Driving under the influence during the holidays is a common phenomenon, with drunk drivers causing more traffic deaths between Christmas and New Year’s Eve than at other times of the year. Here are some practices you should adopt to help ensure you and your passengers get around safely during the holidays.
Are you fit to drive?
First, make sure you don’t contribute to the problem of drunk driving yourself. Even small quantities of alcohol can impair your ability to drive. So if you’re the designated driver for the night, it’s best to avoid drinking altogether.
If you do plan to drink, do so responsibly. The one-drink-an-hour rule works for some people. However, a person’s level of intoxication will depend on various factors such as their weight and the type of alcohol being consumed.
If there’s any indication that your ability to drive is impaired, don’t get behind the wheel. Always have a back-up plan, whether it’s calling a cab, sleeping over, or getting a ride from a friend or family member.
Driving defensively is always a good practice, but it’s an especially wise approach when driving at night during the holiday season. In particular:
• Be attentive. Always be prepared to take preventive action to avoid an accident. Sit up straight, keep both hands on the wheel, and be aware of your surroundings.
• Be careful at intersections. Watch out for drivers running red lights: even if you have priority, look both ways.
• Take your safety into your own hands. You can’t always count on other drivers to be safe on the road. Stay out of other cars’ blind spots and maintain a safe following distance.
Finally, never get into a car with someone who you suspect has had too much to drink. Call a cab or UBER and encourage them to do the same.
The best way to clear snow off your car
Clearing the snow off your vehicle before you drive will improve your visibility and prevent snow and ice from flying off your car on the highway and potentially blinding the driver behind you. If you can’t park your car in a garage or carport, here are a few things you should know about clearing snow off your vehicle.
Get the right tools
A good snow brush is one of the most important snow removal tools to have on hand. You should choose one that’s sturdy, easy-to-use, and suitable for the size of your vehicle. Telescopic models are extremely useful if you drive a van or have limited reach.
Other essential snow removal tools include an ice scraper with a good grip and a small shovel. You should also use a specially formulated windshield washer fluid that’s designed for extreme temperatures. This will prevent ice from forming on your windshield while you’re on the road.
Use the correct technique
Before defrosting your car, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear to prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside the cabin. Clear the snow off your vehicle from top to bottom, starting with the roof and ending with the sides. Everything from the windshield to the license plate, headlights, and side mirrors must be cleared of snow.
If your windows are covered in a layer of ice, use a scraper to clean them. However, you should never use this tool on the body of your car, as it could damage the paint. Also, remember to remove any hard-packed snow from your tires since the added friction could cause them to prematurely wear.
Lastly, winter weather is unpredictable. Therefore, you should always give yourself extra time in the morning to properly clear your vehicle of snow. After all, your safety and that of other road users depend on it.
How accurate is your speedometer?
It’s a good idea to check the accuracy of your car’s speedometer every so often to ensure you’re not driving faster or slower than you think. Speedometers rely on sensors located inside your vehicle’s transmission to measure how fast the wheels spin. Therefore, improperly inflated or worn tires can cause your speedometer to malfunction.
How to test your speedometer
To test your speedometer you’ll need a stopwatch, a friend, and a stretch of road with mile markers along with it. Start the test by driving at a steady speed and ask your companion to start the stopwatch as you pass a highway marker.
Once you’ve passed 10 markers (10 miles), have your friend pause the stopwatch and take note of how long it took you to travel the distance.
To determine your speed, divide 60 (the number of minutes in an hour) by the number of minutes it took you to drive the 10 miles, and then multiply this figure by the distance you traveled. For example, your equation might be:
60 ÷ 10 minutes x 10 miles = 60 miles per hour
You can also use a smartphone app that uses GPS to calculate speed, such as Google Maps, to get a better idea of how fast you’re going.
Don’t panic if your speedometer isn’t right on. If it’s off by two or three miles per hour, just keep that discrepancy in mind when you’re driving so you don’t inadvertently speed. In fact, in the United States, it’s acceptable for your speedometer to be off by up to four percent. However, if your speedometer is off by more than five miles per hour, it’s a good idea to bring it to a mechanic to have it inspected and recalibrated.
4 driving mistakes to avoid in winter
At times, driving conditions in winter can be treacherous. Consequently, it’s important to always remain vigilant when you’re behind the wheel. In addition, try to avoid making these four dangerous blunders.
