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Reduce distractions behind the wheel


Despite the fact that automobiles are now designed with more safety features than ever before, the rate of traffic accidents and fatalities continue to rise. The National Safety Council says safety improvement like crash-avoidance technology hasn't reduced accidents, and driver error is still to blame for many crashes - with distractions behind the wheel and impaired driving leading the way.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016 alone. Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts drivers' attention from the road. This can include everything from talking to passengers to eating to fiddling with the car radio. However, distractions from technology have become especially alarming, particularly texting or reading phones while driving. During daylight hours, approximately 481,000 drivers typically use cell phones while driving. The NHTSA says that removing one's eyes from the road for a mere 5 seconds when traveling at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Reducing distractions should be a priority for all drivers. Here are some suggestions, courtesy of Geico insurance and AAA Exchange.


· Store loose gear and other items that can roll around away from the driver's seat so you are not tempted to reach for them.
· Adjust mirrors, GPS maps, climate controls, music, and more before you put the car in drive.
· Use a mobile phone only for emergency purposes and only after pulling over to the side of the road. Avoid social conversations on the phone while driving.
· Limit the number of passengers you allow inside your car. The more passengers, the more distractions. This is especially true for young drivers.
· Eat food before getting in the car. Snacking while driving makes you less attentive to the road around you.
· Secure children and pets accordingly. Both should wear harnesses and not be given free reign to roam around the car.
· Try to focus only on driving while in the car. Leave the multitasking to when you're not behind the wheel.

Studies have shown people are limited in the amount of information they can process at any one time. Driving requires focus and an ability to react to a host of potential circumstances. Distractions compromise drivers' ability to focus. Reducing distractions can considerably cut down on the number of motor vehicle accidents each year. 

Tips for staying safe with keyless systems


Auto manufacturers have long embraced technology that can streamline the automotive experience for drivers. For example, several years ago keyless entry and ignition systems were introduced, initially on high-end vehicles before they became standard on many other models.

Keyless entry systems require a fob, which sends a signal to the receiver inside the vehicle. The fob transmits a low-frequency code to the car's internal computer system, which engages the locks and will allow the driver to push a button on the dashboard or console to start the vehicles. The fob can be stashed away in a pocket or purse and still send the signal, which makes it convenient for drivers. Drivers with arthritis or hand injuries also may find keyless systems an asset.

Because fobs work on wireless systems, hackers potentially can intercept the fob-to-car signal. That enables a thief to not only open the vehicle's doors, but also to potentially drive away as well. Even though the fob/car security pairing is unique and can create billions of codes, researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands and the University of Birmingham found that, by intercepting the wireless signal just twice, they could narrow down the possible combinations from billions to just 200,000. After that, a computer can figure out the code in just half an hour and unlock the car. Potentially, a thief can gather car codes as drivers enter their vehicles during the day, then return later to steal a number of cars.

Thieves who purchase signal amplifiers also pose a threat. These amplifiers magnify the reach of the fob signal so that a vehicle owner can be in his or her house with the fob, but the thief can walk up to the car and open it - even if the fob is far enough away that it should not engage. One way to circumvent this is to buy a signal-blocking pouch that can hold the key fob. Also, an old-school steering wheel or gear shift lock is an effective way to provide another layer of protection.

Drivers also should be aware of their surroundings as they approach their vehicles. Thieves may count on keyless entry systems to be able to hop into a vehicle once the owner gets within range and drive away.

Vehicle technology thrives to make driving as convenient as possible, but some features also may make things more convenient for prospective thieves.

How to safeguard your vehicle from the elements

In a perfect world, all vehicle owners would be able to park their cars and trucks in garages. In such a world, automobiles would not be vulnerable to sun, storms and other natural elements that, over time, can contribute to wear and tear.

But many drivers cannot or choose not to park their cars in garages. Some are content to let their vehicles brave the elements, while others look for ways to protect their cars and trucks as much as possible. Drivers who count themselves among the latter group can take these simple steps to protect their cars and trucks from whatever Mother Nature has in store for them.

