Category Archives: Tips and HInts

I can instantly make you a better driver

Imagine this: You’re cruising along on in three lanes of traffic. The speed limit is 70. You’re in the middle lane and closing the gap to the car in front of you. There’s slower traffic to your right and a clear lane to the left. You signal and start moving into the passing lane, but halfway there, you spot a cop in the median, clearly hunting speeders. What do you do?

‘Do you know how fast you were going?’

That rarely ends well. If you’re hearing it, you’re on the side of the road, mirrors reflecting blue and red — and perhaps a spotlight. Maybe you’ll talk your way out of it and maybe you won’t. But the question looms large, right up there with, “Do you know where your kids are?” It’s loaded. “Yes” means you know you were speeding. “No” is tempting; ignorance always feels better than admitting guilt, right?

But what’s frightening is just how many drivers truly have no clue. I don’t have stats and I don’t need them. We all see it play out every time we hit the road: drivers holding up traffic in the passing lane, slamming on the brakes for speed traps and cutting people off — all because they’re unapologetically unaware of their own pace of travel. Neither driving fast nor driving slow automatically makes somebody a bad driver, but not knowing where you land on that spectrum at any given time makes you little more than a rolling safety hazard. 

This critical variable informs everything else we do behind the wheel, and leaving it out of your mental calculations means that every action you’re performing is based on unreliable information. The data science shorthand is GIGO, for “garbage in, garbage out.” Observe traffic long enough and you’ll spot countless people driving like, well, garbage. 

Take out the trash

This danger is easily remedied: All you need to do is know how fast you’re going. That’s it, my one-step plan. The resources to do it are already right in front of you, and it will cost you nothing — not even time. But knowing this critical bit of information will improve every decision you make behind the wheel. 

Let’s revisit the scenario from above. You’re in the middle lane and gaining on traffic, the speed limit is 70, and you have the opportunity to pass. But this time, you know for a fact you’re already doing 74. Does knowing your speed alter your guilt in this scenario? No, but it allows you to make an informed decision rather than relying on guesswork— or worse, blindly panic-braking when you see the cop, which is an incredibly dangerous thing to do at speed. If I were to make a split-second judgment call in this scenario, I’d roll the dice on 74 in a 70 and complete the pass as if the cop wasn’t even there. 

Yes, that’s me openly acknowledging that I’d flagrantly violate the law in the presence of a police officer. Is that the smartest thing in the world? No, but consistent and predictable behavior is the topsoil from which good traffic flow naturally sprouts. By committing to my maneuver and maintaining speed, I’m one less obstacle for others, plus I’m contributing positively to the flow by not slowing down while completing a pass — something many drivers are guilty of even without an overt threat of intervention from law enforcement. Of course, another choice would be to simply ease back to the limit and not execute the pass in the first place.

Use your cruise

Let’s look at this another way: Every piece of critical information you know is one less that you have to acquire, calculate or outright guess. The advantages are convenient under the best of circumstances and potentially life-saving under the worst, and all you need to do is keep tabs on the one piece of information cars are universally required to provide. But even if you can’t be bothered, your car is likely built with advanced technology that will help.

Yes, by “advanced technology,” I mean cruise control — a feature found on pretty much anything nicer than a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. How better to know how fast you’re going than by dictating that speed yourself? Cruise has been around in some form or another since the 1950s, and despite its ability to reduce mental and physical fatigue and smooth out traffic, it remains criminally underutilized.

I’ll be the first to admit that a bad cruise control (adaptive or otherwise) system can betray you. Wild speed variations on grades and other odd behavior can be maddening to the fastidious driver, but even a bad system can do some good with a little human intervention. If your car struggles going up hills, don’t pass on them. If it runs away on the descent, shift down a gear or two to bring compression braking into the mix. Learn the quirks so they become predictable, and compensating either becomes unnecessary or second-nature. 

Your journey is just beginning

I saved this bit for last. Think of it as a post-credits scene in a superhero film. Attention is a gateway driving skill. We are organic computers trying to tell a ton or more of machinery what to do. Like any other processor, the human mind has finite bandwidth. Remember what I said above: Every piece of critical information you know is one less that you have to acquire, calculate or outright guess. Every input you can safely ignore frees up bandwidth for the things you have no choice but to process in real time — whether that be a fellow driver losing control on the racetrack or a cop appearing in the median.

