HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all!
The Ford Motor Company has thoughtfully prepared the Top Ten New Year's Resolutions for Drivers, to save you the time of coming up with them yourself.
So I thought I'd relay them on to you here (I've edited out the obvious Ford marketing components...)
Now these came from Ford's American Head Office, so they might not be 100 percent applicable to Canadians. For example, on average no more than seven percent of us need to worry about Number 1.
My additions are in italics and enclosed in [square brackets] like this.
1. Click it – even when you’re not worried about a ticket. Always buckle that safety belt – no exceptions. In 2009 alone, the use of safety belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 12,700 lives in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Isn’t that statistic alone worth taking that extra two seconds to click on the belt when you travel – and make sure your passengers do, too?
2. Keep your eyes on the road ― not on your cell phone. Avoid unnecessary distractions. According to a 100-car study conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, driver inattention that may involve looking away from the road for more than a few seconds is a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents. That means no texting – no message is that important! [Remember too that talking hands-free on your cell-phone is no safer than talking hand-held, because it's lack of mental engagement, not reduced manual dexterity, that's the issue here. In fact, some research suggests that hands-free may be even more dangerous because the false sense of security hands-free provides may encourage people to talk more.]
3. Read a good book – like your owner’s manual. You know the one; it’s been languishing in your glove compartment. Reading through it will give you some valuable safety information and could even save you some money. For instance, many new car owners might be surprised to find out they don’t need those oil changes every 5,000 km or so like they used to. Many new cars allow 15,000 km or so between oil changes.
4. Scrape that ice, ice baby! On wintry mornings, don’t be one of those people trying to negotiate the roads peering through a tiny hole of visibility in the windshield. That’s just plain dangerous. Leave an additional 5-10 minutes of time in the morning to scrape the snow and ice from your car and give your defroster a chance to do its job. [And don't idle your car while you're scraping!]
5. Find out how technology is working to keep you safer. Today’s vehicles are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that can help keep you safer – but it always helps if drivers better understand these features. Take your anti-lock-brake system, for example. Many of us grew up being told to pump the brakes when we hit a patch of ice. That’s not the right technique with four-wheel ABS technology. With ABS, pumping the brakes turns the anti-lock brake system on and off, which decreases braking efficiency and increases your stopping distance. ABS pumps the brakes automatically at a much faster rate than you could do it manually and allows better steering control.
6. Learn how to parallel park – or buy a car that does it for you. Many of us dread the experience of learning to parallel park. Even after years of driving, some still hesitate, faced with the prospect of blocking traffic while negotiating our way into a street-side space. Ford collaborated on a nine-month research project with the MIT New England University Transportation Center that evaluated stressful driving activities – and parallel parking ranked highest. So let this year be the year you master the art of parallel parking – or let technology help. Several mostly high-end cars are equipped with auto-park technology which essentially parks the car for you. In a good example of technology trickle-down, this is moving down the price scale too; the up-coming new Ford Focus will be the first car in its class to offer it. It eliminates much of the stress of parallel parking, and MIT researchers say reducing stress can make us better drivers.
7. Listen to your mother – sit up straight. Make sure your seat and headrest are adjusted correctly in your vehicle to give you the optimum support. Your legs shouldn’t be overstretched to reach the pedals [your arms likewise!]. You should be able to glance up and out at your mirrors with ease [and crank your side-view mirrors much further out than you were probably taught to eliminate the blind spots].
8. Check your pressure on all four tires – and the spare. Don’t confuse the “maximum tire pressure” written on the sidewall of the tire with the “recommended tire pressure” provided by the manufacturer – that’s found in that handy owner’s manual you’ve resolved to read, and on a sticker conveniently located on the driver’s-side door jamb. Also, show your spare you care by storing it in the trunk, where it will return the favour by getting you out of a jam should one of your tires spring a leak.
9. Take a cue from the Boy Scouts ― Be Prepared. You never know what cold weather will bring, so make sure you’re carrying the essentials in case you get stuck or stranded. We recommend your list include water, blankets, granola bars or beef jerky, a few road flares, a good flashlight (and extra batteries), jumper cables, and a bag of kitty litter for traction if you’re stuck in snow.
10. 4, 3, 2... If you’re counting down to the New Year – stop right here. Remember the two-second rule. The vehicle in front of you should be passing a road marker two seconds before you to assure you’re not tailgating. Some drivers’ manuals even recommend a three-second rule [so do I, although I understand that it is difficult to do in heavy traffic]. Remember, the New Year’s goal is to get acquainted with YOUR car, not the one in front of you!
So, let's all be safe out there.