1. Using cruise control
The cruise control function on your car and slippery roads don’t mix. In fact, instead of slowing down your vehicle if it loses traction, this feature will accelerate your car to ensure it maintains a constant speed. This is a recipe for disaster, as you could easily lose control.
2. Running on empty
If you park your car outdoors with a near-empty tank of gas, condensation could form in your tank and freeze. This could damage your car’s internal mechanisms. In addition, if you get stuck in a traffic jam or unexpected situation, you could easily find yourself stranded.
3. Changing lanes unnecessarily
By changing lanes, you risk skidding on a patch of black ice or sinking into a snowdrift. Overtaking another vehicle is especially dangerous on bridges and overpasses, as these freeze quickly due to their increased exposure to the elements. It’s best to simply stay in your lane when driving in severe weather conditions.
4. Relying solely on all-wheel drive
Although vehicles with four-wheel drive generally react well in bad weather conditions, they don’t automatically keep you safe. It’s important to always remain vigilant when driving on winter roads.
Avoiding these mistakes can help keep you and other road users safe. In addition, make sure you maintain a safe following distance and adjust your speed to suit the road conditions.
What to do if you crash into a power pole
If you crash into a power pole, you run the risk of suffering a life-threatening electrical shock if you attempt to leave your vehicle. Even if the power line hasn’t fallen over or you don’t notice any sparking, it could still be energized. The best thing to do is remain in your vehicle, call 911 and wait for emergency crews to secure the scene.
The only time you should leave your vehicle after crashing into a power pole is if it’s on fire. This rarely happens, but if it does, carefully open the door, place both feet on the running board and jump clear of the vehicle. Make sure to keep your arms close to your body to avoid touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Once you’re out, squeeze both feet together and hop at least 35 feet away from the burning vehicle. This will prevent electricity from flowing through your body if the ground is energized.
Finally, if you’ve crashed into a power pole and someone tries to offer you help, tell them to stay away.
If you crash into a power pole, try to remain calm. In the panic and confusion of the accident, you could easily fail to notice a fallen power line.
3 great reasons to wash your car in winter
Do you regularly clean your car in winter? If not, here are three great reasons to start.
1. Increase visibility
If your headlights and taillights become caked with dirt, grime, and slush, it makes it difficult to see and be seen while on the road. Additionally, it’s important to regularly clean the outside of your vehicle to keep your rear and side windows from becoming streaky and limiting your visibility.
2. Prevent rust
Road salt is corrosive and, if not promptly washed off, can cause your car to rust. You need to be especially careful if you park your vehicle in a heated garage, as the increased humidity can mix with the road salt and quickly eat away at the metal body. Remember to clean the underside of your vehicle or look for a car wash in your area that offers a high-pressure undercarriage wash.
3. Enjoy a smooth ride
It’s important to check that there isn’t any snow or debris left in your tire tread or wheel wells before hitting the road. This can throw your tires off balance and cause your car to vibrate uncontrollably. Regularly washing your car can help prevent this from happening.
Periodically cleaning your car in winter will ensure it stays in good condition and is safe to drive. You should aim to wash your vehicle at least once a month.
To prevent your doors from freezing shut after going through the car wash, wipe down the seals around the door frames and trunk. You should also make sure that no water has pooled around the locks.
Backup cameras 101
As of 2018, all new cars sold in North America must be equipped with a backup camera. If your car doesn’t already have one, you may want to consider purchasing an after-market model to help make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable.
Benefits of backup cameras
Backup cameras are especially helpful when reversing, parallel parking, or backing out of a parking space. They expand your field of vision and give you an accurate view of any obstacles behind your car. Additionally, the wide-angle camera drastically minimizes blind spots. Despite these advantages, you should still conduct a shoulder check and use your side and rearview mirrors to check your surroundings.
How backup cameras work
Backup cameras use colored lines to help you gauge the distance between your car and whatever’s behind it. These lines also give you a better idea of the width of your vehicle. It’s important to know what the different colored lines on your specific backup camera indicate to ensure you’re using it properly.
If you need advice on which backup camera is right for you, visit your local electronics retailer.
To improve visibility, regularly wipe off your backup camera, especially after driving through mud or slush.