Brake Light Communications for Teens

How to Teach Your Teen Silent Brake Light Communication with Other Drivers.

Regardless of age…Safe driving is all about communication. Without actually speaking, you have to understand what other drivers are doing – or are about to do – and they must know the same about you. This kind of non-verbal interaction between drivers is crucial to preventing collisions and injuries, but it’s harder than you might think, especially for new drivers.

Teen drivers, after all, have plenty to focus on already. Remember, everything on the road is new for them and their inexperience means they may not have the skills to communicate properly yet.

Brake lights’ primary purpose is to help us communicate with fellow drivers. They exist exclusively to let other drivers know that your vehicle is slowing down and that they should do the same. The same applies to turn signals; their sole purpose is to help you communicate with other drivers. The catch is that we have to use them properly to get the safety benefits.

Are you prepared to help your teen use these tools to their full potential?

Sometimes teens have a bad habit of hard braking at the last minute. Your teen might argue that he or she is still able to come to a full stop in time, so it’s OK.  But this ignores all of the other drivers behind your teen. We all use brake lights to know whether traffic is slowing or continuing ahead of us, and sudden stops make it much harder for other drivers to react.

On your next practice drive, ask your teen to imagine driving without brake lights. How would that change the way we drive? Sure, we’d still have traffic lights and stop signs, but they can only tell us what traffic should be doing, not what it’s actually doing. You might plan to slow down for a changing traffic light, for example, but without brake lights, the driver behind you might assume you’re going to try and catch the light, and he or she might want to do the same.

While we hope that all drivers are scanning the road and looking carefully at other vehicles, sometimes we make dangerous assumptions behind the wheel. Brake lights, however, make the situation much clearer. The driver behind might still be upset that you didn’t try to make the light, but a little bit of road rage is much better than a rear-end collision.

Eventually, your teen will learn to use brake lights to judge stopping and following distances, and you can explain how other drivers count on your teen’s lights in the same way. This will help your teen become a much better communicator on the road, all without saying a word.

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Lifesaving Vehicle Escape Tools

AAA New Research Finding: Vehicle Escape Tools mostly effective in breaking side windows made of tempered glass…but NOT effective at penetrating laminated glass.

Unwary Motorists may not realize that 33% of 2018 vehicle models indeed have laminated side windows…a virtually impenetrable safety glass intended to lessen chances of occupant ejection during a collision. AAA urges drivers to:

  1. Know what type of side window glass is installed on their vehicle,
  2. Keep a secure and easily accessible escape tool in their car and
  3. Have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.

“Drivers should pick a tool they feel comfortable with and find easy to use, but most importantly they should store it somewhere that is secure and within reach following a collision,” ~ John Nielsen/AAA

Being prepared in an emergency can greatly improve the chances of survival, especially if drivers and their passengers have become trapped in the vehicle. AAA strongly recommends drivers do the following:

Advanced Preparation Includes:

  • Memorize the type of glass the vehicle windows are made of – tempered or laminated. If the car has at least one tempered window, this will be the best point of exit in an emergency. Also, remember – standard escape tools will not break laminated glass.
  • Keep an escape tool in the car that the driver is comfortable using, has previously tested and is easy to access following a collision. To make sure a vehicle escape tool is working properly, test it ahead of time on a softer surface such as a piece of soft wood. The tool works if the tip impacts the surface, leaving a small indent in the material
  • Plan an exit strategy in advance and communicate it to everyone in the car. This will help avoid confusion in an emergency, which could increase the time it takes to exit the vehicle. Also, have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.

If trapped in a vehicle, remember there is a S-U-R-E way out:

  • Stay calm. While time is of the essence – work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.
  • Unbuckle seat belts and check to see that everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time.
  • Roll down or break a window – remember if the car is sinking in water, once the window is open the water will rush into the car at a faster rate. If the window will not open and the car has tempered glass, use an escape tool to break a side window to escape. Drivers should also remember that:
    – Drivers and/or occupants should make every effort to roll down a window as soon as the vehicle enters the water. However, if a window will not open or cannot be broken because it is laminated, call 911 immediately.
    – If the vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool (as opposed to a spring-loaded-style) could be much harder to swing underwater.
  • Exit the vehicle quickly and move everyone to safety.
    Call 911 – while this is typically the first step in an emergency, if a vehicle has hit the water or is on fire, it is best to try to escape first.

