Tag Archives: driving

10 Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life

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The rules of the road don’t waver, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t learn a thing or two about how to be a better driver. For most of us, driving school and DMV handbooks are long behind us, but there are still some tips that we can use to keep us and our loved ones safer on the road. These 10 driving tips could save your life, so read carefully and pass them along to your friends and family, too. You never know when you might need them. Continue reading

Do You Text While Driving? Why You Shouldn’t — and How to Stop.

iphone-driving_2891450b-300x187Guess: What’s one habit that’s very common and extremely dangerous?

Yes, of course, smoking. But what else?

Using your smart phone while driving is a terrible habit. So common, so dangerous. About one quarter of car accidents involve the use of a smart phone.

It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’ll just glance at the screen,” but it takes a minimum of five seconds to take a look, and if you’re going 55 mph, you’ll go the length of a football field in that time.

And it turns out that just reaching for the device raises the chance of an accident.

Probably, most of us know that using a phone while driving is a bad idea. And yet we’re in that habit. So how to stop? Continue reading

Slow Your Roll: Think Twice Before You Yell, Honk or Lose It!

I was recently driving in downtown San Francisco smack dab in the middle of rush hour when I witnessed a kind act that taught me an important life lesson from behind the wheel.

Traffic was packed with pedestrians, bicyclists and zig-zagging skateboarders who were crossing Market and 7th streets like Atari’s Frogger game.

Remember that? I think I’m dating myself again. That moment brought me back to my high school driver’s education class. For a moment, I felt like I was driving in a simulator just hoping for a good grade, but this time it was real life waiting to teach me a lesson.

My car was positioned four car-lengths behind the intersection. The light was green, but traffic wasn’t moving. Within a few seconds of the light turning green, the drivers behind me started honking their horns. The honking overpowered the hustle and bustle of traffic. For a few seconds, I started getting antsy too, but instead of getting flustered, I looked around inquisitively – surely, I thought to myself, something going on was creating the snarled and inert traffic.

Suddenly, my angst turned to empathy and I shivered with realization. A blind, disoriented man came into view as he wandered in the middle of the street not knowing where to go. All this confusion and frustration that everyone else was feeling while in their cars safely tucked away behind the wheel – imagine how he must be feeling! People screaming, horns honking, not being able to see the multiple sources of anger and annoyance … his confusion trumped ours instantly.

It wasn’t until I witnessed three people rushing to usher him out of harm’s way that I finally took a breath. Their kindness warmed my heart and made me smile inside and out, and suddenly I was so very thankful that I hadn’t let my frustration get the best of me.

The moment triggered memories of my late Auntie Hong Yee. She was a graceful woman, who embodied the word “Zen,” and she was my favorite aunt because she never judged and was always supportive of me and my four siblings. We trusted her and felt we could confide in her.

Hong Yee fought a long, courageous battle with cancer and passed away about ten years ago, but her timeless wisdom embraces us. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about her. I used to accompany her on an occasional errand and on some of her medical visits.

She did things on her own timetable, slowly, with patience and this included driving. She walked at her own pace.  She would take her time meticulously cleaning and cooking. Oftentimes, she would drive under the speed limit. If the speed limit said 45 mph, she would carefully drive 40 mph or less.

Cancer slowed her down even more, to about 35 miles per hour. Every time I was in the car with her — people would honk, snicker and even flip the bird at her. As a teenager I remember getting angry at them.  I wanted to shout back at them and explain that she was ill and her days on earth were numbered. She felt my nervous energy and in a soft, loving voice, she said, “so what… let them get mad, they are not being conscious of what they’re doing.” I didn’t fully understand it then.

This experience changed my outlook on life’s speed bumps and barriers that block my path. Through her actions Hong Yee taught me to be more aware of my impatience and recognize that it is my ego that is getting out of control and driving the negative emotions. I also learned to be conscious of the way I react to other people’s actions and not to lash back out of habit – after all, negativity begets negativity.

I learned that I too needed to look at every situation that comes my way with the same compassion and consciousness as my beloved auntie. I wondered, what would the world be like if we viewed all the slow drivers as though they are our aunties, friends, family members or neighbors, who are going through their own battles in life. This awareness is the roadmap to my actions and have changed the trajectory of how I react.

All our actions and reactions affect others. If you’re a road raging parent, your kids will learn from your actions, and they too may react the same way, while driving, walking or living.

Beep. Beep. You are in the driver’s seat when it comes to what you choose to say or do to others. This is what my Auntie Hong Yee taught me: Be aware. Be conscious. And smile at other angry drivers.

(Oh, and don’t text while driving.)

