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Auto Safety Tips

Safe Driving Guidelines

For your own safety and that of others, we encourage you to observe the
following guidelines as you drive:

  • Allow yourself sufficient time to drive to your intended destinations so that your good judgment is not undermined by haste and carelessness
  • Wear your seat belt
  • Obey all the traffic laws
  • Drive defensively, paying close attention to how other drivers are driving
  • Keep plenty of distance between you and other cars, especially the one just in front of you
  • Park in well-lit areas, preferable off the street keep your car appropriately serviced to avoid
  • Mechanical failure that could endanger you or others
Air Bag Safety

Air bags save thousands of lives each year, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In frontal crashes, air bags reduce deaths among drivers by about 30% and among passengers by 27%.

Air bags, however, can be dangerous. If small children sit unbelted in the front seat, they can be catapulted into the path of a deploying air bag, which inflates with great force. This risk also applies to small adults, who must sit close to the steering wheel to reach the pedals, pregnant women and the elderly. Infants in rear-facing safety seats on the passenger side can be severely injured because their heads are in the direct path of an inflating air bag. If your airbag is stolen or it deploys, you will be reimbursed under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy. (If your air bag deploys, you have to get a new one.)

Preventing air bag injuries

Drivers should have all children sit in the backseat wearing a safety belt. Infants should be placed in rear-facing car seats and put in the backseat. Small adults should move the seat back so that their breastbone is at least 10 inches from the air bag cover.

If this is not possible, air bag switches can be installed so that the vehicle owner has the option of turning the bag off or on, depending on the situation. In January 1998, NHTSA allowed auto dealers and repair shops to begin installing air bag cut-off switches. Before the switch can be installed, vehicle owners must complete a four-step process:
1. Obtain an information brochure and request form from NHTSA, dealerships or repair shops.

2. Return the form to NHTSA.

3. Receive authorization from NHTSA after it reviews the case.

4. Take the vehicle to the service shop along with the authorization from NHTSA which certifies that the owner has read the brochure and met one of the four eligibility classifications:

• rear-facing infant seat can be in the front (necessary if the vehicle has no back-seat)
• driver’s seat cannot be adjusted to keep more than 10 inches between the driver and the steering wheel
• putting a child 12 or under in the front seat can not be avoided
• having a medical condition that puts them at risk of injury when an air bag deploys.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Child Safety Seats

If you have children it’s important to make sure they are secured properly when you drive with them. They are almost always safer when riding in the back, in a car seat that is appropriate to their age and weight.
Using a car seat correctly can prevent injuries, but wrong usage is very common. Even a small mistake in how the seat is used can cause serious injury in a crash.

1. Never put an infant in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger air bag.

2. Route harness straps in lower slots at or below shoulder level.

3. Keep harness straps snug and fasten the clip at armpit level.

4. Make sure the straps lie flat and are not twisted.

5. Dress your baby in clothes that allow the straps to go between the legs. Adjust the straps to allow for the thickness of your childís clothes. Do not use bulky clothes that could increase slack in a crash.

6. To keep your newborn from slouching, pad the sides of the seat and between the crotch with rolled up up diapers or receiving blankets. If your childís head flops forward, the seat may not have reclined enough. Tilt the seat back until it is level by wedging firm padding such as a rolled towel, under the front of the base of the seat.

7. Put the car seat carrying handle down when in the car.

8. Infants must ride in the back seat facing the rear of the car. This offers the best protection for your infantís neck.

9. Recline the rear-facing seat at a 45-degree angle. A firmly rolled up towel under the car seat may help.

10. All new car seats are now required to come equipped with top tether straps. A tether strap is a belt that is attached to the car seat and bolted to the window ledge or the floor of the car. They give extra protection and keep the car seat from being thrown forward in a crash. Tether kits are also available for most older car seats. Check with the manufacturer to find out how to get a top tether for your seat. Install it according to instructions. The tether strap may help make some seats that are difficult to install fit more tightly.

Do not use a car seat that:

1. Is too old. Look on the label for the date it was made. If made before January 1981, the seat may not meet strict safety standards and its parts are too old to be safe. Some manufacturers recommend using seats for only 6 years.

