Archive for the ‘aaa’ Tag

AAA gives motorists 10 easy ways to keep kids safe as they return to school

It’s back-to-school season across the U.S. with 56 million students expected to enroll in kindergarten through high school classes at more than 98,000 schools this year. That many students returning to school will mean increased congestion on the roadways and the need for motorists to use extra caution.

Nearly one-fifth of traffic fatalities of children below the age of 15 are pedestrians, with more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day.

As part of AAA’s annual School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign, AAA offers 10 key tips for motorists to help keep kids safe as they return to school.

– Slow Down. Two-thirds of motorists exceeded the posted speed limit during the 30-minute period before and after school, according to a 2003 national observational survey. Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, motorists should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.

– Obey Traffic Signs. Obeying traffic signs is something all motorists should do no matter where they drive. However, a national observational survey found that many motorists violated stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Forty-five percent did not come to a complete stop with 37 percent rolling through and seven percent not even slowing down.

– Stay Alert. Motorists should always avoid distractions while driving, but it’s particularly important in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid talking on mobile phones, adjusting the radio or any other activities that might take attention away from the roadway. Never text while driving.

– Scan Between Parked Cars. Nearly 40 percent of child pedestrian fatalities occurred in between the hours of 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., mostly at non-intersection locations. Children can quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects along the roadway. Motorists should pay close attention not only at intersections, but along any residential roadways where children could be present.

– Look for Clues of Children Nearby. Keep an eye out for clues that children are likely nearby such as AAA School Safety Patrol members, crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds.

– Always Stop for School Buses. For 23 million students, the school day begins and/or ends with a trip on a school bus. The greatest risk they face is not riding the bus, but approaching or leaving it. Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children, and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped, and children are getting on and off. Motorists are required to stop their vehicles and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

– Allot Extra Travel Time. Back to school often means increased congestion and longer commute times. Motorists should allot extra travel time when school is in session to avoid any temptation to speed or disobey traffic laws in an effort to ‘catch up’ after being delayed.
– Review Your Travel Route. Motorists should consider modifying their travel route to avoid school zones and residential neighborhoods. A slightly longer route might actually be quicker by avoiding congestion and much lower speed limits in and around school zones.

– Use Extra Caution in Bad Weather. Whether in rain, snow, fog or any other inclement weather, motorists should use extra caution. Reduced visibility can make it difficult for motorists to see children and children to see vehicles. It also can make it difficult to perform quick stops, if needed.

– Use Headlights. Turning on the vehicle’s daytime running lights or headlights—even during the day—so children and other drivers can see them more easily. But, don’t forget to turn them off when you reach your destination to maintain your battery life.

Read more at:


How does the car you pick affect your insurance premiums?

If you’re in the market for a car, how carefully are you considering expenses beyond the monthly loan payment? One cost to look at is auto insurance, which on average accounts for 14 percent of the total cost of owning and operating a vehicle, according to AAA’s latest Your Driving Costs study. Because the car you choose can affect how much you pay for auto insurance, here are some of the things that may impact your rates.

Sticker Price
The cost of a vehicle is one of the main factors insurance companies use to set your insurance rate. The reason is simple: Repairs and parts for a luxury car will carry a higher price than they would for an economy car. So whether an expensive car is damaged a little or a lot, it will cost more to fix than a cheaper car, and that’s why it can cost more to insure.

Type of Car
The faster a car can go, the greater the risk of a crash—and greater risk means higher insurance rates. A car with lots of horsepower will likely be driven faster than something like a minivan, and the vehicles are typically used in different ways. A minivan or station wagon that carpools the kids to school and takes trips to the grocery store is generally going to be operated more safely than a high-performance car that’s likely to be driven at faster speeds.

Safety Features
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performs crash tests on new cars and publishes their findings at A car that gets good ratings is going to be safer to drive and cost less to insure. Safety features that can affect a car’s crash test scores include crash-avoidance technology such as backup cameras and lane-departure warning systems, as well as other safety features like air bags and passive-restraint seat belts that work to minimize injury when a collision does occur.

The best way to learn what you’ll pay for insurance is to talk to your agent. Identify several models you’re considering, and the agent can give you insurance quotes to compare and answer questions about coverage. You’ll have the insurance information you need, and you’ll be one step closer to driving your new car.

Insurance underwritten by one of the following companies: Auto Club Insurance Association, MemberSelect Insurance Company, Auto Club Group Insurance Company, Auto Club Property-Casualty Insurance Company, Auto Club South Insurance Company, Auto Club Insurance Company of Florida, or non-affiliated insurance companies.

