at what distracted driving is in practice, including the various types, and activities that commonly distract drivers, thereby increasing roadway dangers.
- What Is Distracted Driving?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucPJm_zNwio

Simply put, distracted driving is driving while performing another activity that diverts your attention from the task of driving.
According to data released by the NHTSA, reading or sending a text diverts your eyes from the road for approximately five seconds. Assuming you're driving 55 mph, that essentially is like driving the entire length of a football field — with your eyes shut.
Whether it the activity involves talking, texting on your cell phone, drinking, eating, adjusting your stereo system, or messing with your vehicle's navigation system — if it draws your attention away from the road, it's a form of distracted driving.

If you tend to stay nervous or anxious because of an underlying reason, that can also distract you while driving and you should try different ways to stay calm behind the wheels.
- Types of Distracted Driving
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFbCij5wPv0

There are three primary types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA-FTS) conducted a study in 2013 entitled Cognitive Distraction: Something to Think About, citing the following:

Experts generally agree that driver distraction stems from three sources: visual (eyes off the road), manual (hands off the wheel), and cognitive (mind off the task). Of these, cognitive distraction is the most difficult to observe and measure. While there is evidence of public and policymaker understanding of the risks involved with visual and manual distractions (especially texting while driving), there appears to be less appreciation for the risks involved with cognitive (or mental) distractions.

Let's take a closer look at each of these forms of distracted driving. Remember:

Visual distracted driving is when someone takes their eyes off the road.
Manual distracted driving is when someone takes their hands away from the wheel.
Cognitive distracted driving is when someone's mind wanders from the task of driving.

Whereas visual distractions divert the motorist's eyes from the road ahead, cognitive driver distractions are mental distractions that divert the motorist's mind from safe driving. Something as seemingly simple as worrying about an upcoming job interview or thinking about a recent argument could comprise cognitive distracted driving.
AAA-FTS's study further noted that certain cognitive distractions pose more danger than others. For example, listening to an audiobook or the radio isn't nearly as distracting as speaking with a passenger or talking to someone on the phone, be it a hand-held or hands-free device. Certain advances in modern vehicle technology such as speech-to-text systems that allow drivers to send and receive messages could also prove to be highly cognitively distracting.
In the case of manual distracted driving, these are the distractions that take the motorist's hands off of the steering wheel. For instance, if you're holding a beverage or food while you drive, that would constitute a manual distraction.
- Activities that Distract Drivers
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phone usage.
From applying makeup behind the wheel to simply taking your eyes off the road because you're lost or see an accident on the other side of the highway, it only takes a few seconds of distraction to cause a potentially catastrophic crash.

Did you know that there is an actual scientific explanation behind the activities that frequently cause distracted driving? Here's the lowdown —

One of the reasons it's so difficult to put down your electronic device while driving is because smartphones naturally stimulate addictive qualities.
The human brain responds to phone alerts, which make sit more difficult to hold off on checking your phone will driving.
Getting a text, email, or social media post on your mobile device heightens the supply of dopamine to the brain, a chemical that among other things, would cause a compulsion to check your phone.

Must-Know Distracted Driving Statistics
A recent study released by the Insurance Information Institute (III) revealed that there were 2,935 fatal crashes involving distracted driving in 2017 alone, comprising a staggering nine percent of all fatal crashes in the country that year.

To understand the full extent of the impact distracted driving can have on motorists of all ages, we're going to take a close look at some jaw-dropping statistics.

These include distracted driving fatalities by factors such as the driver demographic and the person type, plus distracted driving crashes that did not result in fatalities, but still caused measurable losses.

Let's dig deeper —
- Distracted Driving Fatalities
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3PGl_t2WD8

Be warned – the video above is a sobering look at the tragic impact that a few moments of distracted driving can reap, putting a face to the consequences of this pandemic.

Next, take a look at the table below, revealing data from the NHTSA's most recent 2017 study regarding fatalities stemming from distracted driving crashes between 2013 and 2017.

As you can see, the percentage of fatal crashes impacted by distracted driving barely changed at all during the years listed, with accidents involving cell phone usage comprising 13 to 14 percent of all distracted driving collisions during the four-year period studied.
- Distracted Driving Fatalities by Demographic
The table below illustrates the most recent data collected by our research team from the NHTSA's 2017 distracted driving study, indicating the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes by age demographic, distraction, and cell phone usage.

Now, let's break down the data a bit. This table compares the percentage of motorists in each age group involved in fatal collisions to the percentage of motorists involved in distracted driving fatal crashes.
The numbers clearly point to one thing — drivers under the age of 30 have among the highest incidence of fatal crashes of all the age demographics examined, as evidenced in the data shown in the Percentage of Total Drivers and Percentage of All Distracted Drivers columns.
For all fatal collisions in 2017, six percent of the motorists involved were between the ages of 15 and 19, comprising 3,255 out of the total 52,274 driver fatalities. Furthermore, nine percent of distracted drivers were also between 15 and 19 years of age, making up 271 out of the 2,994 total distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes that year.
Roughly 16 percent of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones were also between the ages of 15 and 19. This means that of the 404 distracted driving fatal crashes involving cell phone usage — 63 of those fatalities were teen motorists.
Drivers in their 20s aren't too far behind, as this age demographic comprised 23 percent of motorists in fatal crashes that year. However, 20-something drivers made up 27 percent of distracted drivers and a staggering 37 percent of the distracted motorists using their cell phones when fatal accidents occurred.

Considering the remarkable incidence of distracted driving fatalities in teen motorists, in particular, let's take a look at some other eye-opening stats revealed in the NHTSA's 2017 Teen Distracted Driver study.

Seven percent of the individuals who died in 2017 distracted driving crashes were teens aged 15 to 19 years old.
Nine percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal collisions in 2017 were teens aged 15 to 19 years old.
Nine percent of all 2017 teen vehicle crash fatalities involved distracted driving.
Eight percent of individuals killed in accidents involving a teen between 15 and 19 in 2017 died when teen motorists were distracted.
Eight percent of teen drivers were were involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2017 were distracted when the crash happened.
52 percent of individuals killed in teen distracted driving crashes in 2017 were teens between 15 and 19.

- Distracted Driving Fatalities by Person Type

The table above contains additional data from the NHTSA's 2017 distracted driving study, indicating distracted driving fatalities by vehicle occupant and nonoccupant.
- Distracted Driving Crashes Resulting in Injuries or Property Damage
Check out the table below, revealing the latest data from the National Safety Council regarding motor vehicle crashes and distracted driving accidents resulting in injuries or property-damage only between 2011 and 2016.

You'll notice that injury crashes involving cell phone usage between 2011 and 2013 increased steadily, before decreasing in 2014 and 2015 and going up again in 2016.
The Best and Worst States for Distracted Driving
The distracted driving laws across the country vary by state, but 20 states including The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam all bar drivers from utilizing handheld devices behind the wheel.
Each of these states are primary enforcement, which means that a law enforcement officer could pull someone over for using a hand-held device without any other type of traffic offense needing to occur to validate the stop.
According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA), no state currently bans cell phone usage for all motorists, but 39 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have established a ban on cell phone use by novice motorists.

In addition, 20 states and the District of Columbia also have a cell phone ban in place for school bus drivers.
Washington was the very first state to establish a texting ban back in 2007. Now, 48 of the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virginia islands ban all drivers from texting messaging, with all but three having primary enforcement in place.
Now, let's take a closer look at the laws and penalties drivers could face when they engage in distracted driving.
 - Distracted Driving Laws and Penalties

The table above contains the most current data published by GHSA regarding the hand-held device distracted driving laws across the country, including whether each state follows primary enforcement or secondary.
While primary enforcement allows a law enforcement officer to pull someone over and issue a citation without another traffic offense occurring, secondary enforcement requires that the officer issue a ticket or pull over the individual only if there is another citable traffic infraction at play.
If you're wondering just how much you might have to pay if you get pulled over for texting or using a handheld device while driving, the short answer is — it all depends. Let's take a look at some of the states that assess some of the steepest fines for distracted driving:

Hawaii fines motorists up to nearly $300 for texting while driving — and that number is just for first-time offenders
In the state of Alaska, texting while driving is classified as a misdemeanor, which means that motorists face fines as high as $1,000 and in certain instances, up to one year's imprisonment
If someone causes an accident in Iowa, fines could be levied on other motorists as high as $1,000
Indiana fines for texting while driving can range upwards of $500
In the state of Utah, violators could be hit with fines as high as $750, and in specific instances, face jail time, based on the kind of offense involved
New Jersey motorists could incur penalties up to $400 for texting while driving

In the vast majority of states, the fines for texting while driving tickets can be as low as $50 up to $200. But as you can see, depending on the state you live in, you could be paying much, much more.

Take Oregon, for example.

The fine for first-time texting while driving violation? Up to $1,000. A second offense? You could be looking a up to $2,500 in fines.

Then, you have a state like Wisconsin, where texting while driving tickets could be as low as $20. Depending on the state you live in though, you could face more than fines — you may have points added to your driver's license record as well.
- Education and Programs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3NQD9pf788

With the onslaught of distracted driving only further propelled by the ever digital world we live in, new waves of technology and programs are emerging to help combat dangerous driving habits like texting while driving to promote safer conditions for motorists everywhere.

Let's take a closer look at some of the options automotive manufacturers are starting to incorporate into vehicle designs to promote roadway safety and increased cognizance.
- Features and Applications

Voice controls and hands-free connectivity — Most automakers now provide Bluetooth connectivity integration that allows drivers to talk and manage their media devices without the need to use their hands. Sometimes, these systems feature voice-activated controls so you can use voice commands to activate components of your vehicle system such as your audio system, climate control, and navigation system — all without taking your eyes off the road!
Lane departure warnings — If you zone out and start to go over the road marker without turning on your signal, a lane-departure alert would notify you at once, either with a physical alert or a warning tone. Some of the more advanced lane departure warning technologies impact steering or lightly apply the brakes to help guide the driver back into the correct lane.
Crash avoidance systems — These systems feature autonomous braking technology that tracks the area ahead of your car to let you know if there is a road danger ahead, such as a pedestrian, stopped vehicle, or animal. The crash avoidance system would then automatically force your car to brake to help you avoid any possibility of a wreck.
Drowsy driver detection — A growing number of auto manufacturers are also providing consumers with monitoring systems to let them know if they're falling asleep or tired. Both sensory and audible alerts like a light tap on the brakes, a chime, or a shoulder belt tug are all possible alerts that could be used to notify the driver that it's time to pull over and regroup.

What about apps? Well, there are numerous devices and mobile applications utilizing cell phone blocking technology you can leverage to enhance your family's safety on the roadways. Some of the top apps that have been designed to help prevent distracted driving include:

Canary — This free app equips parents with all the information they need to help keep their kids safe on the road.Whenever their child tweets, texts, or takes a call while behind the wheel, Canary sends a text notification to the parent. The app also sends notifications if the teen driver goes over a certain speed or outside a certain perimeter so you know that your child is safe.
TextArrest — This app lets parents control how their teen uses their phone while in a moving car. You can also set the app up to let you know if your teenager overrides the settings and travels beyond a certain location or over the speed limit. The app can also be used to notify parents in the event of an emergency.
TextLimit — TextLimit inhibits certain features on a mobile device from working when the phone is traveling over a specific speed. After the phone returns to the predetermined speed, the app restores the lost features to function as normal.
CellControl — This program is a unique option that disables the driver's phone only, but allows passengers to continue to use their mobile devices freely. With CellControl, it's possible to impede certain predetermined behaviors such as playing games, taking selfies, texting, and using social media when behind the wheel. The app can also be used to keep an eye on cell phone usage to determine that the teen is acting responsibly.
DriveSafe.ly — The app reads incoming emails and text messages as they come in, even shorthand. With this app, you can still receive all your important information in real-time, without having to worry about looking down at your phone and diverting your eyes from the road.
DriveScribe — This app actually blocks incoming texts and calls when the vehicle is moving over a particular speed. It also notifies motorists when they are driving too fast.
Live2Txt —The Live2Txt app turns calls and texts that are incoming off on command, besides allowing you to send a message to whoever is sending the call or text that you are driving and are currently unavailable.
AT&T DriveMode — This app is free and activates once your car reaches speeds of 15 mph. The app not only blocks tempting text alerts but can send automatic replies to texts for you. Parents also have the option to program the app to send them an alert when it's switched off.
Samsung — Samsung's app called In-Traffic Reply lets you set up automatic replies to text messages or calls. The app also senses when a vehicle is in motion by using the device's GPS system.
Verizon Driving Mode — You can activate this feature from the Android messaging app to send automatic messages and block texts.
Sprint Drive First — Reserved exclusively for Sprint customers, the Andoird app silences text and email alert and reroutes calls to voicemail as soon as your car reaches speeds of 10 mph. There are 911 and exit buttons on the device's home screen so you can override the app in case of an emergency.

- Usage-Based Insurance for Safer Driving
Usage-based insurance options promote safer driving by incentivizing motorists with discounts on coverage, which could incidentally reduce the risk of distracted driving.

While only driving data is generally collected with telematics information from consumer smartphones, the activities often tracked while the insured is behind the wheel include device handling, screen walking and sleeping, calls, and other device uses.
Insurers use the resulting smartphone data in congruence with vehicle driving and other elements to score the individual's distraction levels, thereby providing a risk assessment for the driver's usage-based insurance scoring. Carriers can also use the data in feedback programs to consumers for the purposes of encouraging safe driving behavior and discouraging distracted driving.
Check out the table below, listing the potential savings consumers could enjoy if they opt for usage-based insurance from some of the top providers in the U.S. insurance market.

Distracted Driving and Auto Insurance Penalties
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDUxKGojpOM

Driving distracted is no joke, and depending on your insurance company, you could see a noticeable jump in rates if you're slapped with a ticket for texting while driving.

Sounds like something you need to know about, right?

Keep scrolling to find out why your rates would increase with a ticket for texting and driving and just how high they could go up.
- Will My Rates Increase If I Get a Ticket for Texting While Driving?
You already know now that the legal penalties for texting while driving vary widely depending on the state you live in. The same rings true in terms of any car insurance penalty — your rates may go up, but not always.
In fact, a number of states actually ban insurers from factoring texting tickets into the mix when assessing consumer premiums. These states include Idaho, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Washington.
In addition, a number of states don't assign any penalty points to individuals that receive texting tickets. Typically, the more serious the nature of the violation is, the more points will be assigned. Of course, if you are assigned too many points, you could face license suspension.

So, violations that aren't accompanied by points are far less likely to have as significant an impact on how much you have to fork over in car insurance premiums. States that currently don't designate points after a texting while driving violation include:

Hawaii
Kansas
Louisiana
Minnesota
Mississippi
Oregon
Rhode Island
Washington
Wyoming

However, if you do live in a state where texting while driving ticket is classified as a moving violation and allocates points to your record, you could see a noticeable increase when your insurance policy is up for renewal. Plus, if you've had past moving violations in addition to a texting violation, that could compound the situation further.

Depending on where you live, points generally remain on your driving record for anywhere from one to three years, and once they drop off, your insurance should go down accordingly. In certain cases, the violation won't go onto your driving record if you opt to undergo a state-approved driver safety course.

- Why Would Insurance Companies Care?
Insurance companies can only remain profitable, financially stable, and successful in the long run if they maintain a healthy, low loss ratio.

An insurer's loss ratio is what the company is paying out in claims vs. what it's earning back in written premiums. Insurance companies don't just have an obligation to consumers but to shareholders and owners as well.
The costs associated with paying for injuries and other damages stemming from a collision are steep. To a carrier, a distracted driving violation is an indicator that the consumer poses a higher risk to insure, and therefore it's only natural that the individual should expect to pay higher premiums as a result.
Behavior that poses risk, such as using your mobile device while driving, tells an insurer that they might have to pay out a significant claim in the future in the event you cause a collision. To mitigate any projected losses and maintain its financial security, the insurer would then charge higher annual premiums for coverage.
- How High Will Rates Go Up?
How high your rates could go up after receiving a ticket for texting while driving depends on numerous factors, not the least of which is the specific insurer.

Factors such as your previous history of violations, if any, including accidents and speeding tickets would also be likely factored into the mix.
- Companies With the Highest and Lowest Penalties for Distracted Driving
The table below provides an example of the potential increase you could see in your annual insurance premiums after receiving a citation for texting while driving. The states included below are California and Florida with rates from GEICO and Farmers featured.

And considering that Florida has previously ranked as the second-worst state for distracted driving, pay close attention to how much these top insurers in the U.S. market could adjust your rates based on one violation.

You'll notice, that in the state of California, for example, if you have coverage through Farmers, you could see an annual increase in premiums of roughly $2,000 a year after getting a ticket for texting while driving. Hardly small change!

The lesson to be learned here is that driving safely and eliminating distractions doesn't only help protect you, your passengers, and your fellow drivers whenever you hit rubber to the road. It could mean the difference in thousands of dollars worth of additional premium costs per year.
What to Do After a Distracted Driving Accident
In the event you witness or are the victim of someone else's distracted driving, you might be wondering — what comes next?

Keep reading and you'll find out.
- Should I Report Distracted Driving When I See It?
If you see the warning signs that a driver on the road with you is driving distracted, here are a few important steps to take to help you avoid a collision.

Assume that that person doesn't see your car at all
Try to pull ahead of the other individual, or slow your vehicle and let them proceed ahead
Afford the distracted driver more wiggle room and a wider berth than perhaps you otherwise wood
If you are unable to get away from the distracted driver, call 911 to alert them of your concern

- What Do I Do If I'm Involved in an Accident with a Distracted Driver But the Police Don't Witness It?
While causes of collisions such as drunk driving can easily be traced with a sobriety test if the responding officer even slightly suspects that one of the parties involved is drunk, the same doesn't hold true for distracted driving matters.
While distracted driving is one of the chief causes of car accident fatalities and personal injury, even if there is a reason to suspect that an accident stemmed from distracted driving, the law enforcement officer at the scene wouldn't be able to automatically search the person's phone without some type of court order.
However, there are lawful ways to seize evidence for the purposes of investigation, including by a subpoena, search warrant, or other court order, depending on the circumstances and nature of the case.
- Tips for Reducing Distractions While Driving
Before we let you go, check out these quick but effective tips to help you stay focused on the road in front of you at all times whenever you get behind the wheel.

Only use your cellphone in the event of an emergency while you're driving.
Try to limit the level of activity and number of passengers in your car at any one time.
If you start to feel sleepy, pull off the road.
Don't eat while driving — spilling food can be a huge distraction on the road.
Don't try to multitask when you're behind the wheel, even if you're tempted to take care of that business call or adjust the radio to hear your favorite beats. Do it all before you hit the road instead!
Turn your phone off and switch it to Do Not Disturb so you won't be tempted to use it at your next red light.
Try to plan your route ahead of time so you don't have to divert your eyes from the road searching for the right street or destination.
Don't reach for anything that falls while you're driving.
If you're the parent of a teen, think about restricting the number of passengers they can transport until your teen is more experienced on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions
If your mind's buzzing with questions about distracted driving, you've come to the right place.
#1 — Is driving while fatigued considered a distraction?
Remember, distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from the task at hand — driving. Driving drowsy isn't just a major distraction, but can prove incredibly dangerous as well.

If you ever start to feel extremely tired while on the road, it's better to pull over and find a safe place to take a quick nap rather than to try to push forward, potentially putting yourself and other drivers at risk.
#2 — What is electronic distracted driving?
This simply refers to distracted driving involving wireless communications devices, such as through the use of emailing, text messaging, and calls on your phone. And as you know — this type of distracted driving poses some of the most significant road danger, both to vehicle occupants and nonoccupants.
#3 — Can I be stopped by a police officer for using my mobile device even if I'm driving legally?
If you live in a state with secondary enforcement, the police officer isn't permitted to stop you unless there is another citable offense at play. With primary enforcement, police can stop you without that requirement.
#4 — Am I permitted to text at a red light?
While it depends on the state or city you live in, generally, the answer is no or the laws are unclear in that respect. In any case, it's much safer to either wait until you get from Point A to Point B or pull over safely at a rest stop to check your messages.
#5 — Can a police officer impound my phone without my permission?
No, not without you giving permission or the officer obtaining a warrant.

Still have questions about distracted driving in your state? Comment below and let us know.

Start comparison shopping today for affordable auto insurance coverage near you. Enter your zip code in our free online rate tool to begin.

Read More
The Case for Car Seats: Never Leave Home Without One

The Case for Car Seats: Never Leave Home Without One

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury and death among children of all ages in the U.S. The lifesaving power of seat belts and booster seats is well-proven, but with safety recommendations and regulations changing practically yearly, it can be difficult for parents to keep up. How can parents know when a high-priced booster seat is worth it? When is a rear-facing seat safer than a front-facing seat? And now that you can buy booster seats for kids who weigh up to 90 lbs, does that mean we really need to?
Luckily, consumer safety organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, breaks down the latest research in child car safety and provides extensive guides for parents who need to know more about choosing and using the booster seat that's right for their child. In the event of an accident the way you fit and fasten your car seat is more important than how many bells and whistles it came with. Unfortunately, as you'll see in the graphic below, it turns out that many well-meaning parents or caregivers aren't actually their child seats properly.