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Behind the Wheel Driving Behaviors

Like any other personality traits…what is considered ‘OK’ driving behavior while we’re behind the wheel and going wherever can vary widely from person to person.

We know that speeding, eating and texting are dangerous on the road, yet many of us have gotten used to these behaviors and see them as perfectly ordinary. We justify unsafe, even ridiculous driving habits because we trust ourselves behind the wheel – maybe more than we should. And we often have different rules for ourselves than we do for other drivers.

‘Walk the Talk’ on driving standards that you set for your teen.

Different driving standards

For example, let’ say you’re meeting a friend for dinner and they text you to ask for your ETA, and you text back “be there in 10 minutes.” You rationalize it as a rare, quick & harmless event…and you were extra cautious.  But when you see another driver sending a text while your teen is behind the wheel…are you as forgiving?

The reality is, of course, that we are just as dangerous as the distracted drivers around us…and no one is immune to the potential consequences.

Setting an example

Like all other role model situtions…How you drive tells your teen what is ‘OK’ behind the wheel. Remember, actions always speak louder than words…including and especially driving behaviors. Giving a verbal disclaimer to “do as I say, not as I just did” doesn’t fly and your actions will be emulated…it’s just a matter of time.

Setting a good example for what is ‘safe & acceptable driving behavior’ is always your best parental bet. We’ve got plenty of resources to help, but it’s up to you to make it stick.

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5 Secrets Your Auto Mechanic Won’t Divulge

Most vehicles are likely to need some routine maintenance or minor repair work during any given year…unless it’s still under warranty and/or fresh off the dealer’s lot…stuff that might range from regular oil changes to replacing a leaky rear main transmission seal.

Most car mechanics operate under the philosophy of:  Don’t wait for a small problem to becomes a big problem?

The consummate mechanic will tell you what absolutely needs to be fixed now,  what could wait…and sometimes even be ignored. A mechanic like that is pretty rare. So the best thing you can do is educate yourself.  Here are several tips that even the best mechanic might not tell you:

1. Change your oil yourself…yes you can

Oil changes are about the most common routine maintenance need for cars. You can probably DIY for less than $45…or have a mechanic do it for you for around $75 …and they’re easy money for repair shops and dealers. But if you don’t mind getting dirty and having to deal with disposing of the used oil, an oil change twice a year is the classic DIY option.

2. You can probably ignore that check engine light for now (unless it’s flashing)

This is a real panic creator for many inexperienced owners, but it usually just indicates a non-serious problem with the vehicle’s exhaust system. Unless you have a really old car with emission components that could be wearing out.  So for many cases, you can ignore it…with one exception: if it’s flashing, get your mechanic to look at it ASAP.  And you can’t ignore it forever either. But you car isn’t going to blow up if you wait.

3. Buff that out yourself.

This is more of a body shop issue than a mechanic issue. Minor scratches and dings can be handled with a color coded paint pen from the auto parts store.

4. Buying a new car is sometimes your best option

The truth is that there are times when a new car is the best choice. A new car rarely has serious issues…and if something does go wrong, the dealer will usually fix it under warranty.  But seasoned mechanics hate this because they want you to buy a good used car and employ them to repair it.

5. Don’t keep your car forever.

[See #4 above].  Any bona-fide hard core mechanic will tell you to drive your car until the wheels fall off — which they won’t let happen…because you keep them in business.

Takeaways from this post:

  • A genuinely trustworthy auto mechanic…with all the required professional certifications…is a vital asset.
  • But most mechanics avoid telling customers some things.
  • Self education when dealing with car mechanics is always prudent.

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7 Vehicles Buyers Regretted Buying

Is you new-car honeymoon over?   ConsumerReports does their Annual Owner Satisfaction Survey…and tallies responses on 300,000 vehicles. Something to watch out for!

