Category Archives: Safe Driving

Here's why you should back into perpendicular parking spaces

This came up on Facebook once. The question was rhetorical, I think. It was something along the likes of “People who back into parking spaces: Why?” I don’t think this friend expected genuine answers, but genuine answers there were. When all was said and done, I don’t know if this person ever adopted the backing-in method, but they clearly understood and empathized with those of us who practice it more often than not. There are great reasons that backing in is a better practice.

The implication is that you have to wait for the person to make such a maneuver. I suspect if you’re in a hurry to park, it could be frustrating, especially if the driver didn’t give enough indication of their intentions.

I haven’t looked at studies of this phenomenon, and I’m not sure they exist. But, anecdotally, here’s my experience, along with reasons I think that in the vast majority of situations, it is for both the individual and the greater good to back into a perpendicular parking space.

Parking can be just about as quick when backing in. Having the wheels that steer in back makes it easier to angle in sharply in reverse, reducing or eliminating the need to back out and straighten up.

Leaving the parking space is much quicker as you save another multi-part turn. More than likely, you’re making up more time on your exit than you sacrificed backing in. That saves everyone around you time, too. This is especially true for event parking when everyone is leaving at once.

It’s safer for you and yours. Backing out of a perpendicular parking spot in a tight parking structure meant I was putting my child (or anyone in the back seat) in harm’s way before I could even assess the situation. The proliferation of rearview cameras has helped. Rear cross-traffic alerts and automatic rear braking help even more, but we shouldn’t put ourselves in positions where we totally rely on this tech or, even worse, rely on others to see or anticipate you backing out.

It’s safer for everyone around you, too. You can actually see that person walking by on the way to their own car, and you can see that vehicle waiting for someone else back out.

It can save dings or scrapes. Whatever car I’m driving is more likely to have a rearview camera than to have one up front. With that camera, I can ensure I’m not going to scrape a splitter on a curb or tap a signpost or another car with my bumper. If I’m pulling in forward, I often leave myself enough distance to know my front end isn’t going to get mangled by its surroundings, which can leave my rear end sticking out where it’s more likely to get hit. Backing in and using the camera, I can close that gap as much as I want, tucking my car into its parking spot as deeply as possible. But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it.

What if someone encroaches too close so you can’t reverse? Well, what do you do when you parallel park on a street? You had your turn signal on (please tell me you had your turn signal on) to indicate where you planned on parking. They should have paid attention, and the onus is on them to figure it out. They get to decide whether to back up to give you the room back (assuming they can), or go around you.

Of course, there are times when it doesn’t make sense to back in. Maybe you need the extra space to load up the rear cargo area. With some electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, it sometimes makes more sense to park nose-in for easier charger access. And obviously, if a sign or parking attendant instructs you to park nose-in, you should listen, even if it’s a dumb rule … James.

So have at it. Just like I’ll leave you room to merge at an actual merge point, I’ll gladly wait for you to back into your parking space so I don’t have to wait for you to blindly back out of it later. This is the way.

Related Video:

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Collisions more common in urban areas, but rural deaths higher

Car crash death rates get increasingly high as population density drops, fueled in part by lower seat belt use in the remotest rural areas, a U.S. study suggests.

“We already knew that death rates were higher and seat belt use was lower in rural versus urban areas,” said lead study author Laurie Beck, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. “This study expanded those findings to show that, even within rural areas, there are differences in passenger-vehicle occupant death rates and seat belt use,” Beck said by email.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death nationwide, CDC researchers note in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. While collisions are more common on urban roads, fatalities occur more often in rural regions. For the study, CDC researchers examined data based on six categories of population density from the most metropolitan, with at least 1 million city residents, to the most rural, with fewer than 2,500 residents living in urban communities.

Passenger vehicles included cars, light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles. Crash deaths focused on adults 18 or older, and excluded younger passengers.  Even within the primarily urban Northeast, crash death rates ranged from 3.5 fatalities for every 100,000 people in the most urban counties to 10.8 deaths for every 100,000 people in counties with fewer than 20,000 residents in metropolitan areas.

