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Top Tips to Keep Yourself Safe While Winter Driving

Winter-DrivingIt is hard enough to drive when the weather is fine and the road is dry. What more when the weather is severe, snow and ice are blanketing the road, and your windshield is fogged.

Winter driving posts a lot of risks to drivers and their passengers. The slick road coupled with freezing temperature and damp darkness outside make it difficult to have complete control over your vehicle. One wrong move can result to a deadly accident.

While the best way to avoid such fate is to keep yourself at home, there are cases when you need to take your car out to attend to some important matters. In such case, you can use some reminders to keep yourself safe while driving this winter. Here are some tips to keep you in control.

Equip yourself and your car before leaving

Prior to hitting the road, ensure your car is in peak operating condition. Make sure its battery, lights and brakes are working and its tires are well inflated. There should also be ample amount of anti-freeze and windshield washer fluid.

Aside from the mechanical equipment of your vehicle, do not forget to prepare an emergency kit that you can use when disaster hits. Keep things such as flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, flares as well as basic repair tools in your trunk. You should also pack your own winter gear, which includes warm clothes, gloves, hats as well as sunglasses to keep your eyes protected against the sun’s glare off the snow and ice.

Drive with added care

Even if your car is already equipped with devices like special tires, chains, fog lights and defroster, none of these things will assure your safety on the road. So the best thing you can do to is drive with added care when the roads are slippery. Prevent skids from happening by driving slowly and avoiding abrupt braking, turning or acceleration. Remember, any sudden move or quick change of direction is an invitation to skid that could end up in a crash.

It is also important not to use cruise control while winter driving. While this system can help your leg from getting fatigued, especially on long trips, it can be unsafe on winter conditions as it can cause your vehicle’s wheels to spin rapidly when they hit ice or snow. When that happens, it is more likely that you will lose control of your car.

Avoid tailgating

Always keep a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. While it is tempting to close the gap when the driver in front of you is moving too slow on the freeway, do not do it. Tailgating usually ends up in accidents, especially on busy roads. If the car in front of you abruptly stops and you are close behind, it is not just a fender-bender that you have to deal with. On a snow- or ice-covered road, that could result to uncontrolled skidding that can cause collision with other vehicles. For sure, that is the last thing you want to happen, so keep your head cool and maintain good distance.

Do not drive when you are fatigued or just stay home

No matter how good a driver you are, never drive when you are exhausted. Get some rest before driving so as to avoid the risks.

If you are already on a trip or maybe you are just about to leave and the weather got worse and you feel it is no longer safe to drive, stay put. If you are on the road, pull over on a safe spot and stay inside your vehicle. It provides good temporary shelter and will make it easier for rescuers to locate you when you get stuck. If you are still at home, your best bet is to put off the trip altogether.

Photo credit:  Falk Lademann / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



US Auto Industry Registers Highest November Auto Sales Since 2003

Chrysler-LogoThe US auto industry continues to regain its footing after the recession, and this is apparent from the healthy November auto sales reported by the country’s six top automakers, shattering early expectations from analysts.

According to Autodata Corp, the auto industry’s November annualized sales rate is about 17.2 million units. This is its highest since 2003 and is well above the 16.7 million units that were earlier estimated by 41 of the industry economists and analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

November auto sales reached 1.3 million, 4.5 percent higher from the same period last year and higher than the 1.27 million expected by analysts.

Leading the pack for November’s high sales is Chrysler Group LLC, registering a sales jump of 20.1 percent. The automaker’s Chrysler, Jeep and Ram truck brands have shown double-digit sales gains, while its Dodge and Fiat brands register an increase of one percent from a year ago.

Following Chrylser’s lead are General Motors gaining 6.5 percent; Honda rises 4.6 percent; Volkswagen goes up by 9 percent, while Toyota Motor Corp is up by 3 percent. Both Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. report slight declines of 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. Despite the declines, though, the two automakers still bested analysts’ expectations.

Sustained demand for vehicles is attributed to healthy economy, increased discounts and lower gasoline prices. However, these are not the only factors at work. GM spokesman Jim Cain also cited that improving consumer confidence, increased wages and decreasing unemployment rate are also at play in helping the entire market.

Black Friday and holiday promotions have also driven more shoppers into showrooms across the country. John Krafcik, president of TrueCar, pointed out that Black Friday has been traditionally the start of the year’s high selling season and that season started earlier for this year.

According to Kelly Blue Book’s Karl Brauer, the demand for vehicles will likely continue unless there is a major shift in economic stability.

Other automakers are expected to release their November sales later on Tuesday.

Photo credit: EvinDC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



AT&T Survey: A Lot of Americans are Addicted to Texting While Driving

Texting-and-DrivingAlmost everyone agrees that texting while driving is dangerous. Despite knowing this, though, a lot of American drivers still cannot shake off the habit, and has even become an addiction for some, a recent AT&T survey reveals.

According to David Greenfield, “technology addiction” expert and head of the “It Can Wait Compulsion Survey” by the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and commissioned by AT&T, people compulsively check their mobile phones because each time they receive an update via text, email or social media the dopamine in their brains increases and such neurochemical is known to make people happy.

In the national survey that was fielded from May 20-28 this year and participated by 1,004 respondents between the ages of 16 and 65, almost three-fourths (74%) of the respondents said they did some form of texting-related activities while driving.

The highest percentage (66%) of texting-while-driving-related activity was reading a text message while stopped at a red light or stop sign. This is followed by glancing at the phone while stopped at a red light to check if there are incoming messages, and sending a text message while at stoplights or stop sign, which both tied at 49%. Reading a text while driving came in at third with 43% of the respondents saying they did this activity while behind the wheel.

