[Written By DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Amy Tarczynski]
Interested in driving a Porsche? Of course I was. But the journey from our street in Oakland to my neighbor’s new house in San Diego would take 9 hours with traffic. So while I was thrilled by the idea of driving a silver Carrera 4S down I-5, I was also nervous about delivering it safely from Point A to Point B…with 500 miles in between.
However, I channeled my nervous energy into focus. I saw this road trip as a culmination of everything I knew about safe driving–as if I was taking my driver’s license test part-two. Here’s how I passed:
Know your route. I didn’t want to rely on my phone’s directions the entire time, especially on the freeway. So while I did have map guidance turned on for the more complicated parts, I also made sure to familiarize myself with the general directions. All it took was reading through the Google instructions the night before and orienting myself with the map.
Plan your stops. Normally when I drive around town, I don’t start to worry about the gas tank until the last 5 miles or so. But now that I was covering so much ground, those signs saying “50 miles until next gas station” became relevant. So I kept an eye on the signs and on the gas tank. While this should sound obvious, the last thing you want is to forget about the gas tank until it starts warning that it has 25 miles to go…when it’s 30 miles to the next exit. Meanwhile, to stay fueled up myself I opted for the gas station grab-and-go coffee drinks, sparing myself the line at Starbucks.
Go with the flow (of traffic). To get to San Diego, I had to drive through Los Angeles. Congestion was inevitable. Once I hit the stop-and-go city traffic, this method really came in handy: when I was going fast but could see brake lights way out ahead, I would tap my brakes a little as I eased off the gas. Even before I needed to really decelerate, I was signaling to the drivers behind me that traffic was slowing down ahead. For the most part, they noticed and would ease off too, giving me more space to let off the gas. I did take note of a few distracted drivers following too closely behind me now and again. When it was apparent that someone was overly-invested in a phone conversation, I changed lanes.
…But stay on your toes. Which lane is best for comfortably going the speed limit, where I won’t get stuck behind slow traffic, but where I also won’t be tailgated by faster cars? How much following distance can I leave? I’m used to driving the same routes at home, where I already know the answer to these questions. Driving a long distance though means encountering different segments of highway, each with its own set of unspoken rules. It wasn’t hard for me to get a sense of them, as long as I continued to pay attention to other drivers.
Have a great playlist. Duh.
So while my future road trips probably won’t take place in a car that costs more than my college-tuition, I am glad that I had these high-stakes to keep me focused on my first one. 9-hour drives definitely demand both attention and patience, not just for the first hour. Nonetheless, keeping a few basics in mind makes for a smooth ride.
Can you imagine a car without seatbelts? How about a car without a radio? Ok, what about a car without an ignition? ‘Surely not’, you say? Well, in actual fact cars didn’t used to have any of these features, as well as many others.
Here, we take a look at some of the driving technology and safety features we take for granted in cars today. You may be surprised to learn exactly when some of these common vehicle features were introduced.
1911 – Electric Ignition
It’s difficult to believe, but before this date, simply starting your car could actually be dangerous! Over the years there have been several ways to ‘fire up’ your car’s engine, including manually turning a crank handle and even using gunpowder cylinders. Thankfully, inventors took away the risk when they came up with the electric ignition, which was first installed in a Cadillac in 1911.
1930 – In-Car Radio
These days we take it for granted that we can listen to our favorite songs while driving. But, before 1930, in-car radios weren’t an option. This changed thanks to the Galvin brothers, but their invention wasn’t cheap; at $130 an in-car radio cost roughly a quarter of the price of some new cars!
1956 – Power Steering
If you didn’t have much upper body strength you might have struggled to turn the steering wheel before the invention of this vehicle feature. But, thanks to hydraulics, after 1956, bulging arm muscles were no longer essential to make it safely around curves. By 1960, around a quarter of vehicles were equipped with power steering.
1959 – Seat Belts
The single most important thing you can do when you get in your car is buckle up. Which is why it’s difficult to imagine a time when cars didn’t even have seat belts. Invented by Nils Bohlin, the seat belt first appeared on a Volvo in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1984 that U.S. states began passing laws requiring drivers and passengers to wear them.