In the South, where more people live outside big cities, crash death rates ranged from 6.8 fatalities for every 100,000 people in the most urban areas to 29.2 deaths for every 100,000 people in the least urban areas, with less than 2,500 residents in urban communities.  Seatbelt use ranged from about 89 percent in the most urban counties to slightly less than 75 percent in the most urban counties.

Researchers also looked at how crash death rates changed based on whether states had so-called primary seat belt laws – which allow traffic stops just for failure to wear seat belts – or what’s known as secondary seat belt laws, which permit tickets only in conjunction with other violations.

Even in Northeast states with primary seat belt laws, crash death rates were lower in cities and highest in rural communities.  Among all states with primary seat belt laws nationwide, overall crash death rates were lowest in the Northeast at 3.9 fatalities for every 100,000 people and highest in the South with 10.9 deaths for every 100,000 people.

One limitation of the study is that researchers calculated crash-death rates based on where the victim lived, not where the collision occurred, the authors note. This might have underestimated the difference in fatalities between urban and rural areas because drivers who travel across different regions are more likely to head from small towns to big cities, the authors point out.

Still, lower seat belt use in rural areas clearly contributes to higher death rates, said Dr. Jacob Sunshine, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle who wasn’t involved in the study. “Other potential contributing factors include higher speeds that are readily achieved in rural areas compared to urban areas; increased per-capita levels of impaired driving; and less proximity to designated trauma centers following traumatic injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash,” Sunshine said by email.

Lower wages and higher unemployment in some rural communities might also mean more people are driving older cars with fewer safety features to prevent fatalities in a crash, Sunshine added.  But the study also shows that stricter seat belt laws can make a difference, especially with more stringent enforcement, he said.

“Seat belts are proven to save lives and we should educate drivers and passengers about their benefits,” Sunshine said. “Laws are important too; enforcement needs to be a priority, particularly in rural areas.”

SOURCE: CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, online September 22, 2017.

AAA Infotainment Study Ranks Distracted Driving Causes

If you frequently read car reviews, you’re almost guaranteed to find at least one in which the reviewer gripes about an infotainment system being hard to use and that it’s distracting. But exactly how distracting are some systems, and what about some of the tasks? That’s what the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety set out to find with its new study. It evaluated systems from a wide array of cars and trucks, as well as several available functions, to find out which was worst.

Starting with what infotainment functions are the worst to use while driving, we weren’t very surprised to find that adjusting the audio settings were the least distracting. This may have something to do with the fact that we’ve been changing stations, inputs and volumes for decades now, and each of those tasks doesn’t take much more than one or two button presses or turning a knob. A little more surprising was that neither making a phone call nor sending a text message with the infotainment system was the most demanding. That honor (dishonor?) goes to using the navigation, and specifically entering an address. This task had the highest visual demand and distracted the driver for the longest time. The next worst tasks were texting and making phone calls.

Audi A4 center console controls

The task itself isn’t the only distracting aspect of using an infotainment system. The interface a car’s system uses can be distracting as well. The study examined three types: controls on a center stack, voice controls, and controls down in the center console. Once again, it’s not entirely surprising that the center stack controls were the least distracting. Like with adjusting the radio, we’re simply used to pressing buttons and knobs on the center stack, whether it’s for the radio, navigation or climate controls. Interestingly, the most distracting control scheme was the center console setup. This doesn’t bode well for manufacturers such as Mazda, Audi and others that rely on a large knob in between the seats.

AAA’s conclusion to this study seems to be that automakers have some room for improvement for infotainment systems, and more complicated tasks such as manually texting, dialing numbers and inputting addresses, as well as any kind of web or social media browsing should be locked out while the car is being driven. It’s also advisable to complete tasks such as address input before actually driving.

We would also add a small caveat to AAA’s findings. An infotainment system can be a very subjective thing. A system that one person finds horribly complex and distracting, might make perfect sense to you. So it’s something that should be tried out on your own before ruling it out, probably before you start test-driving the car. If it’s tough to use, maybe consider a different vehicle. Also, while the study did allow participants to become somewhat familiar with each car before performing tests, remember that any system you try will likely become easier and less distracting the more you use it and get practice. Still, it’s smart to pick a system that’s fairly easy to pick up without prior knowledge.





