When Gregory A. Whirley, VDOT inspector general, was named acting transportation commissioner in 2005, he noted the dramatic improvements VDOT and its contracting firms had made in delivering projects on time and within budget. In 2001, only 20 percent of construction projects were finished on time, but by 2006, 83 percent were. Similarly at the turn of the century, 51 percent of the contracts were built within budget, but by 2006 that figure rose to almost 88 percent. Despite this improvement, the commissioner advised employees that they were now competing with the public sector, which might want to perform more of the department’s traditional functions.
The 2006 General Assembly reinforced that possibility by requiring the transportation commissioner to report annually on VDOT’s efforts to outsource, privatize and downsize. This was in the context of the legislators’ debate about how to finance the transportation system in the long term. Projections showed that by 2018, no state funds would be available for construction as the growing maintenance costs of an aging highway system siphoned off construction funds. The debate over new taxes for transportation continued throughout the spring of 2006, delaying approval of a new state budget by a record number of days.
How to prevent car doors and locks from freezing
If the temperature suddenly plunges, it can cause the doors and locks on your vehicle to freeze. Here are some tips to help prevent this from happening to your car.
Are the rubber seals around your doors cracked and worn? If so, replace them. You should also apply a rubber seal protectant to keep the material pliable. In addition, it’s best to avoid washing your vehicle in cold weather and always dry it well. In extreme cold, cover your car with a tarp or close the door on a garbage bag to separate it from the chassis.
Grease your locks with a liquid lubricant or glycerin. Avoid using WD-40, however, as it can clog your locks. It’s also a good idea to keep a bottle of de-icer in your purse or coat pocket.
To avoid getting locked out of your vehicle in winter, make sure to prepare it for ice, snow, and freezing temperatures.
De-icing doors and locks
If you need to de-ice a car door, you’ll need to apply pressure to the door or use a scraper to remove the ice. Next, use warm water, a commercial de-icer, an alcohol-based windshield washer fluid, or a very small amount of isopropyl alcohol on the seals.
To de-ice door locks, warm up your key and leave it in the lock for a few moments to melt the ice before turning it. You can also use a liquid lubricant or hairdryer.
Five criteria for selecting a snow brush
If your current snow brush has seen better days, or you’re buying your first one for a new car, keep these five criteria in mind when shopping for this must-have accessory.
If you’re short or your vehicle is particularly wide or tall, choose a telescopic snow brush to easily clean hard-to-reach places.
Instead of purchasing a separate ice scraper and brush, look for a model with a brush and ice scraper on opposite ends.
Although effective, bristle bru¬shes can damage your vehicle’s paint. Instead, look for a brush with flexible foam strips or a soft squeegee.
If you choose a telescopic snow brush or one with a rotating end, test it first to ensure the mechanisms won’t jam.
Winter can be hard on snowbrushes, especially in icy conditions. Select a quality model that will last a few winters so you don’t have to replace it prematurely.
To find your new snow brush, visit your local automotive store.
Road reflex quiz
Are you an experienced driver? Here are a few questions to put your know-how to the test.
1. When driving, what should you do if you pass a vehicle on a dimly lit road at night?
A. Turn on your high beams
B. Turn on your low beams
C. Turn on your headlights
2. How can you prevent your car from skidding when driving over icy patches of the road?
A. Brake firmly
B. Pump the brakes
C. Gradually release the gas pedal
3. What should you do if your passengers are arguing or distracting you?
A. Honk the horn to get their attention
B. Turn up the radio so you can’t hear them
C. Pull over to the side of the road
when it’s safe to do so
4. When can you drive in the left lane on a highway?
A. At any time
B. When passing another vehicle
C. Only if you’re alone on the road
5. What should you never do when another vehicle passes you?
A. Slow down
B. Maintain your speed
6. What should you do if your passenger laughs at you for driving slowly?
A. Laugh it off and maintain your speed
B. Call them a fool
C. Drive faster, so they stop laughing
7. How can you avoid being blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle at night?
A. Look at the curb on the right side of the road
B. Close your eyes momentarily
C. Quickly blink several times
1-B, 2-C, 3-C, 4-B, 5-C, 6-A, 7-A
Four tips for safely driving through a tunnel
If you need to drive through a tunnel, it’s best to exercise caution. To make sure you arrive at your destination safely, follow these tips.
1. Use the correct lane
You’re not allowed to change lanes while driving in a tunnel. Therefore, make sure you’re in the correct one before entering.
2. Turn on your low beams
Your headlights will help you see inside the dark tunnel and ensure you’re visible to other motorists.
3. Reduce your speed
It can take a second for your eyes to adjust to the low light when entering the tunnel and the glaring sun when exiting. Make sure you take it slow and always respect the speed limit.
4. Know the dimensions of your vehicle
Tunnels have different levels of clearance. Consequently, you should know the height of your vehicle, especially if you’re driving a motorhome or moving truck. Don’t forget to include the height of ac¬cessories like roof boxes and bike racks.
Finally, remember never to stop inside a tunnel unless there’s an emergency.
7 winter car care tips
On top of investing in a pre-winter vehicle inspection, it’s important to make time for cold-season car care. To prolong your vehicle’s lifespan and ensure safe driving, make sure you perform the following tasks.
1. Wash your vehicle regularly
To remove calcium, prevent corrosion and avoid premature wear and tear, clean your car often.
2. Use the defrost function
If you remove ice from windshield wiper blades with an ice scraper, it can damage the rubber. Also, you should never pour hot water on your wipers because it may crack your windshield. Instead, use your car defrost function to melt ice gradually.
3. Allow the engine to warm up
Warm up the oil and other lubricants before driving to prevent wear and tear on your engine’s moving parts in winter.
4. Check the tire pressure
Cold temperatures can cause tire pressure to drop, and driving on underinflated tires is a safety hazard. To prevent accidents, keep your tires inflated.
5. Top up your fuel tank
To prevent condensation from forming on the inside of your gas tank when it’s cold out, you should keep it relatively full. If moisture makes its way into the fuel lines, you may have trouble starting your car.
6. Check the washer fluid
Using your windshield wipers without washer fluid can wear out the rubber or scratch your windshield. Always keep washer fluid levels high, and keep a spare jug of it in your trunk.
7. Keep your wipers down
Lifting your wiper blades off your windshield when your car is parked has more drawbacks than benefits. Over time, it can damage the springs in the wiper arms and make them less effective.
If you’re concerned about the condition of your vehicle, make an appointment with your local mechanic.
Apps reward drivers for low miles, safe driving
Looking to save money on car insurance? There’s an app for that. In fact, there are now several apps that you can use to reduce car insurance premiums, including ones that track your mileage and driving habits. Using these apps, you can lock in discounts. The apps can be a pain to use, and some may invade your privacy.
If you own a classic car that you occasionally take out for cruises, you’re probably not putting tons of miles on the odometer. Since the vehicle isn’t spending a lot of time on the road, the risk of a car accident and the expensive repair and medical bills it would incur are reduced.
With the right apps and plans, you can get low-mileage insurance plans. Nationwide, for example, offers Pay-Per-Mile SmartMiles insurance. You pay a $60 base rate and then .07 cents per mile driven. If you drive 500 miles or less per month, you could save $30 or more on your monthly premium (compared to an unlimited plan).
Many other insurance companies also offer apps and low-mileage plans. Some use devices installed on your car. Others use a mobile phone app. However, there are some hassles. For example, you might have to take your smartphone out to your car to check the mileage a few times a year.
Some companies also provide discounts for safe drivers, but you may have to install a device that monitors your driving habits. So, your insurance company comes along as a sort of backseat driver.