Archive for May, 2015|Monthly archive page

First Look: 2016 Nissan Maxima

The Nissan Maxima has seen little change since the current generation debuted for the 2009 model year. Now, Nissan is introducing a next-generation model that promises better fuel economy, a more athletic road demeanor, and a driver-focused interior.

Nissan calls the new Maxima a “virtual clone” of the Sport Sedan Concept that came out in January, and although we don’t think the two models look exactly alike, we definitely see the inspiration. The 2016 Maxima features a V-Motion grille flanked by boomerang-style headlights with standard LED DRLs. Thanks to its blacked-out A-pillars, the Maxima adopts a floating roof appearance that creates a wraparound canopy. In back there are strong character lines and LED rear parking lights. Overall, the new Maxima is 1.3 inches lower and 2.2 inches longer than the seventh-generation Maxima.

Under the hood, look for a heartier 3.5-liter V-6 with 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque. This engine has been redesigned with more than 60 percent new parts and should help increase fuel economy for an unofficial target EPA rating of 22/30 mpg. A new Xtronic transmission with a wider gear ratio range and new shifting logic should improve acceleration from a start and while exiting a corner. Perhaps even more important is a completely new chassis that sheds 82 pounds from the previous model, helping to boost performance further.

The Maxima also benefits from a Drive Mode Selector that adjusts the ride experience to the driver’s command. In Sport mode, steering weight and throttle response increase, and new active sound enhancement amplifies the engine note to the driver’s ear. Normally, however, the new Maxima is supposed to run quietly thanks to laminated glass and active noise cancellation that drown out road Peek inside the cabin, and you’ll see a new ergonomically designed cockpit. The center stack is pointed 7 degrees toward the driver, and a floating console sits higher than in the old Maxima and puts important controls such as push-button start within easy reach. Padded materials give the Maxima a premium feel, and a flat-bottom steering wheel adds sporty appeal.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima will be available in five trims, including a new performance-oriented SR trim. Even the base Maxima S is well-equipped; it now comes standard with NissanConnect navigation and an 8-inch display. Other standard features include remote engine start via Intelligent Key, online search with Google, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a four-way power passenger’s seat, dual-zone climate control, HomeLink, and Sirius XM satellite radio. Stepping up to the SV nets leather-appointed seating, heated front seats, driver lumbar support, parking sensors, and more. The SL brings a dual panoramic moonroof, 11-speaker Bose sound system, and a number of safety features such as forward emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, and blind-spot monitor.

The SR joins the upper trim levels. It brings a sport-tuned suspension, front chassis performance damper, Ascot leather seats with diamond-quilted Alcantara inserts, paddle shifters, aluminum sport pedals, and upgraded 19-inch wheels. At the top of the lineup sits the Platinum, which comes with driver memory, power tilting and telescoping steering column with easy access feature, Around View Monitor with moving object detection, mahogany wood-tone finish accents, and other premium extras. No optional packages are offered on the Maxima; instead, buyers can add accessories such as splash guards, spoilers, unique tires, and a few other extras.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima goes on sale this summer and starts at $33,235, including an $825 destination fee. This makes it more than $1,000 more expensive than the 2014 Maxima, which is expected given all the radical changes the new model has in store. In its new generation, the Maxima now has a chance to transform itself from an also-ran model to a uniquely athletic competitor in the large-sedan category.

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Learning to drive stick shift makes people better drivers

There are an increasing number of endangered species in this turbulent world of ours, but none is rushing to extinction faster than the driver who can get from A to B in a stick-shift car. The art of mastering how to navigate through the H-gate is almost completely lost on the latest generation of car buyers. It’s a troublesome and worrying thing.

Today’s story, dear reader, is not a rant about how stick is the purest form of driving and needs preserving at all costs – like some enthusiast magazines who like cars and drivers might banner wave over – this is a thought that maybe, just maybe, it’s safer and better for every road user if we all know how the gears that make the wheels go round ratchet up.

You don’t learn to ride a horse without knowing how the reins work and you don’t sail a boat without understanding the rigging. Yet we see a driving license as a birthright, and it’s an automatic assumption we can drive a car.

If you have a teenager learning to drive right now, wouldn’t you prefer they were taught to be more like the pilot of that mechanical masterpiece rather than the autopilot passenger?