Read More
Deadly Driving: A Look At Teen Drivers

Deadly Driving: A Look At Teen Drivers

If you're seeking a car insurance plan, there are many, many factors that get taken into account, particularly if you have a family with kids in it—kids who will one day likely be sitting behind the wheel of your family car. Getting your teen started down the road with a learner's permit can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in your entire adult life. Most teens are ready and eager to hit the open road, but there's a lot of consideration that needs to go into making sure your teen is safe and insured properly for any circumstance that may arise. Teenagers and younger drivers are hands-down the most accident prone demographic on the road: They crash more, seem to think less, and tend to engage in more risky behaviors, like drinking and driving or texting while behind the wheel. You want your teen to be safe, and you also want them to be taken care of by your insurance plan. If you're curious about the proper way to be sure your teen is well cared for by your insurance plan, check out this handy guide to the best insurance for your young driver. Every parent's ultimate desire is for their teen to stay safe, but the odds of your 16-year-old getting into a fender bender are too high to not make entirely sure that your insurance policy is reliable and effective for any situation. Whether you're the parent of a soon-to-be-driving teen yourself or you simply want to be more aware of those young folk you share the road with, the following infographic takes an in-depth look at some of the dangers that are present among teen drivers today.

Embed the image above on your site
<p><strong>Please include attribution to Carinsurance.org with this graphic.</strong><br /><br />
<a href="https://www.carinsurance.org/teen-driving"><img src="https://res.cloudinary.com/quotellc/image/upload/insurance-site-images/carinsurance-live/2013/07/IGTeenDriver.jpg" alt="Teen Driving" width="500" border="0" /></a></p>

Read More
Learning a Vehicle’s Past: What to Look for in a Vehicle History Report

Learning a Vehicle’s Past: What to Look for in a Vehicle History Report

No matter how much research or shopping around you do, purchasing a used vehicle always feels like a gamble. If you're currently in the market for a pre-owned vehicle, there are several factors you definitely need to consider, such as previous maintenance, accidents and more. Sure, you will get some of this information from whomever is coordinating the sale – be it the previous owner or a third-party dealership – but it's also important to dig deeper than what they are telling you. They are, after all, trying to make a sale, so they may omit any information they think might deter you from making the purchase.

That being said, it's always a good idea to do a little homework on your own. A great way to gather hard facts about a vehicle's past is to request a vehicle history report from a reputable organization. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System provides consumers with a list of approved providers, to help ensure they only get 100% accurate information on the vehicle in question.

However, running a vehicle history report is not enough to ensure you don't get stuck with a clunker. You also have to understand the data the report is giving you. In an effort to spread awareness, DMW.org provides a free sample report on their website to help people become more familiar with the format. If you feel like you still need some help analyzing the information, read on for some tips on what to look for when you have a vehicle history report done on a potential purchase.
Number of Owners
Any good, worthwhile vehicle history report should include a rough estimate of the previous number of owners. It's a general rule that the quality of a car goes down the more owners it has. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, but if a rather "young" vehicle has had a dozen owners, it's highly unlikely it has been given the care and maintenance it needs to be a top-performer.
Mileage
Another detail included on most reports is the mileage on a vehicle. Sure, you can see this yourself on the odometer if you are purchasing it in person. Yet seeing the build-up over time on the report helps give a more accurate picture of the car or truck's actual activity over its lifetime. A car owned by a traveling salesman or used by a rental agency will likely have more wear and tear than one used by a person who has a 9-5 desk job.
Accident and Theft Records
The number of accidents should also be noted on the report, along with any records of theft. Both of these details can greatly impact a vehicle's future performance. For instance, if a vehicle has previously been reported stolen, there's a chance any number of the parts were tampered with and altered, potentially improperly. The same goes for any repair work done to the car. Sure, it might seem fine, but, depending on how detailed your report is, you will likely have no information on where or who repaired the car or truck, leaving the quality of work done a complete mystery to you. A minor mistake made during a repair five years ago might not be currently causing problems, but over time the quick-fix could wear down and cause more harm than good.
Overview
Obviously the specific details reported will vary by provider, but the three points listed above are pretty standard and should be included on most reports. Scrutinize your vehicle history report with a keen, sharp eye and investigate any discrepancies you find between the data and the story you've been told about the car, truck or SUV in question. A little extra work now could potentially save you lots of time and money later.

Read More
10 Great Cars for New Parents

10 Great Cars for New Parents

As an expecting parent, you will need to invest in a new car that can accommodate your new baby's needs, including room in the back to properly install a car seat, additional space for storing a stroller and other baby supplies, and features like a sound system you can easily access and operate to play your baby's favorite music. When you're looking for a new car we suggest you search for cargo space, ease of access, standard features, available warranty, and the vehicle's safety rating. Below you'll find a list of 10 new cars selected for their ratings on several trusted websites, including J.D. Power and Associates, Edmunds, and Vroomgirls. Keep in mind that these cars aren't listed in any particular order and they're simply suggestions.
Honda CR-V:

Base (LX) MSRP: $22,495
MPG: 23 city/31 highway

Honda has become synonymous with quality, and its CR-V crossover is no exception. The 2012 edition offers space for five passengers, and the base model features automatic headlights, cloth seats, full power accessories, cruise control, and a rear view camera for added safety. Speaking of safety, the Honda CR-V comes with side curtain air bags and active head restraints. All of the CR-V's trims come with a five speed automatic transmission that offers 185 horsepower and gets up to 31 mpg, making this an economical option in this class. The 2012 Honda CR-V won J.D. Power's overall quality award, and it received top marks for its overall performance and design and predicted reliability.
Toyota RAV 4:

Base (A4) MSRP: $22,650
MPG: 22 city/28 highway

The Toyota RAV 4 is another "tweener" option for new parents who want space for numerous passengers but don't want to drive a behemoth. The RAV 4 has enough space for five passengers and when the rear seats are folded down offers 73 cubic feet of cargo space. Standard features include keyless entry, a six-speaker sound system, some power accessories, and air conditioning. Safety-minded parents will find a good match in the RAV 4, which offers standard anti-lock disk brakes, traction control, front-seat and side air bags, and side curtain air bags. Similar to other vehicles in its class, the Toyota RAV 4 gets a combined 24 mpg from its 2.5-liter 179-horsepower engine. J.D. Power gave the RAV 4 top marks for overall quality, although it was judged average in overall performance and design and predicted reliability.
Toyota Venza Crossover:

Base (LE) MSRP: $27,425
MPG: 21 city/27 highway

Toyota's Venza Crossover offers a roomy interior that accommodates five passengers and rides a little higher than most cars in its class. The base model features dual-zone automatic climate control, power accessories, and a six-speaker sound system with integrated Bluetooth connectivity. Although the standard features are nice, most parents are probably going to be more concerned about the car's safety. The Toyota Venza has anti-lock disk brakes, traction control, and front-seat side, driver knee, and side curtain air bags. In government impact tests the Venza received four stars for rollover protection and five stars for side-impact protection, making this one of the safest cars on the road today. J.D. Power gave the 2012 Toyota Venza a four out of five for overall quality and predicted reliability, which shows this car could be a good long-term investment. The deal is sweetened by Toyota's basic warranty, which covers 36 months or 36,000 miles, and its maintenance warranty of 24 months or 25,000 miles.
Honda Odyssey:

Base (LX) MSRP: $28,375
MPG: 18 city/27 highway

Similar to other large vans in our list, the Honda Odyssey has seating space for up to eight passengers and offers easy access via its sliding side doors and extra cargo space in the back for your baby's supplies. Standard versions of this car come with cloth upholstery, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, and a 60/40 split-folding third-row seat. Higher trims offer a rearview camera which could be helpful when you're trying to back out of a parking spot. The 2012 Honda Odyssey performed exceedingly well in government crash tests: it received an overall rating of five out of five stars from the NHTSA and a "Good" rating, the highest available, for frontal-offset and side-impact crashes from the IIHS. The 2012 Honda Odyssey also received a five out of five rating for overall performance and design and a four out of five in overall quality from J.D. Power. However, the publication gave it a two out of five for predicted reliability, which is an issue you should be aware of as you shop around.
Ford Edge SUV:

Base (SE) MSRP: $27,770
MPG: 19 city/27 highway

The Ford Edge SUV is another medium-sized crossover vehicle that is ideal for parents who want plenty of space but aren't interested in driving a van. This model's standard features include air conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, and more. Higher trim levels have other options, such as keyless entry code pad or an upgraded audio system. The base model comes with a 285 horsepower engine that gets up to 27 mpg, which is competitive for a car of its size. The Edge's interior has space for five passengers and a large rear compartment that can store all of your baby's supplies. The back row of seats can also be folded down for extra cargo space. Similar to other vehicles in this list, the 2012 Ford Edge SUV has received good reviews for safety. The NHTSA gave it an overall rating of four out of five stars, and it received a "Good" rating for roof strength and frontal offset and side-impact crashes.
Nissan Quest S (CVT):

Base (S) MSRP: $25,990
MPG: 19 city/24 highway

Stepping up in size is the Nissan Quest S CVT, which has space for seven passengers and standard features that include cruise control, ambient interior lighting, a four-speaker sound system, and a trip computer. Access to the second and third-row of seats, which are raised about the front-floor level to improve visibility, is aided by power sliding doors that open with a single touch. Under the hood the Quest has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that offers 260 horsepower and a combined 21 mpg. The 2012 edition was one of the highest-rated vehicles by J.D. Power, which gave it five stars for its overall quality, performance, and design.
Nissan Murano SUV:

Base (S) MSRP: $29,960
MPG: 18 city/23 highway

Nissan's Murano SUV offers a wide range of standard interior and safety features well-suited for new parents. The base model features dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, some power accessories, and a six-speaker sound system. Higher trim packages offer other perks, such as rearview cameras and an upgraded sound system. Standard safety features include stability control, active front head restraints, anti-lock disc brakes, and front side and side curtain air bags. This model also has a pretty sizable rear storage space and the back row of seats can be set down to increase cargo space. The IIHS gave the 2012 Murano "Good" ratings for frontal offset and side-impact crash tests, and J.D. Power gave the SUV a five out of five for overall quality.
Toyota Prius C:

Base (One) MSRP: $18,950
MPG: 53 city/46 highway

The relatively compact Toyota Prius C delivers 50-plus MPG in the city, features no fewer than nine airbags, and has more interior room than it would appear from the outside. You'll have to take a little more time to fit in a stroller and baby bag and the engine can be noisy under heavy acceleration, an issue that might put off parents of newborns. However, the Toyota Prius C's price and top-of-the-line safety features make it a good option for new parents. The Prius C received "Good" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for all crash protection tests, and the hybrid model was named a top safety pick for 2012. J.D. Power gave the Toyota Prius C a four out of five for predicted reliability.
Kia Soul:

Base (M6) MSRP: $13,900
MPG: 25 city/30 highway

The stylish, well-priced Kia Soul compact hatchback offers plenty of space, utility, safety features, and a strong warranty. It has space for five passengers and the base model has cloth seats, full power accessories, USB audio jacks, and air condition. Cruise control, keyless entry, and other amenities are offered in the higher trim levels. The 2012 Soul has been updated with more powerful engines, 15-inch steel wheels, and wider tires. The base engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that puts out 138 horsepower, while the plus version has a 2.0-liter engine rated at 164 horsepower. Although the plus version's engine makes for a more exciting driving experience, the base model offers better gas mileage.

The Kia Soul's safety features include side curtain air bags and stability control, and it received a "Good" rating, the highest possible, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for frontal offset and side-impact crashes. Budget minded shoppers will like Kia's basic warranty, which covers the car for 60 months or 60,000 miles. New buyers also receive a powertrain warranty that covers 120 months or 100,000 miles. J.D. Power awarded the 2012 Kia Soul awards for performance and quality. Although the Kia Soul isn't the largest vehicle on the list it's still a great option for new parents who want a fun car that meets their needs for space and safety.
Honda Pilot:

Base (LX FWD) MSRP: $28,620
MPG: 18 city/25 highway

With enough space for eight passengers, the Honda Pilot is one of the largest vehicles in its class. It offers a wide range of standard features, including full power accessories, split-folding second and third-row bench seats, and remote keyless entry. The higher trim levels offer a rearview camera which can be helpful for maneuvering out of parking spots safely. This car is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that is rated at 250 horsepower and gets as much as 25 mpg. In addition to its standard features, space, and relatively good gas mileage, the Honda Pilot has received high marks for its safety. The SUV, which comes with side curtain air bags for all three rows, received a frontal crash rating of four out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. J.D. Power gave the 2012 Honda Pilot high marks for its overall quality and performance and design. Due to its size this may not be an ideal option for new parents, but could be a wise investment if the space is going to be needed in the future.

Read More
How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Vehicle

How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Vehicle

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You've driven up to a car dealership. They have a few rows of cars of the specific make and model you've been interested in. They are each the current model year or perhaps just a model year behind. They all have low miles, but they're not "new" cars. And the salesperson just cannot wait to get you into one, your choice of color and options, for a price that seems way below what you were expecting based on your research of the model.

But more than that seems "off" about some of these cars. Some of them seem to smell funny - a bitter, biting and musty smell greets your olfactory system as soon as you open the door, and there's also a hint of "new car smell" spray and shampoo. In fact, it's almost as if too much of that spray and shampoo smell has been applied to disguise the musty smells, and they all coalesce into a horrible shock to your senses.

"Don't worry about that," says your salesperson. "It'll be gone in no time."

Chances are, you might be about to purchase a vehicle that has been flooded.

Before we go further - it is possible to restore and refurbish a car that has been flooded, but it is not for the faint of heart. It requires disassembly of most of the interior, and replacement of all carpets, padding and upholstery. All electrical connections must be replaced.It is by no means a simple undertaking, and it must be done properly for the car to have any serviceable life. And you should know upfront what you're buying and how detailed the restoration process is, not to mention exactly how the car was flooded. It may have been exposed to water filled with sewage, salt-water or perhaps the windows were down during a torrential downpour. It's highly unlikely you will ever know.

While some may consider the savings on a flooded car worth the potential risks - just like many do with other automobiles with a salvage title - for most of us, they're an experience best avoided. Here's what you need to look for if you believe a car has been subjected to flooding in the past.
Check the Car's Title.
Your first consideration should be the title. If the car has a clear, rather than a salvage title, make sure the dealership provides you with a vehicle history report based on the car's VIN from a reputable industry leader, like Carfax, for example.

"Carfax should disclose that if they claim any damage from flooding to their insurance," said Scott Bratton, a mechanic of 37 years and owner of Auto Check in Katy, Texas.

It is important to note that flood-damaged cars will only have incidents on the vehicle history report if it has been declared a total loss by an insurance company in the past. If the car was not totaled, the title will be clean and the history report may be as well. But the history report is a must, as it is possible for a car to be totaled in one state, and then shipped off to another state where eventually, a clean title is issued for the car.

"I would be concerned if it was a salvaged title. I'd ask why it was salvaged or why it was totaled. That could be due to a flood or a wreck that they went ahead and fixed with cash," Bratton, whose customers bring in cars to be inspected before they're purchased, explained. "For the most part I question them about where they're buying it from. If it's a Joe Blow lot on the side of the road then I'd really look into how they do business before I deal with them."
Warning Signs
The musty smell isn't the only possible hint of a flooded car. Check the car's lights and reflectors. If they contain moisture, it is possible the car has been submerged. But the real evidence will likely be on the inside of the car.

Inspect the gauges on the dashboard. Again, moisture or other residues are what you are looking for. Test the operation of each gauge as well as the lighting of the gauges and the driver warning lights. They should all be operational.
Test everything in the car that's electrical in nature: all switches, controls like headlights, turn signals, climate control system, stereo and any 12v auxiliary outlets. All should be operational. Check the visible wiring under the dashboard for brittleness and loss of flexibility."If the water got high enough to get into the computers or modules, which are mounted under the seats, long-term they'll start having problems as the moisture will cause a corrosion of the wires in the modules," Bratton said.
Rust is another giveaway. Interior screws or bolts with visible rust indicate a water issue, Bratton explained. Also check the engine compartment and trunk for signs of rust as well. Any metal that is exposed - not painted or coated - and has been in contact with a significant amount of water will be rusted.
The padding underneath the carpet could be an indication as well since it tends to hold moisture for a long time. A visible water line could be another sign, but that would require pulling off the door panels."If I suspected it was potentially water damaged I pull the carpet up and feel underneath it and see if the padding under the carpet has been replaced or if it feels wet," Bratton said. "Normally we don't pull carpets unless there's a musty smell, because that's hard to get rid of."Other potential signs include sand or grit or mud that seems to be embedded into any cracks, crevices or in the upholstery itself.

If you find any of these issues on a car, it has likely been flooded. We'd recommend you walk away, regardless of the potential savings, unless the car has been completely refurbished. If it has been, any reputable dealer would let you know upfront the history of the car with details on how it was restored. If they are hiding or denying any knowledge, despite the evidence to the contrary, then they simply do not deserve your business.

Finally, check out our visual guide to inspecting a car for evidence of flooding. It offers an easy checklist of tips of where to look and what to look for to help you determine if a vehicle has been involved in a flood.

Read More
Five Safe and Affordable Cars for Teens

Five Safe and Affordable Cars for Teens

Top 5 Safest and Affordable Cars for Teens

Experts agree that a teen driver should drive the safest, most reliable, and newest vehicle if at all possible. So does this mean that when it comes to your teen's safety, less expensive or used vehicles are out of the question? No, but not surprisingly, you will need to do some research in order to find a budget-friendly vehicle with all or most of the now Federally-required safety features found in new vehicles.

Some important things to consider when purchasing a car for a teen driver include:

Midsize cars are big enough to protect the driver and passengers in the event of a crash, but small enough for teen drivers to handle easily.
A four-cylinder engine, as opposed to a V6 engine, has limited acceleration capabilities, making it far less likely for your teen to drive beyond the speed limit.
Older, used cars may not have the latest safety features Federal law requires of all new vehicles. However, many can come close. Highly recommended safety features include front and side air bags, an antilock braking system (ABS), automatic transmission, electronic stability control (ESC), and daytime running lights.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts crash tests on new vehicles and reports their performance on its safercar.gov website. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts its own testing program and issues safety ratings as well. Both are good resources to check when shopping for a car for your teen.

The five cars listed below are recommended by either Consumer Reports or Edmonds for their affordability and safety features particularly suited to teen drivers. Upon further research, you may find an even lower-priced vehicle, so consider the list below a place to begin shopping for your teen.

2005 Saab 9-3 Linear: The mid-sized, relatively inexpensive 2005 Saab 9-3 features plenty of passenger room and trunk space. Safety features include stability control and front and side airbags. Teenagers might not be thrilled with its unexciting interior and weak sound system, but may come to appreciate that this is a car designed to keep its driver and passengers safe.
2009 Honda Accord Sedan: All Accords come with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, and front and side airbags. The 2009 Honda Accord sedan received five starts in government crash tests and currently has one of the highest resale values around.
2010 Chevrolet Malibu: Yep, you guessed it, it's another sedan (do you sense a pattern here?). The fuel-efficient 2010 Chevrolet boasts high crash test scores, including a perfect five stars in all government frontal and side crash categories. Standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and side airbags, and the OnStar emergency communications system.

2008 Saturn Aura XE: The attractively-designed and budget-friendly 2008 Saturn Aura includes stability control for all V6 models. Additional safety features include antilock disc brakes, front and side airbags, traction control, and the OnStar emergency communications system.
2013 Chevrolet Malibu: Newest and priciest on our list of safe, budget-friendly cars for teens, the fully redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is a stylish, mid-sized sedan with a full complement of standard safety features. Rear side airbags will be standard on all Malibus beginning in the summer of 2013. Interestingly, the 2013 Chevy Malibu was worked on by a team of engineers who also happened to be moms!