Seven Ways To Make The Most Of Your Long Commutes

For a good number of us, long commutes are unavoidable. ABC News reports that “the traffic watchers at Texas Transportation Institute shows that cities across the nation are facing more congestion than ever. In the 68 urban areas studied, the average driver spends 34 hours a year in traffic jams. In Los Angeles, drivers sit stagnant for 82 hours each year. The amount of time drivers spend stuck in traffic has grown by at least 350 percent over the past 16 years.” The tedium can become almost unbearable at times but there are ways to make that time in traffic more pleasant and hey, maybe even enjoyable. Here are some ways to combat the commuter blues. 

By Car:

 Parlez-Vous Francais? Learn to speak French, or any other language, while you drive to and from work. It’s the perfect time to practice, especially if you are driving alone and worry about feeling silly repeating phrases aloud over and over.

Audio Books. There are literally thousands of books available on audio, from non-fiction, to current best-sellers, to classic works of literature. Check out the selection from a vendor such as Audible.com 

Podcasts. Like audio books, there are thousands of podcasts available. If you enjoy news, check out National Public Radio’s complete Podcast List. For a more varied listing, try iTunes Podcasts or try Podcast.com for podcasts from around the world. 

 Keep Learning. Listen to lectures from modern and classic thinkers and learn more about whatever you are interested in, from art, to science, to medicine, and more. iTunes-U has an entire section devoted to learning to keep your mind sharp and your education evolving.

By Public Transport:

 Flirt! If you are single, the time spent on the train, subway, or bus can be a great place to meet new people. It’s easy to strike up a conversation. Comment on what they are reading, ask where they work, or how often they take the train, and you may well find your time racing past and maybe you’ll have a date for the weekend!

Crosswords or Sudoko. Both are a great way to keep your mind active and without the necessity of having to keep your hands on the wheel, you are free to pursue this intellectual activity. And if you get stuck, you may be able to incorporate “flirting” into your commuting time and ask that attractive guy or girl next to you to help you out!

Sleep. I know this is difficult for many people, but I have the wonderful ability to fall asleep anywhere, at any time. I often use train commutes to catch a few extra winks, but have learned to set an alarm so I don’t wind up in another state.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / icopythat

 

Aging Parents Behind the Wheel: How to Talk About It

It seems like just yesterday that you argued with your parents for control over the car keys, a symbol of freedom and independence to sixteen-year-olds across the country. Flash-forward decades later, and suddenly you’re the one feeling nervous about your parents being behind the wheel. Just as they lectured you about the importance of being a good driver before handing over the keys, this might be the time when you have to sit down and talk with them about whether they should have the keys at all.

Telling your parents that they’re getting too old to drive is possibly one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, and hearing it is no cakewalk for parents, either. Luckily, there are ways to make that tough conversation a little easier.

First, understand why they’re reluctant to let go.
The talk is sure to go badly if you don’t acknowledge and appreciate what giving up driving means to them. Think back to when you first got those car keys, and the surge of power and confidence that followed. If they were taken away at sixteen, you’d feel frustrated and confined. Imagine how you’d feel at seventy-six, when the person you raised from birth thinks you’re not able-bodied or mentally alert enough to operate a car. Plus, it’s a reminder that they’re getting older and potentially closer to being completely dependent on others for survival. The car isn’t just a way to get from point to point—it’s reassurance that they can still function on their own without any help. Approach the topic with that reality in mind, remaining calm and respectful even if they get upset.

Have the discussion before it becomes a bigger concern.
There’s no sense to wait until something bad happens before you have a serious heart-to-heart with your parents about their driving. However, if you force the issue too early, it could create needless tension. Instead, the AARP says to work with the present situation: is your parent a good driver who’s simply getting older, or he is already showing signs of risky driving? If it’s the former, try to come up with a compromise that allows him to continue driving and allows you to worry a little less. For example, you could ask him to agree to stop driving at night or taking long car trips. Ask him to take the AARP’s refresher driving course, the Driver Safety Program. If it’s the latter, you don’t want concessions; you want the car keys. Whatever the situation, it’s preferable to start the process before things get worse.

Decide who should do the talking.
According to research conducted by the Hartford and MIT AgeLab, the majority of elderly parents would rather talk about this with their family members, especially spouses. If your parent has a husband or wife who agrees that he or she shouldn’t be driving, that person might be best for the job. Children can also initiate the talk, though experts recommend starting in a way that takes the focus off of their age. For example you could bring it up after a doctor’s appointment by asking, “Did the doctor say you can drive while on this new medication?” Or you can make reference to increasingly dangerous roads. After family, physicians become the preferred source of information. Just don’t bring too many people into the situation, otherwise your parent might feel overwhelmed and defensive.