· Park in the shade. Parking in the shade can protect both the interior and exterior of a vehicle. Shaded areas protect upholstery and dashboards inside the car from sun-induced fading, while also limiting the damage sun can cause to exterior paint. Faded paint may hurt the resale value of a vehicle, prompting prospective buyers to walk away or at least wonder if a vehicle with a faded exterior was well maintained.

· Wash and wax. Washing and waxing a vehicle helps to minimize damage that's inevitable regardless of where drivers park their cars. Dirt and debris litter roadways, and over time cars can collect a large amount of these unwanted stowaways. If dirt and debris are not removed, they can cause long-term damage to vehicle exteriors. Washing and waxing a car can ensure its exterior looks good and reduce the likelihood of rust and other corrosion from occurring.

· Don't write off bird droppings. Some drivers, especially those who do not park their cars and trucks in garages, may write off bird droppings as an annoying yet harmless side effect of vehicle ownership. However, bird droppings are acidic and, if left to their unsightly devices, can cause permanent damage to vehicle paint. Tree sap is an equally formidable foe, potentially causing scratching because it can be very difficult to remove without spreading. Specially formulated sprays can help drivers remove bird droppings and sap from their vehicles.

· Employ a car cover. Drivers who have garages but use them to store things other than their vehicles can use car covers when parking their cars in their driveways. Covers protect cars from the elements and can be quickly and easily removed.

Nature can be harsh on vehicles. Protecting automobiles from the elements should be a priority for drivers, especially those who do not park their cars and trucks in garages. 

4 simple ways to extend the life of your vehicle

Automobiles are significant investments. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average transaction price for light vehicles was $34,968 in January 2017, marking a 3 percent increase from just a year earlier.

The decision to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new vehicle is not one consumers should take lightly. Once drivers purchase their new vehicles, they can protect their investments and get greater returns on those investments by prioritizing maintenance and taking simple yet effective steps to extend the lives of their cars and trucks.

1. Drive defensively.

Aggressive driving is dangerous and can have adverse effects on a vehicle. When driving, always obey posted speed limits and avoid accelerating and decelerating quickly. Such a style of driving can strain vehicle engines and drive trains while negatively affecting fuel efficiency and wearing down brakes, states the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence.

2. Maintain a clean vehicle.

Car washes do more than just clean a vehicle. Routine washing and waxing can remove dirt that, if left on a vehicle, can gradually scratch paint and contribute to chips and rust. Over time, rust can affect vehicle performance and may even compromise the safety of drivers and their passengers if bad enough frame rust affects structural integrity. Routine washing also can remove road salt from vehicles. Salt can build up during winter when roads are routinely treated during and after snowstorms. Road salt can be extremely corrosive and, if left unremoved from a vehicle, can contribute to rust that ultimately can cause extensive damage to a vehicle.

3. Routinely check tire pressure.

Many of today's new vehicles alert drivers when tire pressure is low. Drivers should not ignore such warnings, as low tire pressure can affect engine performance by forcing it to work harder than should be necessary. Engines that are forced to work harder than they need to likely won't last as long as those that run efficiently. Low tire pressure also negatively affects fuel efficiency, potentially costing drivers substantial amounts of money over time. Drivers of older vehicles without tire pressure alerts should routinely check tire pressure and keep tires adequately inflated. Vehicles that are slow to accelerate from resting positions may not have enough air in their tires.

4. Adhere to maintenance guidelines.

Drivers may have heard that today's vehicles were built to go longer periods of time between oil changes and tuneups than the vehicles of yesteryear. But drivers should still adhere to manufacturer-recommended maintenance guidelines. Upon buying new vehicles, drivers should read their owners' manuals to determine recommended maintenance intervals, and stick to those intervals for as long as they have their vehicles.

Cognizant of the sizable investments they're making when buying new vehicles, many drivers want to get as many miles out of their vehicles as possible. Simple maintenance and safe driving habits can go a long way toward keeping vehicles on the road for years to come. 