Read More
Advanced Defensive Driving: Take it to the Next Level

Advanced Defensive Driving: Take it to the Next Level

According to the National Safety Council, a preventable accident "is one in which the driver failed to do everything that reasonably could have been done to avoid the crash." Experts agree that driving defensively is your best bet at making sure a crash, collision, or accident doesn't happen to you. We've already discussed the basic concepts behind defensive driving, which include scanning and visualizing everything, having an escape route, and not becoming distracted. Now let's consider some more advanced, preventive measures a responsible driver can take to avoid a potentially life-threatening crash.
Maintain Your Car
Regular maintenance on your car significantly helps its road performance, especially in potentially hazardous driving situations. You can't drive a car defensively if its tires are in need of air, windows, rearview mirror, and signal lights are dirty, and brake pads are worn to shreds. Here are a few steps you should take to keep your car running safely and efficiently:

Check Your Tires Make sure your tire pressure is where it should be. The recommended pressure for your car's tires will be in your owner's manual or in the driver's side door jamb. When it comes to purchasing new tires, take into account the weather in your part of the country. Four snow tires total is the safest way to go if you anticipate driving in snow and ice.
Align Your Tires If while driving your car seems to drift to one side or the steering wheel vibrates, you may need to have the tires aligned. Alignment actually refers to a car's suspension, which can move out of alignment over time due to normal driving, a minor accident, or bumping against a curb. Check your owner's manual to see how often your car's manufacturer recommends aligning your car's tires. Alignment helps to insure better handling, which is crucial for good defensive driving, as well as better gas mileage.
Clean Your Car A dirty windshield or rearview mirror will prevent you from scanning and visualizing the road for potential dangers. And grimy signal lights or head lights will prevent other drivers from seeing you in bad weather or at night, which pretty much negates any effort you make to be a good defensive driver.
Change Your Brake Pads If when braking, you hear squeaking or grinding, your brake pads may be worn out and in need of replacement. Knowing how and when to brake, especially in inclement weather, is a crucial skill for defensive driving. If you have an antilock brake system and need to stop in on an icy road, stomp on the pedal and when you feel the system's pulses or hear it working, ease up a bit on the pedal until it's only pulsing about once a second. If you don't have ABS, you should push the brake hard and when the wheels stop turning, lift your foot so the wheels turn and rapidly press the brake again.

Other Advanced Defensive Driving Tips

Yield, Move, Get Out Of The Way Driving defensively for the most part involves avoiding overly aggressive drivers. It may be frustrating to just step aside in order to give a bad driver room to do whatever they want, but it is the safest thing to do, not only for yourself but for everyone else on the road. When you encounter a speeding driver pressuring you to go faster, move into another lane, even if it means going slower. As a defensive driver, accept the fact that you may have to sacrifice your right of way in order to avoid a speeding ticket or collision.
Plan a Route To avoid a time-consuming and potentially dangerous drive, plan out your route out in advance based on current weather, traffic, and road conditions. Local websites, radio, and even iPhone apps can provide you with the information you need before you hit the road and find yourself navigating road construction or an end-of-the-week traffic jam.
Take a Course There's nothing wrong with taking a driving course to brush up your skills, even if you've been driving for years. The AARP even offers a very inexpensive driver safety course in both classroom and online environments. Check with your agent to see if completing a driving course will give you discount on your car insurance or on roadside assistance plans.

Read More
When Should Parents Consider Child and Car Safety?

When Should Parents Consider Child and Car Safety?

If someone asked us when parents should consider and begin to practice child safety as it relates to cars, we'd answer that these things should start before their child is even born.

This may sound strange, but as any mother will tell you, the impact from a child begins months before birth. Thus, our answer to the previous question. Since mothers are carrying unborn children for the gestation period, child safety is impacted by the mother's safety.

While expectant mothers are undergoing physical changes to their bodies, such as the expansion in their abdomens and widening of their hips in the first trimester -- changes that continue for all 40 weeks they'll carry their child -- we suggest the same for them as we would any other driver. Wearing their seat belts.

We've heard the myth that seat belts endanger the lives of the unborn, but it's just that -- a myth, as long as seat belts are worn properly. That means expectant mothers should wear their seat belts, with the lap belt should be across her hips and below her belly, and the shoulder belt should be across her chest, between the breasts.
Car Seat Installation
With the new arrival of a bundle of joy, we shift from the safety of the mother to the child itself. It may be easy to think that installing a car seat is a simple matter. Put the child seat in the car, insert child, and we're done, right?

Not so fast. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says 75% of car seats are installed and/or used incorrectly. Fortunately, many hospitals have Child Passenger Safety (SPC) Technicians who can help parents of newborns properly install and secure their car seats.

But what do you do if you're on your own? While the documentation and instructions included with the child seat is a good start, we think the NHTSA's free child safety seatinspection centersare also worth the few minutes of time they'll take to visit. These government-funded centers are based throughout the nation, and they'll help to ensure a child seat is installed correctly,preferably using the LATCH system.

LATCH, or the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system, has been standard equipment on every car sold in the United States since 2002. All child seats produced since that time are also LATCH compliant. The system employs different sets ofÿanchors to be used with child restraints.

However, if you don't have access to these resources then you're left to install it yourself. With all the latches and straps installation may seem complicated. But don't worry; we've got you covered below.
Installation for Infants
The primary role of a car seat for infants is to protect the head and neck, which are the most vulnerable to long-term complications in the event of a collision. There are two types of car seats for infants: rear-facing, infant-only; and convertible seats. Rear-facing, infant-only care seats are ideal for newborns but they become obsolete once the child grows to more than 20 pounds. When you're installing your little one's car seat we suggest you follow the steps outlined in the manufacturer's instruction manual. However, here are some general tips that will help you properly secure your newborn. If you're more of a visual learner you can watch installation videos provided by the NHTSA.

If you can move the car seat more than an inch then the straps aren't tight enough. To get them tight enough we suggest you find a way to put your weight into the car seat and then pull the straps as hard as you can. It's important that the seat moves as little as possible while you're in transit.
Ensure the carrier straps are tight and the harness clip is even with your baby's shoulders or armpits and the straps are in the slot that lines up close to the infant's shoulders.
If your baby has some extra space in the seat you can place rolled receiving blankets or towels on each side to keep him or her from wobbling. Avoid placing anything under the harness straps.
Locking clips are necessary for some vehicles made before 1997. This is necessary because these vehicles don't have seat belts that lock when the brakes are slammed, so the clip keeps belt from slipping if an accident occurs.
Your baby's head should be at least two inches below the top of the safety seat and make sure the seat is set at a 30 to 45-degree angle.
You can see more tips at DMV.org or Kids Health.

Convertible seats, the alternative to rear-facing, infant-only seats, are designed so that they can be used by infants after they're heavier than 20 pounds. When the baby reaches that weight the seat can be turned to face forward and it's secured with three types of harnesses: T-shield, tray shield, and five-point. All of these types meet required safety standards, but the five-point harness is regarded as the best option since it can be tightened to fit snugly and it doesn't get in the way of the baby's head. When installing a convertible seat you should make sure all straps are as tight as possible to prevent it from wobbling.
Ages One to Three
While infants should always be placed in rear-facing car seats, once a child has reached at least one year of age and weighs at least 20 pounds they can utilize forward-facing child safety seats installed in the rear of the car. That being said, they're safer in a rear-facing seat, so keep them in one for as long as possible.Forward-facing seats, like the ones that come before, should be installed using LATCH rather than seat belts, if possible. Here are some other tips:

If you're installing a forward-facing seat make sure it's set directly against the back and bottom of the car seat. When you're installing the seat make sure to put weight on the seat to push it back as far as possible so the straps will be as tight as they can be.
Make sure the seat can't move side to side or tip forward more than an inch. If it does then unbuckle it and try again.
If your car was made before 1996 then you'll probably need to buy a locking clip to prevent the lap and shoulder seat belts from slipping.
Make sure the straps lie flat and tug on them to make sure they're secure once your baby is fastened into the seat.
If you can pinch any of the harness material between your fingers then it's too loose and needs to be adjusted.

Ages Four to Seven
There are no rear-facing car seats available for this age group, and we don't know of any children of this age group that would be content to sit facing the rear of the car. So, once a child reaches age four, you'll have no choice but to move to a forward-facing seat.

Keep a child in this age range in their child seat until they outgrow either the height or weight limits specified by the seat manufacturer. Once this happens, it's time to switch to a booster seat.
Ages Eight to Twelve
Once a child reaches eight years of age or is at least 4'9'' tall, they should be placed in booster seats. Most booster seats simply elevate the child's seating position and enable them to use the standard seat belts on a car. LATCH is not required nor should it be used with booster seats.

At some point during this period, you'll likely transition the child from booster seat to just using the standard seat belt of the automobile with no otherÿencumbrances. Make sure they're wearing the belt properly, with the lap portionÿacross their upper thighs and the shoulder portion across their chest.
Other Considerations
We've heard lots of chatter regarding the so-called "combination seats." These seats are marketed as being able to go from a rear facing infant seat to a forward facing toddler seat and then finally to a booster seat for older children. A testing study performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found significant problemswith these combination seats.

Children should always ride in the back seat of a car, if possible, no matter if they're in a car seat, a booster seat, or if they're old enough to wear seat belts.ÿAll modern cars now have both driver side and passenger side front airbags, which are designed for full-sized adults. Airbags can injure or kill a child, and the back seat is simply the safest place in the car.

Finally, don't assume that just because your child isn't in a car that all auto-related dangers areÿabated. Child pedestrians are killed at a greater rate than any other age group. In fact, male children, aged 5 to 9 years old, are the largest group of pedestrians killed every year. Children can still fall victim to an automobile by darting into a road without looking or by playing on a street.

Read More
Know Your Rights: What to Do When You Get Pulled Over

Know Your Rights: What to Do When You Get Pulled Over

Nine times out of 10, during a traffic stop, the police officer is taking every step possible to ensure their own safety, without violating the rights of you or anyone else in the car you’re driving. But police officers may make some requests during a stop that you can legally refuse. Knowing your rights and what you can do to facilitate the needs of a police officer without giving up those rights can help prevent a routine traffic stop from escalating into something far more confrontational. You may even be able to avoid getting a ticket.

Pull over, turn off the ignition, and put your hands on the steering wheel: When you see flashing red lights, signal and pull over to the right as far as possible. Turn off the ignition, and place both of your hands on the steering wheel. Right off the bat you are letting the officer know you are not a threat. Any passengers should remain still for the duration of the traffic stop.
Roll your window down just half way: You may want to wait until the officer arrives at the driver side window before you roll it down. Use just one hand while keeping the other on the wheel. Rolling the window down just half way allows for a respectful exchange between you and the officer but prevents the officer from sticking his or her nose inside your car.
Wait until the officer asks to see your documents before retrieving them: This is something you should prepare for in advance. Officers will ask to see some combination of your driver's license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Make sure all of this documentation is up to date and easily accessible.
Do not incriminate yourself: If the officer asks you, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" or "Did you know that you ran that stop sign back there?" all you need to say in response is, "No officer." You do not need to confess to an officer that you were speeding or otherwise breaking a law. Do not give up your Fifth Amendment right that states no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."
Do not take anything the officer says personally: A police officer might try to upset you by implying you are engaging in some kind of illegal activity:
"There's a lot of gang activity in this neighborhood. Are you in a gang?"
"What's a pretty lady like you doing driving this late at night?"
"Looks like you've been partying. Have you been drinking?

As we have already pointed out, saying "No officer," is a respectful way to respond to questions meant to trip you up and incriminate yourself. If necessary, you can file a complaint about an officer's conduct later, but during a traffic stop, try not to take anything the officer says personally.

Exit the car only if asked: You are required by law to step out of your vehicle if an officer asks you to. However, you can and should shut and lock the driver door behind you. Leaving the door open can be interpreted as your consenting to a search. If the officer asks why you locked the door, simply say, "I always lock my car doors, officer."
Do not consent to a search: Unless there is what's known as probable cause, an officer will need your permission to search your vehicle. Without probable cause, you do not have to consent to a search. Remain calm, and simply say, "I do not consent to any searches officer." Refusal to consent to a search does not give an officer the legal right to detain you, and consenting to a search makes the search legal in the eyes of the law. The officer may go ahead and execute a search anyway, but your statement will help you later in court.
Stay cool If you find yourself standing outside of your locked car with an officer yelling and threatening you, try to remember he or she is most likely trying to get you to consent to be searched, admit a crime, or make a verbal threat. Breathe, and do your best to stay calm. You are within your rights to either remain silent or…
Ask if you are free to go: Once the officer has returned your documents and license to you, unless you are being detained or arrested, you are legally free to go. But asking if you are free to go, and then waiting for a response, assures you that the officer isn't going to accuse you of fleeing the scene of a crime. Simply saying, "Are you detaining me officer? Or am I free to go now?" is also a good way to respond if an officer tries to bait you into saying something self-incriminating.

 
Eight points to remember if you get pulled over by the police:

Pull over, turn off the ignition, put your hands on the steering wheel
Roll your window down just half way
Wait until the officer asks to see your documents before retrieving them
Don't take anything the officer says personally
Exit the car only if asked
Do not consent to a search
Stay cool
Ask if you are free to go

Three things you should say if you get pulled over:

"No officer. I don't know why you pulled me over."
"I do not consent to any searches."
"Are you detaining me officer? Or am I free to go now?"

Read More
This is What You Could be Doing With a Gallon of Gas

This is What You Could be Doing With a Gallon of Gas

The gas we power our cars and jets with has a very high “energy density.” Many people are surprised to hear just how powerful this non-renewable natural resource really is. So, you know that a gallon of gas will fuel your car for 15-30 miles, but what else can a gallon of gas do?

How Gas is Made

After petroleum is pumped from the ground, it is distilled and converted into what we would recognize as motor oil. Several products are separated out of this refined oil, including aviation and automobile gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, solvents, lubricants, grease, asphalt and kerosene.

Chemical Composition of Gasoline

Gasoline is comprised of thousands of different chemical compounds depending on where the petroleum was extracted. Generally, however, gasoline is composed nearly entirely of hydrocarbons, with six to 12 carbon and 14 to 26 hydrogen atoms in each molecule. Thus, the range of chemical composition of gasoline’s hydrocarbons is C6H14 to C12H26.

In addition to hydrocarbons, gasoline often has small quantities of other elements such as oxygen, trace metals, sulfur and nitrogen.

When it burns, gasoline produces carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O) and energy. Although energy amounts vary, typically, a gallon of gasoline produces the equivalent of 118,000,000 joules, 32,000 watt-hours or 112,000 BTUs. When you consider that a gallon of liquefied natural gas produces only 75,000,000 joules, 21,000 watt-hours or 71,100 BTUs, gasoline is clearly a far more powerful energy source.

The Power of Gasoline

Charging Your iPhone5

It has been estimated that an iPhone 5 requires 9.5 watt-hours each day to charge. At that rate, one gallon of gasoline would charge the phone 3368 days, or every day for over nine years! The liquefied natural gas, no slouch, doesn’t even come close with only 2211 days, or six years.

Roasting a Turkey

Since Americans eat over 45 million turkeys each year, this flightless friend of the Pilgrims is considered by many as the official national bird of the U.S. In the average electric oven, it takes about 17,600 watt hours to properly roast the typical bird. So, depending on the size of your Tom and your gasoline, you could properly cook nearly two turkeys on a gallon of gasoline. With liquefied natural gas, you’d be lucky to get one cooked-through.

Powering Up a Light Saber

A bored associate professor of physics has determined that a lightsaber (Qui Gon’s to be precise) would require 56,000 watt-hours of energy to operate properly. Here on Earth, a well-equipped Jedi would need to keep 1.75 gallons of gasoline or 2.67 gallons of liquid natural gas on hand in order to properly defend the Republic.

One of the reasons it’s so difficult to replace gasoline with an alternative energy is that the high energy density of gasoline makes its efficiency hard to beat. Until we do find a suitable and sustainable alternative fuel source, individuals will continue to find creative ways to curb their personal gas consumption. Do you part to conserve our fuel and our environment by taking advantage of these money-saving tips and other conservation advice.

Read More
America’s Greatest Cars: The History of Ford Motors

America’s Greatest Cars: The History of Ford Motors

If you've ever owned a Ford, there's a good chance that it was a car you loved deeply. Fords have long been known for their reliability, durability, and cult-like fan base. If you are a die-hard Ford aficionado, you may or may not be familiar with the company's history, and how it got to where it is today. Ford's biggest, longest-lasting contribution to the industry is, firstly, how it revolutionized the manufacturing process, and secondly how it revolutionized employee rights and labor standards. With ingenuity in production coupled with an admirable and fair treatment of employees, Ford used its outstanding business practices to rise to the top of the US auto industry, and they've manufactured some well-loved rides as a result. The following infographic takes a trip down Ford memory lane and brings to life some of their greatest accomplishments. Whether you're a Ford lover, car lover, or you're more interested in ethical business practices, the history of Ford can offer something for everyone to admire.

Read More
GM’s User-Friendly Technology Takes on Ford

GM’s User-Friendly Technology Takes on Ford

On the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show, GM announced three user-friendly infotainment products that may well give Ford a few headaches. Available soon on some of Chevrolet's most affordable cars, there's an integrated and inexpensive navigation iPhone app, Siri EyesFree interface, and an upgraded version of Chevrolet's MyLink that includes an Apple-like customized screen design.

For a solid five years now, GM has watched Ford gain sales and goodwill based on two things. One, it did not take the government bailout money in 2008 and, two, Ford has successfully marketed its in-car connectivity in its lower-end, more affordable cars. Marketing executives at both brands have fired verbal shots across their respective bows via the automotive press, downright bad-mouthing one another in the war to win back the nation’s confidence in American car brands.

And after Ford spent years touting its technology to win over young buyers, its quality ratings dipped for the past two years of J.D. Power and Associate’s Initial Quality Survey (IQS). The complaints were centered on its MyFordTouch system that controls the entertainment and climate systems in Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Complaints covered everything from a confusing interface, to unresponsive voice commands, to the fear that the system distracted them while driving. The resulting IQS score sank Ford in the rankings from No. 7 to a low No. 28.

Although this has been a setback, it has not slowed down Ford’s technology push one bit. Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president for global marketing, told Automotive News that the Ford brand has hung its hat on its connectivity.

“Technology is one of the main reasons why people see us differently now today than they did just a few years ago,” Farley said. So it was only a matter of time until GM caught up.

GM infotainment goes for mainstream acceptance

Not to be outdone, the largest American carmaker is attempting a “leap-frog” of technology offerings via its dominant Chevrolet brand.  Its three new technology applications will begin to appear on Chevrolet vehicles coming to market in 2013.

In theory, these systems are right in the pocket of a generation who have Steve Jobs as a role model and Apple iPhones in their pockets. Time will tell if the products prove to be easier to operate than Ford's current systems, but GM has certainly made some milestone moves with these three approaches to bringing technology into the car, making the solutions more familiar to a mobile generation.

BringGo App

GM is doing for its tiny Spark microcar what no other brand has done successfully yet — making an inexpensive navigation app from your phone work on the car's system. The app costs $50 (one-time only) and the mapping data is downloaded from the app, so you’re not using up your data plan. The system will work only with an iPhone and the Chevrolet Spark LT that includes MyLink, which costs $14,495, but the BringGo app has many of the features you’d find in an embedded navigation system:

Emergency information such as police, fire, and the nearest hospital
Thousands of points of interest, such as the nearest department store, type of restaurant, repair shop, etc.
Local Search via Google
Where am I? locator
Live traffic functionality provides crash reports and lane closures, and alternative routes 3-D maps
Ability to calculate remaining miles of range
Ability to store native maps to the customer’s smartphone, giving them access to locations and turn-by-turn directions even when phone signal quality is poor. Many GPS-enabled apps do not do this.

Siri EyesFree

If you know Siri from using an Apple iPhone, you know that she will help you if she can, and if not, she’ll point you to a Google search that might do the trick. These truths have been forever etched into our culture, which is why GM has teamed up with Apple to create a voice-activated interface for its upcoming Chevrolet Spark and Sonic. The phone is connected to your car via a Bluetooth connection, and you never need look at your phone while driving — even the light won’t go on while you’re asking Siri a question with the use of a button on the steering wheel.

Here's what Siri in your Chevy Spark or Sonic can do:

Make voice-activated, hands-free calls to contacts on your iPhone
Play songs in the iTunes library, and even switch music sources automatically from AM/FM/XM radio to iPod mode
Listen to, compose, and send text messages to a phone number or anyone in saved contacts
Access your calendar and add appointments
Minimize distraction by keeping the screen of the iPhone from lighting up, even when Siri answers simple questions, such as game scores or the dates of national holidays

Chevrolet’s Next Generation MyLink

We won't see this new system until the 2014 Chevrolet Impala comes out in the Spring of 2013, then later on GM trucks, SUVs, and the Corvette, but the new generation of MyLink will offer:

Chevrolet’s first natural voice recognition for all commands — no key phrases to learn
Four screens that change the 8-inch appearance based on your personal preference: Contemporary (clean, simple), Edge (the youth), Velocity (car guys), Main Street (average Joe/Jane).
Ability to link up to 10 technology devices (think phones, Bluetooth, MP3 players, USB drives, etc.)
A screen that “swipes, clicks, and drags” like an Apple product.

GM’s approach to all this new technology was to find out what people could handle first, then have designers build simple solutions that mimic the software that has already found its way into the people’s consciousness. The key was to take engineers out of the design process. The result is to mimic Apple's simplistic icon design and interface. Not a bad strategy when you consider that Apple is the most valuable public technology company in history.

So get ready to start seeing a major advertising push featuring these technologies from Chevrolet. With the goals of both safety and connectivity in mind, it's a pretty compelling message.