2. Was ever in a crash. If so, it may have been weakened and should not be used, even if it looks all right.

3. Does not have a label with the date of manufacture and model number. Without these, you cannot check on recalls.

4. Does not come with instructions. You need them to know how to use the car seat. Do not rely on the former ownerís instructions. Get a copy of the manual from the manufacturer.

5. Has any cracks in the frame of the seat.

6. Is missing parts. Used seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.

To find out if your child safety seat has been recalled, you can call the Auto Safety Hotline at 888-DASH-2-DOT. If the seat has been recalled, be sure to follow the instructions to the recall or to get the necessary parts. You should also get a registration card for future recall notices from the Hotline.
To find out more information about infant or toddler car seats, go to the Web site of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at www.highwaysafety.org. Also check out the National SafeKids Campaign at www.safekids.org which offers a free Child Car Seat Locator which allows you to enter your childís age and weight, and get back a list of recommended car seats. Another good source of information on car seats is the American Academy of Pediatrics website at http://www.aap.org/family/ which offers a detailed shopping guide to car seats.

Is your child ready for a regular seat belt?

Keep your child in a car seat for as long as possible. When he or she is big enough, make sure that seat belts in your car fit your child correctly. The shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder, not the neck or throat. The lap belt must be low and flat across the hips, not the stomach. The childís knees should bend easily over the edge of the vehicle seat. Seat belts are made for adults. If the seat belt does not fit your child correctly, he or she should stay in a booster seat until the belt fits.

Other points to keep in mind when using seat belts:

1. Never tuck the shoulder belt under the childís arm or behind their back.

2. If only a lap belt is available, make sure it is worn tight and low on the hips, not across the stomach. Use lap belts only as a last resort. Try to get a lap-shoulder belt installed in your car if it doesnít already have one.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Shopping for a Safe Car

If youíre like most people shopping for a new car, safety ranks high among things you’re looking for. Every new car must meet certain federal safety standards, but that doesnít mean that all cars are equally safe. There are still important safety differences, and some vehicles are safer than others. Many automakers offer safety features beyond the required federal minimums. The following safety features should be considered when purchasing a car:

1. Crashworthiness 
These features reduce the risk of death or serious injury when a crash occurs. You can get a rating of crashworthiness from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safetyís website at http://www.highwaysafety.org.

2. Vehicle structural design 
A good structural design has a strong occupant compartment, known as the safety cage, as well as front and rear ends designed to buckle and bend in a crash to absorb the force of the crash. These crush zones should keep damage away from the safety cage because once the cage starts to collapse, the likelihood of injury increases rapidly.

3. Vehicle size and weight 
The laws of physics dictate that larger and heavier cars are safer than lighter and smaller ones. Small cars have twice as many occupant deaths each year as large cars. In crashes involving smaller and larger vehicles, heavier vehicles drive lighter ones backwards, decreasing the forces inside the heavier car and increasing them in the lighter car.

4. Restraint systems 
Belts, airbags and head restraints all work together with a vehicleís structure to protect people in serious crashes. Lap/shoulder belts hold you in place, reducing the chance youíll slam into something hard or get ejected from the crashing vehicle. If you arenít belted, youíll continue moving forward until something suddenly stops youóoften a hard interior surface that will injure you.

Shoulder belts are on inertia reels that allow upper body movement during normal driving but lock during hard braking or in a crash. Belt webbing is stored on the reel, and during a frontal crash any slack in the webbing can allow some forward movement of your upper body. Then you could strike the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. This problem is addressed in some cars with belt crash tensioners that activate early in a collision to reel in belt slack and prevent some of the forward movement.

Airbags and lap/shoulder belts together are very effective. However in some circumstances, inflating airbags cause serious injuries and even death. The greatest risk of injury from an inflating airbag is if youíre on top of, or very close to an airbag when it starts to inflate. Choose a car that allows you to reach the gas and brake pedals comfortably without sitting too close to the steering wheel. Some cars offer telescoping steering column adjustments that may help.

Side airbags are designed principally to protect your chest. They may also keep your head from hitting interior or intruding structures.