Read more at:

Top distraction for teen drivers in crashes may surprise you

Startling new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals the disturbing behaviors behind distracted driving among young drivers.

Usually, AAA refers to the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day as the “summer driving season,” but now, it’s giving it a much more ominous name – the “100 Deadliest Days.”

During the summer months, more teenagers are on the road and the number of deaths from crashes involving teen drivers soars to an average of 10 every day — 16 percent higher than the rest of the year.

Working with the University of Iowa, AAA studied teen drivers over the past eight years, using dashboard cameras and documenting more than 2,200 moderate to severe collisions. Over that time, they saw a disturbing change in behavior.

“They’re more likely to interact with their phones via texting or social media, which is particularly scary because they’re actually then looking down, taking their eyes off the road,” said Jennifer Ryan of AAA.

According to the study, 60 percent of teen crashes today are caused by distracted driving. But perhaps surprisingly, the study found that cell phones are not the number one problem.

The top distraction for teens is other passengers, accounting for 15 percent of teen driver accidents, compared to 12 percent caused by distracted by texting or talking on a cell phone.

“What we know about teens is that when they add a passenger, they’re more likely to be distracted, they’re more likely to engage in risky behavior,” Ryan said.

Stacy Robinson lost two daughters in a crash in Texas in March. A teenage friend who was driving was looking at her phone moments before hitting an 18-wheeler head on.

“I will miss both of my daughters very much,” Robinson said, sobbing.

Now, Toron Woolridge, the brother of the two girls, spreads the word about the dangers of distracted driving.

“The best way that I can honor my sisters, the best way I know possible is to talk to youth and talk to parents and help them to understand what could happen,” Woolridge said.

AAA recommends complete bans on wireless devices for drivers under age 18, which is now the law in 30 states.

Read more at:

AAA travel and safety tips for the 4th of July weekend

Since gas prices this Independence Day are about a dollar cheaper than last year, many people are planning to travel out of state.

“We’re going to see 35.5 million people hitting the road to drive to their destination, which is an increase from last year. 41 million people will be traveling in total, so there is going to be a lot of people on the road.” said Crissy Gray, the AAA District Office Supervisor in Charleston, WV.

If you plan on traveling our of town for the 4th of July, it’s important to remember to check your tire pressure, keep extra phone chargers on hand, and be prepared for different driving conditions.

Since rainy weather is expected in West Virginia and several other states for the holiday weekend, it is highly important to make sure your car is as visible as possible to other drivers.

“Make sure you know your headlights are working, break lights are working so people can see you. Windshield wipers, again, are very important. Make sure they are good quality and working well. That’s your vision out on the road.” said Crissy Gray.

AAA also advises that those traveling keep a backup map with them, travel with an emergency kit that includes water, blankets, and flashlights, and be sure oil changes and car inspections are up to day before leaving.

Read more at:

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.

As read on:

Wet Weather Driving Tips

Spring and summer showers may mean flowers, but wet pavement contributes to nearly 1.2 million traffic crashes each year.

Here are some tips you’ll want to follow the next time you’re caught driving in the rain.

Safety starts before you drive, and your goal should be to see and be seen. Replace windshield wiper inserts that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe. Make sure all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are properly functioning so other drivers will see you during downpours. Turn on your headlights whenever you drive.

Proper tire tread depth and inflation are imperative to maintaining good traction on wet roadways. Check tread depth with a quarter inserted upside down into the tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, start shopping for new tires. Check each tire’s pressure, including the spare, at least once a month… and be sure to check the pressure when the tires are cold.

Avoid Cruise Control

Most modern cars feature cruise control. This feature works great in dry conditions, but when used in wet conditions, the chance of losing control of the vehicle can increase. To prevent loss of traction, the driver may need to reduce the car’s speed by lifting off the accelerator, which cannot be accomplished when cruise control is engaged.

When driving in wet-weather conditions, it is important to concentrate fully on every aspect of driving. Avoiding cruise control will allow the driver more options to choose from when responding to a potential loss-of-traction situation, thus maximizing your safety.

Slow Down and Leave Room

Slowing down during wet weather driving can be critical to reducing a car’s chance of hydroplaning, when the tires rise up on a film of water. With as little as 1/12 inch of water on the road, tires have to displace a gallon of water per second to keep the rubber meeting the road. Drivers should reduce their speed to correspond to the amount of water on the roadway. At speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose some contact with the roadway.