Regardless of who brings the subject up, this will likely be a long process that involves many conversations. Don’t get discouraged; only time and patience will minimize hurt feelings and anger.

Be prepared with examples and answers to questions.
If you’re unsure whether or not your parents should be driving anymore, the best way to tell is by taking a ride with them. As a passenger, you can see how mindful they are about the rules of the road and the other cars on it, as well as how stressed out or tense they seem behind the wheel. The AARP has a list of ten big warning signs to watch out for; these include your parents’ getting lost, responding to road situations too slowly, having unexplained scrapes or dents on the car, and straining to see signs and traffic lights. When you sit down with your parents, present concrete reasons as to why it’s no longer safe for them to drive.

Along with that, have a list of alternative transportation methods on hand in case your parent argues that they’ll be housebound or that other options are too expensive. Depending on how much car insurance and gas costs where they live, taking public transportation might actually be significantly cheaper than driving. There are also private paratransit companies that cater specifically to the elderly and disabled. Offer to map out routes and accompany them the first few times so that it’s less confusing and scary. Family members and friends could also serve as occasional chauffeurs. Find out where your parent needs to go, and then plan from there.

Even with all of this, parents still might not recognize why they’re dangerous behind the wheel. It’s also possible that you, as their worried child, are hypersensitive to their age and level of ability. (Age in and of itself doesn’t make a person a bad driver, but debilitating conditions and diseases that come along with age can.) If that’s the case, parents can take a behind-the-wheel test to assess their driving skills. When a professional tells them that they need to refrain from driving at night or at all, the message could finally hit home. Check with your local DMV for more information.

Good luck!
In November 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board held its first forum on the issue of aging drivers. That’s because the sixty-five-and-older age group is expected to double in the next thirty years. A Washington Post story published that same month estimates that the group will represent over 20 percent of drivers on the road. Because age can have a negative effect on cognition and physical health, it’s important for these people, as well as their families and friends, to make sure that they’re still able to drive well. That may mean having a few uncomfortable conversations, but if the result is keeping your loved ones—as well as the roads themselves—a little safer, the discomfort is surely worthwhile.

Drive Greener & Smarter This Thanksgiving

Many travelers are planning their annual Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday road trips to family and friends.  One greener way to road trip is to drive or rent a Toyota Prius or other more environmentally friendly car.

For every car, the Drive Smarter Challenge website explains how to practice more fuel-efficient driving and create less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are the website’s suggestions on How To Drive Smarter:

PLANNING YOUR ROAD TRIP:

  • “Get a customized map with low gas prices along the route. Getting lost while driving in unfamiliar areas could lead to an expensive waste of gas. Print a customized vacation map that highlights low-cost gas stations along your route using campaign website resources . Or, navigate with a GPS system.”
  • “Choose the right vehicle. If your family has more than one vehicle, drive the car that gets better gas mileage if possible.”
  • “Rise and shine! When possible, drive during off-peak hours to reduce gas costs and stress by avoiding stop-and-go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions.”
  • “Investigate other travel options. Consider trains, buses, or public transportation to your destination when possible.”
  • “Explore new ways to get around at your destination. Find information on biking, public transportation routes, car sharing, walking, and renting hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles on the Drive Smarter Challenge website resources page.”

BEFORE YOU LEAVE:

  • “Inflate your tires. Keeping your tires properly inflated improves gas mileage by around 3%.”
  • “Select the right oil. Using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil improves gas mileage by 1 to 2%. Motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol contains friction-reducing additives. Change your oil as recommended to extend the life of your vehicle.”
  • ” Tune up. Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%.”

ON THE ROAD: DRIVING TIPS

  • “Decrease your speed. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 mph. Each five miles per hour over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents or more per gallon for gas.”
  • “Drive sensibly. Speeding, rapid acceleration (jackrabbit starts), and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by up to 33% at highway speeds and up to 5% in town.”
  • “Use cruise control and overdrive gear. Cruise control cuts fuel consumption by maintaining a steady speed during highway driving. Overdrive gear, when appropriate, reduces engine speed, saves gas, and reduces engine wear.”
  • “It’s a “drag.” Avoid carrying items on your vehicle’s roof. A loaded roof rack or carrier increases weight and aerodynamic drag, which can cut mileage by 5%. Place items inside the trunk when possible to improve fuel economy.”
  • “Avoid idling, which gets 0 mpg. Cars with larger engines typically waste even more gas while idling than cars with smaller engines.”
  • “Fill up before returning a rental car. Rental car companies charge higher gas prices if you don’t fill up the tank before returning the vehicle. Also save your gas receipts as proof.”
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