As the 19th century segued into the 20th, so did the primary mode of transportation. For centuries people relied on horses to get around, but the development of the internal combustion engine in the 1900s altered that. Vehicles were taking over, and U.S. presidents had to acclimate to automobile travel. But it’s interesting to see that for some, it ended up becoming more of a passion.
McKinley Serves as First
The first president to actually ride in an automobile was William McKinley, but he wasn’t yet in office. In 1901, McKinley was assassinated, and his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him. Roosevelt was the first President to ride in a motor vehicle while in office, which he did in August, 1902, when embarking on a New England tour, and also the first president to own a car. William Howard Taft, who followed Roosevelt into the presidency, was the chief executive responsible for changing White House transportation from carriages to automobiles. The first official presidential White House vehicle didn’t run on gasoline. It was steam-powered, a White Model M touring car. Several First Ladies took advantage of another Taft purchase, an electric Baker Victoria.
FDR Behind the Wheel
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s bout with polio left him unable to move the lower part of his body. That didn’t stop him from driving, which prior to his disability had been one of his great passions. A 1936 Ford Phaeton was modified for driving with hand controls, and FDR enjoyed driving this car around his Hyde Park, NY, estate. Less is known about another modified vehicle, a 1931 Plymouth PA Phaeton that Roosevelt kept in Georgia, where the president regularly visited the therapeutic waters for rehabilitation. As president, FDR’s official cars consisted primarily of Lincolns and Packards, but he arrived at Congress in December, 1941, to give his immortal “Day of Infamy” speech after the attack on Pearl Harbor in Al Capone’s former vehicle, a 1928 Cadillac 341A Town Sedan.
JFK and the Thunderbirds
Unfortunately, the vehicle most associated with John F. Kennedy is the one in which he was assassinated, a Lincoln Continental four-door convertible. In life, JFK was a true car aficionado. He loved his 1961 white Ford Thunderbird convertible, the epitome of cool, which included a swing-away steering wheel. This wheel allowed the driver to get in and out of the car easily, an especially attractive option for someone with a back as bad as Kennedy’s. In addition, Kennedy owned a 1963 Ford Thunderbird hardtop, featuring an alternator instead of a generator.
Car Guys as Presidents
Some presidents viewed automobiles as simply transportation, while others were true “car guys.” Among the latter was Lyndon B. Johnson, who owned an Amphicar, a vehicle that doubles as a boat, and kept it as his Texas ranch. Johnson loved to shock passengers by aiming the vehicle at a lake and shouting that the brakes wouldn’t work. Another personal LBJ vehicle: a Lincoln Continental convertible.
Ronald Reagan may not seem like a Subaru guy, but his California ranch was home to a 1978 Subaru Brat. He obtained the car after finding out Subaru was having a nearly impossible time in tests trying to destroy this incredibly sturdy vehicle. While Reagan drove a 1952 U.S. Army surplus Jeep while at the ranch for photo op purposes, it was the Brat that he tooled around in when the photographers weren’t in attendance.
Bill Clinton’s pride and joy was his ice blue 1967 Ford Mustang. He’s in good company – this is the most collected model of all Mustangs.
Even the smallest driving mistake can trigger a road rage reaction in the drivers directly impacted by your error. The lack of face to face interaction on the road virtually eliminates the allowance that would normally be given after someone makes a simple mistake. The resulting angry, irrational reaction becomes a dangerous problem when aggressive drivers act on their impulses. With aggressive driving accounting for 56% of all traffic fatalities, it is definitely in your best interest to act in a calm, rational manner to safely remove yourself from any road rage situation that may occur.
Here’s how to proceed if you ever become a target of road rage.
1. Signal, Move to the Right, and Decrease Your Speed
Two wrongs never make a right, but that is exactly how aggressive drivers approach errors in traffic situations. If you cut someone off on accident, for example, an aggressive driver might respond in kind in addition to honking excessively, swearing and slamming on his or her brakes.