In time, awareness will seamlessly integrate with muscle memory. You’ll learn how your car feels taking a curve at any given speed, start to anticipate the weight shift and unconsciously adjust your line to smooth it out. You’ll find yourself naturally looking farther ahead because you know your situation without looking down. Maybe next time, you’ll see that trooper in the median much sooner because your eyes were up, seeking new information. Maybe you give a pleasant wave as you pass, and nobody in that cruiser can hear you say, “Spotted you two exits back, sucker.”

Because you knew how fast you were going. And nobody had to pull you over and ask. 

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You see a pet trapped in a hot car: What are you allowed to do?

Massachusetts State Police conducted a demonstration in 2021 to show how quickly temperatures soar inside a sealed vehicle. On an 80-degree day, this thermometer reading shot to 120 degrees in just 9 minutes. (Boston Herald/Getty Images)

Warm weather is here again, and by now the dangers of leaving a child or a pet in a hot car are — or should be — common knowledge. Obviously children should never be left unattended, and many states have seen the need to specifically outlaw this practice with pets.

Remember, even on a mild 70-degree day, temperatures inside a sealed car can reach 115 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, particularly if the car is a dark color. And cracking the windows has been proven not to make enough of a difference.

The National Safety Council says 33 children died from heat stroke in cars in 2022 — and two have died so far this year. And the American Veterinary Medical Association says that hundreds of pets die each year in hot cars. in warm weather, leave your pets at home.

Of course, some newer EV models like Tesla and Rivian have a Pet Mode that keeps climate controls on and pets cool while parked. Here’s an explanation of how Tesla’s feature works. Ford is working to patent a similar function. Some newer cars, such as certain models from Hyundai, Subaru, and Nissan, have a rear occupant alert that will sound audible alarms if it detects movement inside after the driver locks the car. This was originally designed to protect children, but it could apply to pets as well. But most cars on the road don’t have these failsafes.

Thirty-one states have some kind of law meant to protect animals in vehicles. In at least 19 states (plus Washington D.C.), there are laws specifying it’s illegal to leave a pet unattended in a vehicle in extreme temperatures or other life-threatening conditions, and violators can be charged with animal cruelty. Those states are:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

In 21 states (plus D.C.), authorities such as police, firefighters or animal control are allowed to forcibly open a car in order to rescue an animal. This typically involves breaking a window. 

Additionally, many states have Good Samaritan laws that shield passers-by from liability when helping someone in distress. In the following 13 states, those laws include rescuing a pet from a hot car:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

Indiana has a similar law — but requires the Good Samaritan to pay for half of the damages incurred to the vehicle. 

If you encounter a pet in distress inside a vehicle …

Keep in mind that:

  • It’s required that you notify the authorities first before attempting the rescue yourself.
  • In many cases the laws are written in language that says the rescuer must have a “reasonable belief” the animal is in imminent danger, so there’s some subjectivity there. It might be wise to take a quick video of the situation with your phone in case you need to explain your actions.
  • Some laws say a rescuer should use no more force or do no more damage than is necessary.
  • And some states have different considerations for what kinds of animals can be rescued. Some cover only dogs and cats, while others refer to animals more broadly. Other states exclude livestock.

For a full list of what’s allowed in all 50 states, and what your state’s laws say, see this list from Michigan State University’s Animal Legal & Historical Center. Ironically, many of the states that have no laws addressing this issue are in the hot South and Midwest, though those states likely have general animal cruelty statutes.

Finally, the two major groups of automakers serving the U.S. market have agreed to make rear occupant alerts standard on new cars by 2025. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers includes the BMW Group, FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo. The Association of Global Automakers includes Aston Martin, Bosch, Byton, Denso, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Isuzu, Local Motors, Maserati, McLaren, Nissan, PSA North America, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota.