1971 – Anti-Lock Brakes
The simple explanation of Anti-Lock Brakes (commonly referred to as ABS) is that they help a car to stop more quickly in slippery conditions. But before appearing in cars, ABS was first introduced on aircraft. By 1971, Chrysler and Bendix had developed what is generally considered the first true four-wheel version of ABS for cars. Other manufacturers soon followed and car buyers of today think of ABS as a standard safety feature.
1973 – Third Brake Light
Whether it’s true or not there’s a great story surrounding the invention of the third brake light. Apparently, this vehicle technology feature was invented by a San Francisco taxi driver who was so frustrated after being rear-ended for the TWELTH time that he personally wired a truck light to his rear brake lights and put it in his back window. The third brake light was born! Legend has it the taxi driver was never rear-ended again; and the invention was so successful that since 1991 all cars manufactured in the U.S. have had to have a third brake light.
1984 – Airbags
Manufacturers experimented with airbags before this date but it was around this time they became a common vehicle feature. Ford introduced airbags as an option in 1984 and, by 1988 Chrysler was fitting them as standard. This invention was literally life-saving as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that around 2,000 lives are saved by airbags every year.
1994 – On-Board Diagnostics
Finding out what was wrong with your faulty vehicle got easier from 1994, with the introduction of on-board diagnostics (OBD). OBD systems were first developed in the 1980s but the early versions required car mechanics to have a different tool for almost every vehicle make! By the 1990s a standard version had been created and soon became a requirement on new cars.
2000 – GPS Navigation Systems
While paper maps may still be readily available, the chances are you don’t use one to find your way on the road. These days we simply enter details of our destination into a GPS system, start the engine and listen out for the instructions! GPS systems were around before 2000 but it was only when President Clinton signed a bill in 2000 ordering the military to stop scrambling satellite signals that in-car GPS systems were born.
2009 – Self-Driving Cars
Self-driving cars have a much longer history than you probably realise. In fact, as far back as almost 100 years ago radio-operated versions of self-driving cars had been invented. But, vehicle technology has come a long way and the self-driving cars being developed today make use of sensors, cameras and satellites to sense where they are on the road. Google is largely considered the leading developer of self-driving vehicles and in 2009 began testing its self-driving vehicle technology on freeways in California.
Today and Beyond
By looking back over the last 100 years of vehicle technology we can see cars have changed a great deal.
So, next time you get in your car, turn on the ignition without risking your life, listen to your favorite music, find your way using GPS, and know your journey is being made safer thanks to the invention of the seatbelt, airbags, ABS and other features, think about the many ways in which vehicle technology has developed to make driving safer and more comfortable for us all. Who knows what the future has in store?
[Written By DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Christina Tynan-Wood]
I was sitting behind the wheel at GM’s proving ground in Milford, Michigan getting a demonstration of the automatic emergency braking system the car manufacturer plans to make standard on all light vehicles by 2022. Fighting my reflexes, I piloted the vehicle directly toward an unforgiving obstacle, kept my foot away from the brakes, closed my eyes, and hoped that when I opened them I would not be in the hospital. The car slammed on the brakes and stopped itself inches from the wall. Thrilled to be still alive, I wanted to buy that car on the spot. Not for myself. For my son Cole who, at the time, was eighteen and a cocky but inexperienced driver. This automatic braking feature seemed like the Fairy Godmother I had been looking for.
Unfortunately, buying a new car clashed directly with my budget. I had offered to match any funds Cole saved toward a car in order to make a car more attainable for him, teach him the cost of things, and give me time to save. This meant, of course, that he was eyeing the cheapest cars he could find. I had worried about this because I know old cars can be death traps. I have watched all the scary old-car test crashes on YouTube. Humans did not fare well in crashes before the invention of safety technologies. This safety feature – and others such as lane guidance, blind spot awareness, high speed alert, and pedestrian detection – were tempting me to be a more indulgent parent. Should I buy him a car to get the safety features I wanted him to have or let him buy the beater with the price tag of his dreams? I tried not to overreact. As long as he was saving and shopping, I had time to consider.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the new features tempting me – in particular automatic emergency braking and forward collision warnings – do save lives. Every year, they reduce crashes by twenty percent, prevent 66,000 serious crashes, and stop 879 fatal crashes. The IIHS estimates that if all vehicles had these crash avoidance technologies, 1.9 million crashes — including the one in three that are fatal — could be prevented or mitigated, assuming the systems worked perfectly. Because they are new though, many of these technologies are available only in relatively expensive cars made in the last few years. And that meant that buying one would entail adapting to a sticker price much higher than either Cole or I had budgeted for. That would also mean higher insurance.