I can still vividly remember riding shotgun with my dad as an 11-year-old boy and being utterly mesmerized by the way his feet could dance across three pedals in perfect synchronization with his left arm pushing and pulling a metal stick. (I was raised in the land of right-hand drive, remember.) I thought there was no way I could ever learn how to so dexterously coordinate my limbs in a way that could ever get me out of the driveway and off into distance.

That skill set seemed like an Olympic task to me, yet a few years later and after many hours of gear crunching and clutch mashing, I walked into a Scottish driving test center and emerged 30 minutes later with a license to thrill. I had cracked that the left hand connected to the gear shift, the left foot connected to clutch pedal and the right foot connected to the other two – ah, dem bones, dem bones.

My concern here is that the way we currently teach our youth how to move a two-ton piece of hardware around our neighborhoods should be based on the fact that driving is a skill of degrees, where you learn the process of what’s going on underneath the hood first. It’s about an appreciation of how the thing works, not just the result of what it does. Perhaps you get a better appreciation of time when you know how the watch works, and so I believe, it is with cars.

A good dose of healthy respect for the mechanicals and developing a one-on-one relationship with them makes for a better, safer and more considerate driver. If your first driving skill is easily being able to go straight to D and have the old girl do all the work, then it makes for very lazy and selfish drivers. A little ability in automotive foreplay, where you learn how to feather the clutch, slickly slip your stick in and out of the gate and then push a little harder on the precious pedal to get her turning over surely makes for a more organic driving experience.

Having gears to play with also means you need to concentrate more, which means less time to text, adjust makeup or daydream about a bathing-suit-clad Kate Upton in outer space.

Think about it, we should require our new drivers to learn on a manual transmission and to pass their test with a stick-shift car and then spend the first year of driving in three-pedal heaven. If we did, then perhaps they would see the car not as a moving clubhouse, where you tweet, text and twerk ’til you get there, but as a tamed beast to treat with respect during the journey.

Those crucial first months are when teen driving accidents happen most. And given that 23-percent of all car accidents – that’s a staggering 1.3 million a year – are texting-related, then doing something else with your hands might just save a few lives. Oh, by the way, that’s how it’s done in most European countries and their accident stats are reassuringly lower than ours.

A part of me thinks that changing our driving ed and testing rules would be welcomed by our learners. After all, they are thrilled to go watch actors work a manual tranny in Fast and Furious 57, or put the gearbox through its paces in the Need for Speed Rivals video game – it’s cool and clever. Surely if you can buy a fake stick shift for your video driving game, why would you not want to learn how to do the real thing?

Getting a driving license by only ever driving automatics is a bit like learning to ride a bike with training wheels on, expect most drivers never take the baby wheels off. It’s time to learn to read the manual. And car companies, please don’t give me the guff about nobody wants manuals, which is why even Ferrari doesn’t offer one anymore. If we mandated licenses linked to stick-shift cars, I can guarantee there would suddenly be plenty of choices on the forecourt.

We just need to get our act in gear. Perhaps the Oval Office should be more concerned with how the next generation get a true driver’s skill set than whether or not to deport Justin Beiber back to Canada. (He’s a person who perfectly examples the “if I have a license, I can drive a Lambo” mentality.) It’s time to buckle up for a manual revival, and not because of an elitist enthusiast agenda but because it will save lives, make our roads safer and, alright, yes, it’s way more fun diving into the gearbox than paddle shifting around the steering wheel.

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Surprise: Using car’s air conditioning saves gas

Want to save fuel on those long summer highway drives? Don’t open the window. Crank up the air conditioning.

That’s just one of the useful — and frequently surprising — tips available from , the go-to web site for information on fuel economy.

While running the AC does increase fuel consumption, it’s more efficient than driving with the windows open at highway speeds. The open windows increase the car’s aerodynamic drag, and that makes the engine work harder, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other EPA-approved fuel-savers

– Park in the shade so your car doesn’t get as hot.

– Leave the windows open when you first start driving to clear hot air out of the cabin.

– If you’ve got a plug-in hybrid, pre-cool the car while it’s still plugged in. That uses power from the electric grid, not your car’s engine.

While air conditioning uses energy, drivers are more likely to be safe and focused on the road when they’re comfortable. Don’t stress yourself out by driving in a sweltering hot car.

If you want to know how much more money you spend when you speed up, the website can calculate that, too.

Driving a 2015 four-cylinder Toyota Camry at 80 miles per hour will cost $1.49 more per 100 miles than 70 mph for instance.