Head restraints are required in front seats of all new passenger cars to keep your head from being snapped back, injuring your neck in a rear-end crash. But there are big differences among head restraints. Some are adjustable, and others are fixed. They also vary in height and how far theyíre set back from the head. To prevent neck injury, a head restraint has to be directly behind and close to the back of your head. Look for cars that have this type of restraint. If the restraints are adjustable, maker sure they can be locked into place. Some donít lock, which means they can be pushed down in a crash.

5. Anti-lock brakes 
When you brake hard with conventional brakes, the wheels may lock and cause skidding and a lack of control. Anti-lock brakes pump brakes automatically many times a second to prevent lockup and allow you to keep control of the car. If you were trained to brake gently on slippery roads or pump your brakes to avoid a skid, you may have to unlearn these habits and use hard, continuous pressure to activate your antilock brakes. Anti-lock brakes may help you keep steering control, but they wonít necessarily help you stop more quickly.

6. Daytime running lights
The ignition switch activates these lights. They are typically high-beam headlights at reduced intensity or low-beam lights at full or reduced power. By increasing the contrast between vehicles and their backgrounds, making the vehicles more visible to oncoming drivers, these lights can prevent daytime accidents.

7. On the road experience
Other design characteristics can influence injury risk on the road. Some small utility vehicles and pickups are prone to rolling over. “High performance” cars typically have higher-than-average death rates because the drivers are tempted to use excessive speed. Combining a young driver and a high-performance car can be particularly dangerous.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Teenagers & Safe Cars

If your teenager has just gotten a driver’s license, it may be hard to imagine handing over the keys to your brand new car, but that may be the smartest vehicle to choose.

The first years teenagers spend as drivers are very risky. In fact, teen drivers have the highest death rates of any age group. In 1997 alone, more than 5,700 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes, and many more were left severely and permanently injured by crashes.
While getting a driver’s license is an exciting rite-of- passage for teens, it can be enough to make a parent frantic. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) say there’s something worried parents can do to protect their teens — choose a safe vehicle.

Avoid vehicles that encourage reckless driving. 
Teen drivers not only lack experience, but may also lack maturity. As a result, speeding and reckless driving is common.
Sports cars and other vehicles with high performance features, such as turbocharging, are likely to encourage speeding. Choosing a vehicle with a more sedate image reduces the chances your teen will be in a speed-related crash.

Don’t let your teen drive an unstable vehicle. 
Sport utility vehicles, especially the smaller ones, are inherently less stable than cars because of their higher centers of gravity. Abrupt steering maneuvers – the kind that can occur when teens are fooling around or over-correcting a driver error – can cause rollovers in these less stable vehicles. A more stable car would, at worst, skid or spin out.

Pick a vehicle that offers good crash protection.
Teenagers should drive vehicles that offer state-of-the-art protection in case they do crash.

Don’t let your teen drive a small vehicle. 
Small vehicles offer much less protection in crashes than larger ones. However, this doesn’t mean you should put your child in the largest vehicle you can find. Many mid- and full-size cars offer more than adequate crash protection. Check out the safety ratings for mid-size and larger cars.

Avoid older vehicles
Most of today’s cars are better designed for crash protection than cars of six to ten years ago. For example, a newer, mid-size car with airbags would be a better choice than an older, larger car without airbags. Before you make a final choice on the car your teenager will drive, consult the U.S. Department of Transportation ( http://www.dot.gov ) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( http://www.iihs.org ).

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Elderly Drivers

People 55 years or older are less likely to drive aggressively or too fast. Thatís the reason that most insurance companies offer discounts to drivers over 55.

Still, older drivers are likelier to have impaired hearing and slower reflexes, or to be using prescription drugs that might impair their reaction time. Older driversí eyesight deteriorates, so they need more light to see, are more sensitive to glare and have a narrower peripheral field of vision. So if you are having problems driving at night or in difficult conditions, use common sense and try to avoid driving when it is dangerous. If you drive when you are not physically able to do so safely, your insurance company may not renew your coverage. You may also want to take a defensive driving class designed for seniors. Inform your insurer that you have taken the class and you may be eligible for a discount on your insurance premium.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Driving in Bad Weather

Driving in bad weather is a major cause of accidents. When you are driving, particularly on a long trip, make sure to stay tuned to radio reports about weather conditions. If you hear that an ice storm, hurricane, tornado, flood, hail, or other severe weather is expected on the route you are taking or at your intended destination, change your travel plans. Whatever reason you have for going where you are going cannot be as important as saving your life.
If you are already in an area that is being hit by bad weather, donít try to drive your way out of it. Seek shelter for both you and your car and wait for the storm to pass.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Avoiding Deer / Car Collisions

The explosion in the deer population has lead to the increase in deer/car collisions. Losses due to deer and car encounters will only increase as the deer population continues to grow and urban habitats encroach upon rural environments.