When this happens, you can try to right your error by signaling, moving to the right and decreasing your speed. By moving out of the way, you are communicating that you did not mean to make an error and wish to remove yourself from the situation altogether. No matter what the other driver does or says, you should never stop and engage with that individual, as that action could result in injuries to you, your passengers and other people on the road.
2. Apologetically Wave and Nod at the Aggressive Driver
Once you get to the right, the aggressive driver may attempt to pass and cut you off. Give an apologetic wave and nod to attempt to temper their anger and further communicate your regret. Much like it is used to say thank you, a quick wave is a courtesy that goes a long way in apologizing to the other driver for your mistake. Avoid a thumbs-up or any other gesture that could be misunderstood as a rude, spiteful or aggressive action.
3. Avoid Eye Contact and Drive Defensively
Eye contact can be perceived as an aggressive reaction on your part, so always keep your eyes firmly on the road ahead. Situate both hands on the wheel in a ten and two configuration to prepare for the need for sudden maneuvers. Remain equally ready to brake gently, yet swiftly, in case of rapid braking maneuvers from the other driver.
Reduce your speed slightly to help add extra distance between your vehicle and the angry driver’s. The more room you put between yourself and the road rage prone driver, the better. You really cannot have too much room while driving defensively anyway, as the extra space gives you ample time to react and adjust your speed, accordingly.
As explained by Steve Staveley, Lead Instructor at Fast Lane Racing School, “Use the 1 second per 10 MPH, or a car length per 10 MPH” rule to keep your car at a safe distance from other vehicles. “Your goal is to get to your location safely. Give the other guys space, so you have space,” states Staveley.
4. Do What You Can to Temper Your Own Reactions
Your own reactions to road rage can play a role in either escalating or diffusing the situation.
“Be patient and don’t engage in the same activity as the aggressive driver,” said Lieutenant DeBock of the Duvall Police Department in Duvall, WA. “The safety of you and your passengers is most important. Nothing is worth your lives.”
To make safety your top priority, you must actively temper your own reactions as the road rage situation occurs to keep from doing anything to escalate the aggressive response. You can listen to calming music, countdown from 100 or practice deep breathing to settle your emotions and respond in a calm, rational manner.
Have You Witnessed a Road Rage Incident?
If you are ever a victim of road rage, or witness an incident between other drivers, use your hands-free, voice-activated phone to call 911 and report the incident. Provide as much information as you can to the dispatcher to receive assistance from a police officer.
If you are already safe, you should still report the incident to help prevent your fellow drivers from becoming a victim of road rage as well. In addition, the aggressive driver may receive much-needed defensive driver training or other interventions as a result of your report.
As a driver, you’ve likely run into – figuratively speaking, we hope – road rage. Perhaps you’ve even been a road rage victim, yourself. Unfortunately, road rage or aggressive driving are exceptionally common, and we might even have driven aggressively, ourselves. Here are seven shocking road rage statistics you may never have heard.
1. 53% Consider Speeding Normal
Especially at rush hour, over half of all drivers consider driving 10 mph over the speed limit to be perfectly normal. For the other 47%, this is seen as aggressive behavior, which can raise the ire of even calm drivers. Speeding and other aggressive driving maneuvers also significantly increase the chances and severity of car crashes.
2. 94% of Collisions are Due to Human Error
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates over 94% of car crashes are caused by human error. About a third of these can be linked to road rage causes or road rage itself, such as speeding, changing lanes without signaling, tailgating, illegal maneuvers.
3. 50% Become Aggressors
Being the victim of such bad driving habits or driver errors, angered or anxious drivers might themselves respond in kind. Half of drivers admit to resorting to horn-honking, light-flashing, rude gestures, shouting, and aggressive driving after another driver has done it to them.
4. 2% Admit Revenge
Sometimes, such aggression takes a step further, including tailgating, short-braking, even bumping, and about 2% of drivers admit to attempting to run another aggressive driver off the road!