Read More
Clear Direction on Driving in the Fog

Clear Direction on Driving in the Fog

Learning from the Thanksgiving Day pile-up in Texas

It couldn’t have been a worse Thanksgiving morning for more than 100 drivers traveling through Beaumont, Texas, on Interstate 10. A fog rolled in and in just a few short minutes, a nightmarish chain effect of car and truck crashes had vehicles strewn all over the highway.

Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature passed a bill allowing the highway to increase from 65 mph to 75 mph and the traffic was moving briskly when a severe fog rolled in.

Two people died and more than 80 were critically hurt as a result of fast cars, trucks, and vans slamming into each other at top speeds. The two who died were in a Chevrolet Suburban SUV and were crushed by a tractor trailer. A mist of fog was seen as photos and footage of the pile-up made national news.

Fall and spring are both heavy seasons for fog. There are nearly as many types of fog as there are cloud formations. In fact, fog is a sort of ground level cloud. Sometimes fog starts out as a mist, but it can grow into what we commonly call a “pea soup” and that’s when the trouble begins.

So how do we deal with this sudden blindness when it hits? As our friends in Texas now know, you can find yourself in a world of hurt if you don’t slow down, but trucks moving at 75 mph have a much harder time braking with all that tonnage. Since nearly one-third of all fatalities are weather-related, it’s good practice to be reminded of what safety experts say you should and shouldn’t do when you’re left driving in the fog.

Immediately drive slow and steady
Slow down and go only as fast as you can see in front of you. Do not change lanes or pass another vehicle unless absolutely necessary. When you do see a car in front of you, keep a safe distance at all times, giving yourself room to negotiate around it if something were to happen. Generally, keep an eye on your speedometer because people are known to unconsciously increase their speed in fog.

Understand the nature of fog
Fog doesn’t stay the same — sometimes it gets thicker and often, it magically lifts. Fog is made up of condensed water droplets; the result of the air being cooled to a “dewpoint” where it can no longer hold all of the water vapor it contains. Remember that fog also wets the highway, so the chances of slick, oily, non-gripping roads increase as well.

Do use: lights, fog lamps, hazards, defroster, and wipers
The brights are not going to help when driving in fog; they’ll actually hurt. You should turn on regular lights and fog lamps and hazard lights if it's thick enough. This will warn drivers behind you of your lowered speed. Also, use the windshield wipers and defroster because fog can cause more condensation on your windows and the moisture could make them fog them up as well.

Don’t use: brights or cruise control
No brights — they will actually make a shadow on the fog, creating even less visibility. Also, be sure your cruise control is off, as you may have to brake suddenly, and there’s no telling when, so stay in control of your vehicle in the fog.

See and hear what you can
If the fog hits and you can’t see where to go, use the right edge of the road or roadside reflectors to follow to the next offramp or exit. As for hearing, roll your windows down and listen to road — do you hear a car or truck up ahead? How about a car revving it’s gears up behind you? If so, it may be time to find a pocket on the right and turn on your hazards.

Not on our list is the most obvious tip: If you can, pull over and wait for the fog to lift. Although this isn’t always possible, it is truly the best advice if you want to be truly cautious in a thick fog.

Technology to save the day someday
What we can hope for in the future are cars that detect objects in front of us without us having to actually see them. The National Transportation Safety Board recently put pre-collision alert systems on their Top 10 list for 2013 — to make these types of devices available on all cars at all price points.

The most effective type of Pre-Collision System (PCS) are the small radar detectors that are placed near the front of the car, usually in the grill. These radars are constantly sending out quick bursts of high-frequency radar waves. These waves bounce off the nearest objects and return to the sensor, where a computer unit calculates how long it took for the signal to leave and bounce back.

Some cars take this information and simply give you a warning beep, others can autonomously apply brakes, but the technology does exist and the NTSB believes it can stop 1 out of 5 weather-related accidents from happening.

So now that we’re clear, remember that it’s best to be prepared for one of the worst weather conditions known to drivers. Perhaps in future years, we’ll all look back and laugh about how we used to drive without radar, but for now, use caution, slow down, and make clear-headed decisions when hopelessly stuck in the fog.

Read More
Gov’t Agency Wants 5 Safety Technologies as Standard Equipment

Gov’t Agency Wants 5 Safety Technologies as Standard Equipment

 

Federal accident investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board believe the government should mandate the latest collision technology, usually only found on luxury vehicles, in every new car made. This announcement came this week as the NTSB released it’s yearly 10 Most Wanted List.

What the agency is recommending is that these features become mandated as standard equipment for all new cars going forward. This is a tough pill to swallow for car companies, which feel that this would drive up the cost of a new car for consumers who are already strapped with paying an average of $30,000 now.

But the agency is taking a hard stand on the issue, saying that their research shows that employing these technologies on every car could reduce traffic fatalities by more than half.

"Transportation is safer than ever, but with 35,000 annual fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries, we can, and must, do better," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "The Most Wanted List is a roadmap to improving safety for all of our nation's travelers."

The five technologies rely on electronic sensors and computers to communicate dangerous situations to the driver and, in many cases, change the behavior of the car itself.

Lane departure warning
Since 2001, car companies have been creating different versions of lane departure warnings that beep, ring, and sometimes take the wheel from the driver when conditions aren’t safe to proceed into another lane — or the side of the road. Various technologies like video, laser, and infrared sensors deliver the information to the driver. Although this technology is becoming more common on lower-priced vehicles, experts say the cost of adding it can be anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per car.

Forward collision warning
Using the same technologies as the lane departure warning devices, the sensor built into collision avoidance systems warns the driver of obstacles in the road, a car in front of them, or a blind spot detected in the next lane. These systems are very helpful in the fog or when a car in front of you makes a sudden stop. Although mostly found in high-end cars, the 2013 Nissan Altima can be fitted with this feature for around $1,000 extra.

Adaptive cruise control
Sure, lots of cars have cruise control, but adaptive cruise control suggests the car has the ability to slow down automatically when approaching a vehicle ahead. Some even have the ability to speed up when traffic allows. Again, lasers, radar, and video technologies are used to provide information to the driver in either an audible or vibrating feel on the wheel. Some of these systems give a warning beep when the car drifts out of its lane without the blinker engaged.

Automatic braking
Also called “pre-collision systems,” automatic breaking is a technology that senses an imminent collision with another vehicle, person, or obstacle and applies the brakes without driver input. Laser, radar, and cameras are used to make this happen and, although not all accidents can be completely avoided, the system does seek to reduce crash speed in many situations.

Electronic stability control
A much more common and less expensive safety feature being recommended by the NTSB has many branded names, but is known as electronic stability control. This technology detects and reduces loss of traction or skidding when it detects a loss of steering control. When engaged, it automatically applies the brakes to help “steer” the vehicle where the driver intends to go. This might happen while the car is skidding, during emergency evasive swerves, or when the driver poorly judges turns on slippery roads. It’s also helpful when the car is hydroplaning due to severe weather.

Compelling stats behind the recommendations

The potential for improving safety by using these technologies is impressive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that run-off-road, rear-end, and lane change maneuvers account for 23%, 28%, and 9% of highway accidents, respectively. Vehicle collision avoidance technologies can prevent these types of accidents. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that forward collision warning can prevent 879 fatal crashes annually for passenger vehicles and 115 fatal crashes annually for large trucks.

The Insurance Institute estimates that lane departure warning can prevent 247 fatal crashes annually, and electronic stability control, 439 fatal crashes annually.

The NTSA's  list was released a little earlier than usual this year so corporations could get a jump on planning.

"We're releasing the list now so it is available to policymakers at the state and federal levels as well as industry groups as they craft their priorities for 2013," Hersman said. "We want to highlight the results of our investigations and ensure that safety has a seat at the table when decisions are made."

 

 

 

Read More
Carpooling: Saving Time, Money, and the Planet

Carpooling: Saving Time, Money, and the Planet

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey shows that only around 9.7% of American employees carpooled to work that year, despite the numerous environmental and financial benefits of carpooling. According to AAA's Your Driving Costs 2012, between gas, maintenance, and wear on tires, it costs an average of 20 cents for every mile you drive, which can add up quickly and vary depending on driving conditions. When driving your vehicle, carpooling allows you to share this cost with your passengers, or you may be able to alternate the vehicles being driven between your fellow carpoolers, which evenly distributes costs and vehicle wear and tear. Also, most major cities have carpooling or high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, allowing you to cruise by the stop-and-go traffic in the main lanes, which saves you time and increases your gas mileage, saving you money. Today's infographic takes a look at the state of carpooling and car-sharing in the U.S.

Read More
Is It Time to Recall Toyota?

Is It Time to Recall Toyota?

When you’re Toyota — a company that only two years ago survived a huge public relations debacle — another massive safety recall is not what you want. But headlines are screaming this week about 2.8 million Toyota vehicles that are being recalled for a water pump problem on the Toyota Prius, plus a steering shaft weakness that could deteriorate your ability to steer the car.

In the U.S., the water pump issue applies to 670,000 Toyota Prius Hybrids from the years 2004 through 2009 and the steering shaft problem is on 350,000 of those same cars. Yes, that’s a lot of cars — five years' worth of one of the most popular models Toyota has ever marketed.

Past Sins 

This recent recall comes on the heels of last month’s headline, where 2.5 million Camry models with faulty power window switches were reported to have smoked or caught on fire. As a result, nine people were reported to have sustained injury.

And yes, it’s compelling to look back at the ugly mess that happened in 2009, when Toyota recalled 12.4 million cars globally and 10.2 million of those cars were right here in the U.S. The word spread that Toyota cars had faulty acceleration, but the most Toyota admitted to was a sticking gas pedal caused by a floor mat jam. This recall and its associated lawsuits cost the company big bucks, but no proof was ever brought forth that these accidents were not caused by human error.

Not Too Big to Fail

Why do I argue for Toyota? Basically, I have come to respect the company and its overall safety record. I also respect what they’ve done since 2009 when the trouble began. And I’m not the only one. Jessica Caldwell, an analyst from Edmunds.com, warns that judging Toyota on this recall may be hasty.

“After 2010, we demanded Toyota be transparent and proactive in recalling vehicles and now they are — along with most other manufacturers,” Caldwell said. “In terms of perception, the long-run benefits of a commitment to safety and quality will outweigh any short-term backlash.”

Toyota takes the U.S. market seriously and has stepped up its transparency to a very high degree to get us to buy its products. Toyota has also been a leader in the global car market for several decades now and that has naturally increased the amount of Toyotas on the world’s roads — thus many problems can potentially be found.

To Toyota’s credit, this recall was completely voluntary on its part. It was not in response to a government investigation. The agency that regulates recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NTSHA) has many investigations going on many other brands — at the time of this writing, more than 50 to be specific. Of those 50 investigations, 72% are American cars. Toyota’s presence on the list is minimal.

Brian Lyons, Toyota’s manager of quality and safety said that the “corporate structure” at Toyota has dramatically changed since the recalls of 2010.

“Since that episode, Toyota has made structural changes and hired a chief quality officer and product safety expert at very high levels and we have a direct line to President Akio Toyoda if we need to use it,” Lyons said.

Okay, so Prius Isn’t Perfect 

If you have a 2004-2009 Toyota Prius, the good news is that the two things that could possibly be weaknesses can now be fixed for free. All you need to do is contact your nearest Toyota dealership and set up a service appointment.

If you’ve lost faith in Toyota entirely, keep your eyes open and don’t believe all the hype. Just like the Japanese proverb says, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” This is true for the huge company that is and has been the case ever since Toyota overtook GM as the automotive global leader.

I tend to believe Mr. Lyons when he said Toyota is committed to getting rid of their quality issues.

“Most consumers understand that things can go wrong with products; they want to be reassured that you will be open about them and take full responsibility for fixing the issue. That’s what we are doing,” he said.

Read More
Safest Pickup Trucks for 2012 Announced

Safest Pickup Trucks for 2012 Announced

Pickup trucks have vied with sedans as the most popular style of vehicles for years. But if safety is what you want from a truck, J.D. Power and Associates has narrowed the list to two — the 2012 Ford F-150 and the 2012 Toyota Tundra.

It didn’t take a lot of data crunching for JDP to come up with this list of two trucks from the bigger list of seven brands. That’s because these two half-ton trucks are the only ones that passed with flying colors on the two big crash test measurements. Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found these trucks to be at the highest level of crash-worthiness.

These crash tests cover a bastion of frontal, side, rear, rollover, and head restraint testing. They also test crashes with both male adult and smaller framed female crash dummies. But additional safety features are also credited for getting these two trucks through the testing with flying colors.

2012 Ford F-150
This truck is equipped with six standard air bags, four-wheel ventilated disc anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, trailer sway control, hill-start assist, and roll stability control. All versions except for the base XL model have MyKey programmable safety features. A Sync Smartphone pairing system includes 911 Assist service, which automatically contacts a 911 operator for help in the event of an air bag deployment. Optional safety equipment includes rear park-assist sensors, reversing camera, and rain-sensing wipers.

2012 Toyota Tundra CrewMax
This truck is equipped with eight air bags, including knee air bags for the driver and front passenger. Additionally, the Tundra comes standard with four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, trailer sway control, and a Smart Stop system designed to prevent the truck from accelerating if the brake pedal is pressed. A reversing camera and front and rear park-assist sensors are optional.

Differing Rollover Tests
One of the most important tests for a truck is the rollover test since trucks have a center of gravity that is higher compared to other vehicles. Also, most studies show that four-wheel drive trucks have more of a tendency to roll over than two-wheel versions. It’s interesting to note that the government’s rollover tests had more stars for the Toyota Tundra’s four-wheel version than it’s two-wheel powered truck. In the case of the Ford F-150, the four-wheel drive version got the lower score of the two — only three out of five stars.

Any truck, but especially a large half-ton pickup, can be a challenge to operate and should never be driven like a car. The sheer size of these trucks makes them a danger to the smaller vehicles around them, and the braking distances are not as short in a large pickup. Lane changes are also a challenge with blind spots that reach back further. With the challenges of driving a truck, the importance of an excellent safety rating cannot be over emphasized. As with all automotive safety, sometimes accidents happen, so starting with the safest vehicle gives you the best chance of escaping harm.

Read More
The World Running on ‘E’: The Coming Oil Crisis

The World Running on ‘E’: The Coming Oil Crisis

While it’s unlikely the we’ll find ourselves using the last drop of the world’s oil anytime soon, we are nearly guaranteed to face a shortage of cheap and accessible oil in the coming century. Known oil reserves are only prepared to meet today’s global demand for another 40 years. And two indicators suggest that we have even less time than that. One, anyone charting the rising middle classes in China and India can tell you, global oil demand is growing. Without new sources of energy, today’s oil supplies will not meet tomorrow’s oil demand. And second, figures for proven oil reserves aren’t so proven. Reserve figures are reported by global oil suppliers that have heavy incentives to exaggerate their reserves. Healthy global reserve estimates help to reassure investors and stabilize volatile prices. The world’s largest oil supplier since the 1980s, Saudi Arabian ARAMCO, has reported no major oil field discoveries in thirty years. Even so, the company’s reported reserves have barely changed in decades.

So, what alternatives are available to us? As of now, there seem to be only two options. Both will require serious changes to most global lifestyles. First, we can stay the course we’re on now and pay more for oil. We’ll continue to develop expensive and destructive oil extraction methods. Prices will rise until today’s high consumption lifestyle will be accessible only to the very rich.

The second and brighter alternative requires a global collaboration to wean the global economy off of oil. Nations and industries worldwide will need to prioritize sustainable energy development. We’ll use industry taxes and international regulations to make alternative energies competitive. Whatever global consumers decide to do, one fact is unavoidable: the price of oil, and energy in general, will be higher.

Read More
Top Car Maintenance Tips for Teens

Top Car Maintenance Tips for Teens

When teenagers (ages 16 - 20) have their own cars, the danger of them crashing it are 2 and 1/2 times more likely than the teens who used the “family car.” So those priviledged few teens who are responsible for their own car should also consider themselves warned — things can go wrong and you can avoid many dangers by learning good maintenace habits.

Yes, teens have much to learn about keeping safely out of a crash, but a recent survey shows that young drivers know even less about car maintenance. According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of teens are rated by their parents as “somewhat or completely clueless” when it comes to how to take care of their car.

This spurred the folks at AutoMD.com to put together six tips for teens (and parents) to keep their cars running well with the ultimate goal for staying safe on the road.

Know your car’s maintenance intervals and keep up with service.
Look at your owner’s manual and find the car’s required maintenance schedule. This tells you when to have the fluids, tires, brakes, and oil and filter changes.
Take care of your tires — make sure they can get you to school, work, etc.
Keep your tires properly inflated and watch for tire wear. Consult your owner’s manual or tire sticker on the door jamb for manufacturer-recommended tire pressure settings. Also, look at your tires for wear and tear every time you stop for gas.
Don’t ignore dashboard warning lights
Dashboard warning lights serve as notification that something may be wrong with your car. The warnings include Check Engine, Oil, Temperature, Brake, Tire sensors and more, depending on the car’s technology. Read the owner’s manual and pay close attention to the lights, what they mean, and how you should respond to them.
Don’t let your car run too low, or out of gas
Like food, your car needs fuel to survive. Today’s cars are not made to run all the way to the last drop, as many have fuel-injected engines that use gas to cool and lubricate their components. A good rule of thumb is to keep the fuel level above a quarter tank to keep your car running well, and to avoid being stranded on the side of the road.
Steer clear — take care of your windshield
The windshield is like the eye of your car. Therefore, it is critical to keep it clean and clear for safe driving. Wiper blades that have cracks or that skip, streak, or leave smears should be replaced. You should also check spray nozzles for proper aim. If the nozzles are clogged, clean them with a needle.
Teen life moves fast, but your car doesn’t have to.
Slow down and avoid speeding. It may seem fun to drive fast, or you may be running late to school, but the best way to keep your car well maintained and safe on the road is to avoid speeding. Speeding is not only dangerous, but it’s bad for your car too. Driving slower puts less demand on your car’s engine and transmission, and also helps to reduce the amount of gas you use in the process. Avoid all driving habits that put stress and strain on your vehicle.

Teen training is only the beginning of a lifetime of good safety habits. To get further information, AutoMD.com has made a Teen Drive Car Maintenance and Repair Guide available on its site where your teen can take a maintenance and repair quiz and sign a certificate of commitment with their parent or guardian.

Preparing the teenage driver to be aware of his or her car’s condition can prevent many a mishap from ever happening at all. And if you have teenage kids, you have enough to worry about without having to add a flat tire, broken down vehicle, or a car stranded on the road to the list.

Read More
Ford Fusion Wins Top Safety Pick in IIHS Crash Test

Ford Fusion Wins Top Safety Pick in IIHS Crash Test

A completely redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion has been picking up all sorts of kudos among the automotive press since it arrived on the scene in the last few months. New from the ground up, the Fusion is considered Ford’s most significant midsize car since the Taurus in the early '90s.

This makes its recent achievement as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) even more significant. Ford has suffered in quality ratings due to its high-tech MyFordTouch infotainment system, which uses voice and touch commands to interact with many different Internet-based apps, but the distraction its systems may cause was not a part of the IIHS testing.

IIHS crash testing mainly rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests. It also conducts a rollover test, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts, which is a common accident.

Belt and Bag Technology

Ford points to its many new safety technologies as the reason for the win. Its new safety belt and frontal impact airbags have futuristic computerized brains to know how to assess a crash situation and act accordingly. From a central “chip,” something called the restraint control module (RCM) can translate information from the front crash sensors, front safety belt buckle switches, driver-seat track position, and passenger seat weight sensor. With all this information, the RCM activates the safety belt pretensioners and determines how the dual-stage front airbags will deploy. All this technology results in adapting the airbag release to the size of the person.

Airbags have become increasingly complicated in the competitive landscape of safety technology. The strategy Ford is employing seems to create the right airbag to go off for the right-sized person. If the occupant is large, the side airbag lines up with the shoulder, keeping the side airbag solidly inflated. On smaller passengers, the side airbag vents, keeping the firm part of the bag at shoulder height for smaller people.

Filling in Blind Spots

Other safety features on the all-new Fusion include blind spot information system with a cross-traffic alert for making maneuvering in parking lots and traveling open roadways safer. The Fusion has something called BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) to sound an alert when the car is detected entering a blind spot. Cross-traffic alert warns if traffic is detected approaching from the sides, such as when you are leaving a parking space in reverse.

Competition is Steep

Ford needed to score this safety test to continue playing in the big game of finding enthusiastic buyers for its mid-size, moderately-priced cars. Most of the biggest contenders in this market have won the same honor. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat have each won the honor for their latest model year, making crash test scores simply a cost of entry for the segment.

Also, coming in at pricing that undercuts some of the most popular sedans is a smart strategy for Ford. A base Fusion with an Appearance Package lists for $25,745 — which is thousands less than a comparable VW Passat.