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The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Memorial Day is this Monday, and while many are planning their annual cook-outs and children look forward to a day off school, those who have lost loved ones while serving our country think of this day as something much different.

Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day, and according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, here’s why: .

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty. .

Veterans Day and Memorial Day have different histories. .

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the first official observance of Memorial Day was on May 28, 1868, [ says May 30] when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. According to the Veterans Affairs department: .

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns. At the time, the day was called “Decoration Day.” .

After World War I, the holiday was extended to all soldiers who had fallen in all American wars. .

Waterloo, New York became the officially recognized birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966. The city had a ceremony on May 5, 1866. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to commemorate those who died in all U.S. wars. .

Veterans Day has its origins early in the 20th century. In November 1919, one year after the armistice ending World War I went into effect, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: .

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations….

In 1938, Congress approved a bill that made November 11 an annual, legal holiday known as “Armistice Day” that would honor the cause of world peace, but it was primarily used to honor World War I veterans. In 1954, after World War II, the law was amended, the word “Armistice” was changed to “Veterans” and November 11 became a day to honor veterans of all American wars. .

Marchionne: Next Wrangler won’t be all-aluminum

The next-generation Jeep Wrangler won’t be all aluminum, according to FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Marchionne spoke to reporters at the SAE Foundation’s Annual Celebration last night. He was the guest of honor at the event where he received the group’s 2015 Industry Leadership award.

According to a report in today’s Detroit News, Marchionne said that company tests showed the costs of an all-aluminum body outweighed the weight-saving benefits.

“Because of the difference in cost, not just the new material but the actual assembly process, I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum,” Marchionne was quoted as saying.

The decision could have been fueled by the difficulties Ford Motor Company faced in producing the latest-generation F-150 pickup. The problems, including the tearing of aluminum body panels in the stamping process, caused delays and constrained early deliveries of Ford’s moneymaker.

The announcement could boost the prospects for Toledo, Ohio, which is spending millions of dollars trying to keep Wrangler production in the city.

Marchionne didn’t give any hints, but said Toledo is one of just two sites being considered for the next-generation of the Wrangler.

During his comments, Marchionne also spoke about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest actions.

“We need to work with the agency in a very cooperative and open way to make sure that we can meet their requirements for their new stance,” Marchionne said. “We have no option but to comply with their requirements and we will. I have nothing to hide in this process. I just want clear rules.”

He said the agency’s increasingly aggressive stance will increase automakers’ costs as they try to meet new demands; and that he will not be testifying at the NHTSA’s public hearings scheduled for July 2.

Speaking about the new Jeep Renegade, Marchionne confirmed that several issues, including some software problems, were limiting availability of the Italian-built small Jeep.

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel First Drive

Let’s get one thing straight from the start: The Ram Rebel is not a Ford Raptor-fighter. That was the Ram Runner, and it’s dead now. No, this is Ram’s rebuttal to Ford’s FX4 Off-Road package for the F-150, Chevrolet’s Z71 Off-Road package for the Silverado, Toyota’s TRD Pro package for the Tundra, and Nissan’s Pro-4X package for the Titan. Set your expectations accordingly.

That established, let’s talk about what makes a Rebel. The Ram people say it’s a reaction to customer behavior, as a lot of truck buyers immediately install a lift kit and a new wheel and tire package. Ram figured it could offer something like that from the factory easy enough, with the added benefit of having the modifications designed to work together, covered by the warranty and serviceable at Ram dealers.

Ram’s modifications are as clever as they are simple: The Ram 1500’s optional air suspension is standard on the Rebel, but the default ride height is now an inch higher, what a standard Ram would call Off Road 1. It’s now backed by Bilstein monotube shocks, and the alignment, steering gear, and rear anti-roll bar have all been tuned for the higher default center of gravity. A rear limited-slip differential is optional. A new front bumper incorporates tow hooks and a skidplate, with additional protection under the vehicle, and 17-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch Toyo Open Country A/T tires increase capability and the wow factor. Fender flares, blacked-out trim, and giant badges round out the look. The interior features red accent trim, beefy rubber floormats, and the tire tread pattern embossed in the seat backs.

You’ve likely come to the conclusion I first did, which is that Ram didn’t really do all that much. Compare it with rival packages, though, and you’ll find it perfectly matched. Ram simply came up with a cooler name and tougher look than most of the competition, and what the Rebel might lack in quantity of modifications it more than compensates for in quality.’