5. 37% Involve Firearms
As if this weren’t scary enough, over two-thirds of road rage incidents involve at least one firearm, which can significantly raise the danger level, not only for the drivers involved, but other drivers and pedestrians in the area.
6. 66% of Traffic Fatalities
Every year, around 30,000 people die in car crashes, in spite of safer vehicles and traffic laws designed to protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike. As it turns out, no safety system in the world can protect you from an aggressive driver, possibly linked to two-thirds of all traffic fatalities.
7. 30 Murders per Year
Every year, about 30 murders are linked to road rage. This is the sad disastrous result of rage-fueled car crashes, the use of firearms to solve traffic disputes, even bringing the violence right into people’s homes.
Read more from DriversEd.com, I Drive Safely & eDriving:
- “As Road Rage Incidents Increase, Florida Drivers are Cautioned to Let It Go,” on IDriveSafely.com
- Visit our Distracted Driving Information Center
- “Avoid Encountering—or Becoming!—a Road-Rager,” on DriversEd.com
Potholes can cause a lot of damage to your car, from causing a flat tire and damage to your rims or hubcaps—including losing them—to more expensive damage such as breaking your wheel’s axle and altering your car’s suspension.
Usually, we encounter potholes on city streets or on highways, especially if we live in cities and states that have long winters. Road conditions can worsen due to the use of salt to melt and clear snow. But that same salt can also erode roadways.
Or, if there are unusually long rainy seasons, rainwater that sits on roadways can cause roadway deterioration. Several potholes to pop up and grow in diameter and depth.
So if our cars sustain damage after encountering a pothole, the first question that usually goes through our minds is who is financially responsible for repairs.
Car insurance may cover most of the costs, but if the pothole is on a public road, then filing a claim with the city, state, or federal agency responsible for maintaining the road may also be an option for reimbursement.
Tamra Johnson, Spokesperson and PR Manager, AAA National, said that although AAA doesn’t actively track this issue, there’s some information on how specific states handle potholes and potential liability.
“Some states (Ohio, Virginia) specifically mention potholes, while others have a process for tort claims that could conceivably cover public road conditions (DC, Hawaii, Maryland),” she says. “Other states (Pennsylvania) are apparently prohibited from pothole reimbursement. We also found that Massachusetts has language making them liable for injuries to individuals under certain circumstances.“
Although reimbursement for pothole damage varies from state to state, and from town to town, you should expect that the claims process will be a challenging one. Filing a claim with your city andor state will come with a lot of push-back and resistance. As with any car crash, to get the best results from filing a claim, you’ll want to take many photos of the resulting damage, as well as keep track of estimates and repair costs.
You may have to take your city or state to court to receive payment, and even then, you won’t be guaranteed a favorable judgment. And even if you do receive one, you most likely will not get all of your damages covered. Additionally, even if you are awarded payment, it may take some time to receive it.
Where a pothole occurs can also serve as a bureaucratic headache, such as a pothole near a railroad. A railroad can be owned and maintained by a government entity or privately owned. Either way, government entities must also need to maintain safe roadways. So who would be liable if you have a rough crossing due to a pothole near a railroad? You can expect that it will take time to determine who is at fault.
After the final score is announced, the band plays its last encore, or the closing credits fade to black, the parking lot will suddenly be abuzz with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fans trying to escape the parking lot and get back home. Unfortunately, whatever camaraderie the fans had inside may quickly evaporate as hundreds of vehicles instantly clog parking lot traffic lanes and surrounding areas. Teen drivers and new drivers, already inexperienced and anxious, often get caught up and panic in the moment, leading to car crashes, or even worse, injuries.
Here are six tactics that can reduce your stress levels as you exit large festival parking areas.
1. Scout the Parking Situation on Google Maps before You Head Out
Checking Google Maps and Street View before you depart will give you a better idea of the parking situation where you’re going, which is even more beneficial if you’re heading to a new part of town.