No doubt Ford is glad to accomplish this safety testing for the Fusion. Still to come are the government tests conducted by the NHTSA, which determine other types of safety. A car that achieves high scores on both these tests is usually in pretty good shape from a safety aspect.

Steve Kenner, Ford’s global safety chief, said that Ford’s safety technology efforts have paid off so far.

“The new Fusion is another example of Ford’s commitment to the highest standards of safety and we are proud that IIHS has recognized these efforts,” Kenner said.

 

Read More
U.S. Government Begins Safety Study of Self-Driving Cars

U.S. Government Begins Safety Study of Self-Driving Cars

Thanks to the folks at Google, self-driving cars are the next technology that will change the world. The average driver may not be ready to turn the wheel over to a robot car, but the U.S. government and many car companies are taking this technology very seriously.

David Strickland, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, believes that, although these cars may not be commonplace on the road for another decade, they would eliminate a huge factor responsible for 90% of traffic deaths — human error.

“We have the chance of saving thousands and thousands of lives as cars in use today are replaced with automated vehicles,” Strickland said.

With NHTSA in the national seat for creating automotive safety standards, the question is, are they ready to re-write the book of the rules of the road to include completely autonomous cars? Strickland would not say while speaking on the topic at a recent industry gathering in Washington.

“Setting such standards would require the government to fundamentally rethink the way it evaluates auto safety,” he said.

This is only a test

What that would involve is testing several cars that can each communicate with each other — which is just what the government is doing in a massive, year-long road test that started this summer in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The road test, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, uses 3,000 cars, trucks, and buses set up with V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) technology. These vehicles were donated by many of the car companies developing this future technology and include Ford and GM.

A goal of the testing is for regulators to be directly involved in setting industry standards to make sure that each type of technology can communicate with another in an open system.

The companies known to be already testing robotic cars include GM, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Volvo, and Cadillac. But the technology that started this craze began in 2005, when a professor named Sebastian Thrun and his Stanford team won a contest called the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. The vehicle they created successfully traveled 132 miles across the desert.

Since then, Thrun has headed up a three-year partnership with Google Maps and has driven more than 300,000 miles in its many autonomous vehicles. Google has also been a driver of the government’s involvement and its lobbyists have convinced Florida, Nevada, and California to make self-driving cars legal for testing. Next in line are Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Washington, D.C.

Critics have valid points

But as the wonders of the technology are being lauded, others are concerned about the implications of this brave new world. The legal implications of accidents, liability, and integrating self- and non-self drivers on the road, have some legislators worried. Some traffic laws for motor vehicles have been on the books for 100 years, meaning new laws would have to be created from the ground up.

Other naysayers include consumer groups who fear that companies like Google and major auto manufacturers will use data they collect via GPS, radar, and computer vision techniques for marketing purposes.

The biggest hurdle will, of course, be consumer willingness to turn over the wheel to a computer-based system. With technology advancing as fast as the speed of light, we may be ready in another 10 years. One thing is certain — our government has taken the stance of encouraging this behavior to further the cause of safety. So in reality, the road from horseless carriages to driverless vehicles may be much closer than we think.

Read More
Will 85 MPH in Texas Up the Speed Elsewhere?

Will 85 MPH in Texas Up the Speed Elsewhere?

By Joni Gray

A 41-mile-long toll road in the Lone Star State called Highway 130 (SH130), connecting Austin and San Antonio, has set the bar as the highest posted speed limit in America at 85 miles per hour.

Where's this rise in speed limits coming from? Since 1995, when Congress repealed all federally imposed speed limits, the states have taken responsibility for the posted limits of individual cities and towns. In the years that followed, speeds have been steadily on the rise.

There are 36 states with 70 mile per hour limits, 12 that allow speeds on some highways to reach 75 and only 2 states, Utah and Texas, that post 80-mile-per-hour signs on selected highways and tolls. Most of the roads with higher speed limits are in rural, lower-populated areas.

A Need for Speed 

The support for higher speeds and resulting political pressure from drivers to legislators is easily explained by a culture growing used to instant access of all things. God forbid we don't get where we are going as fast as humanly possible.

Safety experts have a growing concern about this trend. Research conducted by the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that few drivers view speeding as an immediate risk to themselves or others, yet the probablity of death, disfigurement, or injury grows with higher speed at impact and doubles for every 10 mph over 50 mph that a vehicle travels.

And the fatality numbers are alarming. The NHTSA reports that on average, 1,000 Americans are killed every month in speed-related crashes and 66% of speed-related crashes involve a single vehicle.

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that fatality rates are on the decline. Between 2006 and 2012, there have been a reported 27% fewer deaths due to traffic accidents. Experts do not believe this comes from safer driving at lower speeds. It's been concluded instead that the combination of cars built to handle at higher speeds and improved passive and active safety technology are the key reasons for the change.

No matter how you slice it, increasing the speed limit invites people to push the boundaries up. Or so says Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director with the Governor's Highway Safety Association in Texas.

"Whenever we see a posted speed limit, we think we can go above it," Adkins said. "We think we can go 5 or 10 mph above it and a lot of cases we can't, so the reality is you're talking about the flow of traffic being 90, 95, even a little bit more, and so if you're in a crash, you're just not going to survive, even if you wear a seatbelt."

Fast Lane Hogs 

With all the arguments for and against an 85 MPH posting, an unforeseen factor was alledgedly the cause of the first three accidents that occurred after the opening of SH130 in October of 2012. Officials in the area have reported that two wild hogs and a deer were hit on the the road since its opening. A local news station reported video footage from the local police officials, showing examples of the feral hogs running into the highway and the easy access wildlife has to the high-speed road. They report that the hogs have become such a problem in the local area, that there is a bounty of $2 per tail on them due to overpopulation.

So, with all the arguments about high-speed safety, the first accidents on SH130 did not reportedly involve speed. This does beg the question — will driving that fast put you in a more dangerous situation when wildlife has easy access to the highway?

The Economics of Speed  

The cost for driving on America's fastest highway is an average of $6.17 one way. That price pays for shaving off around 9 minutes on a trip that usually takes around 38 minutes to complete. Not too surprising is the fact that high-speed highways are money-makers and that's where the rubber literally meets the road. If the the case of Highway 130 is any clue to the future, driving faster is a profitable venture for state governments.

The private company that built SH130, Cintra-Zachry, was confident that the toll road could be a money-maker in the market for speed. In fact, they baked it into the deal. The company offered the five-member state legislators a financial incentive in its contract — $67 million cash payment up front or percentage of the toll profits in the future for posting at 80 mph, and $100 million up front or a corresponding increase in profit.

So with states looking for any way possible to become financially healthy and please an increasingly impatient constituency, the future of speed limit increases seems to be fast approaching — whether we like it or not.

Read More
Survey Says: Japanese Companies Make the Most Reliable Cars

Survey Says: Japanese Companies Make the Most Reliable Cars

By Joni Gray

Most Reliable Car Brands

Consumer Reports recently announced the results of the top ten car brands, putting Toyota squarely at the top with its Scion, Toyota, and Lexus brands in the top three spots. Next were four other Japanese companies – Mazda, Subaru, Honda, and Acura. Also on the list of the top ten was the only German company listed, Audi. Kia was the only one Korean company to make the top ten, and no American brands were represented on the top list.

Of the American brands, General Motors had the biggest gain in reliability with Cadillac brand taking 11th place in the study.

 Most Reliable Car

The subcompact Toyota Prius C earned the top reliability rating overall – however, Consumer Reports’ testing did not put that particular model in their “recommended” list. The company is both applauded and criticized for its objectivity due to the way it tests cars, refrigerators, vacuums, and other products. They buy one product from a retailer and put it through a bastion of testing to measure not only reliability, but satisfaction and comparative features.

How CR Measured Reliability

In the case of these new car reliability ratings, the goal of the survey is to discover how each model is likely to hold up after a year of use. Basically, consumers are asked which problems and repairs they have experienced in one year of ownership. If the model has been unchanged for any other years of its life cycle, its past track record is also measured. Since it’s a “prediction” of sorts, there has to be at least one year of history reported by the owner, so brand new models that are built from the ground up don’t count into the survey results until next year.

Consumer Reports weighs each individual issue differently by how severe it considers the individual issue. For instance, a major engine problem is weighed quite a bit higher than a glitch in the audio system. By contrast, J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial Quality Study (IQS) measures all problems found in the first three months of ownership as equal in weight.

The Bottom of the List

The most notable fail on the bottom of the list is Ford, which only a few years ago, dominated the top of the list. The brand had issues with drivability in its PowerShift transmission and the MyFordTouch infotainment system, which had been cited for failing while in use and being difficult to use. Only two years ago, Ford was the most reliable of the American brands in the study; however, Ford had three new models that were too new to qualify for this survey – the 2013 Ford Escape and Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ.

From first being best to 27th being worst, here's how Consumer Reports ranked car brands for reliability:

1. Scion: 72% above average
2. Toyota: 47%
3. Lexus: 47%
4. Mazda: 40%
5. Subaru: 37%
6. Honda: 36%
7. Acura: 26%
8. Audi: 16%
9. Infiniti: 14%
10 Kia: 11%
11. Cadillac: 10%
12. GMC: 6%
13. Nissan: 5%
14. Mercedes-Benz: 4%
15. Chevrolet: 3%
16. BMW: -2%
17. Hyundai: -3%
18. Volkswagen: -9%
19. Jeep: -12%
20. Volvo: -14%
21. Buick: -29%
22. Mini: -42%
23. Chrysler: -43%
24. Dodge: -46%
25. Ram: -55%
26. Lincoln: -58%
27. Ford: -59%
28. Jaguar: -141%

Read More
Is Your Child in the Right Seat? Five Common Mistakes Parents Make

Is Your Child in the Right Seat? Five Common Mistakes Parents Make

By Joni Gray

Sure, we all want our kids to be safe in the car, but a recent study by General Motors Foundation and Safe Kids USA shows that 73% of car seats are not being used properly. In fact, the risk of fatalities among kids could be reduced by 71% if we’d simply install the right seat the right way in the right place in the car.

This becomes even more vital in light of the fact that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in children ages 3 to 14. In fact, 500 children are injured and four kids die every day in cars, trucks, and SUVs across the nation.

The bottom line is that babies and children need to ride in a car seat from the time they’re born until they are 7 or 8 years old in most cases. This potentially means that up to four seats per child will need to be researched, purchased, installed, and evaluated until the child is large enough to safely ride sitting in a seat with only a seatbelt.

A NATIONAL CAUSE

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has named Sept. 16 – 22 Child Passenger Safety Week and children’s safety advocates are out in full force to raise awareness with parents and caregivers to pay closer attention to buckle up their babies in the right way. This sounds fundamental, but it may be more difficult to do that than you think.

In fact, GM, the largest American auto manufacturer, has been partnered with Safe Kids USA for the past 15 years building a national program called Safe Kids Buckle Up that started with child seat safety checks at GM dealers. The program has since expanded to 80,000 car seat checkpoints across the country performed by certified experts with 30 hours in training — like CPR training, but for car seat installation. These checkpoints can be accessed by appointment anytime throughout the year and can be located through Safe Kids USA’s website.

WHAT’S OUR PROBLEM?

So what are we doing wrong? There are rules and 73% of us either break them or are unaware of them. Both the car and the car seat have detailed installation instruction manuals — typically, we don’t read them and install correctly. Car seats have height and weight limits — we don’t always follow them. Babies should be kept in rear-facing seats for as long as possible (sometimes until they are 3 years old, depending on their weight and height) — we flip them back around prematurely or put them in the front seat. Car seats have recalls and we may not have noticed. And then there’s the straps; the LATCH, the angles, the correct tightening of the harness — the list is seemingly endless.

CORRECTING THE FIVE MOST COMMON MISTAKES

Thankfully, Safe Kids USA organization has culled some of the most important tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers to check out immediately before taking another trip to the grocery store.

1. Right Seat
Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height. Like milk, your car seat has an expiration date. Just double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.

2. Right Place
Tell your kids they are VIPs and we know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13.

3. Right Direction
You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.

4. Inch Test
Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.

5. Pinch Test
Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.

PRODUCTS AND PRICING

With 22 children’s car seat manufacturers, building more than 30 brands of various products, the research and purchase choices are almost as baffling as buying a new car. Each seat has a definitive height and weight limit and, just like milk, an expiration date. Pricing is all over the map, but two excellent resources for ratings and reviews are Consumer Reports Car Seats Buying Guide and the NHTSA’s Ease of Use Ratings.

There are actually five types of seats on the market:

Convertible car seats: Can accommodate children rear facing — most up to 35 lbs. — then can be turned forward facing for up to 80 lbs. in some cases. Convertible car seats range in price from $45 - $360 retail.

Infant car seats: An array of infant car seats — some only accommodating a child up to 22 lbs. and some going slightly over that weight — range in price from $55 - $230.

All-in-one car seats: Only a few all-in-one seats are on the market that range in price from $150 - $300, but they give you the benefit of providing every function from rear-facing to front-facing to booster seat on one unit. Some grow with your child from birth to 100 lbs.

Toddler booster seats: These are forward-facing seats with an internal harness for toddlers weighing between 20 – 90 lbs. Although these seats allow for babies as small as 20 lbs., it is recommended by safety experts that a child should be in a rear-facing seat until they are 30 – 35 lbs. Toddler booster seats range in price from $50 - $255.

Booster seats: For children weighing 40 to 100 lbs., boosters should be used until a child is at least 57 inches tall which is the minimum height at which a car’s seatbelt will fit him/her properly. Booster seats are the least expensive of the group — ranging from $14 - $95 retail.

GM spokesperson Heather Rosenker said that some family-oriented SUV and car manuals actually recommend certain seats that fit best in that particular car. And car companies have a vested interest in keeping occupants safe, so it’s no real surprise. In that spirit, GM and Safe Kids USA have continued to create several national programs for child safety from infants to teens.

“We want to focus on the education of parents and caregivers to keep their kids safe while driving,” Rosenker said. And perhaps that advice is more challenging than most of us know.

Read More
Driving to Distraction – Online Addictions Have Officially Hit the Road

Driving to Distraction – Online Addictions Have Officially Hit the Road

Nowadays, when you see the car in front of you swerving, alcohol use isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The person in question could be performing any number of tasks while also trying to drive.

Seemingly, the average of eight hours a day we spend staring at a computer screen is not enough for the average consumer. The need to stay connected has followed us into the driver’s seat and the war between our online addiction and safety is being won by the new partnership between the technology companies and carmakers.

The once exclusive list of infotainment features available in cars is no longer found in luxury vehicles alone. Now, carmakers of every price range are plugging into the latest infotainment devices and marketing heavily to the connection-addicted car buyer.

Forgive the pun, but a Pandora’s box of technology is wide open and there seems little chance of closing it now. Between the screen on a Smartphone and the screen inside a car, the commonalities are becoming harder to differentiate.

What do today’s cars have built into the dash to further distract us? Here are some of the general categories of connectivity that are now becoming commonplace.

Texting and Social Media
These devices allow you to dictate messages and sometimes have your incoming texts “read” to you. Ford’s Sync system provides automated text replies – hopefully that say “I’m driving right now and don’t want to be distracted.” Hyundai’s new Blue Link gives you the option of dictating and sending texts but not receiving them. GM’s OnStar system has what they call “Audio Facebook” – and will read your Facebook news feed to you.

Finding and Playing Music
Of course, using an iPod or MP3 device saves you the hassle of bringing a bunch of CDs into the car, but navigating those devices can be a bit daring while driving. Car companies have “met in the middle” by creating in-dash apps such as Pandora, MOG and XM Radio apps that are easier to read in larger print (than on your Smartphone or iPod), but the amount of time it takes to find the song/program you’re looking for could prove dangerous. As for XM/Sirius radio, alone, there are over 200 channels to search – overwhelming even if you had no driving to do.

Navigation and All the Goodies
Anyone who has in-dash navigation can attest to its ultimate helpfulness – in fact, it’s literally put the Thomas Brother’s Guide out of business. But the competition for more detailed and complicated systems to serve our every need means more eyes on the program and less on the road. Sports scores, five-day weather reports, news headlines, gas prices and stock quotes are just of a few of the new fangled services available in some of the smart-phone connected navigation displays. An example of one potentially distracting feature on Audi’s latest MMI system is Google Earth directions with the “Street View” feature on the car’s dashboard.

In-Car WiFi Connectivity
Many luxury cars and now more mid-range priced cars are offering wi-fi routers, usually located in the trunk of the car, but now also connected to your phone’s wi-fi, for internet connectivity of laptops, iPods, and other internet devices. Although this feature is usually marketed with a photo of the devices located in back seat, the opportunity for a driver to be online is always possibility. These devices can also be purchased as after-market add-ons, so it’s not just the car companies that are making this ultimate distraction possible.

Bluetooth – Hands-Free Chatting
Bluetooth is probably the original technology in cars that got this entire distraction thing started. Once the statistics came out proving the connection of car accidents in the U.S. nd cell phone use (28% of all crashes to date), laws changed rapidly requiring only hands-free talking while driving. There are still some safety advocates that contend that the very act of having a conversation is just as distracting. One study shows that 18% of drivers talking on the phone – even hands free - were shown to be slower to react to brake lights.

Digging Deeper for Simple Tasks
Simple tasks such as setting music presets, using climate control and changing the lighting in many cars has gone from one simple button on the dashboard to up to six steps of joystick and touch screen directions. Add to that the complexity of simply playing music on an iPod through a USB port and it’s like putting together a difficult word game puzzle while also trying to drive on a an overcrowded highway.

Although no amount of backlash has overridden the perceived consumer need for all this distraction, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did release guidelines for vehicle controls that operate in-car electronics earlier this year. Car companies are asked by the government agency to adhere to these guidelines, but it is still not illegal or enforceable by the government agency and consumers have no way to know who is and is not complying.

The NHTSA’s Phase I guidelines include recommendations to:
>Reduce complexity and task length required by the device

>Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel to control the vehicle)

>Limit individual off-road glances required for device operation to no more than two seconds in duration

>Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view

>Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation.

Carmakers, however, are pursuing these online technologies now more than ever. An organization called The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has formed putting technology companies together with car companies to create standards of connectivity that will increase the affordability and ease by which car companies can build on technology platforms that are compatible for all users. And with consumer demand driving the need for in-car technology – almost more than horsepower - it’s not about to end any time soon.

Read More
Study Shows Car Owners Keeping Vehicles Longer

Study Shows Car Owners Keeping Vehicles Longer

According to a study from the automotive research firm R.L. Polk & Co., Americans are now holding on to their new car purchases much longer than in years past. Today's typical new car buyer keeps their vehicle for almost six years, or 71.4 months to be exact. That number has increased by 18 months since 2006 alone. It should also be noted that new car sales figures are boosted by leases, which typically only last for two to four years, which bring the overall length of time owners keep their new cars down.

Polk also found that used car buyers are keeping their vehicles longer as well. Consumers of used passenger cars and trucks kept their vehicles an average of 49.9 months, which is 17.6 months longer than the 32.3 months reported in 2003. In addition, the trend of buyers keeping cars for longer periods of time has also pushed the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads to a record 10.8 years.

One of the biggest reasons for the decline in new car sales and the increase in overall vehicle age is attributed to the decline in the U.S. economy since 2008. With less disposable income available for a number of Americans, would-be buyers are choosing to hold on to their cars and pay off auto loans rather than trading in their vehicles for newer models.

Polk also said that people are holding on to their cars because of an increase in vehicle quality. In the past, the prevailing belief was that cars generally reached their performance limit at 100,000 miles, pushing drivers to purchase new vehicles once their vehicles' perceived "life spans" were up. However, a lot of today's drivers have been forced to keep their cars longer than this period, so they've consequently learned that their cars actually still performed quite well despite being over the established distance limitation.

To add to this, automakers have also lengthened their warranties. While most new, non-luxury brands already come with a three-year or 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, many have opted to also extend coverage on drivetrain components like the engine and transmission for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles. Additionally, most luxury brands, and even Hyundai, typically carry a four- or five-year warranty that typically extends to 60,000 miles.

One bright spot for auto manufacturers is that the recent upswing in the economy, combined with the high average age of vehicles on the road today, has helped boost new car sales. Americans bought 12.8 million vehicles in 2011, which was up from 11.6 million in 2010. According to Polk, the number is expected to rise again in 2012, ranging from 13.7 million to 14.5 million this year.

Read More
Is that Airbag an Original? Feds Warn Car Owners to Be Wary

Is that Airbag an Original? Feds Warn Car Owners to Be Wary

With automobile crashes remaining one of the top causes of death worldwide, manufacturing, distributing and installing faulty airbags is equal to creating a fake vaccine for tuberculosis. And yet it’s true, according to government officials, for three years running, counterfeit airbags have been discovered in nearly every brand of automobile.

In tests conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these fake airbags were shown either to not deploy at all or explode, shooting metal scraps at the unfortunate crash test dummies in their path.

