Posted by: safedriver | July 24, 2015

Where should the kids sit?

002Raising my four kids has been very demanding, exciting and fun. It’s no secret we lead a busy life with all of their activities. Being in the vehicle is something my kids have learned to accept and deal with…and so have I. knowing where the kids should sit is important for their safety.

Protecting our children is something each parent does without blinking an eye. But some drivers make the mistake of letting their kid’s sit where they shouldn’t. It’s not always about following the law. It’s also about understanding the facts about their safety.

In most jurisdictions, there’s a place for the kids at certain ages. Infants should always be in a rear facing car seat. The rear facing car seat helps support the child’s head and neck in case of collision or a sudden stop. This is important to realize since their neck muscles aren’t that strong during those years. Many jurisdictions say they can move away from that type of seat when they reach two years of age. However, the longer they remain in the rear facing seat, the safer they become. Some rear facing car seats can hold kids up to 45 pounds. As long as they haven’t outgrown the rear facing car seat, keep them in it.

A forward facing child seat is for older kids with stronger back and neck muscles. There are some models of child seats that can safely hold a child up to 65 pounds. Having the double harness of a child seat will help protect the child a lot more than a typical seat belt harness. Even if your child weighs 40 pounds and your jurisdiction says you can use a booster seat, your child is safer in the forward facing seat as long as they are still below the child seat’s weight and height limits.

Once the child is in the booster seat, ensure they use the shoulder strap and lap belt properly.  Ensure the shoulder strap rests over your child’s shoulder, and never on their neck, arm, or under their arm. Those placements may injure them in case of a sudden swerve or sudden braking. The lap belt should be as low as possible and over their hips; never their stomach. Also keep in mind the middle of the back seat is the safest place for any passenger. It’s farthest away from any of the four sides in case of collision.

So now we know where our kids should sit in the back seat, but when can they move to the front seat? In many jurisdictions kids over the age of 12 can sit in the front seat. Keep in mind the front seat is where the airbags are. Airbags have been designed to deploy as fast as 320 km/h or 200 mph and with great force. Why would you want that force coming into the face of a child or into their small body?

Keep your kids in the back seat as long as possible. It’s a whole lot safer for them. Make sitting in the back seat fun. Avoid talking about the front seat and how cool it is. They’ll have plenty of time to sit there when they get older.

If you like this article, please help support the effort for safe roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | July 22, 2015

Are you a risk taker?

027Are you a risk taker? I know that’s a bold question, but one I think we need to ask ourselves from time to time. Smart risk takers in business grow their business and do well for themselves. Is there such a thing as a smart risk taker when it comes to driving?

Let’s face facts; driving at most times of the day can become risky. At any moment another driver may drift toward your vehicle while they pass you or pass them. Another driver may miss seeing the red light or stop sign and enter the intersection the same time you enter it on a green light. Pedestrians and cyclists also add to the risks, not to mention weather and road conditions. But with all of these risks which we have to deal with while driving, are we able to lower them?

When teaching risk perception to students I’m teaching at Young Drivers of Canada I start out the topic in class by asking if anyone would take me up on the offer of tossing a paper ball into the container I have at the front of the room, which is usually a garbage can. I tell them if they put up money, they can win more money; usually 10 to 1 odds. Once I have my “victim”, I reach into that container and pull out a small cup and tell them that’s the container I was referring to. The normal reaction of my student is they don’t want to attempt the toss any longer. They’ve realized their risk of losing their money and made the proper choice of declining. If only drivers on the road could make educated choices to reduce their risk of crashing.

Almost every day we witness drivers driving too fast for conditions. If conditions are not ideal, why would you want to drive the speed limit? Whether the road conditions reduce your traction or if visibility reduces your ability to see far enough ahead of you, it’s time to slow down. Speed limits are set for ideal conditions. If the conditions are not ideal, drop the speed.

For those who are regular readers of my work, you’ll know tailgating is a pet peeve of mine. Do drivers who follow so closely realize what risk they are creating? By the time they realize the driver ahead of them is braking hard, they won’t have enough time to stop without hitting them. That increases the risk of vehicle damage, personal injury to the driver and passengers of each vehicle. If that’s the case, why do it? Find out more about a safe following distance here.