2. Leave Early or Late
You might be a die-hard fan, but if you’ve got work or classes the next day, prudence dictates that you get out as soon as possible, unfortunately, impatience will likely slow down your parking lot escape. Instead, consider leaving early, before the main exit rush. Another idea might be to simply take a nap in your car while you wait for traffic to thin out.
3. Back Into Your Parking Spot
While about 76% of U.S. drivers most frequently park their vehicle by simply pulling forward into a spot, it’s a riskier practice that leaves pedestrians vulnerable when the driver later reverses from the spot to exit the lot. You might have a rear-view camera on your vehicle – which is great – but research has found that significant vehicle alert system limitations exist when a car is parked between larger vehicles, such as SUVs or minivans, and is trying to reverse out of a spot. In fact, the technology failed to detect pedestrians 60 percent of the time.
4. Focus on a Quick Exit, Not a Close Spot
If possible, park as close to the parking lot exit as you can. Here are four reasons why:
- There will be less pedestrian and vehicle traffic, making it easier to back out
- There will be less of a threat of unwanted door dings from nearby cars
- There will be more room for you and your passengers to exit the vehicle
- Walking’s good for you!
5. Be Patient
If you’re waiting in parking lot traffic, recognize that everyone else is waiting, too! This is a fact, and there is no way to escape it. Calm down, bask in the glow of the brake lights, turn on some music, or talk with your friends – you did carpool, didn’t you?
6. Take Public Transportation
Many parking lots are serviced by public transportation, such as bus, subway, or train. Instead of battling it out with hundreds of other cars, taking public transportation, even to an off-site parking lot, can significantly reduce the stress of getting out of the venue. Public transportation is also better for the environment.
Take some time to get to know the area, particularly the parking lots and the exits, so you can plan your escape accordingly. Similarly, if possible, pick seats that are closer to the exits to gain an added time advantage. In the end, though, your best bet is to leave early and exercise extreme patience.
What can be even more stressful than navigating a busy roadway? Parking in a crowded lot! No matter how long you’ve been driving, be it months or decades, here’s a quick parking lot etiquette course: It takes just three minutes to learn, but graduation might take a little longer!
1. Respect Parking Lot Markings
Ignoring even the most basic driving rules in parking lots, like following traffic flow arrows or using parking spaces as traffic lanes, can lead to confusion, crashes, and injuries for both you and other pedestrians around you. Unprotected pedestrians moving to and from their vehicles are particularly in danger should drivers ignore such restrictions. In 2014, 244 unprotected pedestrian workers were killed in parking lots because of vehicle crashes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To create a safe environment for all parties involved, respect all markings, traffic signs, and traffic arrows when in a parking lot. When driving around in a parking lot, don’t use open parking spaces to slip over into another lane – crashes or injuries could result.
2. Park Straight and Center
Whether in haste or in pride, drivers parking crooked in a space, over the marked lines, or across two parking spaces, show a particular lack of respect for their fellow drivers. Parking crooked makes it difficult for others to get into adjacent spaces. Parking too close to the lines will likely lead to frustration and door dings. Parking across spaces might protect your car from door dings, but does nothing to endear you to other drivers.
When entering a parking space, whether pulling in or backing in, take your time to park as straight as possible and in the center of the space. Park in a space appropriate for your vehicle – no trucks in compact-car spaces – and leave room for drivers to get into their trunks. This makes it easier for other drivers to get into adjacent spaces and reduces door ding chances. If you’re concerned someone might ding your new car, park farther away – everyone can benefit from a walk!
3. Be Patient
Drivers can often find themselves in high-stress situations when parking, whether it’s due to loud passengers causing distractions or battling heavy parking traffic during an event or the holiday season. Last nerves can fray and tempers can flare, leading to irrational decision making and potential harmful situations. If you’re traveling to a destination where you think you might have even the littlest bit of difficulty parking (too few spaces, parallel-only options), leave a few minutes early to give yourself extra time, should you need it.
