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Posts tagged ‘driving tips’

Throwback Thursday: Blogdate 3.27.09

This is what people THINK I'm doing in the Dominican Republic, but really I'm writing. I swear!

This is what people THINK I’m doing in the Dominican Republic, but really I’m writing. I swear!

I’ve been doing a lot of writing, not but not much of it for public consumption. To keep my ardent fans happy, I’ve decided to get into this Throwback Thursday action. But instead of old photos, I’ll treat you to a blast from my past.

I was reminded of this piece yesterday, when a friend was telling me how her friends in the Dominican Republic are always surprised by her ability to take care of her regular car maintenance all by herself. The fact that I originally posted it 5 years ago today (yikes!) made it the obvious choice for this, my first Throwback Thursday.

It was originally published on my blog at www.evesun.com on Friday, March 27, 2009.

Now, without further ado, here’s…

How not to change a headlight

(Originally published March 27, 2014 at www.evesun.com)

This was apparently the week for “p’diddles,” as we called them when we were kids. In the last five days, my co-worker Jessica and I have both had headlights out.

Thankfully, I noticed mine before leaving the driveway. Jessica, on the other hand, had it pointed out by a helpful State Trooper.

Our approach to rectifying the situation also differed. Jessica, in my opinion, took the easy way out. She had her light fixed by a licensed professional. I chose the cheaper and infinitely more entertaining way, and asked my father to do it for me. In retrospect, this may not have been the wisest of decisions.

I would gladly choose a bookstore over an auto parts store any day. It must be all that latent testosterone in the air because, like hardware stores, they typically give me hives.

Since I don’t know the difference between, well, anything they stock, I always end up feeling like a brainless twit. Monday afternoon, when I walked into Advanced Auto Parts, was no exception. I went in fully prepared to feel like an idiot.

To my surprise and relief, the process of getting a replacement bulb for my headlight was, in fact, entirely painless. Thanks to the assistance from a knowledgeable staff member, I had my bulb and was on my way within minutes. (And my wallet was only $10 lighter to boot!)

It went down hill from there.

I should explain that when I was growing up, my father was always the guy who read every manual and every bit of instructions before starting a project. But as he’s gotten older, he’s changed. He now disdains such things as being only for mere mortals. Which is why I was the one holding my car’s owner manual pointing frantically at the tiny diagram as my father wreaked havoc under the hood of my ancient Explorer.

Oh, sure. It sounded simple. Remove the old bulb; install the new one. But is it ever really that easy? Maybe it would be if the space you had to work in was designed for adult-sized hands rather than those of a three year-old considered small for their age. Or if the bulb had ever been previously changed. (To my knowledge, this hadn’t happened in the life of the car, which rolled off the assembly line the same year I graduated college.)

But it wasn’t, and it hadn’t. Add the fact that my father considered himself above such things as reading the directions, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

I won’t go into the gory details. Not only would it bore you to tears, but my therapist has advised me against it. Suffice it to say, it had all the ingredients of a bad cable miniseries. There was bad language, ranting, pleading, tears, a scuffle, too much drama and was dragged out entirely too long.

In the end, my father was cranky and I was frazzled, but my headlight was, indeed, functioning once more.

Now I just have to pray the other bulb has plenty of useful life left, because I don’t think I could face a repeat performance any time soon.

 

Six Winter Driving Tips (courtesy of the Chenango Traffic Safety Board)

One of my involvements is with the Chenango County Traffic Safety Board. The following article appeared in  the February 6, 2014 issue of The Evening Sun. It is the first in a series of articles we’ll be submitting in our efforts to promote traffic safety here in Chenango County and beyond.

So here we are, in the midst of one of the worst winters in recent years. And Punxsutawney Phil just saw his shadow.  Of course, any Central New Yorker worth their salt knows we’ll be lucky to have only six more weeks of winter. But with one major storm after another hitting our area, it seems like the perfect time for a few reminders about how to handle those snow-covered roads.