To reduce chances of hydroplaning, drivers should slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you. Also, it’s important for motorists to allow ample stopping distance between cars by increasing the following distance of the vehicle in front of them and beginning to slow down to stop for intersections, turns and other traffic early.

Responding to a Skid

Even careful drivers can experience skids. If a driver feels their car begin to skid, it’s important to not panic and follow these basic steps:

– Continue to look and steer in the direction in which the driver wants the car to go.

– Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.

If you feel the car begin to skid, continue to look and steer in the direction you want the car to go. Don’t panic, and avoid slamming on the brakes to maintain control.

Overall you want to be extra cautious in wet weather. Slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and allow ample stopping distance between you and the cars in front of you. Also, do these things one-at-a-time. Brake, then turn, then accelerate.

Read more at:

AAA gives advice on how to avoid pothole damage

It’s that time of year again! Most of the snow has melted but with temperatures still dropping below freezing most nights, above-freezing temperatures during the day, the melting ice or left over snow expands and constricts the asphalt, creating potholes.

Of course the best thing to do is to avoid hitting potholes in the first place, however that is not always possible when the pothole is too big to avoid or hidden beneath a puddle of water. Increasing following distance and looking at the road ahead for potholes can help in avoiding them in some circumstances. If a pothole cannot be avoided, reduce speed safely and check the rear view mirror before any abrupt braking.

Potholes cause a variety of woes: lost hubcaps, warped wheel alignment, damaged tires, fractured undercarriages, bent axles, smashed mufflers, out-of-shape shocks and rattled nerves. Hitting a pothole at a high speed increases the chance of damage to tires, wheels, shocks, struts or springs.

To report potholes on local or county roads, call your town or county’s Highway Department.

AAA has the following tips to avoid damage to your car from potholes:

– Keep an eye on traffic patterns. Cars that slow down or move quickly to other lanes may be a sign of major potholes or road damage ahead.
– Beware of snow, ice or water that may be concealing a deep pothole.
–  Avoid swerving. Swerving can cause a loss of vehicle control.
– Slow down. Carefully avoid sharp impact with potholes.
–  Roll through. Rolling through the pothole is better than braking rapidly.
– Inflate tires properly. Over inflated and under inflated tires increase risk of tire and wheel damage.

Potholes also drain the pocketbooks and wallets of the vehicle owner. Costs for repairing damage caused by potholes can range from $50 for a simple wheel alignment to $500 or more for replacing a top-of-the-line alloy wheel. In some cases, damage for poor road conditions can add up to $2,000 or more in repair costs over the life of a car, insurance agents say. Compounding matters, vehicle suspension and steering components may also be affected.

Motorists file about 500,000 auto insurance claims each year for pothole damage, according to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. The group estimates nearly $4.8 billion is spent each year to repair damage to Americans’ cars resulting from run-ins with potholes, utility cuts and other dangerous road conditions.

Motorists in pothole-prone areas should understand the need for proper collision coverage to avoid costly repairs, some insurance agents contend.

Read more at:

Winter Driving Tips

Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for automobile travel. Motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. AAA reminds motorists to be cautious while driving in adverse weather. For more information on winter driving, the association offers the How to Go on Ice and Snow brochure, available through most AAA offices. Contact your local AAA club for more information.

AAA recommends the following winter driving tips:

– Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.

– Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

– Make certain your tires are properly inflated.

– Never mix radial tires with other tire types.

– Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.

– If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.

– Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).

– Always look and steer where you want to go.

– Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.

Tips for long-distance winter trips:

– Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.

– Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.

– Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.

– Pack a cellular telephone with your local AAA’s telephone number, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.

– If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.

– Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.

– Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.

– Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.

– Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.

– If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

Tips for driving in the snow:

– Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.

– Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.

– The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.

– Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.

– Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.

– Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.

– Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

– Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

Read more at:

Gas prices below $2 a gallon for 1st time since ’09

Gasoline just keeps getting cheaper in Michigan, where the average pump price dropped Thursday to $1.97 a gallon — the lowest since March 2009.

Prices on New Year’s Day 2015 were down 13 cents in the past seven days, AAA Michigan said. Gas was 42% cheaper than it was one year ago, when the average price per gallon was $3.37.

“Gas prices continue to drop due to a significant decline in crude oil costs,” auto club spokeswoman Susan Hiltz said. “Crude oil represents about two-thirds of the cost of gasoline and is directly correlated with changes in gas prices.”

Dearborn-based AAA Michigan surveys fuel costs at 2,800 Michigan gas stations daily.