Drivers who weave in and out of traffic create a risk as well. With so much going on with the vehicles they’re passing, any slight change of the flow can create a collision. These drivers who weave are usually in a hurry but the results of their weaving usually gets them to the red light sooner. If that’s the case, why weave?

If you want to help keep your vehicle looking its best, you should also think about where you park in a parking lot. Avoid parking beside a vehicle with front wheels angled severely or if the vehicle is parked on an angle. You should also avoid parking across from another aisle or the parking lot entrance as that’s where traffic tends to accumulate. And finally, avoid parking at the end of the row of parking spaces. This can cause your vehicle to be clipped by someone else as they cut the corner while they turn the corner.

These are just a few of the risks we see each day. It’s time to think of your actions before you do them. So I ask you again, are you a risk taker? If you can honestly say you drive in a risky way that can endanger you, your passengers, other road users and your vehicle, maybe now is the time to stop.

Posted by: safedriver | July 14, 2015

Hips don’t lie…and neither do wheels

corolla headlightsI try to live my life in a proactive manner. You know, buying things before I need them, preparing for the worst before the worst happens. I do my best, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen. I take driving the same way. Why wait until the last moment to do something you know you should be doing sooner? Do you procrastinate while driving or are you the type of person who gets the jump on things?

One of the things that can help drivers respond early to other drivers is knowing the direction and movement of other drivers well before they really get moving. Getting those extra few seconds to respond to someone who is turning toward you, moving into your lane or pulling out in front of you can make a huge difference between avoiding a collision and being involved in one.

Think about what drivers may do that becomes deceiving. They signal for a turn but they do not turn. They may signal a lane change but do not leave their lane. Sometimes they become even worse than that. They may signal one direction but move the opposite way. How tricky is that? I do have a solution for those deceiving drivers.

Let’s start with those pesky drivers who signal turns but don’t turn. One thing I tell the people I’m teaching to drive at Young Drivers of Canada is when they see a turn signal the only thing it tells them is that it works. To know if the driver is really turning, glance at their front wheels to see if they begin to angle toward the direction of the turn. Wheel angle gives you direction. Rotation of the wheels determine motion. If the wheels remain straight, the driver is going straight. It’s that simple.

weave 4The same can be said if the driver is attempting a lane change. Glance toward the front wheels and the lane markings. If the wheels begin to fade toward the lane marking – with or without a proper signal – you know the driver may be moving over. Why wait until they are fully into your lane before you do something? The moment you see the wheels drift toward your lane, adjust your speed to create space. If the driver is very close to your vehicle, tap the horn while you adjust speed. Those two responses can help you avoid the sideswipe crash.

The wheels also let you know if a stopped vehicle is beginning to move. You could do a couple things to get the jump on them. First is to glance at the wheels and compare their movement to the stationary items near them, such as the ground. It’s a pretty easy way to see movement. The other way is to compare the vehicle movement to the stationary items behind the vehicle; such as trees, fences, buildings, etc. The moment you see movement, you know that driver is getting ready to pull away from their stopped position. Again; adjust speed or tap the horn to get them to stop. Perhaps they didn’t notice you or didn’t realize they had eased off their brake.

I often refer to the front wheels of a vehicle like the hips of an athlete. It doesn’t matter where the athlete is looking, what they’re doing with their head or hands or what they may be doing with their foot. Their hips tell you the direction they’re about to move toward. Hips won’t lie and neither will front wheels when a driver wants to move toward your lane.

Posted by: safedriver | July 2, 2015

Has your driving mentality changed?

mannersAs written for Driving in the Real World

Let’s face facts; life is busy. We know that. We fill our lives with our jobs, family, friends, and adult responsibilities each and every day. It’s sometimes difficult to focus on the things we need to because we’re so busy. We also tend to take many things for granted. With so much on our minds as the days pass, it’s sometimes tough to realize how much we’ve changed over time, especially when driving is concerned. How much has your driving mentality changed over the years?

