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Tag: road safety

Photo shows a bridge/walkway leading into downtown Austin, with cars driving by and several pedestrians enjoying the view.
Austin is beautiful to explore, but if you’re driving you might find yourself, instead, looking at someone else’s bumper.

Anyone who lives in the Central Texas area is no stranger to traffic and construction delays. Whether it’s construction, rush hour, or a wind turbine blade stuck in an intersection (yes, it’s real), traffic is all but guaranteed to be slow.

But just how slow? Texas A&M Transportation Institute has released their annual report on Texas roads for 2018, featuring the most congested roads in the state. Here are some of the highlights in Austin.

The cost of congestion

It’s apparent traffic is a problem when it makes us late to work, but it is also a problem for pollution and a waste of resources.

In Austin alone, the report found a cumulative delay of 66 million hours and 24 million gallons of wasted fuel. That’s about 37 olympic-pools-worth of gas.

Our time sitting in traffic also adds up – a commuter who spends 45 minutes a day commuting spends the equivalent of 15.6 days in the car per year. And that’s just for work travel, alone.

Worst roads

A google map of Austin with IH-35 highlighted from Ben White Boulevard to 290 N. The route shows red and orange in the downtown area.
This stretch of IH-35 was determined the most congested road in Austin for 2018. This is a Google Map from non-peak hours, which still shows a slowdown at Lady Bird Lake.

At the top of the list for Austin’s most congested roads is IH-35 from US 290 N to Ben White Blvd, where the annual delay per mile is 1.3 million hours. This is the span of IH-35 that goes from North Loop through downtown and south of Lady Bird Lake.

Anyone who has been through downtown could probably tell you it’s the worst stretch of traffic in the city, but the extent of its congestion is mind-blowing.

It is followed by the next segment of IH-35 south, from Ben White to Slaughter Lane, where the annual delay is nearly 500,000 hours per mile.

For freight-related traffic, IH-35 in Austin is also the most congested in the entire state.

Other congestion

Honorable road congestion mentions include:

  • google map of MoPac in Austin
    MoPac from Texas Loop 1 to Highway 183.

The problem

Texas A&M Transportation Institute has gathered this data since 2010 to measure traffic and monitor roadway volume and speed data, in order to reduce gridlock in the state.

The institute, along with many other sources, attribute a rising population with worsening road congestion across the state. A survey in 2016 found that 83 percent of Austinites are unhappy with our driving conditions in the city.

Many solutions have been attempted, and failed, and no feasible alternative has been proposed. Without a solution in sight, the best thing Austin drivers can do is shoot for non-peak hours to travel or use public transportation as much as possible.

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Photo shows the back of a hatchback car open, showing a fully-packed interior.
Before you pack up the car, take the time to do some regular maintenance checks.

Are you planning a weekend getaway, or visiting your family for the holidays? It can get complicated just to load the car up with the family just to go to the movies, let alone a long drive. And when you have a long drive, there are other concerns to address before hitting the road other than music and snacks.

This list is meant to cover all the ordinary checks you’ll want to do before an extended drive, to make sure you and your family are driving safe.

1. Check your dash and lights

Make sure there aren’t any warning lights on your dashboard. If there are, take your car to a mechanic to will check the on-board diagnostics with a scanning device. It works like a computer and reads if there’s anything wrong with the vehicle. This step will help you find out the causes behind the warning lights and how they can be fixed.

Check your headlights too. Turn them on and off to make sure they are all working. If not, head to your local auto parts store to buy some new bulbs. Being visible to other drivers is a key safety issue, and drivers who use their headlights all day have a decreased risk of being in an accident.

Also, if you haven’t driven the car recently, take it for a test drive on the freeway, listen for noises, feel for shakes, and watch for trouble signs in the gauges.

2. Tire Pressure and Tread

One hand holds a pressure dial while the other holds the other end into a car tire.
Tires are a major safety concern. Check tire pressure and tread before taking an extended drive.

Look in your car’s manual for the recommended tire pressure. People often think the numbers on the tire is pressure, but it’s the maximum amount the tire can hold. Overfilling the tire combined with hot weather can lead to a blowout.

Be sure to add the correct amount of air to your tires. Inspect the tread on your tires. Balding tires can increase your chance of a blowout and reduce traction.