Although an investigation by the NHTSA is still underway, the culprits are still at large and there are no known injuries or deaths reported from the bad bags, but the threat is real even though the percentage of installation has been estimated at only 0.1% of all cars. Just like many other product “fakes,” the NHTSA and its partners have concluded that the counterfeit airbags they discovered were manufactured in China.

Who’s at risk? Anyone who either bought a used car without first checking the car’s history for major accidents or those who have had their car repaired by a non-manufacturer service shop. You are also at risk if you’ve purchased airbags over the Internet. The unfortunate reality is that it’s really impossible to know if your car has fake airbags without spending around $100 to $200 to have it checked out.

Additionally, since this is not recall, the cost to replace and repair the airbags must come directly out of the consumer’s pocket. A. Bailey Wood Jr. from the National Automobile Dealers Association says that the cost of the steering wheel airbag can be as high as $700 to $1,000 and in some cars, up to $3,000 with labor included.

The list of cars for which the NHTSA has discovered associated counterfeit products is extensive. Most model years are from the early to mid 2000’s, but one standout on the list is a 1992 Nissan Quest. It’s all the more unusual because airbags were not mandatory on cars until 1998. If you discover your car on the list, there’s a full list of call centers associated with each manufacturer available at www.SaferCar.gov.

So, could you be sitting on a time bomb? There are some recommended courses of action if you suspect you’ve been scammed with a fake safety device.

Call the auto manufacturer
First, federal officials have set up call centers with toll-free telephone numbers for each manufacturer, but these are really just the service numbers that represent each of the different brands involved. Training has been given to each of the manufacturers to help you deal with the issue at hand, but the degree of satisfaction you get will vary.

Get a history record of your car
If you don’t have full knowledge of your vehicle history, get information using Carfax which can provide some helpful details or contact your local new car dealer to have your vehicle inspected at your own expense and your air bag replaced if necessary.

Get in touch with your insurance provider
If you are concerned and have an air bag that was replaced at a repair shop recommended by your insurance company we recommend that you contact your insurance company.

Get online support
If you purchased a counterfeit air bag from eBay it may be covered by that company’s “Buyer Protection” program. Contact eBay’s Customer Support center accessible on www.eBay.com.

Rat out the repair shop
You may also wish to contact your local consumer protection agency or the appropriate State Office of the Attorney General to determine your rights under the law. Also, consider contacting the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.

Even though there’s a cost associated with the discovery process, consumers are urged to take action. “We expect all motor vehicle equipment to meet federal safety standards — and air bags in particular play a central role in keeping drivers and passengers safe in the event of a crash,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “That’s why it’s critical that vehicle owners work with their automotive dealers and repair professionals to ensure they use the appropriate, original equipment parts in the event they need to replace their air bag.”

Read More
NHTSA Says Counterfeit Air Bags Putting Drivers/Passengers at Risk

NHTSA Says Counterfeit Air Bags Putting Drivers/Passengers at Risk

If there is one thing that we, as drivers, have come to expect from our vehicles, it is that if we are ever involved in an accident, our vehicle's air bag(s) will deploy. However, if you own a vehicle equipped with air bags that have been replaced following an accident, you may be expecting too much. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently discovered that a significant number of replacement airbags are counterfeit, and those may not deploy. In some cases, the counterfeit airbags may even thrust hot shrapnel toward the driver if deployed.

The NHTSA has issued a warning to drivers who have had air bags replaced following an accident, and while the NHTSA has yet to discover the full scale of the problem, they have been able to identify certain vehicle makes and models for which the fake air bags were available. Fortunately, the NHTSA believes the issue affects less than 0.1% of vehicles in the U.S. Additionally, only those who have had an air bag replaced within the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership are at risk.

Another issue that makes the presence of counterfeit airbags so disturbing is the fact that they look almost identical to the original equipment parts that came on the vehicle, even down to the insignia and branding of several major automakers. Despite bearing the original markings, the counterfeit models tested by the NHTSA showed consistent malfunctions. While the NHTSA's testing of the counterfeit air bags themselves confirmed the dangers of the counterfeit products, they are not aware of any deaths or injuries connected to the products at this time.

Consumers who may be affected by counterfeit airbags, such as those whose vehicles were involved in an accident resulting in the deployment of their vehicle's factory air bag, and subsequently had them replaced by a repair not affiliated with a new car dealership (or if the air bag was purchased by the consumer themselves online), are advised to contact a call center created by the various affected auto manufacturers. Individuals who purchased the air bag from eBay or for less than $400 are believed to be particularly at risk. Vehicle owners who suspect that they have purchased a counterfeit air bag can set up an appointment to have their vehicle inspected at their own expense.

Read More
Audi Looking For Alternative Fuels to Lessen Carbon Footprint

Audi Looking For Alternative Fuels to Lessen Carbon Footprint

Despite the continued emergence of electric and hybrid vehicles, our dependence on internal combustion engines still remains. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as internal combustion gasoline and clean diesel engine technology in today's cars have made them more efficient and more powerful than ever before. So while a number of manufacturers have continued increase their investment into hybrid and electric vehicle development, Audi believes that in addition to the development of hybrid and electric vehicles, internal combustion engines can and will be manufactured to produce significantly fewer emissions.

According to Autoblog.com, the company is not only working to develop new carbon-neutral fuels for their internal combustion engines, but is also striving to make their current internal combustion fuels, i.e. gasoline and diesel, as efficient as possible. Audi hopes to first develop features like electric-forced induction, rather than typical forced induction methods like turbocharging and supercharging, as well as stop-start technology that allows the engine to shut off while the vehicle is coasting. While stop-start technology is already in use in a number of production vehicles, the feature currently only shuts engines off while the engine is idling at a complete stop.

The company's experimentations in using different fuels to reduce actual carbon emissions emitted from internal combustion engines reflects Audi's hopes of finding a fuel source that can be considered CO2 neutral, meaning that the amount of greenhouse gas used to make the fuels are balanced against the CO2 emitted by their vehicles while driving. Audi believes that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) can only truly be considered CO2-free if the electricity used to charge these batteries comes from nuclear, hydro, wind, or solar sources. If the electricity comes from coal or gas-fired sourced, however, then the vehicle is actually contributing to CO2 emissions. Because of this, Audi is now exploring the development of several new projects to make ethanol, diesel, and natural gas that create less CO2 in the production process.

One of Audi's current projects in alternative fuels has already been shown to the public — its dual-fuel version of its popular A3 model that not only uses gasoline, but compressed natural gas (CNG) as well. Audi claims that the vehicle will be able to achieve a range of around 750 miles per tank(s). The company recently showed the vehicle at this year's Paris Motor show, and calls it the A3 Sportback e-Gas Project. Audi has also developed a creative way of creating its “e-gas” CNG through electrolysis and methanization. Additionally, the company has partnered with SolarFuel to build a plant in northern German that uses wind power and electrolysis to create hydrogen from water. The company hopes the hydrogen can soon be used in hydrogen fuel cell cars.

While Audi’s new projects provide exciting new possibilities for the future of internal combustion engines, company officials believe there are a number of obstacles to overcome before any of their projects reach production. Two of the most important include innovative thinking from other vehicle manufacturers, and more importantly, approval from those in charge of creating emissions laws around the world.

Read More
Safe Driving Means Checking Your Bad Attitude at the Car Door

Safe Driving Means Checking Your Bad Attitude at the Car Door

Nothing challenges a usually well-mannered, congenial person like getting behind the wheel. Angry, risky or unsafe driving habits cause one-third of all traffic fatalities. Statistically, you are either a victim or a perpetrator of bad behavior on the road every day. Weaving in and out of traffic to get ahead, tail gaiting, making angry gestures at other drivers, multi-tasking while driving, or taking out your frustration on other drivers when they’re in the same boat as you.

Sound familiar? It’s not surprising that we all see it every time we drive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten drivers are exhibiting this type of behavior every day on highways across America.

But, frankly, some of us are more prone to pushing the boundaries of driving behavior than others. If you relate to any of this, don’t feel too bad. It’s actually in our brain’s DNA. Dr. Arnold Nerenberg, a clinical psychologist, says there are four triggers that create a “fight or flight” response when we’re driving: Feeling endangered, being detained, watching others disregard the rules of the road, and feeling the need to retaliate. Though everyone relates to these triggers, many succumb to their lure and behave badly in certain driving situations.

The NHTSA claims that the best weapon to fight aggressive, angry, and unsafe driving is law enforcement, but this type of behavior seems to always happen when there’s not a cop in sight. It would ultimately be better if we could change our response and adjust our driving attitudes before we hit the road. Of course, old habits run deep, so this could be challenging. We suggest you open your mind, lay down your defenses, and see if any of these symptoms describe you.

Symptoms of Deadly Driving Behaviors

Violent Thoughts – “Why, I oughtta…”
It’s frightening to be in a close call with another driver and thoughts of revenge immediately seem to pop into our minds. But when you think of the countless times this happens, is it really worth your emotional energy to get that worked up?

Always in a Hurry – “Get out of my way!”
So much of our driving attitude is wrapped up in time management. If we have plenty of time, finding patience for traffic is a little easier. However, some of us just hit the speed every time we get in a car. Beyond the risk of getting a ticket, remember that increased speed reduces the time you have to avoid an accident.

Constantly Critical – “Idiot!”
Having a critical, judgmental attitude toward all drivers is a bad habit in and of itself. If you think poorly of everyone’s driving behavior, you could end up justifying all sorts of bad moves yourself. Following too closely, blocking intersections, making quick moves to get around slower drivers – just a few of the many things we justify when we think everyone else is driving poorly.

Power Struggle – “Nope, you’re not getting in front of me!”
Remember, this isn’t a race. Any advantage you get from a competitive situation on the road will mean little if it ends up in a major traffic incident. People will not drive the way you want them to no matter how much you believe they should, so why cause a scene that could end up ruining your day?

Obeying Only Some Laws – “That stop sign is useless!”
Being caught up in anger, aggression, or control can make you question the laws of the land. Whether you roll through a stop sign, cross a double yellow line or don’t yield to a merging car on the highway, your impatience with the rules puts you and others at risk.

Denial – “It’s not me, it’s them!”
It ain’t just a river in Egypt and it’s a common human mistake. Remember, it’s not always somebody else’s fault. Model good driving habits to others on the road and show that you don’t have to blame them or play their game. When you do make a mistake or unintentionally cut someone off, wave and apologize. Take responsibility for your own driving and you’ll feel better about yourself as a citizen of the highway.

Tips to Avoid Deadly Driving Behavior

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as, "when individuals commit a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." And there are plenty of other factors that result in bad driving habits on the road, so always check yourself for fatigue, bad moods, and your need to control your personal space. You may have grown up with an aggressive driver as a parent and know no other way. Or you see so much of this behavior on the road that you think it’s acceptable. Here are some tips we’ve come up with to at least give yourself a fighting chance to change this way of life if you can first accept that you need to change.

Play music that relaxes you.
Remember, you can’t change others, only yourself.
Think positively, even when other drivers are acting negatively.
Adopt an attitude of cooperation, tolerance and rationality.
Count to 20 when you get angry – or listen to the radio.
Talk yourself through the situation instead of reacting.
Use deep breathing techniques to regain your composure.
Model good behavior.
Consider that other drivers may have a reason for their bad actions.

Remember, the very act of allowing anger and aggression in your daily life can lead to health problems like headaches, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. So even if you never get into a car accident, learning to control your bad driving habits or simply your response to others is a worthwhile endeavor. In fact, it could end up saving your life.

Read More
Get Your Car Ready for a Change of Weather

Get Your Car Ready for a Change of Weather

Winter weather means different things to different people. But whether snow, sleet, wind, rain or hail is in your future this winter, it’s a good time to run some do-it-yourself maintenance checks on your car or truck. So says AAA, who, since the 1980’s deemed October as Car Care Month.

John Nielsen, director, AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair says it’s an important time to find issues before they become emergencies. “Properly preparing your vehicle for the next season of driving is essential for the safety of all passengers and will greatly decrease the chances of your vehicle letting you down.”

The most basic car maintenance usually means checking your oil levels, tires, battery and wiper blades. The cost to fix any issues will probably be minimal up front, yet checking for problems now can save you major expense down the road. But there are other things you can check out before taking the car to a certified technician.

The experts at AAA suggest this checklist could take you less than an hour to perform, so why not take a walk around your car, open the hood and check it out?

Do-It-Yourself Car Care Checklist

Battery Cables and Terminals – Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight.

Drive Belts – Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; replace these belts at 60,000-mile intervals.

Engine Hoses – Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.

Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires work well in light-to -moderate snow conditions provided they have adequate tread depth. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.

Tire Pressure – Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb.

Air Filter – Remove the air filter and hold it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.

Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Test the antifreeze protection level annually with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.

Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.

Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In areas with snow, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.

Washer Fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing.

Brakes – If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.

Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.

If you’re a card-carrying AAA member, look for AAA Service Specialists to get a free maintenance check and estimate, a guarantee for one year on the parts and labor and a 10% discount on any work they do for you. But be aware that on many new cars, some maintenance needs to be done by the manufacturer’s dealer service department to maintain the car’s warranty.

Simple regular maintenance on your car can make the difference between breakdowns and reliability – especially in the winter months. When summer’s road trips are over, it’s the best time to check out the wear and tear and get ready to face the winter months with a more reliable car.

Read More
It’s Not Easy Being Green: Your Eco-Friendly Car is Kinder to Some Cities

It’s Not Easy Being Green: Your Eco-Friendly Car is Kinder to Some Cities

It's a well-known fact that cars are responsible for a good deal of the world's air pollution. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) State Transportation Statistics 2011, there are 130.9 million registered automobiles in the U.S. alone. In their National Household Travel Survey, the DOT shows that daily travel in the U.S. averages 11 billion miles, close to 40 miles per person every day. And with each mile, more and more greenhouse gases are released into the environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that transportation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., responsible for 27% of the country's emissions. More than half of this comes from passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks, despite increasingly strict regulations being placed on vehicle emissions.

In an effort to "go green" and reduce these harmful exhaust emissions, many people are trading in their gasoline-powered vehicles for electric ones. Electric vehicles (EVs) are equipped with a battery-powered electric motor, rather than an internal combustion engine found in conventional vehicles. The result is a car that produces zero exhaust emissions. But are they always really better for the environment?

EVs must be plugged into an electrical source to charge, which in turn increases the amount of electricity needing to be generated and distributed. The problem is, more than 70% of the country's electricity comes from burning coal, natural gas, and other fossil fuels, making electricity production responsible for 34% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, the largest contributor in the U.S. So, while driving an EV produces zero exhaust emissions, charging it will.

Whether or not driving an EV is better for the environment really depends on the primary source of electricity in your area. In addition to coal and natural gas, electricity is also generated through nuclear sources and renewable resources, such as hydroelectricity, wind, biomass, and solar, which produce little or no emissions. If coal or natural gas is the main source of your electricity, you may be producing just as much or more emissions by charging your EV as you would if you were driving a petroleum-powered vehicle. On the other hand, the amount of emissions you are responsible for will be significantly less if the primary source of your electricity is a renewable resource.

America's Power, sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, provides a list showing the sources of electricity for each state. Some of the worst states, when it comes to emissions resulting from electricity production, are Oklahoma (90% coal and natural gas), West Virginia (96% coal), and Rhode Island (98% natural gas). Charging your EV in these states may result in an increase of emissions.

The best states for driving an EV are going to be those relying heavily on renewable resources for electricity production. States like Oregon (80% renewables), Washington (87% renewables), and Idaho (92% renewables) will produce the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions while charging your EV, allowing you to truly go green.

Read More
Initial Quality of New Vehicles On the Rise as Costs Lower

Initial Quality of New Vehicles On the Rise as Costs Lower

While there is no doubt that advances in technology and manufacturing have made it a very good time to be a consumer, it seems to be a particularly good time for those shopping for new vehicles. Allstate's auto insurance division has gathered data from J.D. Power and Associates, and Kelley Blue Book, which shows that as a whole, cars are not only getting better, but are also more affordable when compared to the past several years.

J.D. Power noted that craftsmanship in today's new vehicles is on the rise, increasing by 5% from last year in its 2012 Initial Quality Survey. The study surveyed new car buyers during their first year of ownership to not only gauge customer satisfaction, but also the build quality and reliability of the vehicle as well. The survey rates cars based on the amount of problems reported per 100 vehicles. Of the 34 different manufacturers ranked in the study, 26 showed improvement. Broken down by model, there were 185 new vehicle models studied, of which 65% scored higher than last year's models. As far as specific brands, Lexus ranked highest, averaging a score of only 73 problems per 100 models. Other luxury brands also fared well in the rankings, claiming four out of the top five spots. Jaguar and Porsche tied for second, with Jaguar showing the most improvement of any brand, moving up from No. 20 last year. Cadillac claimed the fourth spot, while Honda ranked fifth, making it the only non-luxury brand to crack the top five.

The study also revealed that today's buyers have a large variety of high-quality vehicles to choose from. Data suggested that quality took precedence over brand loyalty, as 14 different automakers received awards.

However, not all the data on new cars reflected positively. In-car technology, which has become a hot selling point used by practically every manufacturer, took a significant hit in quality. Problems experienced with audio, entertainment, and navigation systems increased by 8% compared to last year's numbers, which J.D. Power noted as a trend over the past several surveys. While the numbers certainly indicate that quality has suffered, it also points to more complex audio and entertainment systems being installed across various models by a number of different manufacturers.

David Sargent , the vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, believes that the rapid advancements in technology have made in-car technology more available than ever. Sargent noted that until very recently, sophisticated technology such as high-end audio, Bluetooth, and navigation systems were only available to buyers in upscale vehicles. Today, these systems appear in vehicles at various price ranges, and at almost every level. In fact, more than 80% of owners indicated that their new vehicle had some form of hands-free technology. Sargent also believes that quality scores for in-car technology were particularly hard hit because as systems become more prevalent, consumer expectations that the systems will work effectively also rises.

Beyond overall vehicle quality scores, data from Kelley Blue Book revealed that consumers are spending, on average, $500 less for new vehicles than they were last year, particularly among Japanese brands.

According to Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's automotive insight division, the average Honda model is selling for nearly $1,200 less than last year's models. Meanwhile, Subaru, Mazda, and Toyota were roughly $700-$800 more affordable. American manufacturers like Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors showed declines of less than $500.

Read More
One Mom’s Loss Helps Make It Safer to Rent a Car

One Mom’s Loss Helps Make It Safer to Rent a Car

It’s every mother’s nightmare and Cally Houck’s reality. Back in 2004, shortly after waving goodbye to her two kids, Raechel, 24 and her sister, Jacqueline, 20, news came that they had both been killed in a fiery head-on collision while driving from her home from Ojai to their home in Santa Cruz, California.

It was discovered that the cause of the crash lie in their rented 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser which had previously been recalled for a power steering hose leak, but not yet repaired. After investigation, it was determined that the leak caused a fire and sent the car hurling over the median, then crashing head-on into a large freight truck.

Regulation to Rule Rental Agencies

After a five year long court case concluded in 2010, when, Cally Houck, was awarded $15 million in damages from the rental agency, Enterprise. But this mom took the issue to a higher level, winning the support of Congress to enact a Bill supported by U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both D-CA). The Bill (H.R. 6094) is on its way to Congress and is also getting major consumer groups and the media nationwide.

This legislation will require rental car companies not to rent cars that are under a safety recall until they have been serviced. If passed after the November 2012 elections, the NHTSA will have the ability to police and fine rental car companies if vehicles in the rental fleet are found to not have the proper recalls fixed.

This is already a law for used car retailers who are not allowed to sell a car on their lot until safety recalls have been addressed, but rental car companies sell cars too and this same regulation is not in place for them.

Rental Companies Fought the Change

Of course, this has been a major public relations issue for Enterprise, the largest car company in the U.S. which also owns Alamo and National. Enterprise originally denied liability in the case, but came around later to admitting that "their negligence was the sole proximate cause of the fatal injuries," according to court documents.

The next largest agency, Hertz, claims to have always had the in-house policy of fixing recalled service issues before rentals were allowed. However, Avis and Dollar Thrifty, along with Enterprise, originally refused to support the bill unless it was watered down to allow the company to delay fixing cars with recalls while still keeping them in rental service.

Pressure to Comply

As publicity for the court case and the bill skyrocketed, the four largest car rental companies – Enterprise, Hertz, Avis/Budget and Dollar/Thrifty – which make up 93% of the rental car market, finally acquiesced. Each company signed a pledge sent to them earlier this year by Boxer and Feinstein. It states, “Effective immediately, our company is making a permanent commitment to not rent out or sell any vehicles under safety recall until the defect has been remedied.”

Although the pledge does not bind the companies to any legal laws until the bill is passed, it is a public admission to their customers that this risk is no longer going to be in play when a car rental is made.

Enterprise Has a New Attitude

And Enterprise has done a complete turnaround on their attitude about the bill. Enterprise spokesperson, Laura Bryant has recently stated that the new regulations would “give consumers additional confidence that rental cars are safe to drive.”