We’ll start off-road because that’s the whole point. To demonstrate the Rebel’s capability, Ram took us to the San Francisco Volcanic Field outside Flagstaff, Arizona, in what turned out to be mostly terrible weather. The terrain Ram had intended us to conquer was made mostly of volcanic cinder, which is more or less like coarse, loosely packed gravel. The weather, however, ensured the rest of the driving would involve standing water and several inches of snow on top of mud the consistency and stickiness of saltwater taffy. That none of us managed to get a single truck stuck in any of that mess is a testament, as the cinder Ram wanted us to drive on had the trucks dug in to their rims more often than not.

All this perhaps best illustrates the Rebel’s key feature: Ram’s inspired choice of the Toyo Open Country A/T tire. Not just for show, these knobby wonders clawed their way through every surface we could find. Even completely saturated with taffy mud, they continued to dig in and keep the truck moving. Note that this was the same sort of mud that shut down the off-road driving course at the nearby Overland Expo (where, incidentally, attendees had high praise to sing of the Toyo Open Country A/T). More than simply getting us through the cinder, mud, and snow (without needing to be aired down, as we discovered by trying it both ways), the tires helped keep the truck well under control in all conditions. Be it blasting down a packed gravel road, working through the mud, or turning onto a paved road, the tires bit hard and kept the rear of the truck firmly planted. Getting it sideways took considerable effort, and any slip it gave was predictable, linear, and easily controlled.

Of course, credit for this stability also goes to the Bilstein shocks and Ram’s suspension tuning. The air spring and shock combination (not to mention the fat tire sidewalls) provided a surprisingly comfortable ride both on-road and off. The combo proved adept at handling large and small bumps and holes in pavement, and it soaked up off-road obstacles just as well. The suspension has no more travel than standard Rams, but in all our beating on it, we only managed to bottom out the suspension once. Let’s be clear about this: My co-drivers and I were not nice to this truck, at all, and we couldn’t hurt it.

It could, however, hurt its own cause. Our mutual major objection to the Rebel (aside from the grille) was the electronic stability control. On the Rebel, you’re supposed to be able to turn stability control completely off. This is not the case. Putting aside the fact that you can only achieve full deactivation with the truck in 4WD, if you find yourself several inches deep in gravel or mud, you’ll find you don’t have full authority over the throttle. Every time we found ourselves in this situation, the computer ignored our throttle inputs and limited wheelspin, even when it would’ve been far more advantageous to keep engine and wheel speeds up to avoid getting stuck. On more than one occasion, we found ourselves slowing to a crawl and unable to modulate the throttle, relying instead on the computer’s wisdom and the tires’ bite. Yes, the computer saved us from potentially overdoing it and digging ourselves in, but it also restricted our options at a critical moment. There are few more helpless feelings than being in control of a vehicle on the verge of getting stuck, and it’s only worse when you’re prevented from doing everything possible to avoid it. The lack of a hill descent control feature is also a small disappointment.

On the road, where most Rebels will spend most of their lives, it was really no less livable than a standard Ram 1500. The big off-road tires make a little more noise than street tires, but the truck rides, handles, stops, and goes just as well. You sit a little higher, and there’s a stronger urge to get off the pavement than usual, but there’s no real compromise to the driving experience in return for the greater off-road ability. As the suspension is mostly the same, there are no penalties to towing or hauling ratings, either.

All of this must be read with the caveat that the only pre-production Rebels Ram had available for this test drive were V-8 four-wheel drive models with the optional 3.92:1 rear end. The Rebel is also available in rear-wheel drive, with a V-6, and with a 3.21:1 rear end — the V-6 model is available with four-wheel drive and 3.92:1 gears only. For now, the EcoDiesel engine is not available, as the factory that builds them is maxed out, and the Rebel will only be offered in the four-door Crew Cab and 5-foot-7-inch bed, as that combination accounts for 70 percent of Ram sales. The RamBox bed pictured is optional.

The Ram Rebel may not be a factory Baja pre-runner, but it’s an impressively capable truck nonetheless. Ram has built a more aggressive and better branded off-road package for a half-ton pickup than any of its competitors. Doubters are welcome to try to keep up on the trail.

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Does Engine Coolant Go Bad?

Yes, engine coolant does deteriorate over time, but unless something unusual occurs, you probably won’t need to change the coolant in most late-model vehicles until 100,000 miles. Older vehicles probably require more frequent coolant replacement, so check your owner’s manual to be sure.