Learning to drive is a big step for many people. It gives them the opportunity to travel to more remote areas, obtain employment, and live their lives with more conveniences in this fast-paced world. But with the years passing us by, how much has your driving mentality changed? Has it changed for the better or the worse?

When most people learned to drive, they kept two hands on the wheel, they looked out for the other driver, and, for the most part, followed the rules of the road. As I watch many drivers over the years, I see most of these things changing. To those who make these changes to their driving mentality, I ask this question: why?

As time goes by, we tend to get a little sloppy with things. Do you check your mirrors as often as you should? Do you make quality turns, or do you cut the corners? What about full stops at stop signs? Do you speed up toward a red light? Has your mentality changed from doing things safely to “it’s close enough that I won’t get a ticket”?

If something goes wrong, do you blame someone else, even though you know deep down that you screwed up? I doubt you started your driving career like that. It’s time to think back to the beginning. It’s time to take ownership of your own actions. No one really belongs to the “It won’t happen to me” club. In fact, it can happen to you if you’re not careful.

I remember speaking with a former student a few years after I taught them to drive. I asked them if they were still driving the way I had taught them. They smiled and said “Yes. Why wouldn’t I? Why change something that works?” Sound advice, don’t you think?

A responsible driver respects themselves, their vehicle, their passengers, and other road users. It has to change from being a “me – me” attitude. Following rules, being safe, and taking your time while on the road will get you to your destinations safely. It will also help other road users reach their destinations safely. Driving is a journey, not a race. Take the time to enjoy it—safely.

If you like this article, please help support the effort for safe roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | June 30, 2015

Which month has the most vehicle crashes?

128d3f654d919d62247603ebcbceFor years I would ask the question to drivers; which month of the year has the most vehicle crashes? Typically I would get December, January or February. But that’s not the case. Do you have any idea which month has the most crashes?

How does July sound? After revealing the answer, I would often see a surprised look on their faces. You also may be asking yourself, how can a month filled with great weather be the month with the most vehicle crashes? Any guesses?

towing trailerWell, if you think about it, July is the busiest month for summer vacations. I too take my family away for a week during that month. It’s not surprising with all those vehicles on the road that crashes seem to escalate. Everyone seems to have a place to get to. Even those who are having a “stay-cation” will head out for day trips. Then there are those who head away from home for that much needed week “away from it all”.

But what about the winter weather of snow and ice – why doesn’t that escalate into a high crash month? Well, for the most part, people stay home in poor weather. For many, it’s just too cold to head out for trips in the cold winter weather. Many others won’t vacation in the cold weather. They would rather save their vacation time for the warmer weather.

So with that being said, what can we do to reduce the number of vehicle collisions during the summer months? Well, glad you asked. Staying home isn’t really the way I’m thinking, so plan your trip well. If it’s a long trip, plan where you’ll take breaks that would include where to have a washroom break. Needing to use the washroom can seriously take the attention away from any driver. Ensure you have your maps ready or if you use a GPS, ensure you program your trip accordingly. No one really likes to miss their turn. And if you do, there are a few things you can do to get back on track. (Find added information here.)

Making that long drive to your vacation spot can be tiring. Fatigue is a big problem for those heading out or coming back from a vacation. There are a few things you can do to help stay awake and alert. Pulling into a rest area is the perfect plan to catch a quick nap. That’s the best solution to avoid drowsy driving. However, until you can find a good place to pull over, ask your passenger to have a good conversation with you and put the air conditioning on full blast to help keep you awake. Caffeine can help too if you have it. If your brain’s awake, you’ll stay awake.

Other suggestions is, as always, remove your distractions. Keep a water bottle nearby so you won’t have to reach all about the seating compartments to find one. Of course, turn your phone off so you won’t text. Let your passengers help you with that if needed. Since many people enjoy sightseeing, I recommend you do that while walking. Slowing your vehicle down to a crawl where traffic shouldn’t be crawling can be a recipe for disaster.

