Friday, June 17, 2011

10 Safety Tips for Enjoying Motorcycle to Work Day

This Monday be prepared to share the road during national Ride Your Motorcycle to Work Day. To ensure that everyone remains safe on the road with the potential influx motorcycles, here are the AAA Foundation’s top safety tips for both bikers and drivers alike:
  1. Make Yourself Visible – Follow the left tire track of the vehicle in front of you to avoid being hidden in their blind spots. Wear reflective clothing when possible and assume that other drivers don’t see you.
  2. Share the Road, Not the Lane – Never share another lane with a moving vehicle and never take a short cut between stopped or slow moving vehicles.
  3. Light Up – Keep your headlight on or use supplemental running lights at all times.
  4. Go with the Flow – Drive at the speed of traffic to make yourself more obvious to other vehicles.
  5. Treat Yellow Lights as Red Lights – Stop for yellows, don’t speed up. Motorcycles can be difficult to spot in an intersection.
  6. Know How to Stop – Periodically practice quick stops in empty parking lots, without sliding tires. Courses also are available to refresh motorcycle riding skills.
  7. Drive Defensively, Not Aggressively – Be respectful and courteous to other commuters. Avoiding antagonistic behaviors like stopping short, tailgating or cutting off drivers.
  8. Keep an Eye on Other Drivers – Anticipate a vehicle’s change in direction by watching the driver’s head movements, hand motions on the steering wheel or the changing direction of the vehicle’s front tires.
  9. Protect Yourself – Wear a helmets and protective clothing such as jackets, gloves, boots, and pants to minimize injuries in the event of an accident.
  10. Be Alert – Constantly look for road surface hazards, and at night, watch for sudden tail light movements of the vehicle in front of you as a warning of surface hazards ahead.

For more biking best practices, check out our previous blog highlighting Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May. Motorcycling can be an excellent commuting alternative that offers both fuel efficiency and free hair drying services, not to mention the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without the hindrance of being enclosed in a car.  So if you choose to dust off your Harley and brave the elements on Monday morning, do what you can to make your ride as safe and secure as possible. Oh, and watch out for bugs in your teeth!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Treat Your Tires to Some TLC

Last week was National Tire Safety Week and the AAA Foundation wants to help you ensure that your vehicles are road trip-ready before embarking on any vacation adventures this summer. Tire safety is serious business, Secretary LaHood recently shared data that shows, from 2005 to 2009, nearly 3,400 people died--and an estimated 116,000 were injured--in tire-related crashes. However, proper tire care doesn’t take much effort and can help prevent breakdowns and blowouts during your summer travels.
Unfortunately, knowing how to keep tires in tip-top condition isn’t necessarily common knowledge, according to a recent tire care awareness survey by the Rubber Manufacturers Association. More than half of drivers don’t know how to check if their tires are bald, only 15 percent properly check their tire inflation, and 62 percent don’t know where to find the correct inflation pressure for their vehicle.
Here is a quick tire safety checklist, provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to help ensure your next road trip is a blast instead of a blowout.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure, particularly during hot weather. Find your vehicle’s correct tire pressure on a label on the driver side door or in the owner’s manual.
  • Check tire pressure often (at least once a month), and don’t forget about the spare.
  • Always check tire pressure when tires are “cold,” meaning they’ve not been driven on for at least three hours.
  • Purchase a tire gauge and keep it in your vehicle.
  • Make sure your tire valves have caps.
  • Always check tire pressure before going on a long trip.
  • Inspect tires for cracks, foreign objects, uneven wear and other signs of damage.
  • Remove any items wedged in the tread.
  • Check to see if your tires are bald using the Lincoln’s Head penny test: Place a penny in the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing toward you—if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head above the tire tread, it’s time for new tires.
  • Rotate your tires to help prevent uneven wear and increases their longevity.
  • A good rule of thumb is to rotate your tires approximately every 5,000 miles (or every other oil change!).
  • Have a tire dealer check your vehicle’s alignment periodically to avoid tire damage.
  • Avoid running over potholes or hitting the curb while driving or parking, which can throw off your alignment.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

White House Rural Council & usRAP: Two Peas in a Pod

This morning, President Obama signed an executive order to establish a White House Rural Council, which would be the first of its kind to focus on policy initiatives for Rural Americans. In a statement posted to the White House Blog, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who chairs the Council, noted that this will provide an opportunity to focus on a number of critical issues, including upgrading and modernizing infrastructure in these areas.
This is especially welcome news in light of the fact that rural roadways continue to pose numerous safety challenges. While the level of safety on the nation’s road network varies, rural roads often fall under the highest risk category. In fact, two-lane rural highways – many of which are characterized by narrow travel lanes, hairpin turns, limited sight distances, and abundant roadside hazards – see fatality rates double or triple those found on America’s safest roads, our Interstates. President Obama has already made large investments in infrastructure in rural America, but much more is needed.

The AAA Foundation is proud to lead a major undertaking – the U.S. Road Assessment Program (usRAP) – to develop a systematic assessment of the nation’s road network. The project uses crash location and roadway data to create risk maps, wherein road segments are color-coded according to the level of relative risk they pose as indicated by measures like crash rate and density. In addition, road segments are evaluated for safety and assigned star ratings based on their design features. Star ratings look at roadway elements that impact the likelihood of crashes occurring and the level of protection afforded to road users in the event that a crash does happen.

With many local agencies struggling under tight budgets and staffing shortages, collecting the data required to systematically prioritize roadway project investments can be extremely burdensome, yet without this data limited resources may not be targeted to the projects yielding the greatest safety benefits. What makes usRAP so innovative is that it can provide highway departments and transportation officials with the additional tools they need to make these allocations effectively. By limiting the highest risk category to 5 percent of roadway length, usRAP also helps States meet Federal obligations to report their 5 percent of roadway locations with the most urgent safety needs.

Given that infrastructure upgrades do not occur overnight, many of the usRAP materials are presented in a “consumer-friendly” manner, with the goal being that the general public can access them in order to learn about the level of safety offered by the road networks they rely on every day. Given the dangers posed by many rural roadways and the lack of transportation alternatives in many rural communities, this may be a valuable – and lifesaving – public service to rural Americans looking to factor safety considerations into route choices.

Secretary Vilsack stated that he will be communicating with Rural America to “ensure that every American is aware of the programs and services they can access.” We hope that state and local governments will take a closer look at usRAP in light of the Administration’s renewed commitment to Rural America and learn about the significant role it could play in shaping the future of the nation’s infrastructure by guiding investment decisions and always keeping safety the top priority.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Safety Doesn’t Take the Summer Off

As the weather warms, students everywhere have started counting down the days until summer vacation. These three months of freedom usually include graduations, parties, road trips, vacations and summer jobs, all of which mean more teenagers behind the wheel. In preparation for this season, AAA and the AAA Foundation would like to remind parents that safety doesn’t take a summer vacation. In fact, seven of the ten most deadly days occur during the summer months.

Traffic-related crashes are still serving as the leading cause of death among teens in the United States and as we want both parents and teens to be aware of that heading into what many refer to as the “100 deadliest days” of summer. Teen drivers need to know that driving is a privilege and understand the responsibility that comes with it. To ensure you and your teens are properly prepared for the summer roadways, visit our teen driving website, which offers a variety of state-specific resources, such as tips and quizzes. Parents also can download a copy of AAA’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement, which can help set realistic expectations and establish boundaries for teen drivers.

Keep your teen safe this summer by talking with them about the Top 10 Deadly Teen Driver Mistakes:

1. Risk Taking

2. Un-buckled

3. Speed

4. Rowdy Riders

5. Cell Phones

6. Messing with Music

7. Late Night Cruising

8. DUI

9. Peer Pressure

10. Overconfidence

Driving is a rite of passage that every teen dreams of and most parents dread. But a little preparation, trust and shared responsibility at the start will go a long way to instilling safe driving practices that will last a lifetime of summers, not to mention falls, winters and springs.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tips to Steer Clear of Dangerous Drivers

The latest viral video sensation, courtesy of would-be good samaritan Sean Symons, demonstrates the all-too-common outcome of drunk, drowsy or distracted driving. However, attempting to film dangerous drivers from behind the wheel can be just as reckless.

Encountering an erratic or dangerous driver like Sean Symons did can be a scary experience for any driver so the AAA Foundation has a few tips to help you watch out for and handle these situations safely:
  • Pay Attention to the Entire Road Being alert helps you identify and avoid dangers on the road. Monitor what’s going on in front, to the sides and behind you at all times while driving, paying particular attention to pedestrians, bicyclists and debris. Keep an eye on your rearview and side mirrors so you’re not caught off guard by a dangerous or speeding driver approaching you from behind.
  • Avoid Tailgating – While it is tempting to get a closer look at a bad driver to determine exactly what you’re dealing with, tailgating often leads to a rear end accident. So, maintain the three-second interval between you and the vehicle you’re following. If you are the one being tailgated, move to another lane if possible, or slow down to encourage the driver to pass you.
  • Don’t Rely on Other Drivers to Do the Right Thing – Your driving behavior is the only thing you can control on the road, so be sure to drive defensively behind the wheel and anticipate danger before it happens.
  • Distance Yourself – Distance is a safe driver’s best friend against hazardous roadway scenarios, and the more distance the better. If you see someone driving erratically in front, next to or behind you, slow down to let them safely pass and change lanes if possible. Avoid speeding up, braking suddenly or abruptly changing lanes as that might exacerbate the situation.
  • Call in the Professionals – When you see someone driving erratically, report them to the authorities. Their behavior endangers everyone on the road and police are trained to get them off the roads safely.
  • That Said..Stay Off Your Phone Behind the Wheel – Ask a passenger to make the call, or make a mental note of the situation, location and license plate information of the vehicle in question and safely pull off to report it. Engaging in any form of distracted driving to report unsafe conditions only increases the risk of circumstances going from bad to worse.
While taking videos leave a lasting impression of how damaging reckless driving can be, it’s not worth putting yourself in harm’s way to capture the action. A video won’t do anyone any good if the camera becomes part of the wreckage, so stay safe by steering clear of dangerous drivers and driving distraction-free.