Most manufacturers now use extended-life coolant with a recommended change interval of 100,000 miles. That varies based on maintenance schedules for each manufacturer and individual models. Some Subarus, for example, call for coolant replacement after 13 years or 132,500 miles. Many Ford engines say to replace it after the first 100,000 miles and every 50,000 miles thereafter, though heavy-duty applications (such as frequent towing) should have it done more often.

No matter what the maintenance schedule is for your vehicle, after a few years of ownership it is a good idea to have the coolant checked by a professional periodically for acid buildup, rust and other contaminants, and for its resistance to freezing and boiling. If you have added water (particularly tap water) to top off the cooling system, you may have introduced contaminants or diluted the antifreeze/water mix (generally 50/50) and altered the freezing and boiling points.

If your engine is running hotter than normal, deteriorated coolant could be a possible cause. Most manufacturers and service shops recommend flushing the cooling system at the same time the coolant is replaced to get rid of deposits that accumulated over the years.

Manufacturers specify certain types of antifreeze, and some may be red, others pink or green, but don’t go to an auto parts store looking for the right color. You need to ask for the right type of antifreeze for your vehicle, whether you’re adding some yourself or having it replaced by a pro.

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2016 Jeep Patriot Planned

Jeep will keep making the Patriot into the 2016 model year, despite the appearance of the new Jeep Renegade, according to reliable Allpar source “Mopar Man.”

Some expected the Patriot to be dropped once the Renegade appeared, since the cars share a basic form and are roughly similar in size and price. However, relatively few Renegades have made it to the United States, and the plant where the Patriot, Compass, and Dodge Dart are all made is not at full capacity.

A new Jeep Compass is planned for calendar-year 2016, having been pushed back at least once. While the name is still not officially settled, most sources believe it will remain Compass, though the platform will change. In the United States, it will likely use a 2-liter Hurricane turbocharged four-cylinder engine, as well as the current 2.4 and possibly the turbocharged Fiat 1.4 to have a fuel economy leader; however, it will almost certainly use a ZF-based nine-speed automatic, possibly in addition to a manual transmission.

Both Jeep Patriot and the current Jeep Compass are to cease production when the new car starts coming down the line. The next-generation, 2017 Dodge Dart is scheduled to appear at around the same time as the Compass.

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Changes for the 2016 Ram HD pickups

A reliable source oh2o provided a list of what will be changing for the 2016 model year in the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 pickup trucks.

Production of the 2016 model year pickups begins on July 20, 2015, and will include the new Limited, with the same controversial grille and tailgate appearance as the Ram 1500 Limited (shown below). Available as a crew cab or mega cab only, it will have unique wheels (except on double-rear-wheel setups, or “duallies,” which will carry over the old wheels). The interior is all-black and similar to that of Ram 1500 Laramie Limited; bumpers are painted, with optional chrome.

The photo above shows a 2016 Ram 2500 Laramie Limited, as shown at the Chicago Auto Show. Other models are likely to have a grille similar to those of the 2015 trucks.

All 2016 “heavy duty” Ram pickup trucks will have a new center console layout; Longhorn and Limited will also use a new, wooden tambour (sliding console) door.

New 18 inch aluminum wheels will be used on Big Horn, Lone Star, and Outdoorsman, with new pickup box lighting (LED lights on each side at the rear) on Longhorn and Limited, optional on some other models, and included with Luxury Group and Rambox.

Engines appear to remain the same, except for a new compressed natural gas (CNG) option on Crew Cab / long-bed in rear wheel drive, and regular cab models in rear and four wheel drive. Ram continues to have the only factory-upfitted CNG option, not using an aftermarket solution.

The base radio on Tradesman remains the same but will be renamed from RA1 to Radio 3.0 AM/FM. Some models will get optional front and rear parking assistance (standard on Laramie and higher trimlines).

phablet holderThe rear camera will be able to toggle between a cargo view and the backup camera; the cargo view camera will be packaged in the Convenience Group with rain-sensing wipers and automatic-beam headlamps.

Finally, the usual paint changes are going to be made, with red pearl replacing deep cherry red, “Luxury Brown” replacing “Western brown,” and a new pearl white option on higher-level trucks starting with September production.

It normally takes a month or two for trucks to reach dealers after production begins.