If available parking spaces are few, drive slowly, while adhering to traffic flow arrows, until you find one. Claim a parking spot by stopping, leaving enough room for the vehicle to exit its spot, and turn on your turn signal to indicate your intentions. Respect when others do the same, but don’t insist on your rights when someone ignores it. Then, patiently, move into the parking spot.
If large, busy parking lots seem too overwhelming to you, practice, practice, practice. Head over to an unoccupied lot with a parent or adult driver as your passenger to build up your parking confidence, speed, and accuracy.
Because traffic law isn’t enforced in private parking lots, if there’s anything to be taken away from these points, it’s to let consideration and patience be the law. If complacency and overconfidence make highways dangerous, maybe it’s inexperience and impatience that make parking lots so dangerous, not only for teen drivers, but drivers of any experience. A little balance is all that we need, though, and a little balance in parking lots and life might do everyone some good!
When shopping for a car, particularly if you’re a commuter, you’re likely to hear the phrase “fuel economy” parlayed about the dinner table or wherever you discuss such matters. Whether you’re a commuter, business owner, or fleet manager, fuel economy deserves your attention. After all, fuel economy translates directly to your bottom line, whether it’s how much it will cost you to get to work or school, or how much refueling costs will affect profits or pricing strategy.
In talking about fuel economy, vehicle type strongly determines what kind of fuel economy you can expect, and it’s obvious that a full-size SUV isn’t going to give you as many miles of gas per gallon (MPG) as a hybrid compact car. On the other hand, even when comparing identical vehicles, there are many things that can affect individual fuel economy, such as vehicle condition, state of repair, and driver habits – even climate. After many studies on the subject, one maintenance item stands out above all else: Proper tire pressure. Drivers aren’t checking and adjusting tire pressure often enough or even to the correct specification.
A November 2012 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) effectiveness study found the average non-TPMS American car’s tires were underinflated by 1.4 pounds per square inch (PSI), ranging from 0.56 PSI to 2.52 PSI underinflated. The average tire underinflation for direct, TPMS-equipped vehicles was just 0.35 PSI.
After tire failures caused nearly 1,000 injuries and fatalities in the late 1990s, NHTSA enacted the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, or the TREAT Act. Among other provisions, TREAD mandates TPMS in all vehicles since September 1, 2007. Tire pressure was high on the list of those tire failures, but that’s not all. Aside from affecting traction, tread wear, ride quality, and directional stability, tire pressure also affects fuel economy. Most realize underinflated tires increase your vehicle’s drag, which increases fuel consumption. But, by how much, exactly?
How Much Does Tire Pressure Affect Fuel Economy?
The same NHTSA study revealed every 1% decrease in tire pressure correlated to a 0.3% reduction in fuel economy. For example, let’s take a typical small sedan rated for 25 MPG, whose tires should be set at 32 PSI.
- If the driver ignores tire pressure for a month – tires naturally lose 1 PSI to 2 PSI per month – the resulting pressure drop could reduce fuel economy to 23.1 MPG, on average.
- Even in the same day, temperature can swing over 20 °F, affecting our sample commuter’s fuel economy by a couple MPGs.
- Changing from summer to winter, a typical drop of 50 °F translates to about 5 PSI underinflation. In addition to the cold-weather fuel economy impact, the extra rolling resistance will reduce fuel economy to just 20.3 MPG.
To test this, Edmunds.com conducted a tire pressure study that including over 200 of their employees’ vehicles. The group discovered that their own employees, all automotive enthusiasts to begin with, had underinflated tires on average of 2.24 PSI, meaning they’re about 7% underinflated. On our sample commuter, this might translate to real-world fuel economy of 22.9 MPG, not counting traffic conditions, climate changes, and driving habits.
