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Cars  Driving  Travel  Vehicles 
DRIVING
Also see: DRIVER'S LICENSE, FLAT TIRES, PASSENGERS, VEHICLES
- Approx. 50,000 people are killed each year in the U.S. in traffic accidents
- Approx. 17,000 people are killed each year in the U.S. by drunk drivers
- Approx. 200 people are killed each year in the U.S. due to glare

Well before driving:
____ Get a car or cell phone (preferably a hands-free system if you expect to use it while you're driving) - so you can call for help if you have a flat tire, run out of gas, etc.
If you have a car phone:
____ Store frequently-called numbers - to minimize distractions while driving

____ Put in the vehicle:
          - Two wheel chocks to put behind and in front of tire opposite a flat tire - to prevent vehicle rolling while on a jack
          - Jack
          - Flares
          - First aid kid
          - Dramamine or Bonine
          - Jumper cables
          - Bright rag to hang from antenna if car breaks down
          - Toilet tissue
          - Water - for radiator and/or drinking
          - Flashlight(s), extra batteries
          - Portable 'potty' seat
          - Tools, e.g., screwdrivers, wrenches
          - Tire gage

____ Install a kill switch - to deter theft
____ Install a homing device - to help recover vehicle if stolen
____ Have the vehicle identification number (VIN) etched on windows - to deter theft

____ Have your exhaust system checked - to ensure there are no leaks which could pose a danger to occupants of the vehicle

If your dashboard is light-colored:
____ Install a dashboard cover which is dark-colored - to reduce glare

____ Obtain maps (e.g., mapquest.com)

If you drink alcohol:
____ Ensure you don't drink alcohol for at least approx. 12 hours before driving

Loading/packing vehicle:
____ Put following in trunk:
          - Camera
          - Valuables (e.g. cameras) - so they won't be visible during stops

If you're planning to take a pet:
____ Consider keeping dog or cat in kennel during trip
Take:
____ Food
____ Dish(es)
____ Leash
____ ID tag(s)

Shortly before driving:
____ Don't drive if you've consumed alcohol within approx. the last 12 hours and/or you still feel affected by alcohol

Before walking to your vehicle:
____ Have your vehicle keys ready

While walking to your vehicle:
____ Be aware of your surroundings (look for potential attackers)

____ Check tire pressure - underinflated tires are more likely to have a blowout, wear out more quickly, etc.
____ Ensure windshield clean - to reduce dangerous glare which can significantly obstruct your view

Passengers:
____ Ensure driver hasn't been drinking alcohol within the last approx. 12 hours
____ Take medication (e.g., Dramamine, Bonine) if you might get car sick

Right before driving:
____ Remember that even hitting a child at a slow speed can kill or seriously injure them
____ Remember that many kids don't watch for vehicles as well as they should
____ Remember that many people, and especially kids, have a false sense of security when using a crosswalk
____ Remember that it's up to you to drive carefully and watch for people, especially in crosswalks, to ensure you don't hit anyone
____ Roll window(s) down, at least partway, and keep radio turned down - so you can hear children, safety patrol whistles, etc.
____ Be aware that there are significant penalties for failing to give way to people in a crosswalk

____ Don't drive if you've consumed alcohol within approx. the last 12 hours and/or you still feel affected by alcohol

____ Don't carry a gas can in the trunk

____ Check gas level
If low on gas:
____ Put something on dashboard to remind you to get gas

To prepare for possible glare which can keep you from seeing other vehicles, traffic lights, etc.:
____ Ensure windshield is clean
____ Clear papers, etc. from top of dashboard
____ Put a dark towel, etc. on top of the dashboard (if the dashboard is a light color)
____ Have sunglasses available

____ Remind yourself:
If vehicle accelerates suddenly, even though you are pressing the brake pedal:
____ Turn off ignition
____ Try to take vehicle out of gear

____ Avoid having children under 12 sit in the front seat, especially if there's a passenger-side air bag - children are more likely to be injured in a crash if they're sitting in the front
____ Ensure all passengers have buckled their seat belts
____ Buckle your seat belt
____ Adjust all mirrors