Tip #1: Clean off your car

Sounds like a no brainer, right? Except how many times do you see people driving with their windshield only partially cleared, and piles of snow on the roof. The fact of the matter is, it’s not just your visibility that’s at stake – although, that’s pretty important.

“They just don’t think of how much it’s a hazard to other people,” explained New York State Police Sergeant (Ret.) Elizabeth Wonka, who sits on Chenango County’s Traffic Safety Board.

According to Wonka, during her more than 30 years with the state police she saw multiple accidents – including one fatality – where snow (and in the case of the fatality, ice) left uncleared from a vehicle was a contributing factor.

So, for your sake as well as others on the road, take the extra time to thoroughly clear the snow and ice from not only your windshield, but the rest of your car as well.

Tip #2: Give our Highway crews the credit they deserve (and the space they need to do their jobs)

Every time a major city is crippled by a couple of measly inches of snow, Central New Yorkers chuckle to themselves. (No offense, Atlanta!) But what we should be doing is thanking our highway crews. Because without those state, county and local crews, we’d be in the same boat.

Here’s a few things you should know about snow plows, and the people who drive them.

  • There’s a reason they go slow. (And no, it’s not to make you late for work.)

According to retired Chenango County Highway Superintendent Randy Gibbon, who chairs the Chenango TSB, a plow should be traveling under 30 mph when applying sand or salt.

“That speed allows the material being applied to stay on the roadway and do its intended duty, bare the road surface and provide friction,” he explained.

  •  When you see a plow, pay attention and be prepared – even if it’s stopped.

“If a snowplow is pulled over at an intersection, it is probably trying to clear the snow or ice from that intersection,” said Gibbon. So be prepared for it to back up. Look for the driver’s signal regarding what you should do, and be prepared to stop if necessary.

  • Give them some space.

That snowplow driver is doing his best to make the road safer for all drivers. But he (or she) needs space to do their job.

“When you have a snowplow approaching on the other side of the roadway please slow down and safely pull over towards the right,” recommended Gibbons.

And let’s remember, they’re braving the same weather conditions as we are. (Actually worse, since they don’t have crews out there clearing the roads for them.)

Tip #3: Expect the unexpected

Winter driving is all about changing conditions. Drifting snow, snow squalls, black ice… all are things we need to be on the look out for, especially as the wind kicks up and temperatures start to drop. These hazardous conditions can easily take drivers by surprise, Wonka said, as they can exist even when roads are otherwise clear.

The best defense? A good offense, according to Wonka. Always be aware of the conditions around you and be prepared to adjust to them.

Tip #4: Slow Down

According to Wonka, if she were to give drivers only one piece of advice, it would be this: slow down.

“Many accidents are caused by people driving too fast for conditions,” she explained.

That doesn’t mean that the drivers in question were exceeding the speed limit, but rather they weren’t taking into account the fact that vehicles respond differently when the road surface is slippery or snow covered. Especially when you apply the brakes.

Take stopping distance, for example. It takes longer – both in distance and time – for your car to come to a stop. Therefore, you need to take your foot off the gas and start applying the break sooner than you would if the roads were clear and dry.

“Hard stops are more dangerous,” Wonka said, so you should avoid sudden breaking, and allow more space between you and the car in front of you.

Tip #5: Be prepared

Going on a trip or planning to drive in a storm? Wonka recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car. Food, water and a flashlight are some basics you should have with you, but you also want to think about staying warm.

“Dress warmly,” she said, or have an extra layer with you. And don’t forget a hat, gloves and boots in case you have to walk for help.

A full tank of gas is also a good idea, she added, both to avoid getting stranded and so that you can run the heater as needed.

And, when in doubt, consider…

Tip #6: Stay home

If you’re not comfortable driving in particular conditions, don’t.

“People find it embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be,” said Wonka. “It’s ok to stay home if you’re not comfortable driving.”

Looking for additional winter driving tips? Visit these helpful websites.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee

AAA Winter Driving Tips