Myth: One might be tempted to think, “If 32 PSI gets me 25 MPG and 30 PSI gets me 23 MPG, won’t 27 PSI give me 26.9 MPG?” It seems a logical leap, but real-world numbers don’t follow the assumption. Additional tire pressure might give you a couple MPGs, but would impact ride quality and traction, for an ultimately uncomfortable and possibly dangerous ride. There are better ways to improve fuel economy, such as by simply slowing down or not carrying so much junk in the trunk.
New cars are getting more fuel efficient every year, but you don’t have to buy an expensive hybrid to get better gas mileage. Instead, you can teach your old car new tricks! There are several things you can do to make sure your aging car sips fuel instead of guzzling it. It all boils down to a little extra effort and planning on your part, but the rewards will be totally worth it.
1. Keep Up with Regular Maintenance
It may seem obvious, but many people neglect important regular maintenance with their older vehicles.
“Keep tires properly inflated. Low tire pressure can hurt fuel economy, and it’s also dangerous,” says Brian Moody, Executive Editor, Autotrader. In fact, every 1 psi drop in tire pressure can lower gas mileage by about 0.2%, and you can improve your mileage by up to 3% in some cases with the right pressure. Most cars have a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door detailing the recommended pressure for each tire.
Be sure to use the right grade of oil and keep up with your oil and oil filter changes to ensure your engine runs smoothly. Replace your engine air filter regularly, as clogged filters can impact performance and fuel economy in older cars. And finally, don’t ignore that dreaded “check engine” light! A failed O2 sensor, for example, will cause your engine to run less efficiently.
2. Spend a Little Extra Time Planning
Just a little planning will go a long way in saving you gas, even if you drive an older car. It can also save you a good bit of stress and anxiety as well! Here are our top tips for thinking ahead to save money on gas:
Combine Your Trips: Carpooling and Errand Runs
Obviously, the less you drive your car, the less fuel you’ll burn. So, when planning out your week, include carpooling to work with your coworkers or friends to share the gas bill. Plan all your meals for the week, so you only need one trip to the grocery store. Combine all your weekly errands into a single trip, and you’ll end up saving both time and gas in the long run.
Plan Your Routes for Fewer Stops and Less Traffic
“Don’t spend a lot of time letting the car idle,” Moody said. “The general rule is that letting your car idle longer than two or three minutes is a waste of fuel.”
The more time you spend stopped, the more excess gas you’ll burn. Plus, stop-and-go driving burns far more gas than cruising at a constant speed. Try to plan your routes to avoid traffic lights, stop signs, and left turns. The shortest route isn’t always the most fuel-efficient, also. Consider driving outside of peak traffic hours, as more cars on the road mean more slowdowns and stops for you. If you do find yourself stopped for longer than a minute or two, turn off your engine to avoid excess idling.
Know Your Route and Allow Plenty of Time
The better you know your route, the less chance you’ll get lost and drive extra miles to find your way again. Before you leave, it’s best to understand exactly where you’re going and how you’ll get there to avoid potential wrong turns and wasted gas. If you’re headed to an urban or downtown area, be sure to plan your parking ahead of time, so you’re not circling the block over and over looking for a space.
Also, it’s very important to allow yourself plenty of time for your trip, so you won’t feel inclined to speed. The faster your drive, and the more rapidly you accelerate, the less efficient your car will be.
“Drive moderately,” Moody recommended. “Accelerate with the flow of traffic, and never stomp the accelerator. Also, when driving on the highway, keep your car’s speed steady. Speeding up and slowing down constantly wastes gas.”
All of this is much easier if you give yourself plenty of time to drive to your destination, and you’ll feel less stress, too.
If you don’t clean out your car regularly, including your trunk, you might be surprised how much extra weight you’re lugging around unnecessarily. Even a few boxes of books can add enough weight to harm your fuel economy, especially with stop-and-go driving. A car full of stuff you don’t need is just like driving around with an extra passenger!
Also, if you have a roof rack or roof-mounted luggage carrier, take a little extra time to remove it when not in use. These add-ons can cause a surprising amount of extra air resistance, especially at highway speeds. That can lead to as much as 25% more gas burned. Ouch!