One of the main reasons a lot of drivers engage in texting while driving is to stay connected with their family, friends, work, etc. Many of the respondents also said they do it because they are used to being connected to their phones that it has turned into a habit to use the device in their car.

The survey is not all bad news, though. Majority of the drivers who have downloaded a type of app designed to prevent texting while driving mentioned that they find it effective. And drivers who engage in texting and driving are most likely to have taken an action to end the habit, and they feel good about the action they took.

AT&T is using the study to promote “ItCanWait,” a public service campaign that educates drivers about the dangers of texting and driving. The telecommunications company is also using it to encourage drivers to use their new DriveMode app, which automatically turns on when the phone is moving faster than 15 mph and turns off when it senses the movement has stopped. It also silences text messages and automatically sends replies to incoming texts, informing the sender that the recipient is behind the wheel. Parents of young drivers are also alerted if their kids turn the app off.

It has long been known that mobile communications significantly increases distracted driving that can end into injury or loss of life. Surveys like the one mentioned above is helpful in identifying key solutions to preventing problems that endangers both life and property.

Photo credit: Jason Weaver / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



Caring for Your Car This Winter

Car-and-SnowWinter can be especially harsh for your car. The cold temperatures, snow and moist this season brings can zap the life out of your vehicle, resulting to costly repairs. For sure, the last thing you want is to get stranded in the middle of the street on a cold winter day, desperately waiting for somebody to rescue you. To avoid such nightmare and save yourself significant amount of cash, here are some winter car care tips you should implement now.

Wax it good. To protect your car’s finish, give its entire body some good waxing. This will also help the snow to slide off easily for faster cleaning.

Pay your technician a visit. If your car is due for a tune-up, be sure to do so early on this winter to avoid existing problems, such as pings, slow performance and hard starts, from getting worse. Have the technician check the belts and hoses to see if they need replacements as well as the battery and charging system, making sure they are not corroded. It is also a good idea to have the oil changed to a lighter weight to keep your vehicle’s parts well lubricated.

Additionally, let the technician look at your car’s brakes and lights to ensure they are working properly and exhaust system to know if there are carbon monoxide leaks. The latter problem is hazardous when driving during winter when windows are closed.

Keep an eye out on the tires. Worn tires can be especially dangerous during winter as they can lead to road accidents. So if yours is due for replacement, do not wait out until the temperatures hit their lowest. Also, ensure they are properly inflated to get better fuel economy and fend off flat tires. If you live in an area where snowfall is significant, having snow tires is a good investment.

Take note of the fluids. Your car’s fluids play an integral role in keeping it in good running condition. Unfortunately, some of them can be affected by cold temperatures. Take the time to inspect the cooling system of your car. If there is too much water in it and not enough anti-freeze, it can get stuck up due to freezing temperatures, which can eventually result to engine-related breakdown. Also, do not allow the gas tank to drop below the halfway mark to prevent the gas lines from freezing. Equally important is to top up your windshield washer fluid with winter fluid.

Regularly wash your car. To keep grime, de-icing chemicals and salt off your car, give it a good wash at least every 10 days. If you need to wash your car but it is cold outside, watch out for the door lock mechanisms as they can get wet, which can result for the locks to freeze. To avoid that, spray graphite into the slot and push your key in until the graphite is deep into the slot.

Always have an emergency kit. Even if you have completely checked your car, you can never tell when disaster will strike. As such, it always pays to be prepared. Keep an emergency kit in place, which includes your own winter gear (ex. hats, gloves, jacket, etc.), jumper cables, flashlight, flares and basic tools.

Photo credit: Sergey Rodovnichenko / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0



Auto Loan Delinquency Rate, Debt on the Rise, TransUnion Reports

Auto-Loan-Delinquency-1A data released by TransUnion on Monday revealed that Americans are taking out more money to pay for their vehicles, but at the same time are increasingly having difficulty settling their car debts.

In the said report, it was shown that the auto loan delinquency rate–ratio of borrowers who have been delinquent on their auto loans for 60 days or more–among Americans has grown to nearly 13 percent in the last year, bringing 2014’s third quarter record to 1.16 percent. This is higher compared to the 1.02 percent recorded in the third quarter of 2013.

On a similar note, auto loan debt rate also surged for the 14th consecutive quarter to $17,352 from last year’s $16,694. Among the cities that saw about five percent increase in yearly auto loan debt are Phoenix, Atlanta and Chicago.

Hawaii and Oklahoma are the only two states where auto delinquency rates have not increased between the third quarters of 2013 and 2014. The biggest number of delinquencies occurred in the states of Nebraska, South Carolina and New Mexico.

TransUnion also found that auto loan delinquency rates have grown across all age groups. Surprisingly, younger Americans, and not millenials, are having the most trouble paying their car loans, with the age group 30 to 39 recording the highest percentage of delinquency rate. This is closely followed by individuals under the age of 30, who saw the highest increase in delinquency rate from last year.

Despite the uptick in auto loan delinquencies, Peter Turek, TransUnion’s automotive vice president, said that the rate is still well below the rates that were recorded a few years back. He also noted that such increase in delinquency rate is not unusual given that about 5 million auto loan accounts have been recorded this year and sales in this sector are not weakening.

Turek also believes that as long as delinquency rates stick around one percent, there will not be a material change in auto lending strategies.

The data from TransUnion’s analysis are gathered through the firm’s proprietary Industry Insights Report (IIR), which summarizes the US consumer lending industry’s data, trends and perspectives in a quarterly basis. The report is also based from anonymous credit data of credit-active consumers in the US.

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