Do you use child restraints properly?

I found a perfect example of the how important it is to not only use a protective child seat, but to understand how to install it properly. Read below. I found this story at consumer reports. Not only does it emphasize the importance of child restraints, but also wearing YOUR seat belt as well!

You never think it’s going to happen to you. I was driving up to visit a friend for a playdate, both kids, 2 and 4, in the back. This was a tough winter in the northeast, and the roads were not perfect.

I was trundling along at the speed limit, not talking on the phone, not texting, when I hit some ice on the road. I completely lost control of the car, which hit the snow bank on the side of the highway. The car rolled one-and-a-half times and ended up upside down on the side of the highway.

I was trapped in the seatbelt (thank goodness!) and the kids were suspended from their carseats. Four or five cars stopped, reaffirming my faith in human nature, and helped us all out of the car, which was totaled. The kind strangers stayed with us until the police and ambulance arrived. Bottom line, we were all OK (except for the car).

This is what I took away from the incident: We were very lucky, but it wasn’t just luck that protected us that day. I was driving a Consumer Reports recommended vehicle. The kids were in Consumer Reports’ top-rated, carseats, which happen to be inexpensive. The seats were properly installed. The kids were correctly buckled in. My 4 year old, being just under 40 pounds (he’s a skinny one), was still using the 5-point restraint.

Things could have been, and likely would have been, very different if I didn’t use Consumer Reports ratings and follow Consumer Reports advice. My kids and I walked away from a horrific accident without a scratch. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I owe my life and my family to the people here who work day in and day out to provide this information to the public.

This is just one story out of the 1,000’s of serious accidents that happen every year. Luckily, this one had a happy ending, but not all are as lucky.


A properly used and installed car seat is paramount when driving with children. Further, you can teach them the importance of using their seatbelts as they get older. Hopefully, by the time hey start driving, using their seatbelt will be automatic.

Just have a baby? If you have any questions on how to properly install your car seat, swing by and we’ll show you!


Miss Your Exit…Don’t Take The Short Cut

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Pretty close to the front of my dealership, Freeman Grapevine, there is a fair amount of construction going on at highways 121/114. Now, granted there are a lot of orange cones around and this can make driving on these roads, at times, a tad bit confusing. The construction seemingly changes almost daily, but that is no excuse for what I saw yesterday.

I was traveling on 121/114 about to take the exit that would push me up towards Grapevine Mills mall. That is Business 121. There was a white sedan traveling in the right lane. At that exit you can do one of three things. You can stay on 114 by staying in the left lane. You can use the middle two lanes to access 121 Business, the way I was going. Or, you can stay in the right lane which is an exit for the airport. The person in the white sedan was traveling at a pretty good clip in the right lane when the realized the were not taking the exit they needed. She had almost completely exited when she made a seriously dumb move…cutting across an unpaved exit median without slowing down. Instead of just taking the eit and making a U-turn, she decided it was better to pull an tricky, dangerous and illegal move which, you guessed it, cut me off. It caused me to hit my brakes hard and change lanes quickly, even though I was in the proper lane which cause everyone behind me to hit their brakes as well. For all I know, it could have caused an accident behind me.

So, this person missed their exit, veered into my lane and nearly cause an accident…why? because she was on her phone. That’s right, she cut across 100ft. of median into my lane because she couldn’t pay attention to the signs on the road that were obviously placed for the airport exit. To make it worse, as I pulled along next to her, she was laughing about her dumb move to the person on the other end of the line. She had no clue that she nearly hit me, nor did she seem to care.

Look, this is the first rule of driving, it is your responsibility to drive. It is also your responsibility to be respectful of everyone else on the road. If you miss your exit, or are exiting inadvertently, don’t make your own route across the median. Don’t take the short cut. Just exit and turn around. You may not think you are causing any problems, but clearly you are.