According to the National Safety Council, in 2000, there were 490,000 animal-related accidents resulting in 100 deaths and 10,000 injuries.

Deer/auto collision cost about $2,000 per claim for repairs and injuries. However, costs could run as high as $8,000.

Defensive driving tips to avoid hitting a deer:

  • Be vigilant in early morning and evening hours, the most active time for deer.
  • Use your high-beam headlights.
  • Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path. Do not swerve. It can confuse the deer as to where to run. It can also cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.
  • Be alert and drive with caution when you are moving through a deer crossing zone.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in car/deer crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
  • Look for other deer after one has crossed the road. Deer seldom run alone.
    If your vehicle strikes a deer, do not touch the animal. The frightened animal, in attempting to move, could hurt you or itself. The best procedure is to get your car off the road, if possible, and call the police.

Contact your insurance agent or company representative to report any damage to your car. Collision with an animal is covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Cell Phones & Driving

Drivers who are distracted by talking on a cell phone or dialing numbers while they are driving are causing more and more accidents. Some municipalities have banned using cell phones while driving because it has caused such a major problem.
If you must talk while you drive, the safest way is to have a hands-free cell phone cradle installed in your car so you can speak while driving with two hands. Even so, remember to stay aware of what is going on around you on the road. Itís easy to get so engrossed in conversation that you miss exits or donít notice what other drivers are doing. Better yet, wait until you have arrived at your destination or pull over to the side of the road to begin your cell phone conversations.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Preventing Carjacking / Theft

Thousands of unsuspecting motorists are carjacked every year.

To minimize the danger of being carjacked:
1. Think of saving your life first. Only then, think of your car and what’s in it.
2. If another car bumps your car, stay inside with the windows shut and the door locked and drive to the nearest police or fire station.
3. Donít stop at isolated pay phones, cash machines or newspaper machines where you could become a carjacking victim.
4. Stay alert to people lurking near or moving toward your parked car.
5. Always keep the windows of your car shut and doors locked, whether youíre in or out of your car.
6. Park only in well-lighted areas.

To prevent your car from being stolen:
1. Keep your registration card in your wallet instead of your glove compartment.
2. Use paint or an indelible marker to put the vehicle identification number (VIN) under the engine hood and trunk lid and on the battery. This number is usually found on the dashboard on the driverís side of the car.
3. If you have to leave personal property in your car, leave it in the trunk.
4. Keep your car in a garage and lock the garage door.
5. Use a security device like a steering wheel lock or a gear shift column lock.
If your car is stolen, have the following information to give to the police: 1. Year, make, model and color of the car.
2. Approximate time the car was stolen.
3. Description of anyone you may have seen loitering around your car before it was stolen.
4. Names of any witnesses.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Car Breakdown Safety

If you are in an accident or your car breaks down, safety should be your first concern. Getting out of the car at a busy intersection or on a highway to change a tire or check damage from a fender bender is probably one of the worst things you can do. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) recommends the following precautions when your car breaks down:

1. Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine the damage on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe place before getting out. If you’ve been involved in an accident, motion the other driver to pull up to a safe spot ahead.
2. If you canít drive the vehicle, it may be safer to stay in the vehicle and wait for help or use a cell phone to summon help. Standing outside the vehicle in the flow of traffic, under most circumstances, is a bad idea.
3. Carry flares or triangles to use to mark your location once you get to the side of the road. Marking your vehicleís location to give other drivers advance warning of your location can be critical. Remember to put on your hazard lights!
4. In the case of a blowout or a flat tire, move the vehicle to a safer place before attempting a repairóeven if it means destroying the wheel getting there. The cost of a tire, rim or wheel is minor compared to endangering your safety.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

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