Trucks are more likely to last 250,000 miles than other vehicles

While it seems like people are buying new cars all the time, the vehicles on America’s roads are far from new. The average age of cars on our roads was 12.2 years in 2022, but a new study from iSeeCars shows that some vehicles are better able to stand the test of time, especially trucks.

The Toyota Land Cruiser nabbed the top spot on the iSeeCars list, but trucks dominated the top 10. Several models had a more than 40 percent chance of lasting 250,000 miles, and many were over 20 percent. The list of trucks most likely to last includes:

It’s not surprising to see so many heavy-duty trucks on the list, as their rugged construction and high initial price make them more likely to be maintained and kept in service for the long haul. Many HD trucks also have diesel engines, which frequently outlast their gas counterparts, especially after years of work duty. The Toyota Tundra just recently got a complete overhaul after more than a decade, so the automaker had plenty of time to work out wrinkles in its reliability.

All trucks in the study outperformed the overall vehicle average of a 11.8 percent chance of lasting 250,000 miles. iSeeCars looked at more than 260 million cars from between 2012 and 2022 to create its model. But, as the firm’s executive analyst, Karl Brauer, pointed out, vehicle lifespans are increasing. Most people considered 100,000 miles to be the upper limit of mileage, but with new vehicle costs on the rise, people are compelled to hold onto their old cars longer.

Of course, owner behavior has a significant impact on vehicles’ lifespans. People who care for their cars and take care of routine maintenance tend to get more life out of them in return, while abuse and neglect can drastically shorten a car’s life. 

How much does car insurance cost in 2023?

As boring and annoying as it can be, car insurance is a part of almost everyone’s lives. With few exceptions, every driver must have auto insurance before hitting the road, and states have different minimum requirements on coverage for things like bodily injury and liability. If you’re wondering how much car insurance costs, we’ve got you covered and can help you find ways to save money on your next car insurance policy.

How much does car insurance cost in 2023?

Car insurance prices vary wildly from place to place and from driver to driver, but the national average for full-coverage insurance on a vehicle is a little over $2,000 per year, or around $167 per month. That rate is for a driver with a clean record and good credit, and it can climb quickly with accidents and dings on the driver’s credit report. 

Nerdwallet found that a good driver with bad credit can pay as much as 61% more than those with good credit scores. Interestingly, having an accident didn’t cause the average rate to rise as much, but a DUI conviction almost doubles the national average cost.

Minimum coverage is much cheaper, totaling $685 for good drivers with good credit. Similar increases apply to people with bad credit, accidents, and DUIs. It’s important to note that minimum coverage should not be viewed as a simple way to save money, however, because the costs to repair your vehicle after an accident can easily surpass any potential savings from a lower level of insurance coverage.

Insurers also charge men more for car insurance, though the gap between average insurance costs for men and women narrows as their age increases. Insurance costs for young men are more than $500 more expensive than for young women, but by age 35, the difference is just $25. At age 50, men and women pay roughly the same, with women paying slightly more than men in some cases.

What is the cheapest car insurance?

It pays to shop around — the following statements are on average, in general, so you need to compare rates for your own car and your own situation. That said, USAA tends to be the cheapest insurer for many drivers, but it’s only available for active, retired, and separated veterans with an honorable discharge. For everyone else, State Farm offers the second-most-affordable rates, on average. Travelers and American Family are next, though AmFam is only available to drivers in 19 states.  

You might find a regional insurer that offers better rates, and you may be eligible for discounts that lower your monthly payment further. There may also be job-specific or profession-specific insurance companies, such as California Casualty, which is only available to educators, healthcare professionals, and others.

Which states have the most and least expensive car insurance?

Drivers in Florida paid more than anyone else in the country, with an average insurance cost of $3,605 per year. Maine is on the opposite end of the spectrum, where drivers pay $1,323 for full coverage. Insurers tend to charge more in states and areas where more drivers are involved in car accidents

Several states tilt toward the more expensive end of the spectrum, including Louisiana at $3,357 per year, Kentucky at $3,357 per year, Rhode Island at $3,300 per year, and Michigan at $3,229 per year.

How much is car insurance for teens and young adult drivers?