Fortunately – for our budget — in-car safety equipment is not a new concept. In fact, the most important safety features in cars – electronic stability control, air bags, and ABS brakes — are required equipment and have been for so long that most of the used cars Cole was considering had them. “For teenagers buying a first car,” says Keith Russell Regional Director of Business Development and Operations for DriversEd.com. “A low cost vehicle is attractive. But this isn’t a problem as long as the vehicle has ABS Brakes, Electronic Stability Control and a full complement of air bags. These items are the most important additions to our vehicles in the last fifty years. They will aid any skilled or trained driver to avoid a collision and maintain better control of their vehicle in adverse situations.” The IIHS agrees, adding that teens should stick to heavier, slower cars as well as those with high safety ratings and they should avoid cars with lots of horsepower. The IIHS has pulled together a comprehensive list of the safest used cars on the road.
Driver education is just as important when it comes to preventing crashes. Many of the crashes teens get into happen because they are inexperienced drivers and so make poor decisions under pressure. This is why most states have a graduated license program to keep distractions and dangerous driving to a minimum when they are learning. But signing Cole up for driver’s education, where a professional driver would show him how to handle emergency situations, was well within our budget. And DriversEd.com offers plenty of ways for him to get schooled.
I still like the in-car Fairy Godmother idea. And, if I had limitless funds, I would probably buy a car that sported such things. In fact, if I had limitless funds I would spring for adaptive cruise control, too, because it makes driving in the bumper-to-bumper traffic that is so prevalent where live much easier and safer. But I live in my own reality. And my son is headed out into the world in his (not filthy rich) reality. I would love to pack him in bubble wrap, put him in a car that will cover for his mistakes, and guarantee a perfect outcome. But this has been true since he was learning to walk. So I guess I will let him learn to rely on himself and keep right on saving for a car.
[Written By DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Christina Wood]
Remember when the promise for The Future included flying cars and robots that would do all the housework? That future isn’t quite here. But in the last few years there has been huge innovation in cars. Manufactures aren’t even working on flying cars but they are determined to give us a car that can drive itself. And as they build out the elements that will one day converge to become a car that can pick the kids up at school or drive you to work while you sleep in, they have been adding those features to new cars as they perfect them. Some of these technologies — blind spot awareness alerts, lane keeping, pedestrian detection, and crash mitigation and avoidance – are already stepping in to save lives. But what about learning to drive in a car that does some of the driving? Is it a great way to keep newbie drivers from making deadly mistakes? Or will it teach them to be lazy drivers, too reliant on technology?
Teens are inexperienced drivers and so more prone to making mistakes. They are young and so more likely to take risks. And, if they drink, the impact on them is more likely to lead to a crash. They will outgrow all of this – if they stay safe.
And there is very little doubt that safety technologies reduce death — and injury. Air bags, electronic stability control, seat belts, and ABS brakes have proven themselves so valuable in preventing fatalities and injuries in car accidents that they are now – and have been for years — mandatory equipment in all cars. Some newer technologies, though, are less proven because they are so new. But if you have ever seen them operate, it’s not hard to see how they will save lives. “I can clearly state that crash mitigation is a wonderful addition to any vehicle,” offers Keith Russell Regional Director of Business Development and Operations for DriversEd.com. “This has the ability to dramatically reduce collisions and greatly lower the senseless crash totals which exist today on our roadways.”
And, as more manufacturers add them to cars, more data is becoming available. For example, a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that cars with automatic braking systems reduced rear-end crashes by about 40 percent. Forward collision warnings alone cut crashes by 23 percent. Autobrake systems also greatly reduced injury in crashes. In fact, according to the study, if all vehicles were equipped with autobrake systems that worked as well as those the IIHS looked at, there would have been at least 700,000 fewer police-reported, rear-end crashes in 2013. Those are compelling numbers, especially for teenagers who crash more often than adults.