Use a Windshield Screen While Parked on Hot Days
We all know the feeling of getting in a sweltering car that’s been parked in the sun on a hot day. Blasting the air conditioning to cool off your car’s interior drains engine power and burns extra gas. So, use a reflective windshield screen or sun shade, and park your car facing the sun. This will drop your interior temperature significantly and allow you to run your air conditioning less to feel comfortable, saving fuel.
A recent study by Cars on Demand found that 85% of people place more trust in electronic navigation devices and systems over maps, and almost half would just give up their journey if their navigation system broke. More shockingly, it found that only one in 10 young drivers keep a road map in their car.
So, what’s our take? This statistic should be much, much higher, and here are three reasons why:
- A road map’s battery can’t run out.
- Road maps don’t unexpectedly lose their service or signal.
- Road maps keep you aware of your surroundings, as opposed to a lone, screen-view shot of the road you’re on.
Obtaining a road map is a piece of cake: They’re inexpensive and easy to find online, and most gas stations and rest areas have them readily available, sometimes free of charge.
Here are our six steps to road map mastery.
1. Find the Right Map
Maps and road atlases come in many sizes or “scales.” Some are designed to show an entire state or larger region and may only include major state routes and interstate highways. These are perfect for longer road trips through unfamiliar parts of the country, but they won’t be any help if you’re trying to navigate a city. Other maps are designed specifically for certain cities, metropolitan areas, or regions within a state. These are more detailed and helpful when navigating across town.
We recommend stocking your vehicle with three basic maps to get started:
- A comprehensive road atlas, like this one from Rand McNally. This atlas includes a map of every state and Canadian province, detailed maps of the 50 largest cities in North America, and a mileage chart showing the distance between many U.S. cities, and more.
- A detailed map of your home state.
- A detailed map of your hometown/city.
Be sure to keep your map collection updated, as new road construction and road changes happen frequently.
2. Use the Legend and Scale
All road maps include a legend either toward the bottom of the map or on its back. The legend will explain what all the different road lines, colors, and symbols on the map mean. The more detailed the map, the more important it is to understand the legend and what it’s showing.
Maps also include a “scale,” often near the legend. The scale is a line-of-measurement graphic showing how distances on the map correspond to distances in the real world. Using the scale, it’s easy to estimate how far away your destination is, or how long you’ll need to drive on a given road before making a turn.
3. Find the Compass Rose and Orient Yourself
Many road maps are laid out with north facing upward. But, this isn’t the case with all maps, so it’s important to consult a map’s compass rose to help you orient yourself. That way, you can rotate your map to face the direction you’re going, confirm you’re heading in the right direction, and begin to visualize your route.
4. Consult the Index
Most detailed road maps include an index. This shows you where, on the map, you can find a certain city, road, or landmark, depending on the map’s scale. Often, maps are laid out with a grid pattern, with letters and numbers representing sections of the map. The index will list locations, landmarks, and roads with their corresponding grid location, showing you where to look.
Using the index, it’s easy to find your current location and your destination. From there, you can start planning your route.
5. Plan Your Route
Once you’ve located your starting point and destination on a map, the next step is to connect the dots. Try to find the simplest route with the fewest turns. Think about avoiding major highways, intersections, and shopping centers during rush hour in the morning or evening. Use the map’s scale to estimate distances and set your car’s trip odometer to help you stay on track. Also pay attention to major intersections, parks, and landmarks noted on your map, as spotting these will help keep you headed in the right direction.
6. Hit the Road
When navigating your route with passengers, it’s best to have someone follow your progress on the map, spotting landmarks, and alerting you to upcoming turns. If you’re driving alone, however, only consult your map before you set off; it is never OK to use a map while you’re driving. Distracted driving is a significant cause of accidents; in 2015, distracted driving caused 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries in the U.S. Instead, pull over, reorient yourself, find your current location on your map, and adjust your route accordingly.