Young drivers pay more for car insurance than more experienced vehicle owners. With a clean driving record, the average 20-year-old driver pays $4,372 for full-coverage insurance. Rates for young drivers are also more sensitive to changes in credit scores and traffic citations. Poor credit can impact the average annual insurance costs by up to 50 percent, as 20-year-olds with clean driving records and bad credit paid $6,460. 

Vehicles with higher insurance costs

Car insurance costs can vary significantly between vehicle types, and there are a few that tend to cost more. Sports and luxury cars, which are expensive to buy and repair after a crash, are often more costly to insure. Sports cars are also more likely to help you earn a speeding ticket and may be driven more spiritedly than mainstream cars, increasing their risk and cost to insure. Insurance companies also look at how often specific car models are stolen to determine if there’s an increased risk of damage repairs or vehicle replacement. The recent TikTok-inspired thefts of some Hyundai and Kia models are a great example, as some insurers have declined new policies on those vehicles.

Finally, electric vehicles might be more expensive to insure in some cases, as their batteries are shockingly pricey to replace. They are also packed with tech from nose to tail and, in many cases, carry the latest safety tech. All those sensors, cameras, and other electronics are expensive and may require specially-trained technicians to install.

Car insurance discounts

Car insurance can be expensive, but the good news is that most insurance companies offer discount programs, and many people qualify for more than one. Some of the most common programs include good student discounts for younger drivers, teachers and school administrators, law enforcement and first responders, veterans and active military, good drivers, and more.

Some insurance companies offer discounts for installing a monitoring device that tracks your driving speed and style. If the information shows that you were a safe driver and did not drive aggressively or too fast, your insurer gives a small discount as a reward. The tradeoff is that you’re also giving up some privacy and may share more information than you want.

Why is my car insurance so high?

Your car insurance rates can increase when you have a wreck or if your driving record changes for the worse. That means speeding tickets, at-fault accidents, alcohol- or substance-related citations, and more. Insurance companies are constantly monitoring risk, and can adjust your rates accordingly if there is reason to believe that you’re a riskier driver than before. 

Students and young drivers often get discounts for good grades and other incentives, so an increase in rates could be related to no longer receiving those benefits. Finally, upgrading to a new car with higher replacement costs can drive your rates higher. 

Is a car insurance agent better than a company?

Most agents sell insurance products from a major insurer, so you’re not getting completely different coverage options by going with a local agent. That said, many have access to promotions and other savings options that could help reduce your costs. You may also find that a local agent gives you more customer service options and that it’s easier to get information from a face-to-face interaction over waiting on hold with a distance call center. 

How to save money on car insurance

There are several ways you can save money on car insurance, and only one requires you to reduce your level of coverage. Shopping around is one of the best ways to get a reasonable rate on your car insurance. You can compare insurers and may be able to pit them against each other to get the best price. Some insurers offer lower monthly rates in exchange for a higher deductible, but it’s a good idea to do the math to determine how much you’ll save compared to the higher payout down the road.

Keep track of available discounts to ensure you’re getting every possible cost reduction, and monitor your credit score to prevent surprises when applying for new coverage. One of the best ways to save money is to maintain a clean driving record, which includes staying out of trouble for things like speeding and DUIs.

If none of those things apply to you and you still need to save money, reducing your level of coverage could be a possible last resort. 

What is liability car insurance, and is it worth the risk?

If you have full coverage insurance on your car, moving to a minimum coverage or liability-only plan can save you hundreds of dollars a year. However, be aware that doing so will change your situation after a crash. If you remove full coverage insurance and are involved in a collision, you may be on the hook to pay for your own repairs and could be faced with big bills if you damage property or incur a citation in the process.

Best driving roads in America

It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mustang, a BMW or a louche Lamborghini. Every fan of fun-to-drive machines has learned to brace for the dumb, obvious question: “Where are you supposed to drive a car like that?” 

The answer, of course, is “everywhere,” from the g-forcing off-ramp in your own town to some of the world’s most scenic and challenging driving roads, right here in the U.S.A. And America is definitely hitting the road again, despite brutal gasoline prices and the drawn-out pandemic. More than 50 million people drove or flew over Thanksgiving, nearly matching pre-Covid travel levels. Gasoline consumption that fell to a 25-year-low in 2020 is seeing a sharp rise. 