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School Zones are supposed to keep kids safe as they arrive at and leave school,
but the zones sometimes pose a risk for pedestrians and motorists alike.
Each school year, nearly 54 million school-age children walk or bike to
school or otherwise pass through the school zone after exiting a
caregiver’s car or the school bus. In those busy zones, they can be at
risk of injury or death. Meanwhile, motorists (even those who are
parents or caregivers hauling their precious cargo) may need a refresher
class on the rules of the road in school zones, experts say.
“There’s a lot of activity that happens between arrival time and
dismissal time that can be distracting, and that’s the piece that can
make it risky for young pedestrians,” says Nancy Pullen-Seufert,
associate director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

Just How Dangerous Are School Zones?

Take Chicago as an example: From 2007 to 2011 nearly 1,700 children and
youths ages 5-18 were struck by vehicles within about a block of a
school, according to a recent analysis by the Chicago Tribune
of school zone safety in the city. That’s an average of about 10
percent of all pedestrians hit by vehicles in Chicago over that time
period. Many drivers didn’t stop or slow down in or near these school
zones, even when a crossing guard was present.

Big cities like Chicago aren’t the only places where school zones are
unsafe for pedestrians. A national survey found that two-thirds of
drivers exceed the posted speed limit during the 30-minute period before
and after school. And automated photo enforcement measures found that
78 percent of drivers sped in school zones, and 82 percent of drivers
passed a school bus illegally.

Motorists often violate stop sign rules at intersections in school
zones and residential neighborhoods, according to a report by Safe Kids
Worldwide, “Facts About Injuries to Child Pedestrians.” Forty-five percent don’t come to a complete stop, 37 percent roll through the stop sign and 7 percent don’t slow down.

The most dangerous time for the school zone and beyond is the
after-school period from 3-4 p.m. That’s when more school-age
pedestrians are killed by motorists than at any other time of day,
according to AAA.

The problem of speeding in school zones has forced some municipalities, including Chicago, to install speed cameras to catch and ticket those violating the school zone speed limit.

“In places where that’s happened, there’s been a decrease in injuries
and fatalities associated with kids who are walking in school zones,”
says Kate Carr, CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.

Good News, Bad News and Why Teens Are at Increased Risk

Fortunately, the number of traffic fatalities among pedestrians age 14
and younger went down from 391 fatalities in 2002 to 230 in 2011, the
most recent year for which data is available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The bad news is that nationwide in 2011, an estimated 11,000
pedestrians age 14 and younger were injured in traffic accidents

For young children, learning to cross the street safely takes awhile.
Children don’t always cross when or where they should. In 2011, 79
percent of pedestrian fatalities among those ages 14 and younger
occurred at non-intersection locations, such as between parked cars or
crossing the road in the middle.

When drivers approach a school zone, the odds are that most of the
people walking there “do not know the laws and do not know anything
about an automobile,” says James Solomon, program development and
training director of defensive driving courses for the National Safety Council.

“Kids don’t know how long it takes to stop a car,” he says. “None of that is in their thinking.”

It’s not just unpredictable elementary kids who walk into harm’s way:
Teens between the ages of 15 and 19 account for half of all pedestrian
deaths among children.

Drivers should increasingly keep an eye out for tweens and teens, who
are often plugged into their mp3 players or smartphones and tuned out
of the real world and its hazards. Over the last five years, there’s
been a 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries for teens between the
ages of 16 and 19, found a 2012 report by Safe Kids Worldwide.

Because of this alarming trend, Safe Kids recently conducted an
observational study of 34,000 middle school and high school students
walking in school zones. It found that one in five high school students
and one in eight middle school kids were distracted by a mobile device.

“We know that distraction is a big issue for drivers, but there’s
been less focus on the issue of distraction for pedestrians,” says Carr
of Safe Kids Worldwide. “We need to teach our kids that a mobile device
shouldn’t be used when crossing the street.” Safe Kids Worldwide
recently launched a Web video campaign
to get kids to turn off their mobile devices before crossing the
street. They’re asked to switch off in memory of Christina Morris-Ward, a
15-year-old who was distracted by a mobile device and killed while
crossing the street.