Navigate these driver assistance apps

It is never a good idea to use smartphones or other devices while behind the wheel. In fact, distracted driving is a key risk factor for automotive accidents. However, certain smartphone applications and features can make road trips and other excursions easier, safer and more enjoyable - provided these apps are used before getting in the car, when safely pulled over, or in the hands of a passenger.
Make a pitstop
Drivers may not know where to pull off the highway when they need a mid-trip snack or a restroom run. iExit enables you to see all upcoming exits on a particular roadway (when location services are turned on) and which amenities are accessible at each exit. The app also tells drivers which way to go if they need to find gas stations or restaurants. Icons indicating food, fuel, hospitals, and even banks/ATM machines are included to indicate what's available at the exit.
Popular sights
Field Trip by Google will pull from categories you have selected and your location to indicate potential sites of interest around you. The app works off of recommendations from travel and lifestyle sources, and will provide Bluetooth-enabled alerts when you're close by.
Fill 'er up
Exclusively for locating fuel stations, GasBuddy also helps drivers compare gas prices so they can save money if they so desire. When fuel costs can make or break a trip, this app will keep your tank and wallet full.
Gain performance data
To keep track of vehicle performance, use Dynolicious Classic. While this app's not free, it's less expensive than a visit to a service station. Dynolicious relies on an iPhone's built-in accelerometers to gauge lateral and longitudinal acceleration and horsepower.
Get trusted repairs
It is important to find a trusted mechanic who will fix a problem for a reasonable price. Repair Pal is an app that has already culled quotes and reviews from nearby mechanics to simplify comparison shopping.
Navigation made easy
Smartphones already feature built-in map apps that offer navigation and directions, such as those offered by Google and Apple. But Waze is a community-driven app that provides real-time updates to traffic situations, gas prices, law enforcement sightings, and alternative routes to avoid delays.
No more lost cars
Finding that elusive parking spot can be challenging. When you finally grab a space in a parking garage or on city streets, you want to make sure you can find your way back there easily. Enter Honk, an app that can mark your vehicle's location with a GPS pin. You can also make text or verbal notes indicating position or how much time you have on a parking meter, as well as use the app to find businesses nearby.
Various apps can be assets to drivers, helping them to save both money and time.

How drivers can stay safe in bright conditions

Weather often contributes to motor vehicle accidents. Snow, rain and other factors that compromise drivers' vision can make driving hazardous, but there's a dark side to sunny skies as well.

Glare from the sun can compromise drivers' vision and lead to driving mishaps, regardless of drivers' experience or skill level. The sun can pack a powerful punch any time during the day, but can be especially hazardous in the early morning sunrise and late-afternoon sunset.

A 2017 study published in the journal Medicine titled, "Life-threatening motor vehicle crashes in bright sunlight" looked at the risks posed by bright sunlight. Researchers found that the risk of a life-threatening crash was 16 percent higher during bright sunlight than during normal weather. Researchers concluded that bright sunlight may create visual illusions that lead to driver error, including poor distance judgment.

Plentiful sunlight is often a hallmark of spring and summer, but sun-blindness is a real concern for drivers. As anyone who has turned into blazing sun only to discover their windshield has been rendered opaque by sun glare can attest, driving on sunny days can be challenging. Unfortunately, the sun might create substantial glare during rush hour, making driving during these times more dangerous and accidents more likely.

While there might be no way to prevent glare, drivers can take steps to make driving safer during times of day when glare is prevalent.

· Make sure the windshield is clean. Water marks, dead insects, cracks, and road grime can make it even harder to see out of the windshield when the sun is blazing. Clean windshields regularly, and don't wait until you're head-on into the sun to engage the windshield washer spray. Doing so may only further compromise visibility.

· Observe speed limits. When glare is present, slow down and keep more space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. If someone in front of you needs to brake suddenly, the greater distance between vehicles can give you more time to react and avoid accidents.

· Change your route. Try changing your commute so you're not driving head-on into eastern sun in the morning and western sun in the afternoon.

· Invest in new sunglasses. Special lenses that mitigate glare, UV rays and blue light can make it easier for drivers to handle glare when behind the wheel.

· Make sure the visor is functioning. Sun visors are there for a reason. Use it to the best of your ability, angling as needed.

· Pull over. If the glare is especially bad, Plymouth Rock Assurance suggests playing it safe and pulling over until the sun rises or sets. You also may want to change your driving time to avoid the glare.

Motor vehicle accidents can happen on bright, sunny days. Glare can compromise drivers' visibility, and drivers may need to take steps to protect their vision on sunny days.

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