Certainly, there’s no American Autobahn. And between some police departments acting more like revenue agents (fueled by $600 million in annual federal grants to subsidize ticket writing), insurance companies and soaring car prices, there are plenty of wet blankets to smother the fun. And yet, we keep driving, on the lookout for new roads and new adventures, or returning to the ones we know and love. 

With an optimistic eye to unfettered travel in 2022, and millions of car trips to come, here are eight of our favorite American driving roads. Some are touchstones that you’ll recognize, or have experienced yourself. Others are less well-known or swarming with sightseers, but definitely worth a trip or detour. As ever, take the curves at your own pace, and be safe out there. 

NYS Route 73, High Peaks Scenic Byway, New York

Tiny Lake Placid, New York became famous as the improbable host of the Winter Olympics in 1980, including America’s “Miracle on Ice” hockey win over the Soviets. Today, drivers can enjoy another form of schussing, on a 30-mile beauty road that accesses the 43 tallest peaks of the Adirondacks, and the highest source of the Hudson River at Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds. It’s the gateway to the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park, the largest protected contiguous area in the U.S, bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smokies parks combined. There’s no fee to enter, and the “park” doesn’t close at night, so have at it. My last run came in a 2017 Camaro SS with a manual transmission, blazing a fast trail through these lonely and largely police-free roads. 

U.S. 129, Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee/North Carolina

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Overexposure has dimmed some of the Dragon’s luster, including heavy scrutiny and heavier fines from some of Tennessee’s finest. But this collection of curves at Deal’s Gap, with 318 bends in just 11 miles, can still be a great workout for cars and drivers alike — and about as close as America gets to an Alpine-road descent in Italy or Austria. Just keep eyes in the back of your head, or a radar detector in front. Avoid weekends at all costs (dawn and dusk are smart bets on other days), take a warm-up run to get acquainted, don’t ever cheat over the double yellow lines, and you’ll escape with memories instead of hospital or repair bills. 

FM 335, 336 and 337, The Twisted Sisters, Texas

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Feel the noise, indeed. Motorcyclists especially flock to this 100-mile loop in Texas Hill Country, northwest of San Antonio. But the metal trio of “Farm to Market” Roads 335, 336 and 337 is also pure entertainment for car fans. It’s a place to lose count of curves, even as you keep eyes peeled for free-ranging cattle, wild pigs or whitetail deer. Fill your tank in Medina, and your belly at Keese’s BBQ, whose slogan is “A serious ride requires a serious breakfast.” Don’t miss the Devil’s Sinkhole in Rocksprings, a 350-foot-deep cave where a nightly commute of 3 million to 4 million Mexican free-tail bats takes place from May to October. And you thought traffic was bad in L.A. 

Highway 1/Pacific Coast Highway, California

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Opened in 1937, Highway 1 (or the Pacific Coast Highway/PCH) traces 666 miles through the Golden State. Some of the most magical, mystical scenery is near Big Sur, south of Monterey and Pebble Beach. Prior to my last drive in 2017, in a new Mazda MX-5 Miata, a cataclysmic landslide had buried one-third of a mile of roadway under about 40 feet of debris, forcing demolition of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge. That created “Big Sur Island,” the hamlet cut off in both directions for months. Now the fabled stretch is fully reopened, which means more SUV-clogging tourists, but more chances to enjoy the switchbacks and splendor.

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, Oregon

Set aside a full weekend, if possible, to savor this underappreciated gem in Oregon: 218 miles from La Grande to Baker City, wrapped around the Wallowa Mountains. The meandering road leads to Hells Canyon Recreation Area and the mighty Snake River, near the western border of Idaho. This stretch of the Snake boasts the deepest river gorge in North America at 7,993 feet — deeper than the Grand Canyon. Keep the tank full, because there are stretches of more than 80 miles between gas stations and other services. But the road and scenery are spectacular, the fish and wildlife plentiful, the towns charming. 