Most people know that buying a new car is an “emotional” experience.  The old saying goes…”when it comes to buying a new car, people generally make a choice based on emotion (i.e. how the car will make you feel when you own it)…then back up that emotional choice with a “logical” justification (i.e. I’ll save money because it gets great gas mileage).  Sometimes though, one or both of those components go awry…and buyers remorse sets in.Consumer Reports recent survey of new car purchasers focused on asking owners of 2014-2017 model-year cars if they had it to do all over again…would they buy the same car again. The good news is that 70 percent of the survey respondents essentially said “yes”…they’re happy.  That leaves many people however, that were something less than satisfied.

The following list of vehicles from the most most unsatisfied buyers are what you might call…the bottom of the barrel.

Least-Satisfying Overall: Acura ILX

The Acura ILX is a swing and a miss, in both CR testing and when judged by owners. It falls 10 percentage points below the Mercedes-Benz CLA in the same category, itself a disappointing entry. Across all car types, the ILX has the lowest satisfaction, followed closely by the Dodge Dart and Jeep Compass. The ILX was challenged from the start as a pricey, dressed-up Honda Civic. Acura made several key updates for the 2016 model year, but even when looking at ratings on just those freshened sedans, they are no different than older model years.

Owners say:

  • “Lacks acceleration, noisy, poor quality paint, shaky ride… very expensive for the poor quality offered.”
  • “It shifts too soon into higher gear, making acceleration feel sluggish unless under hard acceleration.”
  • “Road noise is very pronounced. I will be trading the ILX in as soon as I can on something quieter.”

Small SUV: Jeep Compass

Lackluster performance, a cramped and austere cabin, narrow front seats, and difficult rearward views are just some of the faults we found with Jeep’s small SUV entry. The Compass has lost its way with owners, too. Our survey found that just 42 percent of respondents said they would definitely buy one again. Complaints included feeble acceleration and too much road noise, and it was rated uncommonly poor in overall comfort.

Owners say:

  • “Doesn’t have any power; the gas mileage could be better.”
  • “The driver’s seat cannot be raised, and it is hard for a short person to see over a bulky dash.”
  • “The air conditioning indicator for on or off is very difficult to see.”

Midsized SUV: Nissan Pathfinder

The Pathfinder name conjures memories of rugged, truck-based forebears, but this latest softer, gentler iteration is more minivan-like. Frankly, it lacks off-road ruggedness and is boring to drive. Even owners are nonplussed, with the survey showing that they didn’t rate any areas of the vehicle highly. Just 50 percent of owners were very satisfied with its value. To make matters worse, reliability remains an ongoing concern.

Owners say:

  • “It had quite a few issues when it was new which the dealer had to handle.”
  • “I’m just very disappointed with the car. Sideboard popped off. Trim on front bumper keeps popping out. Gas mileage is severely lower than what was advertised.”
  • “Seats are very uncomfortable. Four of us did a road trip, and all four drivers could not get the seat adjusted so your back didn’t hurt.”

Click Read More for details on these models too:

  • Small Car: Dodge Dart
  • Midsized Sedan: Chrysler 200
  • Minivan: Dodge Grand Caravan
  • Pickup Truck: Nissan Frontier

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Tweens – Never Give Up Till They Buckle Up

The holiday season can create an abundance of extra errands, shopping and rushing around special events.  Seat Belt Safety for Tweens can be a grey area that’s misunderstood or overlooked.

THE QUESTION: When Is My Child Ready for an Adult Seat Belt?

TWEENS – a child  between 8 and 12 years old…THIS is the time to transition your child out of a booster seat and into a seat belt.  Booster seat usage should continue until your kids outgrow the size limits of the booster seats or are big enough to fit properly in seat belts.

NOTE: All children under 13 ride in the back seat for maximum safety.