“We now believe federal oversight, which will codify current practices and operational policies, will help to strengthen our industry safety efforts,” Bryant said. After a survey was done of their customers, Bryant said that it was clear some changes were in order. “At some point you realize if this is what your customers want, then you need to deliver.

Read More
Cars vs. Pedestrians: Walkers and Drivers Need Sensitivity Training

Cars vs. Pedestrians: Walkers and Drivers Need Sensitivity Training

Car crashes are a sad fact of everyday life in America, but when a car or truck makes contact with a pedestrian, although it’s still deemed a motor vehicle accident, the outcome is usually devastating for the pedestrian involved. In fact, we live in a culture where driver legislation and the design of our roads favor drivers, treating pedestrian safety as secondary.

Pedestrian deaths are actually on the rise in recent years, but so are the instances of people who walk according to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). This means the problem is going to get worse if our behaviors don’t change.

Road traffic accidents are the 13th greatest killer in the U.S.A., resulting 35,000 fatalities per year. With the improvements being made to traffic engineering and generally safer cars, that number has been rapidly decreasing, but 12% of those fatalities involve pedestrians, and that number is going up in many major cities, not down.

A Change Needed in Attitude and Behavior

The fact is that attitudes and actions on the parts of both drivers and pedestrians add to the threat of more collisions, but there is also also lack of knowledge about the rules and an unwillingness to obey them. Safety officials say that something near 75% of pedestrian accidents are due to the wrong behavior of the pedestrian, however, aggressive drivers make up the majority of represented vehicles that end up hitting a pedestrian.

What are some practical things both drivers and walkers can do to increase their chances for staying away from accidents? Since we must try to peaceably co-exist, these tips can work as a refresher course to increase our awareness.

Tips for Pedestrians

Walk on the Sidewalk: Avoid walking on streets or in areas where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. Most pedestrian fatalities occur on major roads with no sidewalk, so avoid walking on them as much as possible.

Walk Facing Traffic: When you have to walk in the street because there is no sidewalk available, walk facing the traffic – on the left side of the street. This might seem counter-intuitive, but experts say that both you and the approaching driver will have a better chance of seeing each other if you do.

Cross at Intersections: Another major danger of being hit by cars is when people cross in places other than intersections on the road.

Stop and Look Both Ways: When you stop at a curb, it alerts drivers that you are about to cross – don’t just keep walking. Always look left, right, then left again before you cross.

Make Eye Contact: When you are about to cross the street in front of a car, look at the driver and make eye contact. If you don’t there’s a good chance the driver doesn’t see you. Avoid standing in the blind spot of the driver and if it’s getting dark out, wear bright colors or carry a flashlight.

Watch Your Kids: Children can move fast and unpredictably. Do not allow your children to cross streets unsupervised. When you’re with your kids crossing the street, teach them about stopping at the corner and looking left, right and left again before crossing.

Tips for Drivers

Yield When Crossing a Driveway: When entering an alley or driveway, make sure no pedestrians are walking by at the time before you enter. This holds true for pedestrians in store parking lots – remember, sometimes they just shoot out of the store and head for their cars without looking.

Yield When Pedestrians Cross the Street: Some may be crossing on a crosswalk or intersection, but pay special attention when there are no such crossing facilities available.

Watch for Stopped Vehicles: Do not stop or overtake a vehicle simply because it’s stopped in front of you. Chances are, the car is waiting for a pedestrian to cross in front of it, putting you on a trajectory for trouble. This holds true for ice cream trucks and buses.

Increase Your Eye Scanning: Don’t just pay attention to the cars around you, but increase your scanning for possible pedestrian and bike traffic. To help in this effort, keep your windshield clean so you can see everything going on around your car.

Be Careful When Turning Left: Pedestrians and cyclists are four times more likely to be hit by a vehicle that is turning left, so it’s wise to be four times more careful before you turn left to look for oncoming pedestrians first.

Watch Out for Children: Young children have very little awareness of where sounds are coming from and don’t have the focus and attention needed to navigate around traffic. When children are present, drive slowly and carefully.

Slow Down: If you hit a pedestrian going 40 mph, chances are slim that the person will survive the accident. If pedestrians are present, keep the speed as low as possible.

Be Aware of the Stats: Avoid the top causes of pedestrian accidents…

1) Mid-block dart out
2) Intersection dash
3) Vehicle turn or merge
4) Stopped vehicle at crosswalk blocking view
5) Backing up
6) Bus related
7) Vendor (ice cream truck, etc.) related

Remember, simply obeying laws or knowing your “rights” is never enough to avoid being involved in an accident. We need to increase our awareness and adjust our attitude as well. It takes increased knowledge, emotional control and wisdom to make judgments when it comes to pedestrian safety – whether in the driver’s seat or on our feet.

Read More
Is Your Child in the Right Seat? Five Common Mistakes Parents Make

Is Your Child in the Right Seat? Five Common Mistakes Parents Make

Sure, we all want our kids to be safe in the car, but a recent study by General Motors Foundation and Safe Kids USA shows that 73% of car seats are not being used properly. In fact, the risk of fatalities among kids could be reduced by 71% if we’d simply install the right seat the right way in the right place in the car.

This becomes even more vital in light of the fact that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in children ages 3 to 14. In fact, 500 children are injured and four kids die every day in cars, trucks, and SUVs across the nation.

The bottom line is that babies and children need to ride in a car seat from the time they’re born until they are 7 or 8 years old in most cases. This potentially means that up to four seats per child will need to be researched, purchased, installed, and evaluated until the child is large enough to safely ride sitting in a seat with only a seatbelt.

A NATIONAL CAUSE

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has named Sept. 16 – 22 Child Passenger Safety Week and children’s safety advocates are out in full force to raise awareness with parents and caregivers to pay closer attention to buckle up their babies in the right way. This sounds fundamental, but it may be more difficult to do that than you think.

In fact, GM, the largest American auto manufacturer has been partnered with Safe Kids USA, for the past 15 years building a national program called Safe Kids Buckle Up that started with child seat safety checks at GM dealers. The program has since expanded to 80,000 car seat checkpoints across the country performed by certified experts with 30 hours in training -- like CPR training, but for car seat installation. These checkpoints can be accessed by appointment anytime throughout the year and can be located through Safe Kids USA’s website.

WHAT’S OUR PROBLEM?

So what are we doing wrong? There are rules and 73% of us either break them or are unaware of them. Both the car and the car seat have detailed installation instruction manuals – typically, we don’t read them and install correctly. Car seats have height and weight limits – we don’t always follow them. Babies should be kept in rear-facing seats for as long as possible (sometimes until they are 3 years old, depending on their weight and height) – we flip them back around prematurely or put them in the front seat. Car seats have recalls and we may not have noticed. And then there’s the straps; the LATCH, the angles, the correct tightening of the harness – the list is seemingly endless.

CORRECTING THE FIVE MOST COMMON MISTAKES

Thankfully Safe Kids USA organization has culled some of the most important tips for parents, grandparents and caregivers to check out immediately before taking another trip to the grocery store.

1. Right Seat
Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Like milk, your car seat has an expiration date. Just double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.

2. Right Place
Tell your kids they are VIPs and we know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13.

3. Right Direction
You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.

4. Inch Test
Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.

5. Pinch Test
Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.

PRODUCTS AND PRICING

With 22 children’s car seat manufacturers, building over 30 brands of various products, the research and purchase choices are almost as baffling as buying a new car. Each seat has a definitive height and weight limit and, just like milk, an expiration date. Pricing is all over the map, but two excellent resources for ratings and reviews are Consumer Reports Car Seats Buying Guide and the NHTSA’s Ease of Use Ratings.

There are actually five types of seats on the market:

Convertible car seats: Can accommodate children rear facing - most up to 35 lbs. – then can be turned forward facing for up to 80 lbs. in some cases. Convertible car seats range in price from $45 - $360 retail.

Infant car seats: An array of infant car seats – some only accommodating a child up to 22 lbs. and some going slightly over that weight range in price from $55 - $230.

All-in-one car seats: There are only a few all-in-one seats on the market that range in price from $150 - $300, but they give you the benefit of providing every function from rear-facing to front-facing to booster seat on one unit. Some grow with your child from birth to 100 lbs.

Toddler booster seats: These are forward-facing seats with an internal harness for toddlers weighing between 20 – 90 pounds. Although these seats allow for babies as small as 20 lbs., it is recommended by safety experts that a child should be in a rear-facing seat until they are 30 – 35 lbs. Toddler booster seats range in price from $50 - $255.

Booster seats: For children weighing 40 to 100 lbs., boosters should be used until a child is at least 57 inches tall which is the minimum height at which a car’s seatbelt will fit him/her properly. Booster seats are the least expensive of the group – ranging from $14 - $95 retail.

GM spokesperson, Heather Rosenker says that some family-oriented SUV and car manuals actually recommend certain seats that fit best in that particular car. And car companies have a vested interest in keeping occupants safe, so it’s no real surprise. In that spirit, GM and Safe Kids USA have continued to create several national programs for child safety from infants to teens. “We want to focus on the education of parents and caregivers to keep their kids safe while driving,” she said. And perhaps that advice is more challenging than most of us know.

Read More
Volvo Puts Autonomous Cars/Drivers on the Road

Volvo Puts Autonomous Cars/Drivers on the Road

Written By: Rebecca Morris

Volvo recently wrapped up with their Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTE) project, which provided a realistic look at what autonomous driving could look like using today's technology. The program, which tested the implementation of road trains — or "platoons," as Volvo called them — on conventional highways. The program was created in hopes of allowing drivers to experience the best of both worlds when it comes to multi-tasking and using public transportation – all from the comfort of your own vehicle.

As the only participating car manufacturer in SARTE, Volvo used a manually driven semi-truck to lead the pack, which was followed by another truck and three Volvo passenger vehicles. These passenger vehicles included two S60 cars and an XC60 sport utility vehicle. The test demonstrated that a lead vehicle, with an experienced driver who is thoroughly familiar with the route behind the wheel, can allow others in tow to mimic the lead vehicle's movements through the use of electronic driving aides. The idea also allows others to join the road train at any point during the route, at which time the autonomous vehicle control systems would take over, allowing the driver to relax as a passenger.

Volvo was able to achieve the feat by using several different technologies, some are already present in production vehicles. According to Volvo Technical Specialist Erik Coelingh, the company expanded the capabilities of its camera, radar, and laser technology systems currently used in present safety systems like Adaptive Cruise Control, City Safety, Lane Keeping Aid, Blind Spot Information System, and Park Assist Pilot. These systems were made to work in conjunction with other new features added specifically for the test. These included a prototype human-machine interface that included a touch screen for displaying vital information and carrying out requests, like joining and leaving the road train, as well as a vehicle-to-vehicle system that lets vehicles within the train communicate with one another.

During the test, all vehicles behind the lead truck were driven autonomously at speeds up to 55 mph. At times, vehicles in the train maintained a distance of only four meters, or just more than 13 feet, apart. Why so close? Vehicles driving in close proximity with one another are able to create a slip-stream affect (think drafting) to achieve a lower drag coefficient. Combined with reduced speed variations normally associated with driving in traffic, this can increase fuel efficiency by 10-20%.

The company's long-term vision is to create a transportation system using their road train method in a way that is more attractive and comfortable than leaving your personal vehicle behind to use public transportation. To do so, the company hopes to integrate the ability to book, join, and leave the road trains by using Volvo's Sensus Infotainment system. While Volvo insists the technology is production-ready, the system must first become more cost effective.

But even so, don't expect to see autonomous vehicle trains on a road near you anytime soon. Volvo's Coelingh says that there are several issues to solve on Europe's roads first before road trains become a reality. However, the test did include a major study to identify what infrastructural changes are necessary in Europe to begin using the system in daily life.

Read More
Accidents – 10 Point Checklist

Accidents – 10 Point Checklist

Have a plan in place for when you find yourself in an accident. Some important steps to keep in mind include immediately turning your vehicle off and staying at the scene. If anyone is injured from the collision, call emergency medical services and the police. Take photos of the damage if you can, and exchange insurance information with the other driver. Also, contact your insurance company to report the accident, even if you don't plan to file a claim.

Read More
NHTSA Seeks to Promote Child Safety

NHTSA Seeks to Promote Child Safety

According to the NHTSA, car crashes are the No. 1 killer of children aged one to 12 years old. In hopes of changing this alarming statistic, the week of Sept. 16-22 has been designated as Child Passenger Safety Week to raise awareness. The goal of the program is to ensure that children ride as safely as possible, while also helping to establish a lifelong habit of seatbelt use every time a child travels.

One of the most important things any parent or guardian can do to ensure that their little ones are protected when riding in a car is to ensure that they are in the right car seat. With so many types, models, sizes, and styles of car seats, it can be a daunting task to choose the right one. While you can find out all there is to know about child safety seats on through the NHSTA website, we're doing our part for Child Passenger Safety Week by providing the finer points on selecting the right safety seat for children of all ages below:
Newborn to One-Year-Old
The NHSTA recommends that all children under the age of one should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. Rear-facing seats are best for young children since they are equipped with a harness and cradle and move with your child in the event of a crash. This reduces the stress on a child's fragile neck and spinal cord. While there are specific infant-only seats that can only be used in a rear-facing fashion, parents may want to consider a convertible, or all-in-one (3-in-1) seat as the child gets older. These seats typically have higher height and weight limits compared to infant-only seats, and allow parents to keep their children in them for longer periods of time.
One to Three-Year-Olds
Even after infancy, the NHTSA recommends keeping your child in a rear-facing seat as long as possible since it is the best way to keep them safe. The child should remain in a rear-facing seat as long as they do not exceed the height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. This means that even if your child is older than two years of age and still fits in a rear-facing seat, it's perfectly fine to keep them in that seat. However, once they reach the manufacturer limits, it's time to move them into a forward-facing car seat with a harness. Forward-facing car seats for children aged one to three use a top tether to limit your child's forward movement during a crash.
Four to Seven-Year-Olds
Similar to keeping infants and toddlers in rear-facing seats as long as possible, parents should also keep their children in forward-facing car seats with a harness until they reach the height or weight limit set by the car seat's manufacturer. When that day comes, your child should be moved into a booster seat. Rather than actually providing a structure for the child to ride inside of, booster seats simply re-position your child to ensure that your vehicle's existing seat belt fits properly over the stronger parts of your child's body – the torso and waist. Much like other car seats, booster seats should always be used in the back seat.
Eight to 12-Year-Olds
One day, your child will outgrow his or her booster seat. You'll know that this day has arrived when your child can fit in your vehicle's existing seat belt system properly. You can check this by ensuring that the lap and shoulder belt fit properly when you child is seated in your vehicle's existing seats. The lap belt should lie snugly across the upper thighs and never across the stomach, and the shoulder should fit snuggly across your child's shoulder and chest. The shoulder belt should never be near your child's neck or face. Lastly, always remember that the back seat is usually the safest place for any child to ride.

Finally, even if you read all the articles you can get your hands on about car seats and buy the most expensive, highest-rated car seat there is, none of it really matters if the seats aren't installed properly. As part of Child Passenger Safety Week, the NHSTA has designated Saturday, Sept. 22 as National Seat Check Saturday. To make sure your child's safety seats are being installed and used properly, you can find the location of your nearest safety inspection station at SeatCheck.org, or by calling 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.

Read More
Smaller Vehicles Becoming More Popular According to J.D. Power

Smaller Vehicles Becoming More Popular According to J.D. Power

According to this year's J.D. Power and Associates 2012 APEAL (Automotive Performance Execution and Layout) Study results, the adage that "good things come in small packages" is finally beginning to ring true with U.S. consumers. The company's APEAL study questions vehicle owners about the appeal of their own recently-purchased vehicles, and what attracted them most about the vehicle they purchased. The study not only indicated that the U.S. was beginning to show a greater interest in smaller cars, but also that owners of smaller vehicles were often just as satisfied with their vehicles as those who owned larger ones.

According to the study, 27% of all new car buyers have downsized in the last year. While the number is still relatively small, it was significantly better than the number of those who up-sized, at 13%. The remaining 60% of new car buyers stayed within their same class.

J.D. Power and Associates believe the results can largely be attributed to the leap in quality and equipment found in today's small car offerings. Rather than being stripped-down, bare bones, econo-boxes that past generations had become accustom with, modern small cars are smaller versions of some bigger models that are associated with a higher level of quality, and are offered higher-up in a manufacturer's vehicle range.

According to David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates, the results clearly reflected the fact that new-vehicle buyers who downsize are no longer having to make the sacrifice that once accompanied the switch. While small cars have already been massive sellers in Europe, Japan, and other parts of the world, automakers are now focused on providing the U.S. market with appealing smaller models. Sargent also added that buyers may be surprised just how good some small cars are.

Beyond the fact that today's smaller cars come equipped with more features, are safer, quicker, roomier, and all-around more fun to drive compared to the small cars of yesteryear, one of the main things that convinced consumers to make the switch is that they'll get better gas mileage with smaller vehicles. According to the study, 47% of owners said that gas mileage was one of the most important factors in choosing a new car. Fuel savings continues to gain momentum of last year's findings, climbing by 7% from 2011 alone.

Read More
Drivers Want Crash Prevention Technology, Ford Survey Shows

Drivers Want Crash Prevention Technology, Ford Survey Shows

Written By: Rebecca Morris

According to a recent Ford Motor Co. survey, 90% of all drivers hope to have some form of alert or driver assistance technologies in their car, but only 39% said they would be comfortable using a completely self-driving automobile.

The company commissioned research firm Penn Schoen Berland to conduct a survey of more than 2,500 American drivers above the age of 18 to get a better idea how they feel about driver assist and crash avoidance technology. The survey found that most drivers are in fact interested in extra assist features in their next vehicle, particularly features that can help them avoid accidents. Among these technologies, systems that helped increase driver awareness ranked the highest in consumer interest. For example, according to the firm, nearly nine out of 10 people surveyed expressed interest in auto-braking technology that can slow the car if it determined that there is an imminent collision ahead.

Consumers also showed a great deal of interest in parking aids. Two-thirds of drivers surveyed indicated that they would be interested in systems that allow the driver to help see around other vehicles while backing out of a parking space – like backup or surround cameras – or sonar systems that provide proximity warnings to objects lurking in over-the-shoulder blind spots.

According to Ford's Group Marketing manager, Amy Marentic, basic transportation has long been the most important factor when it came to buyers in the midsize family sedan segment. However, the survey shows that as consumers become more accustomed to using electronic assistants in other areas of life, like through smartphones and other mobile technology, they're increasingly recognizing that technology can help them cope with daily driving challenges as well.

Amazingly, 99% of all drivers surveyed believed they were "good" drivers, despite the fact that the majority also admitted to engaging in other activities besides driving while behind the wheel. Three-quarters of those surveyed admitted to eating or indulging in beverages while driving, while more than half admitted to speeding or using a cell phone. Additionally, 83% of drivers admitted that they or someone they know has gotten behind the wheel while tired. Fatigue and inattentiveness can lead to a number of problems on the road, and systems helping with these issues also ranked highly among driver wants as well. For example, 80% of drivers expressed interest in technologies that could provide an alert, or even help keep the vehicle in the proper lane, if the car and driver inadvertently drifts out of the intended lane for any reason.

But while all this technology is well and good when it comes to buying an automobile, in most cases, obtaining it comes at a steep price. Ford has cleverly used these findings as a launching point for its all-new 2013 Ford Fusion, which will offer 10 such driver aids, including lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and a rear view camera, among others. Ford joins the foray of other competitor vehicles to offer such aids, such as Nissan, Chevrolet, Honda, and Toyota.

Read More
Driver Wars: Who’s America’s Best Driver?

Driver Wars: Who’s America’s Best Driver?

If you've ever felt like you're the only good driver on the road some days, you're not alone—in fact, surveys show that most people believe they are better, more reliable drivers than the other people on the road at any given time. The average person is involved in a car collision just once every 17 years, but with over 300 million people in the US, that rate can add up pretty quickly. If you've ever been involved in a car collision, you know that it can be tough to sort out just who's to blame. And even if you may feel like the best driver on the road, there's a good chance that you're not. When it comes to deciphering who is the best driver, there are some candidates who you know have a higher collision rate than others—for instance, teenagers, due largely to inexperience, have a much higher accident rate than someone in their 30s or 40s. So who is the best driver? Statistically, the answer may be a big surprise to some. The following infographic examines, from a statistical standpoint, who the best driver on the road is. Read on to see whether or not you fit the description!

Read More
Seat Belts and Child Safety

Seat Belts and Child Safety

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and adults aged between three and 33 years old. Luckily, the proper usage of seat belts, child restraints, and/or car seats can protect you and your children in the event of a collision.