It made me pretty mad. I spend a lot of time railing against distracted driving and her was this aloof driver that almost took out my vehicle and others with just that. Keep your eyes on the the road and your hands on the wheel. It’s part of your responsibility as a driver.

What do you feel about this type of unnecessary aggressive driving? Tell your us what you think.



Dallas GMC Dealer Explains the Truck Driver’s Blind spot better than anyone

If you’ve ever driven, or even ridden in a car in Dallas or Fort Worth, then there is no doubt you’ve seen the large, commercial trucks that roam our already over crowded highways and byways. Especially right out here in front of Freeman Grapevine on 121 and 114, in fact, you literally see them everywhere, transporting goods to stores and construction sites, but their drivers may not be able to see you.

Now, you get used to dealing with big rigs on the road. The are imposing, they are loud and they always seem to find a way to pin you between the barrier wall and their cargo trailer. I haven’t even mentioned the tsunami that incurs when they hit patch of standing water on the highway. A wall of water is the best way I can describe it. For a seasoned driver, this is tolerable, but for a new driver it’s terrifying.

So, when I found an article about the Street Survival School held at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, I was eager to find out what skills they were teaching our young drivers. The idea was to set up a demonstration to show teen drivers the limitations with truck drivers’ visibility and teach the young motorists how to safely maneuver around big vehicles. Something we all could have probably benefited from as young drivers.

During this class session, they parked one of their track-maintenance dump trucks, a 10-wheeled monster, in the parking lot, with shiny new cars arrayed around it as if on a freeway. The kids got to climb in the cab to check which cars they could see. The nearest car behind, barely visible by bobbing your head among the various mirrors, was parked about 50 feet behind the dump truck. This gave the young drivers a real feel for the visibility limitations of commercial truck drivers, and it will hopefully encourage them to think about how they position themselves in traffic.

Seeing what it is like for a truck driver provided valuable insight for these kids, no doubt. The adage about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes really goes a long way when seen from the driver’s seat of a rig. Watch the video below and see for yourself. It might just make you a safer driver, as well.



How Often Do You Rotate Your Tires?

I would say that the majority of people know that regular scheduled maintenance is a necessity when it comes to owning a car to keep it running properly. One of the most common maintenance produces is getting oil changed. A no -brainer, right?! Well, you’d think so, but there are a handful out there that just don’t get their oil changed. And then they end up with some major, and sometimes even irreversible damage to their vehicles engine.

But enough about the importance of oil changes. Another important maintenance procedure you need to have done is getting your tires rotated. Now this one I can understand being overlooked….sometimes!  For some reason, people seem to always forget about the tires, which is crazy to me because they are the ones doing the ground work…no pun intended!

Keeping your tires properly maintained not only keeps you safe…very important, but also helps you to get the most wear out them as well.  And if that’s not enough, rotating your tires also helps you get better gas mileage as well  which all adds up to saving money, and, in this economy is a very important thing.

If you find that you have trouble remembering to rotate your tires, I suggest you add it in when you get your oil changed. To get the most of your tires, you want to keep them on a regular rotation so that they wear evenly. But even more frequently, you should at least check the tire pressure. Driving with low tire pressure is unsafe and can make your tires more susceptible to flats and punctures and can even make driving your vehicle challenging.

If you need a service shop, then of course I recommend giving Freeman Grapevine a try and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  And of course you’re always welcome to come check out our great selection of new and use vehicles too!


Don’t Mess With Low Water Crossings!
Gavin Tapp, Flickr Creative Commons

And the hits just keep on coming!  Here we are feeling like we’re getting all our entire year’s worth of rainfall in just a couple months. A friend of mine texted me this morning and said, “My pool is about to crest so we got 4″ overnight”.

But on a serious note here folks, it’s been heavy rains all spring long, with the worst coming in this last month and a half. First responders are over-taxed with their regular work servicing car accidents and the usual problems associated with bad weather without having to add water rescues, or even worse, recoveries to their pile. You’ve seen the signs, billboards, and TV spots: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” and “Arrive Alive”.

