Rules for the Road: Be Prepared With a Roadside Emergency Kit for Your Car

roadside_emergency_kitOne of the most important things to remember about safe driving is that you should always be prepared for emergencies. It can happen to anyone; you could be involved in a fender bender, end up with a flat tire, run out of gas, breakdown due to engine trouble, or become stuck due to adverse weather conditions. For situations like this, an emergency kit can be a lifesaver.

Even if you have roadside-assistance coverage through your insurance provider or an auto club, you will need access to a phone in order to contact them, and you may have to wait on the side of the road before help arrives. A roadside emergency kit is intended to aid you in getting help. It can be used to signal your presence to other drivers who might not see you or your car’s lights on the side of the road. This is especially helpful in rainy or nighttime driving situations. A basic car kit should contain the following:

  • A cell phone. Just remember, do NOT use your phone while you are driving. A phone should always remain out of reach until your car is turned off or in park.
  • Food and water. Choose food that won’t spoil, such as energy bars. If you need to wait for help to arrive, make sure to have a snack on hand.
  • A blanket.
  • First aid kit. This will be especially helpful for any minor cuts or scrapes sustained in an accident.
  • In a cold environment, tools for snow removal. Keeping a small shovel, scraper and snow brush is key. Additionally, try keeping a box of kitty litter in your trunk to pour over snow if you become stuck. Kitty litter will help you to get the traction necessary to get free.
  • Tools to attract attention. A flashlight, whistle or roadside reflective hazard triangle can be used to call attention to your location if you are stuck on the side of the road. It is very important to warn other drivers of your presence on the shoulder, especially at night.
  • Tools for basic car maintenance and minor emergencies. It’s good practice to always have extra windshield washer fluid, a tire pressure gauge, spare tire, a set of jumper cables, and a fire extinguisher in your trunk. Better safe than sorry!

If you do need to use your emergency kit, remember to stay calm and remain safe. What other tools do you keep in your emergency car kit?

Memorial Day Kicks Off ‘100 Deadliest Days’ on Florida Roadways

florida driver trainingSchool is almost out! And with that, teens are taking advantage of the break from studies to take their Drug and Alcohol course and permit exam. It is a great time to get started on driving practice. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the extra time off and summer sunshine to practice new driving skills. However, summer isn’t quite as carefree as it seems. There are more fatal accidents during the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day than any other time of the year. All drivers, especially new drivers, should take extra care to drive defensively this summer.

If you are a parent, consider setting important driving guidelines for your teens. To set expectations, you and your teen can sign a parent/teen agreement to lay out any consequences for violating rules. This sample agreement and other helpful parent resources are available on our website.

If your teen is planning to practice behind the wheel this summer, help them to focus on basic driving techniques and good driving habits:

  • Buckle up for safety.
  • Practice driving in different weather conditions, and times of day: sunny and rainy driving conditions as well as some practice driving after dark. For more tips on driving in wet weather, check out our blog post Spring Has Sprung – Drive Safe in those April Showers.
  • Hazard recognition is important. Keep your eyes on the road and practice scanning ahead to prepare for upcoming hazards such as animals crossing the road, potholes, construction zones and more.

And remember, teens often look to their parents or guardians for examples and will pick up on any of your own bad driving habits. Set a good example by turning off or silencing the ringer on your phone, keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, and maintaining a safe speed and following distance. Practice makes perfect!

October 16-22 is National Teen Driver Safety Week – 5 to Drive Campaign

passengersParents, teens, and teachers: October 16-22, 2016 is National Teen Driver Safety Week, and it offers a chance to to raise awareness of teen driver safety and encourage safe teen driver and passenger behavior. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for U.S. teens 15 to 19 years old. Promoting safe driving habits during this time period can help spread awareness of this alarming statistic and make a difference in teen driving habits.

GDL Institute is supporting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s “5 to Drive” campaign during National Teen Driver Safety Week. The campaign aims to help parents talk to their teen drivers about the rules of the road. The campaign highlights the five necessary rules that teen drivers need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel. These rules address the greatest dangers for teen drivers: alcohol, texting, seat belts, speeding, and extra passengers.

The “5 to Drive” campaign addresses the five most dangerous and deadly behaviors for teen drivers. It is a great way to help parents prepare, and help protect teen drivers. The idea behind the campaign is to give parents the words to use when they talk with their teens about the rules of the road. Let’s get the conversation going!

The NHTSA’s “5 to Drive” rules for parents to share with their teens are:

  1. No Drinking and Driving – All teens are too young to legally buy or possess alcohol, but they are still at risk. Nationally in 2014, one out of five teen passenger vehicle drivers (15 to 19 years old) involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. Driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.
  2. Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. Front Seat and Back. – Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways to stay safe in a car. Yet, too many teens are not buckling up and neither are their passengers. In 2014, there were 763 passengers killed in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers, and 59% of those passengers who died were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash.
  3. Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel. All the Time. – Distractions while driving can be deadly. In 2014, among teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes, 10% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. And remember, distracted driving isn’t limited to cell phone use. Other passengers, the radio and climate controls, and eating or drinking while driving, are all examples of dangerous distractions for teen drivers.
  4. Stop Speeding Before It Stops You – In 2014, almost one-third (30%) of teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding at the time of the crash. Staying within the speed limit helps keep everyone safe.
  5. No More Than One Passenger at a Time. – The risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional passenger. According to data analyzed by NHTSA, teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer compared to when driving alone. And the likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behaviors triples when traveling with multiple passengers.

Reach out to the teen driver in your life and remind them that while driving is a privilege, and while driving independence can great, it also comes with great responsibility. For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and the “5 to Drive” campaign, please visit www.safercar.gov/parents.

Practice Makes Perfect: Driving at Night

Night drivingTeens have returned to school, and Fall is right around the corner. As the days get shorter, it’s a great opportunity for new drivers to reflect on the dangers and challenges of driving at night, and practice their defensive driving techniques after dusk.

Night time driving accounts for about 25% of all driving, and there is usually significantly less traffic during these hours, but approximately 55% of all driving fatalities occur after dark. Night driving presents additional challenges due to reduced visibility, driver fatigue, and even a higher number of intoxicated drivers on the road:

  • Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day.
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was four times higher at night than during the day (NHTSA).
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 pedestrian deaths occur during the nighttime (70%), and many involve alcohol (NHTSA).

Florida officials recognize that new drivers need to practice night driving after mastering defensive driving basics. In Florida, if you hold a Learner’s License, you may only drive during daylight hours during the first three months, and until 10 p.m. thereafter, always with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front passenger seat. To earn your Intermediate License (operator’s license) at 16 years old, a parent or guardian must certify that you have at least 50 hours of behind the wheel driving experience, of which 10 hours must be at night. For more information on graduated driver licensing requirements in Florida, visit the Florida DHSMV website.

Now that you understand the risks, here are some safety tips for driving at night:

  • Make sure all of the lights on your car are visible and working. Check to make sure that lights are working properly; make sure they aren’t caked with mud, snow or other debris that can make you less visible to other drivers on the road.
  • Reduce your speed and following distance, just as you would in bad weather. It can be more difficult to judge distance or other vehicle speeds at night.
  • If you are drowsy, do NOT drive at night. A drowsy driver may have slower reaction times, and falling asleep at the wheel can be deadly.

For even more tips on night driving, review these safety tips from Popular Mechanics. What other tips would you give new drivers for safe night driving?

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