3. Engine Oil and Coolant

Check your oil levels and the mileage you’re due for an oil change. If you’re nearing your mileage suggested for an oil change, go ahead and do so before you hit the road.

So be sure to check your coolant levels as well. You don’t want to be stranded with an overheated car.

4. Brakes 

Make sure to check your brake pads. If they squeal, or its been over 50,000 miles since you replaced your brakes, it’s a safe bet to just replace them before you get on the road.

You can also do a little at-home test looking at your brake pads through the spaces between the wheel’s spokes. The outside pad will be pressed against a metal rotor. There should be at least 1/4 inch of pad if you see less than that you may want to go ahead and replace them.

5. Transmission

A transmission is what changes the gear of an engine, and both your transmission and drive axle have their own lubricant. Check them before you get on the road. Look to your owner’s manual for guidance or take it to a local transmission shop for a quick refill.

6. Belt 

Most of cars have features that can’t run without the belt, like the alternator, water pump, power steering and even the air conditioning. You can easily check the belts by turning them sideways and making sure there are no rips or tears or by taking your car to a local auto parts store.

Get your belts changed out if the auto parts store recommends it. If you’re vehicle savvy, watch this video below on how to change them at home.

 

7. Battery

While it can be a bit difficult to spot if you have a good or bad battery, there are steps you can take to make sure there is a strong connection to the car’s electrical system.

Mix two tablespoons of baking soda in a clean container, use a toothbrush to clean your battery then wipe the mixture away.

8. Documents

Make sure your documents are up-to-date. Carry your insurance papers, registration, driver’s license, and any other vehicle information that might be helpful during your trip.

9. Emergency Kit

Image shows emergency kit items in front of yellow background, including a water bottle, gloves, and jumper cables.
An emergency kit can easily help you in what might be an otherwise dire situation. (Photo credit: Geico.com)

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Have an emergency kit with some essential items for if you get stranded or have car trouble.

A few things to think about include a few blankets, a bright flashlight, jumper cables, and some basic tools like a screwdriver or wrench.

Family road trips are a great way to bond and see parts of the world you’ve never been before. Make sure your car is ready to safely get you there and back. To find other great road trip tips follow us on Instagram.

Jumper cable clamps attached to a red battery.
Knowing how to jump a car can save time and get you back on the road.

Jump starting a car is something all car owners have to do at some point in their lives. Whether we left our headlights on overnight, or just need a new battery, it’s important to know how to start your car when it dies.

The good news is that the jumping part is pretty easy. The hard part is (often) finding another car to jump your own. But once you do, just follow these easy steps.

What you need:

The stalled car, a car with a working battery, and jump cables

Directions:

Step 1: Make sure both cars are turned off: So the cables can reach, you want the engines of both cars near each other, but NOT touching.

Step 2: Connect one end of the red (positive) cable to the positive terminal (POS or +) on the car battery stalled. Do the same with the working battery.

Step 3: Connect the end of the black (negative) cable to the negative terminal (NEG or -) of the working battery.

Step 4: Connect the other end of the black (negative) cable to an unpainted metal surface on the car with the bad battery. Do not connect to the negative terminal of the car with the bad battery. This could result in the battery exploding.

Step 5: Start the car that has the good battery. Let the engine run for a few minutes before starting the car with the dead battery. If the car doesn’t start, let it run for a while longer. It may help to rev the engine of the good-battery car a bit to give it a boost.

Step 6: When it starts, remove the cables in reverse order and let the jumped car run for some time to give the battery a chance to properly recharge.

If your car does not start, you likely need a new battery.

A small portable battery charger with a cassette-sized battery and two small clamps.
Some portable battery jumpers are extremely compact.

For safety on the highway, we recommend you using a portable battery jumper. The process typically the same as mentioned above, except you won’t have to rely on another car for battery recharge power. This way, even if there is not another car available, or a safe place for another car to stop and help, you can get back on the road quickly.

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Picture shows a dark road with only the pavement, reflective lane stripes and curve markers.
Limited visibility also comes with a shorter reaction time to prevent a crash. Avoid driving in the dark, if possible.

You’re driving home and tired. To keep yourself awake, you’re jamming to your favorite rock station, but not really paying attention to your surroundings.