There’s a reason they have to tell you that bit of obvious information. It wasn’t so obvious to quite a few people before you. Moving water is a powerful force, that’s how hydroelectric dams work. Heck it’s how flour mills worked back in your great-great’s days. If flowing water can turn massive stone wheels to grind your great-great’s corn, or turn massive electric generators to create power…why would you think it couldn’t shove your car or truck around just a little bit?

So to beat this bit of obvious into your head a little bit, if there is flowing water over the road, find another way to your destination or just wait it out. There is nothing so important on the other side of the road.

Yeah, but…

But nothing. Even if your kids are in school on the other side of that low water crossing, the school KNOWS it’s raining and will plan accordingly. In these days of cell phones, there is almost nothing you cannot organize while you wait for the waters to recede. Don’t be selfish and put yourself, your property, or a first responder at risk by being in a hurry!


Don’t Underestimate The Dangers Of Railroad Crossings

Freeman Grapevine is back with another tale of some really dumb driving.  As many of you already know, railroad lines tic-tac across the state in almost every city and town. Many of the crossings are clearly marked with lights and gates, however there are a few that aren’t as clearly marked as they should be and thus can pose a hazard to the unsuspecting motorist. I think, for the most part though that many of the collisions between cars and trains are a direct result of driver error. And in many cases, driver stupidity.

Here’s what I mean. I was waiting at a rail crossing the other day, in fact I was the very first car in line. No big deal, sometimes you just have to wait these things out, besides, It would only be a couple of minutes out of my day to allow the train to pass by. And that’s when it happened, a car two vehicles behind my GMC darts out of line and attempts to navigate around the lowered crossing arms. I laid on my horn knowing that what this person was doing wasn’t only a danger to himself, but to those of us at the front of the line as well as the engineer.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! He made it around with just seconds between him and the passing train, made a right turn and continued down the road before the train ended up blocking my view.

I didn’t know if I was more scared, or furious that this individual would create such a dangerous situation. As I continued to think about it, the rail gates raised and I made a right, headed in the same direction as our train-dare-devil did and low an behold, who was stopped at the very next red light? You guessed it, our idiot driver. All of that, just to be stuck at the same red light I was at. Evidence that it simply doesn’t pay to take such dumb risks.

The following figures are courtesy of

According to the US Department of Transportation there are about 5,800 vehicle train crashes each year in the United States-usually at Railroad crossings. These accidents kill 600 people and injure about 2,300. More than 50% of all railroad fatal accidents occur at crossings with passive, or inadequate safety devices (often none at all!). During daylight about 75% of car train collisions involve the train hitting the car, while at night about 50% of the time the car runs into the train!

Car vs. Train accidents are very serious things. Do not attempt to outrun a train, or cross the guard barriers, you are tempting fate. Besides, what can be so important that would cause you to be so ridiculously irresponsible? The answer is: nothing. Respect railroad crossings, not just for your own good, but for the safety of those you should be waiting in line with.

If you have any stories about drivers you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to leave your recount in the comments section below. Freeman Grapevine cares about your safety and the safety of others on the road.

Proper Mirror Adjustment May Prevent An Accident!

As soon as you get into your car, and even before you crank that engine and start driving on metroplex highways, do you know what you should do?  It’s a very simple task that can  certainly help you prevent getting into an accident.  You should adjust your mirrors! Yup! A simple adjustment to your mirrors might mean the difference of seeing your blind spot and not! Further, you’d be surprised at how many people DON’T adjust their mirrors the right way.

It’s quite simple really. There are two easy adjustments that can be made to your mirrors.  First, you should focus on eliminating your blind spots. After all, it’s what you can’t see that you end up hitting. Here’s a video from Auto Focus on how to do this:

Don’t think that you can just set and forget your mirrors just once either. You should set them every time you get in your car.  I’m serious. You might think it’s overkill, but you may sit in a different position each time, or share a vehicle with a family member. If that’s the case, you’ll need to adjust them each time.  I’m sure you know many accidents are caused because one driver didn’t see the other.  So why not take a few extra seconds to set your mirrors properly.

Do you have any safety tips to share that are often neglected?  If so, let your Dallas Fort Worth Buick GMC dealer, Freeman Grapevine know.