Why Parents & Caregivers Forget About or Overlook Seat Belt Safety

Parenting is full of distractions and often hectic… it’s easy to forget or forego buckling up altogether.  These excuses are often given for not buckling up.  Sound familiar?  Do whatever it takes to buckle up and make sure your kids do the same:

  1. Rushed and chaotic pre-travel routines
  2. Distractions
  3. Need to minimize conflict or keep the peace
  4. Seat belt discomfort or perceived nuisance when in a hurry
  5. Shorter distances, slower speeds and familiar roads falsely associated with lower risk
  6. Kids persistently asking to ride in the front seat

Never Negotiate with an Unbuckled Child…No Matter How Hurried or Chaotic!

As a parent, sometimes you let your kids have their way. But their safety should never be up for negotiation, no matter how much they push back on the seat belts being uncomfortable or unnecessary for just a “short drive.” Here are some tips to help you win the seat belt battle:

  • Consistently Model Seat Belt Safety
  • Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up
  • Never Assume Your Kids Are Buckled Up

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Summer Driving Hot Weather Hacks

Always looking for ways to beat the Summer heat while driving?  Here a a few of the classic tactics and one maybe you didn’t know…to help you maintain a cooler vehicle on those hot and humid summer days.


Block the Sun From Car Windows
Cars are notorious for trapping heat and causing interior temperatures to skyrocket…according to the National Weather Service.  According to one test, a parked car’s temperature rose from 80 degrees to more than 94 degrees in about two minutes, and reached 123 degrees within an hour.  Interior vehicle temperatures can reach up to 200 degrees…according to Consumer Reports.

Reducing the amount of heat entering through your windows may help keep your car cooler, making it more comfortable when it’s time to take a ride. Here are some tips to help keep your car cool in the summer:

  • Tinted windows:  Most costly, but most consistent way to block the sun, says But first check state’s laws, as some have restrictions on how much or which windows you can tint.
  • Sun shades: Less expensive way of blocking the direct rays coming into your vehicle, says Consumer Reports.  It keeps the temperature slightly lower, which can help your car cool down more quickly once the vehicle is started.
  • Covered parking: Consumer Reports suggests looking for a shady spot or parking your car so the sun is hitting the rear window instead of the windshield. This may help keep the steering wheel and front seats slightly cooler.
  • Slightly Opened Windows: Because windows hold in warm air, leaving them open slightly while parked will create slight airflow. If your vehicle has a sunroof, says you can also crack that or use the vent feature if it’s not raining. Less than an inch…will to help minimize theft potential.

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How to Beat Top 5 Roadside Emergencies

We’ve all been stranded by some kind of car breakdown during our daily travels. Whether it’s a freeway flat tire blowout…or an overheated radiator on some back road. Regardless of your vehicle’s age…you’re always at risk for some kind of roadside emergency.

Since most of us are not auto mechanics…some things that can cause your car to break down… you simply can’t fix yourself. But several of the most common problems that lead to a breakdown…you CAN actually handle yourself…even if you’ve never tinkered with a car in your entire life. Check out the infographic below which serves as a handy cheat sheet you can use to learn how to fix some common car problems that might occur while you’re driving. You might even think about printing it out and taking it with you, or saving it to your phone, so you have it if you need it!


Step #1: Build Yourself an Emergency Kit

Do yourself a favor and do THIS before you even get in the car for your next trip tothe grocery store…let alone, your next vacation roadtrip. Whether your car is 9 days old or 9 years old…a breakdown can happen at ANY moment. Knowing how to handle that minor catastrophe and get your car back on the road…BEFORE it happens…is the biggest peace of mind gift that you can give yourself.

The exact contents of your specific emergency kit may be a matter of preference and your general mechanical aptitude…but a little common sense and 2 or 3 different opinions as to what it contains can go a long way to saving you some time and heartache. Here are two articles we’ve posted previously on constructing your own vehicle emergency kit.

Here are 3 of the top 5 most likely roadside emergency scenarios you might encounter:

  1. Engine Overheated – Immediately turn OFF the engine and pop the hood…letting any smoke/steam clear to better assess your situation.
  2. Flat Tire – Step #1: Turn the engine OFF, engage the hand/parking brake and turn ON the emergency flasher lights.
  3. Battery Weak or Dead – Turn the engine OFF (including any electronic devices) and secure a 2nd vehicle with a good battery to supply the jump.