If you have a pickup truck with a camper shell or a station wagon and people will be riding in the back:
____ Be aware that carbon monoxide can kill people
____ Be aware that carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless
____ Be aware that, especially in older vehicles, carbon monoxide can leak into the rear of the vehicle due to a leaky exhaust system and/or holes in the floorboard
____ Have the exhaust system and floorboards checked by a mechanic for leaks
____ Don't let children sleep in a camper shell in the back of a pick-up truck while engine is operating
____ Close windows in the back - an open window in the back can draw in carbon monoxide fumes from the exhaust which can be fatal

If vehicle won't start:
____ Be aware that if the battery is dead, trying to jump start it using another battery could damage the vehicle's computer system, especially in newer vehicles - it safer to disconnect it and have it recharged
____ Check your owner's manual for proper procedures for jump starting using cables

WHILE DRIVING:
Always:

____ Drive slow enough so that you can stop in time if a child runs across the street
____ Look for places from which children could dart into the street, e.g., from behind a parked vehicle
____ Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front in case the vehicle in front stops suddenly (some recommend one vehicle length for each 10 mph, or, ensure approx. two seconds elapses between the time the vehicle ahead passes something (e.g., an overpass) and the time you pass the same thing) - it takes a long time for you to see the vehicle ahead slowing down and react to it - some criminals intentionally suddenly stop their vehicle so you'll hit them and they can collect insurance money - women and elderly drivers are the most common targets
____ Keep both hands on the steering wheel, especially when you might need to turn suddenly, e.g., when other vehicles are nearby
____ Watch for drivers who have their headlights off at night - they could be drunk
____ Be wary of drivers who drive below the speed limit or tailgate - they could be drunk
____ Stay clear of drivers who weave across the road - they could be drunk

If you see a driver who you believe may be drunk:
____ Avoid passing them if feasible - drunk drivers often swerve unpredictably
____ Stay a safe distance behind them
____ Immediately call the Highway Patrol using your cell phone

REGULARLY:
If there are two or more lanes for your direction of travel:
____ Avoid having vehicles right next to you - so you have a place to go if in danger of hitting a vehicle, etc. ahead or being hit by a vehicle (e.g., from other side or behind)

If you want to make a cell phone call:
____ Pull over in a safe location, if feasible - one study found that people using cell phones while driving were 11 times more likely to die in a car crash - using a cell phone while driving may make your 4 times more likely to be in a car crash (similar to the increased risk if you drive drunk) - men tend to speed and swerve while using a cell phone while driving and are much more likely to be in a crash and be killed - women tend to be less attentive while using a cell phone while driving and are much more likely to be in a crash and be injured
If not feasible to pull over:
____ Use speed dialing function to dial frequently-called numbers or ask a passenger to dial for you

If you have passengers sleeping in the back, especially if you have a pickup truck with a camper shell or a station wagon:
____ Stop if necessary to ensure they're okay, e.g., not being affected by carbon monoxide fumes from exhaust

If glare (especially after sunrise and before sunset)might keep you from seeing other vehicles, pedestrians, traffic lights, etc.:
____ Slow down
____ Clear papers, etc. from top of dashboard

If glare might keep oncoming vehicles from seeing you:
____ Turn on your headlights
____ Slow down

If on an undivided highway:
____ Stay to the right side of your lane (to avoid oncoming traffic)

Approaching a crosswalk:
____ Slow down
____ Look for people waiting to cross
If people are waiting to cross:
____ Stop
____ Ensure no other vehicles are passing you
If other vehicles start to pass you while people are crossing the street:
____ Put your arm out your window
____ Wave the people across
After everyone has completely crossed the street:
____ Continue driving

GAS STATIONS:
Before lifting the pump handle:
____ Ensure nothing dangerous has been attached to the handle - there are reports of needles with HIV-positive blood on them being placed on pump handles
If you are filling a gas can:
Before taking off the cap of the can - to avoid an explosion due to static electricity igniting gas fumes:

____ Touch the can to the ground
____ Touch the gas pump nozzle to the can

While putting gas in your vehicle:
____ Stand upwind

____ Check the oil level
____ Check tire pressure with a gage (refer to the owner's manual, not the side of the tire, for the proper pressure)

PARKING:
If you're parking in a parking lot:

____ Choose a well-lit area, close to populated area - to reduce risk of being attacked or having vehicle stolen
____ Avoid parking next to things or areas which could conceal attackers e.g., walls, vans, bushes, etc.
____ Consider backing your vehicle into your parking spot - to enable you to leave quickly if approached by a potential attacker
____ Turn wheels towards curb - to deter theft
____ Lock doors
____ Roll up windows