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia

This road may not be on your personal to-do list. It wasn’t on ours until our rom-com-worthy introduction in a pair of Porsche 911 GTS’. Now, we’re in love. The smoothly paved, 40.6-mile byway links Georgia Highways 17/75, 180, 348 and 75A. A section is part of the better-known Six Gap Georgia run. These roads course up and over gaps in the southern Appalachians, with vistas including Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak. Compared to some mountain-y destinations like Tail of the Dragon — all second-gear hairpins and blind corners — the Byway has a serious trump card: Multi-mile passing lanes in one or the other direction, with great visibility to boot. You’ll never get stuck behind a minivan or semi again. 

Highway 550, The Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

Pikes Peak is better known. But the 23-mile stretch of Highway 550 between Silverton and Ouray offers free fun, better views and a superior final destination, versus Pikes Peak and its off-putting, $15 driving fee. That terminus, after a long descent through the Uncompahgre Gorge, is Ouray, the charming Colorado town known as “Little Switzerland.” The Highway was originally laid by Otto Mears in the 1880’s, the Russian immigrant known as “Pathfinder of the San Juans” for his engineering marvels in mountain road and railroad construction. Give thanks to Mears, or say a little prayer for yourself, as you negotiate this improbably cliff-hung, no-guardrail highway. 

SR 79, Sunrise Highway, California

California roads offer an embarrassment of riches. But if Mulholland Drive seems too cliché, head east from San Diego. Pick up the Sunrise Highway near Pine Valley, and get ready for 26 miles of perfect sweepers, hairpins and elevation changes through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. This is where many  automakers go to fine-tune and validate their cars. And no trip here is complete without a stop in Julian and its Julian Pie Company. (Try the pie that blends raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries and apples). If your appetite for curves isn’t sated, keep heading north to Palomar Mountain Road, a loop around the the mountain that houses Caltech’s famous observatory and its three active telescopes.

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Traffic jams are back, yet work-from-home leaves downtowns empty

Empty roads and cleaner air at the start of the pandemic have given way to a gradual return of traffic congestion in many global cities, but U.S. and UK downtown centers remain less busy as office workers continue to work from home, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Trips to U.S. downtown areas were 22% below pre-pandemic levels, and down as much as 49% in San Francisco, where many tech workers continue to work remotely, a 2021 traffic study of more than 1,000 cities by transportation analytics firm INRIX Inc showed.

Downtown trips in the UK remain 19% below pre-pandemic levels, but are back to pre-COVID strength in Germany, likely a result of fewer Germans working from home, said Bob Pishue, INRIX transportation analyst and author of the study.

“In the U.S., we don’t expect congestion to go back to the way it was before for a while, at least through 2022,” he said.

Traffic, an indicator closely tied to economic activity and recovery, overall has returned at uneven levels around the world, the study showed.

While the average London driver lost 148 hours in traffic this year — the most of any city dweller and roughly the same as pre-pandemic — the average U.S. city driver lost 36 hours in traffic, a nearly 43% decrease from pre-pandemic levels.

The stark differences are the result of governments’ varying approaches to pandemic restrictions, cities’ structures of downtown business centers, and workers’ ability to telecommute, Pishue said.

“There’s really not one answer for everything, it’s very complex,” said Pishue.

Vaccination rates also do not appear to influence traffic levels, with remote work being a larger driver, Pishue said. For example, in Washington D.C., normally one of the top congested U.S. cities, nearly 80% of residents are vaccinated, but hours lost to traffic remain down 65%.

Opening your car windows could reduce your COVID-19 risk

By now, we all know the basic coronavirus rules. Wear a mask, limit your exposure to other people and when you can’t, keep your distance, and … keep wearing your mask. We also learned at the outset of the pandemic how to properly keep surfaces clean, including in your car. But what we haven’t known is whether we should keep the windows up or down.

A new study from Brown University seeks to answer that question. Using complex computational fluid dynamic simulations, Varghese Mathai, Asimanshu Das, Jeffrey Bailey and Kenneth Breuer studied how the aerosols that we breath (some of which do escape even properly worn masks) move about a car’s cabin and how those flows change with various windows up and down. The results are very interesting, but in short, you’re probably going to want the windows rolled down when possible.