Packing your vehicle properly will also help. Ensuring you can see out the rear and sides is important. If you have a van, SUV, station wagon or crossover vehicle, ensure baggage is no higher than the top of the backseat. Also ensure nothing loose can fly over the top of the rear seat in the event you have to brake or suddenly steer to avoid a hazard. Other than having flying distractions, these objects can injure an occupant of the vehicle with a sudden change of speed or direction. If it hits the driver, the driver could lose control of the vehicle.

These are just a few things drivers can do to reduce collisions during the busy driving months of July and August…and any other time of the year as well. The main thing is to be prepared and stay focused on driving. After all, it’s now summer and time to enjoy the weather!

Posted by: safedriver | June 18, 2015

Getting unstuck is easier now

wheel stuckIf you think about it, everyone at some point in their life gets stuck. We get stuck for cash, stuck for gift ideas and even stuck with having to do all of the chores around the house before guests arrive. Added to this, many people seem to get stuck in either poor weather or on poor road conditions. Well, if that happens to you, I may have a solution for you.

For years drivers have learned to carry things in their vehicle to help them get unstuck in winter weather, especially if they are alone. Anything from using a salt/sand mixture to using floor mats placed under the spinning wheels or metal tracks to drive over have been used by many drivers over the years. That may help you get unstuck in winter, but what would happen if you got stuck in mud during the summer months? Spinning wheels in deep mud can be just as treacherous.

I remember one of the seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver when I was a judge when one of the challenges had the participants using a 4-wheel drive vehicle in a muddy challenge. Many drivers got stuck…and frustrated. Too bad they didn’t have a product to help them get unstuck during that time.

Trac Grabber logoI recently found a great product called Trac-Grabbers. They attach to the tread of the tire that is stuck and it literally lifts the tire out of the slippery area and helps to move it along. I was very intrigued by this so I went and tested it out. I found they worked extremely well and very quickly. I was able to quickly fasten them over the tread of the tire and secure it through the rim in a matter of seconds.

So now that I got it safely fastened, just how good are Trac-Grabbers? I waited for a good time weather-wise to test them. The road conditions were far less than ideal and it took a matter of seconds to get my vehicle moving again and unstuck. To say that I was impressed was an understatement. In a strange way, I almost can’t wait for deep snow to see how Trac-Grabbers will work in snow. I said almost.

What I liked the most about Trac-Grabbers was the quickness it got my vehicle unstuck and how easy it was to hook them up to my wheels. To see the benefits, check out this quick video;

 

 

This product was sent to me to try from http://www.tracgrabber.com but what I found out was they are sold in retail throughout Canada at Canadian Tire so anyone can quickly add these to their vehicle kit. I would recommend them to anyone. They take up very little space in your trunk and can fit most rims, including SUV’s, trucks and passenger vehicles. So if you ever get stuck now, you’ll know what to do…including if you get stuck for a gift idea!

IMG_20150609_094823Let’s face facts; road safety should be everyone’s concern. Even if you don’t drive, you still have to travel across roads as a pedestrian, cyclist or as a passenger in a vehicle. Being able to see the “big picture” is an advantage to all road users to help protect us all. The big picture is ensuring you understand that your actions – or lack thereof – can lead to fines or perhaps serious injuries to you or other road users. If you’re thinking this may pertain to you or someone you know, please continue reading.

I was recently invited to attend a commercial vehicle inspection blitz. Police officers guided commercial vehicles into an inspection area to ensure their vehicle was safe to operate, including the load they may be carrying and the trailer too. I attended a blitz a year ago and was a little disappointed with the outcome when it came to commercial drivers and their lack of detail on safety. This year seemed to be no different. But with this year, I was handed a few different things to think about.

Many of the drivers of these vehicles that were in violation were employees and not the vehicle owner. That lead me to consider this; do employers do enough training to help their employees who have to tow a trailer for their job? For example, if you decided to work for a landscaper and have to tow a trailer with lawn care equipment on it, were you informed about the maximum weight you can have on the trailer? What about ensuring you having a separate braking system for your trailer? In many jurisdictions, such as Ontario, you may need a different license class to operate a vehicle and trailers. That really depends on the weight of the trailer you’re towing. Check with your local jurisdiction to determine if you have the proper license classification before you begin to drive such a vehicle. Did you know about any of this? What training did you receive, if any?