After parking:
____ Install steering wheel lock
____ Check under vehicle for leaks
____ Ensure vehicle is locked - to prevent theft - to prevent kids from getting into vehicle and activating garage door opener
____ Activate security systems

FLAT TIRE:
If you have a flat tire:

____ Stop in a safe, well-lit area
____ Put flashers on
____ Consider putting reflective triangles and/or flares behind your vehicle to warn approaching drivers
If you can't change the tire yourself:
____ Lock your doors
____ Roll up your windows
If someone stops and offers to help:
____ Show them that you have a cell phone
____ Don't get in the car with anyone
____ Don't let them change your tire
____ Wait for police to come
____ Ask them to send help

If you can change the tire yourself:
____ Put chocks behind and in front of the tire at the opposite corner of the vehicle from the flat tire
____ Have someone watch approaching traffic - to warn you of drivers who don't see you and might hit you
____ For most vehicles, place notch at top of jack directly under notch under side of vehicle between flat tire and middle of vehicle
____ Operate jack until notch at top of jack just touches the notch on the vehicle
____ Loosen all lug nuts on the wheel with the flat tire - reduces risk of tipping vehicle off the jack
____ Operate the jack to raise the vehicle until the flat tire is off the ground
____ Remove lugs nuts
____ Remove the flat tire/wheel
____ If necessary, operate jack to raise vehicle enough to put on the replacement wheel
____ Tighten one lug nut hand tight (wait until tire touches ground before tightening further - reduces risk of tipping vehicle off the jack)
____ Tighten hand tight one of the lug nuts opposite the first nut
____ Repeat until all nuts are hand tight
____ Operate jack to lower vehicle
____ Tighten one nut with wrench
____ Tighten one of the nuts opposite the first nut
____ Repeat until all nuts are tight
____ Get flat tire fixed

TRIPS:
Before:

____ Have car serviced by a mechanic
____ Check fluid levels (coolant, windshield washer, etc)
____ Check operation of headlights, tailights, turn signals, etc.

Take:
____ Aspirin
____ Cooler with cold sodas, etc.
____ Snacks
____ Extra car keys

Back to Top
VEHICLES
Also see: DRIVING, RENTING




BUYING/LEASING:
Well before buying or leasing:

____ Review this entire checklist before acting
____ Plan to never buy or lease on your first visit to a dealer

If you're considering leasing:
____ Be aware that leasing almost always costs much more than buying
____ Be aware that vehicle dealers often try to convince you to lease instead of buy - dealers usually make much more money from leasing
____ Try to deal with an established company
____ Consider first negotiating with the dealer for the cost of buying, then compare the dealer's best price with the capitalized cost of leasing
____ Ask the dealer for the capitalized cost - will give you an idea of the total cost of leasing
____ Get the effective interest rate from the dealer
____ Plan to get gap insurance (you might be able to get it free)

Deciding what kind of vehicle to buy/lease:
____ Decide whether to buy/lease a new or used vehicle:
          - Be aware that the value of a new vehicle drops significantly as soon as you drive it off the lot
          - Be aware that a used vehicle may have been involved in a serious accident and the title altered to hide that fact

Deciding whether to buy from a private individual or from a dealer:
____ Be aware that if you buy from a private individual, there's probably less chance of getting your money back if vehicle has problems

For safety info on most vehicles:
____ Check the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration web site

Model:
____ Consider a model which is less likely to be stolen

Color:
____ Choose a color which makes the vehicle easier to see by other drivers - to reduce risk of a collison
____ Choose a color which is less likely to be stolen - red cars are said to be the most likely to be stolen

Features/options to consider getting:
____ Cameras which allow you to see blind spots
____ Fire alarm system under hood
____ 'Black box' to record data for accident reconstruction
____ Strengthened seat backs - normal seat backs can collapse when vehicle is hit from behind with speed differential as low as 20 mph - over 1000 people are killed in US each year in rear end crashes, many involving seat back failure, causing fatal injury from that collision or causing driver to lose control of the vehicle and hit oncoming traffic, objects, etc. - available in Mercedes, Volvo and some BMW and Ferrari models)
____ Tinted windows - may improve visibility in bright conditions - may reduce risk of skin cancer

