Category Archives: Safe Driving

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Study: Bad driving might be hereditary

If your significant other has ever accused you of being a bad driver, you might have a good excuse. A new UK-based study from Scrap Car Comparison found that lousy driving could be hereditary and that observing the poor driving habits exhibited by our parents is a good way to end up on the wrong side of the law ourselves.

The outlet surveyed 1,000 drivers, half of whom had committed traffic offenses. All drivers who were included in the survey said they were fully aware of their parents’ driving records. The study showed that 66 percent of drivers who’d run afoul of traffic laws in the past 10 years had parents who had also run into problems. Drivers with bad-driving parents had at least one point on their licenses, while people with parents who drove responsibly had clean licenses. Ultimately, almost half of the drivers with poor driving parents had received a ticket in the past 10 years, compared to just 14 percent of those with parents who drove responsibly. It stands to reason. Our parents model all kinds of behavior for us, as we do for our children.

Speeding and road rage were the two most common traits passed from parent to child, with 55 and 49 percent of respondents saying they’d learned the habits from their parents, respectively. Other drivers said they’d learned poor spatial awareness, careless parking, and aggressive/dangerous driving from their parents. On the flip side, 10 percent of drivers in the study said they’d learned to be too careful from their parents, such as driving well below the speed limit.

While it might sound like some drivers should resign to being pulled over every few years, more than half of the respondents said they thought they had become better drivers than their parents. Additionally, “my dad did it” is not a valid defense in traffic court, so it’s unlikely to work in your favor, despite this study. The drivers saying they’d learned to be better than their parents have it right, as there’s only one person in control of a car at a time.

These are the worst states for speed-related traffic deaths

New cars are safer than they’ve ever been, but too many people still die needlessly in speed-related crashes. A recent study from Forbes Advisor found that speeding causes 29% of deadly accidents, amounting to 30 deaths every day in the U.S. on average. The publication also ranked the states with the most speeding fatalities, and some of the locations might surprise you.

First, let’s deal with the best states. With 9% of deadly crashes caused by speeding, Florida is the best state in the nation in this study. Tennessee is second-best with 15%, and Nebraska is third with 17%.  Mississippi and Iowa all slid into the survey with fewer than 20% of crashes caused by speed.

The worst state for speeding-related fatalities was South Carolina, with 46% of deaths caused by speeding. Colorado was second with 46% (fewer overall deaths than in SC), and Hawaii was third with 44%. Unsurprisingly, states with higher speed limits had higher percentages of speed-related fatalities. With its 85 mph limit on some highways, Texas saw 37% of deaths due to speed, and the 80-mph-max state of Montana was at 39%. Even so, Hawaii had tons of speed deaths, and its speed limits top out at 60 mph.

Speed-related fatalities have decreased slightly since 2011, but some states have improved more than others. Maine saw 23% fewer speed-related crashes since 2010, and West Virginia clocked a 20% decline. Forbes attributes some of those declines to more active policing. Maine has conducted speed limit studies on busier parts of its highway system, raising and lowering the limit over the past decade.

At the same time, some states are backsliding. South Carolina and Colorado have both gotten way worse. South Carolina’s speed-related deaths climbed 11%, and Colorado’s grew by 10%.

Drivers know speeding is dangerous — 82% said so, even as 90% admitted to doing it.

For a full rundown on the best and worst states for speeding-related deaths, check out the full report at Forbes Advisor.

Think you’re not dangerously drowsy during a long drive? Bet you are

A sign on the Bruce Highway south of Mackay, Australia. (AFP/Getty)

When in doubt, take a nap. In fact, take a nap even if you’re not in doubt.

Pull off the road and stop the car, sip a coffee and close your eyes.

That’s some of the advice offered based on a study presented by the American Automobile Association, which found that drowsiness — a condition it says is too often ignored by drivers — plays a large and often underestimated role in traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths.

For long-haul drivers, and indeed any driver susceptible to nodding off on even short routes, the study’s findings are provocative. Becoming less alert behind the wheel can be deadly: Crashes caused by drowsy driving tend to be severe because the driver may not attempt to brake or swerve to avoid a collision.

“Being drowsy while driving is a dangerous form of impairment, and it does not resolve or improve with continued driving,” said Dr. David Yang, president and executive director of the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our goal is to help drivers learn to heed the early warning signs of drowsiness so they can stop, rest, and then continue their journey as safely as possible.”

Participants in the research project drove a 150-mile simulated route at night and took regular breaks. Some rated their levels of drowsiness as low, when in fact three out of four were found to be moderately or severely drowsy. And even when drivers recognized that they were extremely drowsy, “they still declined 75 percent of their opportunities to take breaks and kept driving,” the report said.

The AAA’s suggestions for avoiding drowsiness are rather obvious, but worth noting: Don’t take medications that cause such conditions before a trip; limit yourself to one Big Mac and a small fry before hitting the road, and force yourself to take naps. “Pulling into a rest stop and taking a quick catnap — at least 20 minutes and no more than 30 minutes of sleep — can help to keep you alert on the road,” the report suggests.

The project was conducted at the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa. Ninety participants (50 male/40 female; average age 31.4 years) completed the study. Established in 1947 by AAA, the Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded research and educational organization.

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.

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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.