Having a heavy trailer without a separate braking system for it can lead to a loss of control for the driver. Think of it this way; if you’ve ever driven a vehicle alone and then switched to a heavier vehicle full of people and packages and then try to brake normally, you may have stopped much later than you expected. Add a few thousand pounds and you may not stop in time. Compare it to running quickly down a hill and at the bottom of the hill when you try to stop, having someone behind you that isn’t slowing down as much as you and they keep pushing you forward. That’s what your heavy trailer can do with your vehicle and that can cause a serious collision.

So now you know. Knowledge and education is the key to helping all drivers remain safe on the roads. Ensure you get the proper training for the safety of driving the vehicle and the trailer you’re towing. Know all of the rules to follow for your jurisdiction and also how to safely drive that vehicle. Whether you drive for your job or just to get to your job, it pays to fully understand all safety factors.

If you like this article, please help support the effort for safe roads. Support HERE.

Posted by: safedriver | May 29, 2015

Another car site you’re bound to enjoy!

Zorra-20130701-00430Ever since I was a young teen I loved cars. I loved classic cars, hot rods and the exotic automobile. The sleek lines and sounds of that raw power made cars exciting for me. They still do. Besides promoting road safety I also spend my time viewing these types of vehicles whenever I can; whether it’s live, via magazines or online. There seems to be more and more online resources to help those car enthusiasts get up to date information regarding their favourite vehicles. One such site is called Swiftly.

I enjoy searching for new and interesting sites. This up and coming site will allow viewers to interact with drivers from your local community and worldwide. Find out whose driving the same car model as you and discuss whatever’s on your mind. Swiftly is also including a question and answer feature called talk where you’ll be able to find an answer for any car related question you may have. This replaces the traditional forum type of function.

With this site you’ll find the usual photos and articles, but also videos related to the vehicles you love to view and drool over. The articles come from common publications and the videos are also from TV shows. Everything you want when it comes to the love of vehicles under one site. Sounds good, right? Another bonus of this site is it also allows you to promote your own vehicle and talk to other enthusiasts about the same vehicle. Find out what they like or don’t like and grow your knowledge.

One of the best features of this new site is that it becomes more interactive with the viewers. They will add an achievement system, where you get special rewards if you provide answers. If you answer a lot of questions regarding Honda, for example, you will be credited with the Honda Specialist title, which can be shared with your connections, either on Swiftly or other social platforms – such as Facebook and Twitter.

Finally, with the marketplace, Swiftly will be adding a dedicated store where you can directly find products from local shops or from the manufacturers relevant for the cars you own. Since they are about to launch their site, Swiftly can issue email invites so that users will be able to access the site as soon as they release it. Check out this video clip to see their potential!

 

 

So as you can see, there’s a bit more here with Swiftly that you’ll find with other sites. Take the time to check out Swiftly at http://www.swiftly.eu if you are a lover of cars…any cars. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted by: safedriver | May 24, 2015

Setting up the side mirror – things to think about

IMG_20150417_081013

This is the second part of a two-part series discussing side mirror setup. This isn’t about which is better and who should win this “battle”. It’s about making an informed choice to keep you, your passengers, your vehicle and other road users safe while driving. If you missed the first part, here it is; https://safedriving.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/setting-up-the-side-mirrors-part-one/

Here’s something to think about with this type of mirror set up. Experts will ask drivers why they want to see a sliver of their vehicle in their side mirrors with the traditional setup. Well, here’s why. Considering one of the most common types of vehicle crashes is a rear crash, your side mirrors can help you avoid a multiple vehicle pile-up. Let me explain.

Here’s the scenario. You’re stopped in traffic and a large vehicle is stopped behind you. You check your rear view mirror and all you can see is the tinted windows of that vehicle behind you or the grill of the large pickup truck. If that vehicle gets hit from behind, they could easily be pushed into you, causing severe damage and possible injuries to you and your passengers. However, if you have your side mirrors angled to still see down the side of your vehicle and up the lane, you can still monitor traffic approaching from behind. If you spot another vehicle approaching quickly from behind, you have that opportunity to move out of the way to avoid being involved in a multiple rear crash.