Some of this safety probably does come at the cost of driver ability. “The advent of backup cameras and blind spot alerts will reduce driver abilities and skills as people in time come to rely on these alone,” says Russell. We can see how this has played out with automatic transmissions. Since the automatic transmission launched, people have grown more and more dependent on them. These days many people can’t drive a car with a standard transmission. “But what happens when one of these systems fail and drivers have overly relied on them?” asks Russell. Anyone unable to drive a manual transmission who has found themselves behind the wheel of one can attest to this in visceral embarrassment and fear.
Eventually, this will probably become less of an issue. Front crash prevention is steadily becoming more prevalent, but it is usually optional. That will change. In September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and IIHS announced an agreement in principle with automakers to make autobrake standard on all models. But cars – especially new cars with long life cycles – evolve slowly. So anyone learning to drive should prepare themselves for any contingency. And that includes being able to drive both cars that include new technologies and those that don’t.
It is easy enough to make sure you – or your teenager – has these skills, even if you both drive a car with every new technology available. Just set up a driving lesson with a professional driver at DriversEd.com who can go over – and over – the skills necessary to drive any car on the road. “Driver knowledge and skill is as important today as it has ever been,” says Russelll. “It should continue to be paramount.”
As we head back to school, it is important to remember some back-to-school driving tips so that both your student and other students remain safe. Here are three commonsense tips to help you drive safely from idrivesafely.com:
Tip One: Watch Out for Pedestrians
The beginning of a school year means more buses and bicycles on the road and more kids potentially walking to class, especially if you live in a residential area close to a school. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, more children are hit by cars near school than at any other location. Keep an eye out for any kids on the sidewalk, buses stopped by the side of the road, or any other indications that kids are afoot – even the smartest tykes may dart in and out of busy streets and potentially endanger their lives.
Tip Two: Be Wary of New Drivers
A new school year brings a surge of newly-licensed teen drivers and fresh-faced, inexperienced college students with only a couple years of driving under their belt. According to the National Safety Council, teen crashes spike in September and happen more commonly in the mornings and afternoons, when school begins and ends.
Tip Three: Get Ready for More Traffic – Everywhere
While we normally associate the beginning of the school year with more traffic around schools, it’s also important to highlight the surge of traffic on freeways and roads as well. In September, commute times on freeways typically increase due to numerous factors, including commuter students heading to college and parents dropping off their children at schools at the same time of the day.
Being careful while driving during this back-to-school system is critical to keep our children safe. Take some extra time and put your drivers education to good use. DriversEd.com’s courses provide a great education to help you and your student drive safely. For example, here is some excellent information from DriversEd.com on how to drive around school buses. Drive safely!
[Guest blogger Ashley Orelup joins us to talk about driving freedom and explain how and why having a license is full of tiny freedoms you won't learn about in driver's ed. Thanks, Ashley!]
In the coming months, you’re gonna learn a lot about why you should get your license when you take driver’s ed, about responsibility and safety and convenience—and it’s all true. But I’ve got a different set of reasons to share with you.
Over the past two weeks of Car Insurance 101, we have discussed how to choose the best car insurance for the first-time driver and how to pick out a car. Now that we’ve talked about how to spend money, it’s time to talk about how to save money.
Last week in Car Insurance 101, we talked about choosing car insurance for the first-time driver. Deciding on what kind of coverage you want is a step in the right direction, but what’s the point of purchasing car insurance if you don’t have a car to insure? That’s why this week we’ll be talking about choosing a car for the first-time driver so buckle up!
Purchasing car insurance for the first-time driver can be a headache. There is a lot of information you’ll need in order to make the best decisions, so let’s start here at the beginning with Car Insurance 101.
[Please enjoy this guest post by Fay W! Thanks, Fay!] When it comes to teens in the car, are there significant differences between male and female drivers? Does gender really impact driving performance? Some common failures of new drivers include:
- Poor judgment, with recklessness and inability to recognize and assess risks
- Inexperience, with lack of practice in a variety in situations
Interestingly, it seems to be true that boys tend to be more likely to take chances, log more miles, and collect more speeding tickets. Put more simply, they have worse judgment. Inexperience is a problem for all new drivers, by definition, which leaves distractions. Do these differ across genders? It’s starting to look like they do!