Read More
President Obama Announces CAFE Standard of 54.5 MPG for 2025

President Obama Announces CAFE Standard of 54.5 MPG for 2025

The Obama administration raised the bar for future federal fuel economy standards today, nearly doubling the current passenger fleet fuel efficiency ratings by the year 2025, when the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standardswill jump to 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg). The new standards will affect all cars and light-duty trucks, and are not only intended to improve fuel economy, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The standards issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are intended to build on the success of previous standards from the 2011-2016 model years. These guidelines raised fuel efficiency standards to 35.5 mpg by 2016, and according to both agencies, are already yielding higher mpg ratings from a number of manufacturers. According to the two groups, 13 major automakers – which accounted for more than 90% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. – announced their support of the standards. The automakers included Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo, as well as the United Auto Workers.

By aligning state and federal requirements, it provides vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad with long-term regulatory certainty, which the two groups hope will encourage investments in clean, innovative technologies, as well as in advanced technologies that increase economic competiveness in the U.S. and support high-quality domestic jobs in the auto industry.

Transportation secretary Roy LaHood called the program "groundbreaking" and believes it will result in vehicles that use less gas, travel farther, and provide better efficiency, all while better protecting the environment. He also stated that automakers are already seeing sales for their more fuel-efficient vehicles climb since the Administration's first fuel economy efforts.

LaHood also believes that the program will equal substantial savings for American families. The combined efforts of both the previous and new CAFE standards are projected to save American families more than $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs. When broken down, this means an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle. Looking ahead, the Administration estimates that families purchasing a model year 2025 vehicle, net savings will be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by approximately $1 per gallon. The changes should also reduce American consumption of oil from 12 billion barrels day to 2 million barrels by 2025 – which is as much as half of the oil that the U.S. imports from OPEC each day.

The new standards should also translate to better air quality, as greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks are estimated to be cut by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program. This is more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the U.S. in 2010 alone.

Read More
BMW Seeks to Ease Parking Crunch in San Francisco

BMW Seeks to Ease Parking Crunch in San Francisco

San Francisco will serve as BMW's initial U.S. market for its ParkNow Mobile Parking Service and breakthrough DriveNow program. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and BMW Group Member of the Board, Dr. Ian Roberts, made the announcement about the two services together on Aug. 20. The city is the first in the U.S. to feature the unique BMW programs.

The ParkNow system, which will be available to BMW drivers beginning in September, is an online mobile parking service that allows users to pay for parking in advance. This gives the driver guaranteed access to a spot and clearly defined rates based on their personal preferences. Customers can search for parking in San Francisco by using ParkNow's mobile app or website to reserve, pay, and then receive navigation instructions, leading drivers directly to the parking facility. This should reduce traffic by keeping cars that would normally be driving around searching for parking off of congested city streets, and it should also reduce emissions for the same reason.

Initially, there will be 14 Park Now locations in and around San Francisco during its initial pilot phase. Stations are located around the city close to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI), and various bike-sharing stations. Other locations include the San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, and Palo Alto. ParkNow partner operators ProPark America, Towne Park, ABM Parking, and California Parking will launch more than 100 additional ParkNow locations in the coming weeks.

Another endeavor, the DriveNow program, which was launched in June, is a flexible, premium car-sharing program that offers drivers the chance to drive BWM's first all-electric vehicle, zero-emissions, ActiveE model. The program currently offers a fleet of 70 ActiveE vehicles that are located at eight DriveNow stations in San Francisco and Palo Alto, with another in the works at the San Francisco International Airport. DriveNow stations in San Francisco are also conveniently located near BART, MUNI, and bike sharing locations. After registering for the program online or in person, customers can locate and book an available car using the DriveNow website or mobile app. Once the car has been rented, it can be returned to any DriveNow station. This gives drivers the convenience of a one-way trip, if needed.

In addition, thanks to a partnership with California-based Coulomb Technologies' ChargePoint network, the largest network of independently-owned electric vehicle charging stations, DriveNow renters can easily locate a nearby charging station if they need to add a bit more juice to the car during their travels.

San Francisco was chosen as the launch point for both systems due to the city's ongoing development and implementation of innovative approaches to urban challenges regarding traffic congestion, and the need for smarter, greener parking systems. The city estimates that there are approximately 505,000 vehicles in San Francisco, but only 448,000 parking spaces available at any given time. On weekends, the total vehicle population is estimated to increase by an additional 35,000 vehicles. An estimated one-third of all downtown traffic on weekdays is due to vehicles searching for a parking spot. Hopefully, the new initiatives will reduce some of that congestion so that everyone can drive — and ride — happier.

Read More
DOT Begins Largest-Ever Road Test of Connected Vehicles

DOT Begins Largest-Ever Road Test of Connected Vehicles

The Department of Transportation began the largest ever test of crash avoidance technology today, as nearly 3,000 cars took to the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich. The project is part of the group's year-long Safety Pilot study that tests cars, trucks, and buses equipped with "connected" Wi-Fi technology. The technology allows the vehicles and infrastructure to communicate as part of new crash avoidance system.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined elected officials and industry and community members on the University of Michigan campus to begin the second phase of the Safety Pilot test. La Hood commented that the day was a big moment for automotive safety, and that the technology offered real promise for improving the safety and efficiency of America's roads.

The research is being conducted by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). The road tests being conducted are the first ever for connected vehicle technology being used in real world driving conditions. All of the vehicles participating in the test have mostly been supplied by volunteer participants. The cars are then equipped with what UMTRI calls vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication devices. The devices gather extensive data about operability and how effectively it reduces accidents. According to the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), V2V technology could help reduce the severity of four out of five unimpaired vehicle crashes. Both groups hope that the tests will further back the claims.

During the test, participating vehicles send and receive electronic data messages with other equipped vehicles. The devices then translate the data received, and create a warning to the driver during specific hazardous traffic scenarios. The systems can detect hazards that include an impending collision at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes in another vehicle's blind spot, or a rear collision with a vehicle stopped ahead, among others.

Today's model deployment test is the second phase of the DOT's connected vehicle Safety Pilot program. Earlier this year, the DOT released data from a series of driver acceptance clinics, where volunteer drivers were able to get behind the wheel of vehicles equipped with V2V technology. The study showed that 90% of drivers who experienced V2V technology had highly favorable opinions about the system's benefits and would like to have the same systems on their own personal vehicles.

The information collected during both phases of the Safety Pilot testing will be taken into account by the NHTSA to determine whether or not to proceed with further involvement in connected vehicle technology, including the possibility of rulemaking.

Read More
America’s Crumbling Infrastructure

America’s Crumbling Infrastructure

If you've traveled by car anytime in the past year, there's a good chance that you noticed an array of potholes, lumps, and bumps in your local street or highway. In fact, crumbling roadways may have very well cost you a tire or harmed your vehicle's suspension. While you might have dismissed poor pavement or excessive potholes as merely annoying, the state of America's roadways in fact surpasses the level of mere annoyance and has become increasingly dangerous. In recent reports, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded the United States on the state of its infrastructure. This letter grade encompassed infrastructure elements ranging from bridges to freeways to state and local roads. The final letter grade? Our infrastructure received, overall, a D. From tragic bridgeway accidents to, more commonly, poor roadways causing damage to vehicles, the state of America's infrastructure is slowly beginning to cost citizens more and more. Whether or not your car insurance policy reflects the probability that poor upkeep of highways and streets could be harming your vehicle, chances are that the small bumps, jolts, and scrapes that the state of our infrastructure has cost your car are slowly adding up. The following infographic examines the way that our structural integrity may be having a serious effect on the state of your car.

Read More
Ford Invests in Commitment to Electric Vehicles

Ford Invests in Commitment to Electric Vehicles

Ford showed its continued commitment to electric-hybrid vehicles earlier this week by announcing a $135 million investment in the design, engineering, and production of key components for hybrid-electric vehicles in 2013. Ford says this will include the development and production of new and more advanced battery systems for its next generation of hybrid-electric vehicles. The investment will also help Ford double its battery-testing capabilities, giving the company a total of 160 individual battery-test channels. These testing machines allow Ford to test and simulate everything from power and performance to battery life and thermal behavior over a variety of temperatures and operating conditions.

Increased battery testing also allows Ford to bring everything from research, development, and production of electrified vehicle systems in-house. Ford's early hybrid models contained batteries that involved third parties throughout the design and testing phases. By doubling its battery-testing capabilities, Ford's executive technical leader of Energy Storage and HV Systems claims that projects involving hybrid-electric batteries can be completed at least 25% faster than they were with previous-generation systems.

Ford is also dedicating a 285,000-square-foot research and development facility down the street from its Dearborn, Mich., headquarters almost entirely to the development of hybrid-electric vehicles and technology. The building, formally known as the Advanced Engineering Center, will be renamed the Ford Advanced Electrification Center and will house more than 1,000 engineers who will work specifically on hybrid and electrification programs.

Ford is also planning on making their hybrid platforms more affordable for consumers in 2012 by reducing the cost of its current hybrid systems by 30%, versus the company's previous generation systems. The company will launch five different electrified vehicles for the 2013 model year that include one pure electric vehicle, two hybrids, and two plug-in hybrids.

Ford's C-MAX platform will debut this year on U.S. soil as both a hybrid and plug-in hybrid model. The Prius competitor is promised to deliver a 47 mpg on highways and 47 mph in the city. A plug-in hybrid model, dubbed the C-MAX Energi, is expected this fall, and will arrive with a projected electric-mode 95 mpg, and a total range of 550 miles. The all-new Fusion Hybrid is also expected to hit showrooms this fall with a projected 47 mpg. A plug-in hybrid version of the new Fusion will begin production by the end of 2012, and it will also carry the Energi moniker. The Ford is hoping that it will be the most fuel-efficient midsized car in the world. The company's pure electric vehicle, the Focus Electric, has been in production since late 2011 and offers 110 MPGe. The company also boasts that with an available 240-volt charging station, the Focus Electric can be recharged in nearly half the time as its competitor the Nissan Leaf.

Read More
Hyundai, Millen Set New Record at Pikes Peak

Hyundai, Millen Set New Record at Pikes Peak

Famed racing driver and car builder Rhys Millen claimed another world record and overall victory at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this past weekend. Millen ascended the 14,000-foot tall Colorado mountain course, which contains 156 turns over 12.42 miles, in 9:46.164.

This year marked the first time in the race's storied history that the entire course was completely paved. Millen's time smashed last year's record of 9:51.278, which was set by Japan's Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima. Tajima was the first to break the 10-minute barrier up the mountain with his wild Monster Sport Suzuki SX4 Hill Climb Special. This year, Millen achieved the record over the paved course in his heavily modified Rhys Millen Racing (RMR) Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

For 2012, Millen's own race team used an enhanced version of last year's car that set Time Attack 2WD class record with Rhys' father, Rod Millen, driving the car. Rhys narrowly edged out former 24 Hour of LeMans winner and Pikes Peak rookie Romain Dumas by only 17/1000s of a second. Dumas piloted a specially prepared Porsche 911 GT3R.

For 2012, Millen's own race team, Rhys Millen Racing (RMR), made additional performance enhancements to the current world-record-setting Genesis Coupe. The team focused on providing maximum grip on the new all-tarmac course that would provide considerably higher average speeds. To do so, the team added a new aero package designed to provide greater downforce to account for the higher speeds and additional grip provided from new, ultra-wide racing slick tires. In the past, teams used treaded tires to account for un-paved portions of the track that were a mix of dirt, rocks, and gravel.

The team also added a new, more potent turbo to last year's heavily modified Hyundai V6 engine, helping the car create 700 horsepower and 700 lb. ft. of torque. To account for the additional power, the team had to upgrade the brake calipers and add additional cooling ductwork to account for greater temperatures and braking loads created by running on the new tarmac at extreme altitudes. Lastly, the team fine-tuned the car to suit Rhys' unique rally and drift-oriented driving techniques.

Last year, Rhys narrowly missed the overall win in his dedicated PM580 tubeframe hillclimb racecar. However, he was able to eclipse the famed 10-minute barrier. The special, custom-built chassis was also powered by a specially built 4.1 liter version of Hyundai's 3.8 liter V6.

Read More
Understand How You and Your Car Perform

Understand How You and Your Car Perform

It's essential to know your vehicle's limits as well as your limits as a driver, especially when it comes to understanding just how long it'll take for you to react to an obstruction in the road. Perception distance, reaction distance, and braking distance all factor into how long it'll take for you to suddenly stop your vehicle in an emergency.

Read More
Safety Features to Look for

Safety Features to Look for

New cars now come equipped with a variety of safety features that help keep you and others safe on the road, like airbags, anti-lock braking systems, and tire pressure monitoring systems. Other safety features that drivers can look for with their new vehicles include backup cameras, pedestrian detection systems, and even active head restraints that change positions to minimize injury in the event of a collision.

Read More
8 Things We Learned From NPR’s “Car Talk”

8 Things We Learned From NPR’s “Car Talk”

They've given us a lifetime of laughs, but they're hanging up their microphones this fall. NPR's Car Talk has been on the air for more than three decades, and brothers Click and Clack (Tom and Ray Magliozzi) have delivered consistent entertainment and worthwhile automobile education. According to the show's official blog, the automotive gurus will retire the show in October, and it's time to celebrate their long legacy. Here are eight great things we've learned from NPR's Car Talk.

(Know Your Stuff, But) Make 'Em Laugh
The formula for Car Talk is simple, brilliant: lots of jokes plus a bit of spot-on car advice plus more jokes. They're on the air because they're funny, but Click and Clack also possess an astounding collective genius about cars. If you need a business lesson, follow Click and Clack: be an expert at something, and be funny. You'll be invaluable in the workplace — simple as that. If you know your stuff, enjoy the luxury of keeping it light. Life's really short; there's no need to be routinely serious.
You Shouldn't Listen To Your Dad
Seriously. Tom and Ray Magliozzi have an entire audio CD called Car Talk: Why You Should Never Listen To Your Father When It Comes To Cars. You can buy it on Amazon here. Bonus: if you scroll down the page a little, you'll learn that they have lots of other CDs available, too. Not to mention those impossibly unfortunate (read: mind-blowing) celebrity endorsements, like Gene Shalit and Jane Curtin.
Classic is Cross-Platform
Don't want to listen to Car Talk on the radio? You can download it through iTunes. Don't want to listen to anything? Read their blog instead. On the radio show's website, there are episode guides, a "Classics" series, and a simple user interface that's as fun and inviting as Click and Clack themselves. The sign of a classic is seamless modernization, and Car Talk coolly takes on new forms of media while retaining its original character. You can send an e-card, or you can even buy a t-shirt. Car Talk's classic brand means fun in many forms.
Public Radio is A Vital Hipster Part of American Culture
And you should give them your money. NPR is cool, and not just because it's hip these days (think: Ira Glass' cult following of erudite quarter-lifes). It's smart, entertaining, good-natured, and consistently kind of awkward and boring. And you should give them your money. People that don't donate to NPR are the same people that don't "get" PBS. And, if we're keeping score here, people that don't like PBS are the heartless mass that want to de-fund Sesame Street. You can't save Car Talk, but keep public radio alive.
There Are Some Really Good People In This World
Good news, everyone: altruism isn't dead! Car Talk has a Vehicle Donation Program, where loyal listeners donate their old vehicles to support public radio. For example, Maria DeLucia Evans of Albany, N.Y., was interviewed by Click and Clack after donating her old Honda Civic for the benefit of her local NPR station. Her interview is downright adorable. Mostly she talks about her sweet country house and how NPR's riveting programming schedule has caused small, cute arguments with her husband. Maybe Car Talk brings out the best in people, but there are some veritable saints out there — and they all listen (and donate) to NPR.
It's All In The Family
Click and Clack are the definition of bromance, but they're also actually brothers. And let it be a lesson we don't hear often enough: family and business can mix with positive results. The Magliozzi brothers have worked together for their entire lives, and their love of cars and cracking jokes isn't the only thing they have in common. The siblings speak openly on the air about what annoys and endears them to each other. It's nice to know the pair are their most authentic selves, with each other and their listeners.
Safety First, Then Teamwork
While they don't advocate wearing a helmet while driving, the Car Talk guys do want you to be safe on the road. Automotive education (also, comedy) is the entire premise of their show. If you take away one lesson from Car Talk, it should be this: the road is long, so drive safe.
Quit When You're Ahead
Car Talk has never been a lemon; loyal listeners know that the quality is both high and consistent. The brothers Magliozzi are smart to retire on top. They'll be legends of radio, champions of public betterment, and have their golden years to enjoy getting a bunch of honorary lifetime achievement awards. Well played, gentlemen.

Read More
Child Safety in Cars

Child Safety in Cars

It is essential to keep your children safe in the car because seat belts typically don’t provide adequate protection for their smaller frames. Learn about how a car seat protects your children.

Read More
Read More
Safety First

Safety First



New drivers should learn the basics of driving safety, defensive driving, and traffic laws before even applying for a permit or license. To help instill good driving habits in young drivers, parents should practice good driving habits regularly so that new drivers can pick up on how to properly handle a vehicle in all conditions.

Read More
The Dangers of Texting and Driving

The Dangers of Texting and Driving

It may only take a few seconds to read and send a text, but when you’re behind the wheel, those few seconds can quickly turn into a disaster. Think twice the next time you’re tempted to send a text while[...]

Read More
Read More
Regular Maintenance Check Tips

Regular Maintenance Check Tips

Regular vehicle maintenance helps to keep your car running efficiently and safely. At a minimum, make sure that whenever you get your oil changed that you also test your battery and electrical systems, as well as the pressure of your tires. In addition, check the air filters and fluids of your vehicle, before ending with a lights and signals test to check for burnt-out bulbs.

Read More
7 Things to Know Before Renting a Car

7 Things to Know Before Renting a Car

Renting a car is a terrific convenience for any and all travelers who need four wheels to get around. But even as routine as renting a car is for some people, many travelers don't know or question the car rental companies' policies. While there are some things you just can't change, such as the allowed driver age or damage policies, you can always argue unnecessary charges or just take your business to another car rental company. Here are seven important things to know before renting a car.

Additional drivers cost more: Just because your car is full of people over the age of 25 doesn't mean each one needs to be registered to drive the rental. In fact, some car rental companies charge drivers a fee for each additional driver added to the policy. While it's not a bad idea to register at least two drivers to share the driving load, you may want to consider keeping it to one person if the driving distance or trip is short to avoid unnecessary fees.

Inspect your rental beforehand: Before you hop into your rental vehicle and drive off in the wind, you should inspect the rental for scratches, dents, and other signs of damage first. Be sure to also take a look inside for any stains, tears, or marks on the interior. The rental facility should already have these damages filed, but it's always smart to double check and make sure they have these dings noted. When you return the rental, don't just hand over the keys and take off. Make sure someone inspects the car and you verify existing damages to avoid an accidental charge.

Stay on the paved roads: When in doubt, stay on the paved roads. This information may or may not have been brought to your attention at the car rental facility, but it's a common company policy that drivers tend to forget about. Driving on gravel and uneven surfaces can damage the car tires and vehicle, so be sure to avoid unpaved roads at all costs. In some cases, even when you buy collision damage protection or rental car insurance, companies can and will still charge you for damage caused by unpaved surfaces.

Know your credit card's policies on rentals: Before you hand over your credit card and go on your merry way in a rental car, be sure to verify what exactly is covered by your credit card policy. Know what rental car damages, fees, and extras are covered on the credit card beforehand and you'll avoid any surprising costs when the bill comes.

Pump gas elsewhere: One of the standard rules of rentals is to fill up the tank before you return the car. A common mistake so many drivers make is returning the car without a full tank of gas and letting the rental car company add the difference. Most rental car companies will overcharge drivers who didn't return a fully gassed-up vehicle. Their rates are significantly higher than what you'd pay if you just filled up the car yourself. Go to a nearby gas station and you'll save a little money.

Airport car rental counters charge a fee: Airport car rental desks are notorious for tagging on an airport fee when you rent a car from their counter. Unfortunately, car rental companies are required by law to collect these surcharges for the airport and they can't do much about it. If you want to avoid this fee, consider taking a shuttle or taxi to a car rental company outside of the airport where you won't get dinged with this extra cost.

Bring your own extras: Little things like child-safety seats, GPS systems, and DVD players can add up quick when added to a rental car. Save yourself some money by bringing these travel extras yourself. If you get a rental car with unnecessary extras, ask to have them removed, or get a new vehicle so that you don't get stuck with a higher bill.

Read More
How You Can Become Better Driver

How You Can Become Better Driver

Being aware of other drivers, such as by regularly checking your side and rearview mirrors, can help you to become a better and safer driver. You can also participate in defensive driving classes or other hands-on-the-wheel courses to improve your driving skills. You may even become eligible for car insurance discounts if you complete a driving course.

Read More
Dealing with Car Emergencies

Dealing with Car Emergencies

Acquaint yourself with how to handle car emergencies, like a tire blowout or brake failure, so that you'll know what to do in those situations. For example, pump your brakes to make use of residual brake pressure if they stop working, and if necessary, sideswipe a guard rail to slow your vehicle down. Being prepared for an emergency situation will ensure that you can take the proper actions to keep yourself and other drivers safe.

Read More