Follow the Rules To Save a Life

Crosswalks, flashing lights, stop signs and crossing guards can only do
so much when it comes to protecting school children. When it comes to
school zone safety, motorists need to study up on these safe-driving
tips from experts in school zone safety:

  • Expect the unexpected: “Children run and play. They can come from anywhere,” says James Solomon of the National Safety Council.
  • Stop properly at stop signs and crosswalks: It’s illegal to pass through either a stationary stop sign or one held by a crossing guard or other safety representative.In all 50 states, when a stop sign is displayed, motorists must stop for
    it, Solomon says. Drivers should stop completely at the stop sign,
    before the crosswalk area. Blocking a crosswalk could force kids to go
    around your vehicle, putting them in danger. And wait a bit before
    driving through after the crossing guard clears the intersection, warns
    Solomon. “There are always one or two children lagging behind that are
    now going to run through the crosswalk to catch up with the rest of the
  • Obey the speed limit: “The faster you are going,
    the more likely you are to injure a pedestrian and to injure them more
    seriously,” says Nancy Pullen-Seufert of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.Most school zones have speed limits of 20 mph or less. Studies have
    found that 5 percent of pedestrians hit by a vehicle at 20 mph suffer a
    fatality. The fatality number increases to 45 percent when hit by a
    vehicle going 30 mph, and to 80 percent for a pedestrian hit by a
    vehicle traveling at 40 mph. And because of their smaller size, children
    fare even worse. Faster driving means longer stopping distances. At 20
    mph, it takes an average vehicle 69 feet to come to a total stop, and
    nearly double that distance, to 123 feet, at just 30 mph, according to
  • Put away electronic devices: A few states, including Illinois, have made it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in a school zone, and for good reason.Talking on your cell phone has been shown to reduce reaction time.
    Looking away for just 2 seconds doubles your chance of crashing. Texting
    while driving has been shown to be as dangerous as driving drunk.

    “The ability to multitask is a myth. If you are going to drive your
    child to school, drive your child to school. Leave the cell phone in a
    place where you aren’t going to be distracted,” says Kate Carr of Safe
    Kids Worldwide.

    Solomon agrees. “You want to navigate the school zone 100 percent prepared to handle a situation,” he says.

  • Make eye contact with pedestrians: “If you haven’t
    made eye contact with them, assume that they haven’t seen you and that
    they are just going to keep on going,” says Carr.
  • Wait your turn near school buses: It’s illegal in all 50 states to pass a bus
    on undivided roadways if the vehicle is stopped to load and unload
    children. State laws vary regarding passing a school bus on a divided
    roadway when the bus is traveling in the opposite direction, but all
    vehicles behind a bus must stop. Make sure you know the rules in your
    state, and regardless of whatever they are, never pass a school bus on
    the right. It’s a sure recipe for disaster.According to the National Safety Council, most children who die in
    bus-related crashes are pedestrians ages 4-7 who are hit by the bus or
    by motorists illegally passing the school bus.
  • Pay attention to bus warning lights: A yellow
    flashing light means the bus is preparing to stop to let kids on or off.
    A red light means kids are getting on or off the bus.
  • Give buses ample space to load and unload: Children
    are in the most danger of being hit by a vehicle within the 10 feet
    around a school bus. And just in case you’re tempted to violate any of
    the bus-related rules, many school buses are now equipped with rear
    cameras to catch motorists who illegally pass them.
  • Follow the school’s drop-off rules: “Oftentimes
    parents get very tempted to drop their child off across the street from
    the school and tell their child to just run across the street. And we
    really, really don’t want drivers to do that,” says Pullen-Seufert. “Any
    time any pedestrian of any age is crossing the road, they are at a
    greater risk.”
  • Choose a different route: If you are a daily commuter and not a parent picking up or dropping off their child, avoid a school zone if you can.
  • Be more careful in the fall: More children are
    injured by cars in September than any other month. “Kids are going back
    to school and drivers have to adjust again after a summer season,” says
  • What to do if there’s a near miss: Never reprimand
    or approach the child directly. The child is likely to be nervous or
    frightened when confronted by a stranger, Solomon says. Do let an adult
    know what happened, though. You might be alerting authorities to a
    potentially dangerous area within the school zone.You need to find whoever is in charge, if it’s a crossing guard, a law
    enforcement agent or school staff,” Solomon says. “You need to safely
    park the vehicle and explain what happened. Sooner or later, enough
    near-misses mean someone gets hit.”
  • Treat every kid as your own: It’s not always some
    unwary motorist who is responsible for school zone traffic accidents.
    Whether they’re dropping off or picking up their children, parents also
    often break school zone road rules, say safety experts.

If you’re a parent, keep in mind that even if your children are
safely in school or in your vehicle, you still have to watch out for
their classmates. You’d want other parents to do the same for your kids.

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