Like to see all steps (plus scenario 4 & 5) in more graphic detail…in addition to the video above?

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Prepping Your Vehicle for Emergencies

It’s Summer roadtrip season which means you may be traveling outside your normal area of civilization…to more remote places.  The question to ask yourself is if you’re ready for when things may go wrong…outside of cell coverage and roadside assistance accessible areas.  Let’s find out how to stock your trunk for emergency preparedness so you can take care of yourself.


For the average pragmatist, much of what follows may be elementary. But at worst, you might go through a little trouble gathering and stocking a few items in your new Preparedness Trunk Box…and nothing challenging ever happens.

So here’s a suggested list of items to equip yourself with:

  • Flashlight – LED based, heavy duty style. No cheap plastic stuff here.
  • Jumper Cables – even low-gauge cables can be practical, but the potential problem is finding someone to give you a jump, hence…
  • Portable Vehicle Jump Starter – great tool, but your challenge with this is remembering to keep it charged (Intelliboost, Weego & Gooloo are a few brands you can investigate for yourself)
  • Roadside Hazard Indicators – old school Flares and free standing Emergency Reflective Road Triangles are two options.  A modern version is what’s called LED Road Flares that look like orange flashing hockey pucks. Batteries are your challenge here again.
  • Fire Extinguisher – the “dry chemical” variety (rated A, B and C) is probably best in this case.
  • Quart of Motor Oil – just in case. (check your vehicle owner’s manual for proper weight)
  • Engine Coolant – Antifreeze –
  • First Aid Kit – go crazy here and invest a few bucks ($25-$35) for a quality kit.
  • Blanket – the Heavy Duty Thermally Efficient for Emergencies kind…as opposed to one that Grandma made for you.
  • Radio – FRS or GMRS type for Emergencies.
  • (keep watching…)
  • (…for more life saving items!)


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Roadside Assistance Services – Choosing Wisely

Roadside assistance services for your vehicle is similar to health insurance.  You may only need to use it once a year or so…but if you ever get stranded along side the freeway, or worse, on a country road…you know the pain of potentially not having any help to fall back on.  Especially during Winter months when the incidents of dead batteries, flat tires, and keys locked inside their cars seem to multiply dramatically. But only one such experience can be enough to create panic.

stranded stressed out woman roadside with broken down car

Here are some strategic questions to ask yourself when beginning to determine which service plan would prove best for your situation:

  1. Do I already have roadside assistance? – Yes, that’s actually possible more than you might think! Here a few of those potential scenarios:
    If you bought a new car or a certified used vehicle recently, your car may have come with a roadside assistance plan that lasts for the duration of the warranty, which for a new vehicle is at least three years or 36,000 miles, says Yu. If you’ve purchased a service contract—also known as an extended warranty—from an automaker or aftermarket company, you may also have coverage already. Always check the terms of your auto insurance policy as well. Some insurers, such as Allstate, Geico, and Nationwide, offer roadside assistance as an add-on to their auto insurance policies. Also check the fine print in your credit card agreements. Cards such as the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card offer roadside assistance.
  2. Complaints Frequency – Do a few web searches with the name of the plan provider plus “reviews” and “complaints.”  Complaints will typically revolve around wait times for the tow truck to arrive…or worse, if no one even shows up at all…and vehicles that may have been damaged during the tow itself.
  3. Service Plan Criteria –  Here are few guidelines to help you decide which plan is best.
  • More than one vehicle – a full-service plan may be your best bet in this case. They’re typically offered by AAA, National General Motor Club, Better World Club.
  • Multiple family drivers – consider a plan from an autodealer such as Good Sam Roadside Assistance, where the member fee covers the spouse and kids as well.
  • Recent Vehicle Purchase – whether new or certified pre-owned —and it’s the only vehicle you own—you can go with the automaker’s service, but make sure you know of any restrictions.
  • Frequent or Long Distance Driver (i.e. far from home) …choose a plan with the most generous towing allowance and trip-interruption benefits.
  • Fine Print – Some roadside assistance programs don’t cover the cost of towing as a result of flood, fire, and certain other calamities.

Read More – Consumer Reports


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