If your cell phone or GPS device dies or stops working, a paper map or road atlas will save the day. It may take a little more time and effort to get to your destination, but you might be surprised how well they work and how easy they are to use.
Your vehicle’s side- and rear-view mirrors are designed to give you a good view of the road behind you while minimizing blind spots. Adjusting them properly is very easy, but it’s also key to staying safe on the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year, blind spots factor into about 840,000 side-to-side collisions, helping cause 300 deaths, plus thousands of injuries millions of dollars in damages. Proper mirror adjustment and use can help minimize blind spots and reduce the chances of a blind spot collision.
If you’re driving a car that is not your own, or if you recently let someone else drive your car, it can be very easy to forget to adjust your mirrors before you hit the road. Mirrors can also fall out of adjustment due to vibration or bumps as you drive. However, it’s never a good idea to try to adjust your mirrors while driving, as distracted driving is a major cause of vehicle accidents. Instead, get in the habit of taking a quick glance at all your mirrors before you set off to make sure your rearward visibility is optimized.
Follow the steps below to adjust and use your mirrors properly.
How to Adjust Your Side Mirrors
Here’s how to adjust your left and right side-view mirrors for the best visibility:
- Locate your car’s mirror adjustment controls. Most modern cars have an electronic switch that controls the position of your left and right-side mirrors. These switches will have buttons that move your mirrors upward, downward, left, and right. They’ll also have a button that switches control between the left mirror and the right mirror. It’s important to know where this switch is located in any car you drive and how to operate it, so it’s easy to adjust your side mirrors.
- Adjust the side-to-side position. Toggle the side mirror adjustment switch to control your left-side mirror. Then, move your head until it’s resting against the lift-side window. Look at your left-side mirror, and adjust it until you can just barely see the edge of your car in the inside of the mirror. Then, toggle the mirror adjustment switch to control your right-side mirror. Move your head to the right, so it’s positioned right above your car’s center console. Now, set the ride-side mirror, so you can just start to see the edge of your car on the inside of the mirror. This positioning will help maximize your view of the road behind you while minimizing your blind spots.
- Adjust the up-and-down position. Use the side mirror adjustment switches to set your side-view mirrors vertical position. You should give yourself the best possible view of the road behind, but exact vertical placement often comes down to personal preference. You don’t want to see too much sky or too much road. Instead, it’s best to balance the position of each mirror so you can see traffic clearly as well as curbs while parallel parking.
How to Adjust Your Rear-View Mirror
Once your side mirrors are adjusted properly, it’s easy to adjust your rear-view mirror. Be sure to sit normally and use minimal head movements when looking at your rear-view mirror. Then, manually move the mirror until your view is straight out of your car’s rear window, centered, and level. The goal is always to maximize your rearward view.
Depending on your vehicle, your rear-view mirror may also have a manual adjustment tab for night-time driving. These tabs are generally in the center of your mirror, along the bottom. Moving the tab all the way forward or backward will adjust the tilt position of the rear-view mirror. In the daytime position, it will look normal. But, in the night-time position, you will be unable to see much of anything, except headlights. Use this position for driving at night, so other cars’ headlights don’t obscure your vision, but be sure to switch back for day-time driving. If your rear-view mirror does not have a manual adjustment tab, it should handle this switch for you automatically.
How to Use Your Mirrors While Driving
Together, your car’s mirrors will give you a good view of the road around and behind your car. It’s best to scan all of your mirrors frequently while driving, using quick glances rather than long, extended stares that can distract you from the road ahead. As you’re driving, glance at each mirror roughly once every 10 seconds, at minimum. This way, you can build up a mental picture of the cars around you on the road.
While mirrors alone will not eliminate your blind spots fully, having them adjusted properly and using them correctly will help you keep track of other cars around you. You should always check your blind spots with a quick turn of the head before changing lanes or making any other lateral movements. But, actively monitoring your mirrors and tracking your fellow motorists can help you avoid surprises and potential accidents.