The details of the study are worth noting. The vehicle used in the simulations was loosely based on a Toyota Prius, and likely apply to vehicles of similar shape and size but may not be applicable to larger or smaller cars, trucks or vans. The occupants sat diagonally from one another, which is a common arrangement in taxis and rideshares. The team of researchers found that opening the windows opposite of each occupant can create a flow that drastically reduces the collection of aerosols in a car’s cabin. According to the New York Times, they also found that opening the windows even halfway can be very helpful but that just cracking them a bit doesn’t generate enough airflow.

There’s a lot more information in the study that you can read here. There’s also some additional information from the Times that’s worth checking out.

Wash me now: What’s the best type of car wash?

Touch car washNeed to give the car a wash? Deliberating between doing it yourself or going to a professional car wash? If you don’t have the time, desire, or supplies to clean your car at home, then it’s time to hit the pros. There are three types of places you can go to get your car washed, all with differing degrees of effectiveness. Options include a quick…

Gen-Z less likely to drive distracted than older generations

Don’t blame the kids. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by Volvo, the youngest and newest drivers on the road are less likely to use their phones while driving. Only 71 percent of survey takers belonging to Gen-Z, or whatever those currently aged 18 to 24 will eventually be called, admitted to using them. That’s actually a bit less than younger Baby Boomers (72 percent) and considerably lower than the evil Millennial scourge and Gen-X (both 81 percent).

The Gen-X bit is particularly interesting since they are most likely to be the parents of those Gen-Zers. According to the survey, parents with children under the age of 18 are among the most likely to use their phones while driving – be it alone or with someone else aboard. A significant 62 percent of parents admitted to using their phones while their kids are in the car, with 32 percent saying they do so often. No matter the scenario it seems, parents are the most likely to be distracted when behind the wheel by their mobile devices. The fact that Millennials are distracted overall to a similar degree shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, as they are also likely to be parents (older Millennials are deep in their 30s, after all, as I’m reminded every single day).

That the Gen-Zers are using their smartphones less while driving is certainly encouraging, as is the finding that they are generally more concerned about their phones being a distraction to their overall lives. On the other hand, the fact that aging Baby Boomers are being so widely distracted by their smartphones should terrify us all and make us thankful that so many cars now come standard with automated accident avoidance tech.

Now, in terms of what they’re doing on their phones, the most common activity for all generations is talking on the phone. This is followed by reading texts and dialing a phone call. Gen-X is the most guilty of these. Millenials are most guilty of sending texts, but when it comes to checking social media (arguably the most distracting of these activities), Gen-X far outpaces all others and the younger Baby Boomers match the Millennials. Gen-Z is barely higher than old Boomers.

One more take away: 33 percent of Americans drive in silence to minimize distractions. What a fun ride that would be.

Related Video:

Our suggestions for a last-minute Labor Day road trip

Couple driving in convertible under sunny sky
  • Image Credit: Getty Images/Blend Images

Labor Day

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Labor Day, the unofficial start of the fall season, is today, September 4th, 2017. That means time is running out on all those ambitious plans for barbecues, lounging at the beach and road trips.

On that last matter, we’ve got you covered. If you’ve left your planning to the last minute or are fresh out of ideas for your Labor Day road trip, let us propose five great scenic routes out there waiting for you. We recommend not merely driving them, but enjoying them in a convertible, the classic summer car.

Check out our look at five classic American roads that you need to see this Labor Day:

Route 1, Key Largo, Fla. to Key West Fla.
  • Image Credit: cupprof

Route 1, Key Largo, Fla. to Key West Fla.

Distance: 127 miles.

Key West is one of America’s most notorious party towns, but in this case, getting there can be as much fun as the destination.

The most well-known site along the 127-drive from the greater Miami area is Seven Mile Bridge, which stands as one of the iconic American crossings. It greets drivers west of Marathon, Fla., and continues over a seven-mile stretch in which drivers can see a beautiful blue horizon much more easily than land at the far end.