Before deciding whether to buy/lease a specific vehicle:
____ Inspect vehicle for indications that it was involved in a serious accident, e.g.:
          - Part(s) painted to match rest of vehicle
____ Have vehicle looked at by a dealer who handles that type of vehicle
____ Have mechanical and structural condition of vehicle checked, e.g., by your mechanic:
          - Ensure vehicle hasn't been involved in a serious accident
____ Check the title for an indication that the vehicle was involved in an accident (most titles will indicate "salvage" or "rebuilt" if the vehicle was involved in an serious accident)
____ Conduct, or have conducted, a search of records for the vehicle's history, including serious accidents

When you think you might be ready to close a deal to buy or lease from a dealer:
____ Be aware that you'll probably get a better deal on a vehicle if the dealer has a significant number of the model on the lot
____ Plan to visit dealers near the end of the month - they may be more motivated to close a deal with you to met their monthly sales or lesing targets
____ Visit the dealer late in the day - it might speed up the negotiations since the staff will probably be anxious to go home on time

When negotiating for the best price:
____ Ask if there's a rebate available on any of the vehicles you're interested in
____ Let the dealer's staff know you're not in a hurry
Once you think you have their best price:
____ Get it in writing
____ Take the written offer to at least two other dealers to see if they will beat it

After deciding to lease a vehicle:
____ Ensure up-front deposits are deducted from the total cost
____ Read the lease agreement carefully
____ Ensure the final cost is clearly stated on the lease agreement
____ Ensure the dealer doesn't charge you for things which should have already been included in the estimated monthly lease payments, e.g., gap insurance, taxes

Cleaning your vehicle:
____ Have car washed at a car wash which recycles the water and disposes of dirty water properly, e.g., not in storm drains
____ Avoid cleaning top of dashboard with any cleaner which leaves a gloss - to reduce dangerous glare in sunny weather which can obstruct view

Regularly:
____ Clean windshield - to reduce dangerous glare in sunny weather which can obstruct view

Items to keep in your vehicle:
____ Jack and wrench to operate it
____ Breaker bar (also known as a four-way) - to loosen lug nuts
____ Spare tire (properly inflated)
____ Booster cables - to help start a vehicle with a weak battery
____ Tire inflator (can)
____ Fire extinquisher
____ Roll of electrical tape
____ Screw drivers (straight slow and Phillips head)
____ Pliers
____ Distress sign and/or flag
____ Flares
____ Siphon pump - to transfer gas from one vehicle to another
____ Water - for drinking and/or radiator
____ Flashlight(s) and batteries
____ Coins - for phone calls, tolls, etc.
____ Safety vest - to wear while working on vehicle near traffic
____ Gloves, e.g., cotton
____ Tissues, paper towels, etc.
____ Bungee cord
____ Rope - to tie items onto roof
____ First aid equipment
____ Phone books (white and yellow) - to get phone numbers, addresses, etc. while out shopping, etc. - so you won't have to look for a phone booth with a phone book, possibly in a dangerous neighborhood
____ Gas can (only if you need to get gas, e.g., for mowing) (before taking off the cap of the can, touch the can on the ground and touch the gas pump nozzle to the can, then remove can cap - to avoid explosion due to static electricity igniting gas fumes)

MAINTENANCE:
Regularly:

____ Ensure your spare tire is properly inflated

When you have tires rotated, etc.:
____ Tell the mechanic that you want the lug nuts torqued to manufacturer's specifications - lazy mechanics often tighten lug nuts too tight with automatic tools
____ Ask the mechanic to use a torque wrench to ensure all lug nuts are tightened evenly - can cause uneven and dangerous braking, especially with disc brakes

RECREATIONAL VEHICLES:
For more info on RV's: rvia.org

REPAIRS:
If you are told your vehicle needs repairs before driving further and you are not close to a garage(repair shop) you trust and/or you feel pressured to have repairs done at a specific repair shop:

____ Determine if temporary repairs can be made to enable you to drive your vehicle to a repair shop you trust
____ Call a mechanic or friend you trust to ask:
          - Do the suggested repairs seem appropriate?
          - What should the suggested repairs cost?
          - What should you expect to pay per hour for labor?
____ Consider having your vehicle towed to a repair shop you trust
____ Consider renting a flat bed truck to transport your vehicle to a repair shop you trust

WASHING - See VEHICLES - Cleaning

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