The latest price report marks a dramatic turnaround in gas prices. The statewide average peaked at $3.96 a gallon on June 16 before beginning a steady decline, according to the auto club. The national average also hit its 2014 high in June, reaching about $3.66 a gallon.

Nationwide, the average gas price was $2.24 a gallon Thursday, AAA said. It said drivers in the Midwest were paying the least for gas, while the most expensive prices in the contiguous 48 states were in the Northeast. Only Alaska at $3.09 and Hawaii at $3.53 a gallon averaged more than $3 this week.

If Michigan’s sub-$2 prices seem too good to last, they probably are, senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan with GasBuddy told the Detroit Free Press. But even as prices make their expected rise, they probably will remain under $3 a gallon through 2015, he said.

“This may be getting as close to as good as it gets,” said DeHaan.

As read on:

$2 Gas Is Back! Is That Good?

If you’ve been to a gas station in recent weeks, you know that fuel prices are low — crazy low. That seems like a good thing, but is it?

Yes and no.

According to AAA, today’s price for a gallon of unleaded regular averages $2.67. In some parts of the country, you can find it for $2.50, and even cheaper at discount stations. This time last month, the price was nearly 30 cents higher ($2.94), and a year ago, it was more than 75 cents higher ($3.27).

So, what’s the deal? There are a range of factors keeping fuel prices low, but two stick out:

1. We’re in the middle of “winter gas” season. “Winter gas” — technically, just “gas” — is easier to produce than “summer gas”, which is required by law to contain more additives so that it burns more cleanly and efficiently in hot weather. That makes winter gas comparatively cheap, but that’s just part of the explanation for today’s low fuel prices.

When refineries switch from one type of gas to the other, they scale back on the outgoing version to ensure that they can sell all of the inventory they have. Those slowdowns in production cause artificial shortages, which cause prices to spike — usually around May and September. Now, in December, we’re well into the cheaper winter gas season, and the summer gas changeover is a long way off, so prices are very low.

2. Oil production in the U.S. is booming. Thanks to new extraction techniques, the U.S. is experiencing a golden age of oil production. While we still depend on imported oil for some of our supply, the country now produces enough gas and diesel to be a net exporter.

That sounds like good news — and it is for some. For others, not so much.


Those who stand to benefit the most from low oil and gas prices are:

Consumers: As the U.S. economy continues to improve, inflation has begun creeping upward. Unfortunately, U.S. wages aren’t keeping pace, meaning that the money workers earn doesn’t go as far as it might. Low fuel prices give consumers a break, allowing them to focus their spending on food, mortgages, education, and the like. Some argue that cheap gas also slows auto sales by allowing owners of gas-guzzlers to keep their rides a bit longer, though there are people who disagree with that, including…

Makers of trucks and SUVs: Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and other makers of pickup trucks and large SUVs are doing bang-up business these days. That’s in part because the truck-loving construction sector is humming along, but also because consumers aren’t put off by the lackluster fuel economy most pickups and SUVs earn. (Though it bears mentioning that more fuel-efficient, car-based crossovers are also selling like hotcakes.)


Not everyone is happy about cheap gas, though:

Oil-producing states and countries: States that depends on oil for their revenue — either from producing the stuff or refining it — now find themselves in a bind. Soon, they’re likely to be forced to make painful budget cuts, trimming funds for schools, hospitals, and other important community resources. Farther afield, in countries that derive most of their income from oil, the situation is much worse. If things don’t change, low oil prices could destabilize entire nations, leading to humanitarian crises, mass emigrations, and in extreme cases, terrorism.

Eco-advocates: Campaigns for reduced auto pollution and greenhouse gas emissions work best when gas prices are on the upswing. With fuel prices so low, there’s little incentive for consumers to shell out the extra dough needed to buy hybrids like the Toyota Prius, much less all-electric models like the Tesla Model S.

Automakers: The Environmental Protection Agency has set strict guidelines on fuel economy and auto emissions leading up to the year 2025, and automakers are working hard to create fleets that can meet those standards. All that new technology comes at a premium, though, and low fuel prices mean that customers may be more inclined to shell out for less fuel-efficient models while they can. (Then again, who knows?)

Mother Nature: Low fuel prices typically translate into upticks in travel, meaning greater auto emissions. That means more air pollution and more greenhouse gases, which at the very least make breathing more difficult and at worst, increase global warming.


Like it or not, fuel prices aren’t likely to stay this low for long. Even if OPEC changes its mind and decides to scale back production, sending crude prices higher, we’ll soon reach the changeover to “summer gas”, which should cause prices at the pump to climb.

In other words: get now while the getting is good.

As read on: