Driving in Extreme Weather

With the Thanksgiving holiday in the rear view mirror, we drive on toward Christmas and the end of 2006. With Winter drawing near, weather across the country is slowly getting worse and harder to drive in. With that being said, we thought it a good reminder to pass on our bad weather driving tips once again.

If you’re driving on ice or snow…

  • Keep your speed steady and at a manageable rate. But don’t drive so slow that your car could get stuck in the snow.
  • When driving, always leave more distance between you and the car in front of you.
  • When slowing down or stopping, try not to brake abruptly, your brakes could potentially lock up and you could lose steering control. In a manual car, be careful about downshifting when going down hill. If you hit an ice patch when down shifting, your tires could lose their grip on the road.
  • Try and keep all windows clear and frost-free. Put a coat of silicon spray or similar on your windows to help coat them.
  • Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape as well and always carry an ice-scraper for your windows just in case.
  • If your car should break down in the snow, make sure you have an extra blanket or two in the back as well as flashlights, first aid kit, and emergency road service items.
  • If your car gets stuck in the snow, avoid accelerating too fast and keep your tires as straight as possible.
  • Be careful when crossing bridges as they ice up very easy.

When driving in the rain…

  • Play it smart. If it’s the first rain of the season, be careful as the water will mix with the oil residue on the roads making them very slick.
  • Again, leave more distance than normal between you and the car driving in front of you.
  • Allow a little more time to get to your destination because typically, traffic during rainy weather will be slower. The more rain, the slower the traffic.
  • Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape and coat your windshield with silicon.
  • Always carry an umbrella and some inexpensive plastic rain ponchos in the back of the car, which you can get at any auto store.
  • In heavy rains, or during the day when it gets darker because of cloud cover, always use your headlights. 

We hope this helps and please do your best, as you drive, to be considerate of others on the road, whether they’re reciprocating or not.

Electronic Stability Control

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking at a number of safety improvements to make passenger cars and trucks safer to drive. One of the items at the top of their list is finding a way to encourage automakers to equippe cars with electronic stability control systems (ESC).

The U.S Department of Transportation is considering requiring auto makers to have this technology installed on all new passenger vehicles by the  year 2009.  According to the NHTSA, this technology could save around thousands of lives each year.

Electronic stability control (ESC) is a computer controlled braking system that monitors the driver’s steering and applies braking to the individual wheels of the car to keep the vehicle headed in the right direction. This allows the driver to maintain control in situations where the car would typically lose control like spin outs and driving on ice.  When functioning correctly, ESC responds faster than the driver’s reflexes during extreme steering maneuvers, keeping the car on road.

Automotive engineers confidently predict that greater use of electronic stability control would reduce crashes, but the NHTSA crash test rating system does not always substantiate the engineering view.

Lemon Laws and Used Cars

The majority of people who buy new cars should be somewhat familiar with lemon laws. These are laws which allow consumers to get a refund or a replacement car when their car initially turns out to be, well…a lemon; a car that doesn’t operate reasonably within the amount of time that you’ve had it. These laws can cover leased cars and purchased cars. The guideline was designed to act as a consumer protection device.

But, do lemon laws apply to “used” cars? Well, that depends on where you live. Without knowing every specific law in every state, you need to contact the office of your state attorney general and ask some questions. Here are some of the questions they should have answers too. But this is just a sample…

  • What defines a “used car”?
    • What’s the maximum miles allowed (ceiling), and/or number of years from date of purchase?
    • Was it purchased from a dealer in your state?
    • What’s the maximum price allowed for the vehicle?
    • What’s the maximum number of miles driven allowed since you’ve owned it?
    • Is it primarily used for personal purposes?
  • Are motorcycles, motor homes, and off-road vehicles covered?
  • Who exactly is protected by your states lemon law
  • Are private sales covered?
  • Are only specific types of dealerships covered?
  • Are cars purchased at auctions covered?
  • How is the lemon law warranty given?
  • What if your dealership didn’t give a lemon law warranty?
  • What are your rights if the dealer doesn’t repair your car?
  • What parts are covered?
  • Can a dealership limit the coverage?
  • Can your rights under the law be waived?

There are many other questions that can be asked. Again, the best action you can take is contacting your state attorney general’s office and find out all you can before you take action. Quite often, they will have a website which lists details of what is covered under their lemon law and what specific action you can take. If something does go wrong with your car and you feel you might fall under the’s law’s umbrella, the sooner you find out and take action, the better because there are time and mileage limitations to all lemon laws.

According to buckleupamerica.org, the “click it or ticket campaign” seems to be working. Beginning in the year 2000, approximately 71% of drivers were buckling their safety belts when driving. That grew to about 75% in 2002. But over the past three years, that number has ballooned to 82%. The program attributes it’s success to an initial “flurry” of paid advertising and publicity regarding the law. Unfortunately, even with this change in law, according to the NHTSA, traffic fatalities have stayed about the same over the past ten years, fluctuating about two percent during that period.

Buckleupamerica.org has been actively promoting the use of safety belts for years. They offer creative promotional materials that can be used in schools, window displays, restaurants, retail outlets and more. During the Thanksgiving holiday, they show examples of posters you can use to promote safety belts, including one that depicts the common “palm turkey” (outline of a child’s hand) made by school children. According to their site, “the copy reminds viewers to make sure that children, as well as themselves, wear safety belts over the holiday.” They have a second poster which states, “don’t worry, it’s adjustable”. This poster has an image of a person who clearly has eaten their fair share of turkey, “…playing upon the perception that weight will be gained after a big Thanksgiving meal. The headline then reminds viewers that safety belts can accommodate (adjustable) any added size and that there is no excuse for not wearing a safety belt.”

And the truth is…there is no excuse not to wear a safety belt. You can spin it anyway you want to regarding not wearing them but if you put lipstick on a pig, I’m afraid it’s still a pig. We at CIRI encourage you to wear them no matter what time of day it is, no matter how short your drive is. Your life is too valuable to take the chance.

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