Let’s say you’re waiting to make a right turn into traffic. While stopped you keep checking to the left to look for an opening. If your side mirror was angled away from your vehicle, you could miss seeing any cyclist about to come up on the side, including from a bicycle lane. Glancing into a side mirror and blind spot before making that right turn allows you to ensure its safe to make the turn.

IMG_20141009_122953And the last point to consider. When parked at the curb with a larger vehicle parked behind you, your rear view mirror becomes useless to see traffic approaching from behind before pulling out. It’s helpful to be able to use your side mirror to ensure its okay to safely pull away from the curb. If the angle of the side mirror has been pushed out, that may not work to your advantage.

So there you have it. The pros and cons about adjusting your side mirrors away from your vehicle or showing a sliver of the vehicle while sitting in the normal driving position. The decision is yours. Make an educated one. Even many experts say a blind spot check in certain situations is still required to help drivers make safe driving choices. Being an observant driver is still the main goal here. If a collision happens because you may have missed seeing someone, you only have yourself to blame. If a collision happens between two drivers, it only takes one of those drivers to do something different for the collision to not happen. I’m an advocate for safe driving. I can only give you the facts. You have to make your own choices. I just hope you make the safest choice.

Posted by: safedriver | May 21, 2015

Setting up the side mirrors – part one

005Sometimes change is good. Doing the same thing all the time can become quite boring at times, so switching things up to add spice in our lives can be a good thing. However, change just for the sake of change isn’t always a good thing. We have to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages with this change before making the change. Sound familiar? Driving skills and techniques are no different to this theory.

For a number of years a variety of driving experts have lobbied to have drivers change how they set up their side mirrors and I understand why. The theory to these changes is that it can remove blind spots from the side of vehicles. Now, I’m a big supporter of giving drivers an edge and reducing collisions, so I went ahead and made those changes…to test out the theory. This is what happened.

The “new” way to set up the driver side mirror is to lean over as far as possible toward the driver’s door and just see a sliver of the vehicle in the side mirror. This means the mirror is more angled to see into the lane beside you to the left while you’re sitting in the normal driving position. To adjust the right side mirror, it was suggested to lean as far as possible across the centre console and also see a sliver of the vehicle. This too shows the lane beside you to the right. To the many experts who support this set up, this means no need to check the blind spot, right? Well, I did this for over three weeks and tested the theory. I needed to see for myself, so to speak, the advantages and disadvantages of this setup.

It was true that I could see every vehicle approaching from either side of my vehicle. Once I was about to lose sight of a vehicle in my rear view mirror passing me, I was able to pick them up in my side mirror. No vehicle was able to hide from me and that’s a good thing. I liked the change. Nothing surprised me, but it did take time to get used to these changes. But then I took this mirror set up to a multiple lane one-way street system, to which there are many within the community I live in. I also took it onto the multiple lane freeways in my community. This is where I became concerned.

While traveling in the right hand lane, I lost sight of vehicles in the far left lane. They were 2 lanes from me and if I trusted what I saw in the mirror only and changed to the centre lane just as they were changing to the same centre lane, a collision could have happened, or at least a close call. Once I lost sight of the driver in the far left lane in my side mirror, I did a quick check of my blind spot and found that driver was close enough to my rear fender that if we both changed into the centre lane and not paying enough attention as we should, there could have been a collision or perhaps a sudden swerve back because of panic.

I can see a lot of advantages to eliminating the blind spot, but at what risk? If drivers fail to check their mirrors often enough and after checking both the rear view mirror and side mirror and don’t see a vehicle, is that enough to say a vehicle won’t be changing into that middle lane on a one-way street or a multiple lane freeway?

Being aware of our surroundings while driving is something all drivers need to do. Mirror checks are important, but using short term memory is also important so we remember what we saw with that last check. The question remains…is that enough to keep us safe? This is the first part of a two-part evaluation of mirror setups. I spent a few weeks using this setup to help me get used to it. Look for the second installment coming up soon.

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