If checking out Key West, the one-time pirate cove and home to Hemingway, sounds a little too touristy, there’s plenty of out-of-the-way stops along the drive to make the trip one for the ages. There are mangrove swamps, crocodiles, pelicans and even the rare wild orchid found along the route, as well as a fisherman’s paradise and several state parks.

Route 2, M-22 in Northern Michigan
  • Image Credit: jimflix!

Route 2, M-22 in Northern Michigan

Distance: 117 miles

OK, so the Sleeping Bear Dunes garnered a bit of national attention this past year when Good Morning America named the national lakeshore the most beautiful place in the country. But Michiganders know that the road to get there, M-22, is just as picturesque as the towering sand dunes.

Starting on the north end in Traverse City, the curvy route showcases quiet lakes, cozy vacation towns and the sand dunes, all while following Lake Michigan’s shoreline south. Much like our first selection of U.S. 1 in the Florida Keys, this route in northern Michigan also traverses some classic Hemingway country.

Need a break? At Pyramid Point, hikers can enjoy a tree-lined three-mile trail to a lookout that offers a spectacular view of the Manitou Islands, a few miles offshore. But those wishing to stay in the car will get spectacular views throughout the drive south to Manistee.

Route 3, Aloha Loop
  • Image Credit: jshyun

Route 3, Aloha Loop

Distance: 266 miles

This one may require some degree of advanced planning. But we couldn’t think of a road that better captures the spirit of the MX-5. If you can make it over to the Big Island of Hawaii, this would be a road trip worthy of any bucket list.

After ostensibly renting your ragtop at Kona International Airport head down Route 11 to Captain Cook, where you can stop off at Hookena Beach Park and do some snorkeling. Make your way around the southern tip of the island and spend ample time at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Let’s be honest: There are majestic views from just about anywhere along this road. For more points of interest, stop at Akaka Falls State Park as you make your way around the island in a counterclockwise direction and check out verdant rainforests and sugarcane fields, from which you can view Mauna Kea, one of the tallest mountains in the Pacific. (And for the adventurous, you can ski in February and March).

Jeep Wrangler
  • Image Credit: Jeep

Jeep Wrangler

The perfect road-trip vehicle – if your plans involve going off road. The Wrangler may be one of the most capable Jeeps ever made, and the standard soft top can be folded down or the hard top removed for trips along mountain trails.

The two-door Wrangler comes with four-wheel drive standard and a 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine. For those headed off road, it’s important to note that electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist and hill-hold control also come standard.

Research the 2017 Jeep Wrangler

Route 4, Monument Valley, Arizona
  • Image Credit: mosoltysik

Route 4, Monument Valley, Arizona

Distance: Approximately 208 miles.

Skip the crowds at the Grand Canyon during the peak summer season and head toward the northeast corner of Arizona and into Monument Valley Tribal Park. Long before John Ford’s classic westerns made the area famous, the Navajos knew it well. Indian artifacts and history abound here.

There’s a 17-mile route inside the park that curls around some of the sandstone towers perfect for new offroaders. It’s unpaved, rocky and rutted. And it’s the only way to access some of the best parts of the park. Merrick Butte and Mitchell Mesa, named after two prospectors killed by Ute Indians, are two of the more spectacular monuments, as is Bird Spring, from which visitors can look out over vistas and sand dunes.

Route 5, Death Valley, Calif.
  • Image Credit: Frank Kehren

Route 5, Death Valley, Calif.

Distance: 310 miles

To see the Corvette at its best, you need a flat, open expanse to test its capabilities. No better place than the arid desert of Death Valley National Park.

Start off your journey near the Panamint Springs entrance to the park – and with plenty of gas. There’s plenty of dunes to see along the way, as well as remnants of lava flows, distant peaks and overlooks across the desert.

The power of the Camaro can be harnessed as motorists make their way from the lowest elevation in the United States in Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level, to one of the highest in the park, at Dantes View, at more than 5,000 feet.

Along the way, you can stop and see abandoned mines, rattlesnakes, fringe-toed lizards and hikeable canyons. One thing you will not see a lot of is water, so bring plenty for everyone.