All of a sudden, a deer pops out of nowhere, and you to swerve around him.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It is important for drivers to revisit night driving safety and avoid accidents in situations like this. Did you know that along with the increase of drunk drivers, the chances of an accident are three times greater at night than the daytime? Whether it is rush hour or a clear road, driving safely takes a lot more effort at night.

Check out these tips to help you drive through the night safely.

Graphic explains statistics of night driving.
We can all take steps to be safer drivers, especially at night.

1. Headlight control

Turn your headlights on at least an hour before sunset. Not only does it make it easier to see in the dark, it also helps other drivers see you in the dark. Be considerate to other drivers around you and avoid using your high beams when approaching or behind another vehicle.

2. Clean headlights

A before and after photo of a foggy-looking headlight and a clear one.
Cleaning your headlights regularly can make a big difference in night visibility.

Always keep your headlights clean. Make sure they work properly; otherwise replace the bulbs as soon as possible. Without working, clear headlights, there is a greater risk of getting into an accident as someone might not see you on the road.

3. Avoid distractions

It is already difficult to see in the dark, so we want to limit as many distractions as possible. Stay off your phone and pay attention to the road and surroundings. Avoid listening to loud music to hear the approaching traffic. Since it is harder to see at night, we must rely on our other senses for a safer drive.

4. Speed control

Road sign on the side of a flat Texas road shows a normal speed limit of 80mph and a night limit of 65mph.
Slowing down at night gives you more time to react to dangers on the road.

It is harder to see where we are driving in the night than the daytime, especially in the areas without street lamps. Always keep a safe distance from the car in front of you and avoid getting too close! Slowing down will also give you a better chance of stopping safely if a deer runs onto the road.

5. Stay up, be alert!

Continuously check all mirrors when driving for blind spots and any movements. Not only is it hard to see other motorists, it’s as difficult to see animals on the road. Avoid eating a heavy meal before driving to avoid drowsiness, and stay hydrated. If you need to take a break from driving, stop by a hospital. This is a safe area for a stop.

6. Beat the darkness

Try to leave earlier than later. When it is lighter, we are more awake and attentive to our surroundings than when we drive at night. Our vision is not compromised, and we avoid the greater risks of night driving. This will accommodate the possibility of city traffic and slow-downs as well, which may set us back to arriving several hours after dark.

We all have scary stories of driving at night. These tips can help avoid future situations and keep you safe. For more driving tips and car care, follow us on Twitter @ammcollisionctr.

Avoid a trip to the body shop this holiday season with safe travel tipsIt’s the season for family and friends to come together and enjoy time with one another. This can mean travelling by car, along with many others who will head out on the highways and roads. Increased traffic on the roads means greater chance of an accident. here are a few safety tips to stay on the road and out of the body shop.

Be patient

Always have patience in traffic. It helps to leave early for your destination so you don’t feel rushed. Speeding on the road increases your chance of an accident, and puts others in danger too. Take your time and enjoy the ride. Don’t make the experience of the road trip more stressful than necessary.

Get a good night’s rest

Never take a road trip while drowsy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 72,000 accidents nationwide are caused by drowsy drivers.

If you do travel overnight, consider traveling a short distance and then stopping for a rest break. Do not drive if you’re having trouble focusing on the road. If that is the case, pull over somewhere you feel safe and take a break. Well-lit grocery stores, shopping centers and even casinos often have lit and monitored parking lots where no one will bother you.

Monitor the roads and weather

A white SUV drives through snowy weather on a two-lane road. Snow is falling and is on the trees and ground.
Monitor the weather in the weeks before your trip. If there is predicted to be snow or hazardous driving weather, you may want to adjust your plans to make sure you get to your destination safely.

Prior to leaving for your road trip, take a look at the road and weather conditions to determine if you might encounter any hazardous weather. Pay attention to travel warnings, and if it is unsafe for driving, wait until the conditions improve. Follow this same step on the return home.

If you do not feel comfortable driving in specific weather condition, like snow, look for alternate methods of travel or different routes so you can avoid having an accident.

Watch your surroundings

Accidents can happen on residential roads, rural roads, and major freeways. No matter the time of day, pay close attention to everything around you while driving. If you are on a busy freeway, pay attention to other cars and anything on the road. When a route takes you down a wooded area, watch for animals that could dart in front of your car. Watch out for children riding bikes or playing on the road residential areas.

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