How to Avoid the Temptation of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has become an epidemic in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 9 people are killed every day in distracted driving related accidents – 3,285 people a year.

Even with 48 states having laws against texting and driving, people still take unnecessary chances. Checking a text message at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded. Thirteen states have made use of any handheld devices while driving illegal.

Although hands-free devices allow both hands to remain on the wheel, it is still distracting to interact with someone who is not aware of driving conditions. Many people argue that calling someone using a hands-free device is no different than talking to a passenger, but research shows passengers will instinctively stop talking to adjust to changing driving conditions.

What can be done to help those tempted to pick up their phone or teenagers to avoid checking that incoming text? Here are some suggestions that might help.

  1. Turn the phone off – This sounds simple, but many find it hard to completely disconnect. If missing an important text or phone call is a concern, plan times to pull over and check the phone in a safe location.
  2. Put your phone out of reach – If you can’t completely disconnect, putting your phone out of reach will require pulling over to answer a text or return a phone call.
  3. Phone Apps– There are several apps available that disable texting. Here are a few highly-rated options:
  1. Autobeacon Teen Drive – This app not only disables texting, but parents can set it to notify them of the number of passengers in the vehicle, if their teen is going above the posted speed limit, if the music is excessively loud or if seatbelts are not being used. It can also be set to track location.
  2. Down for the Count – This app rewards you with credits towards gift cards for hours of phone free driving. To activate, simply open the app and press start. It does the rest. If a text is answered, no credits are earned for that trip.
  3. Motovate Safe Driving – This app also rewards safe driving with incentives. It can also help break other bad driving habits such as speeding and braking too hard.
  4. One Tap – This app not only disables texting but will send a message back to the person attempting to make contact.

Do your part! Not only can you reduce the number of preventable road accidents, you can help protect the integrity of your US Auto Sales car!

5 Important Defensive Driving Reminders

Do you remember sitting in Driver’s Ed, overwhelmed by the number of rules and the amount of safety information you were expected to learn? How about during your driving instruction, being scared of driving off the road or not braking fast enough and hitting the car in front of you. Don’t you wish someone would have told you a few key points to remember so you could relax? Well, here they are. Share them with that new driver in your life.

  • Stay focused. We live in a fast-paced world. People pride themselves in being able to multitask. Unfortunately, too many people attempt to do that while driving. It is not uncommon to see people eating, listening to music with headphones, texting, applying makeup or even reading. This makes it that much more important for new drivers to focus on driving and only driving. Many states have rules around new drivers not having passengers in their car. The main reason for this is to avoid distraction.
  • Check your six. Ever jump into a rental car, take off, and realize you haven’t adjusted the mirrors? This is an easy thing to forget, but mirrors are like another set of eyes in the back of our head. The more we can see the better. However, no matter how well we adjust the mirrors, there will always be a blind spot, so make sure to still look over your shoulder to make sure you didn’t miss that approaching car on the highway.
  • Keep your distance. Don’t tailgate. We have all been guilty of this at one point or another. The day we are running late is the day we get behind the person driving 5 miles under the speed limit. The reality is whether we are riding their bumper or 10 yards back, they will still be going 5 miles under the speed limit. It will be even more frustrating for them to stop quick and you slam into the back of their car? Give yourself the space to be able to stop safely. Allow more distance at increased speeds and in inclement weather.
  • Slow down at all intersections. A yellow light does not mean speed up! Slowing down when approaching will allow you to stop safely if the light changes or the person in front of you stops quickly. 4-way stops can be tricky because cars often approach at the same time. When in doubt, let the other person go first.
  • Pay attention to road signs. This may seem obvious, but how many times have you been driving along thinking about something else and suddenly realize your lane is closed ahead for construction? Signs are not only there to keep you safe, but paying attention to them can save you a lot of money. In many states speeding fines are doubled in construction and school zones.

Stay safe out there!

Don’t Drive Drowsy: 5 Important Tips to Stay Alert at the Wheel

We all know the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but many people forget that driving while tired can be just as dangerous. When people are tired, their focus is impaired, and their response time is negatively impacted. Some people nod off and appear as if they are driving drunk. Here’s how to avoid finding yourself too tired to drive.

  • Hydrate – Although people gravitate to coffee and energy drinks when trying to stay awake and alert, these are only a quick, temporary fix. Just like sugar, caffeine will work temporarily, but when it wears off, it can leave you feeling even more exhausted. Staying hydrated is more effective for a longer time. Studies show that drinking 16-32 ounces of water immediately after waking up helps you become more alert faster and stay feeling alert longer. Instead of stopping for that extra cup of java, try drinking a couple glasses of water before that next trip and give yourself a little more time for an extra bathroom pit stop.
  • Eat Right – Many people reach for sugary treats for that quick pick me up when they start to get tired. Although it does work initially, the “sugar high” wears off quickly, leaving you more tired than before – the “crash and burn”. To avoid literally crashing, choose healthy, small snacks low in processed sugar and high in protein. They are more apt to keep you alert and give you more consistent energy. Nuts, fruit, or granola paired with that bottle of water are much better choices for extended car rides.
  • Cat Nap – Taking cat naps have been proven to give us a “second wind.” If you are unable to take a short siesta before that next car ride and find yourself nodding off, accept defeat. Pull off at the next safe spot, lean that seat back and doze for 15 to 20 minutes. Any longer and you might go into a deep sleep causing you to wake up groggy and more tired than before.
  • Know Your Danger Zone – We all have times of day when we are more tired. If 3-5pm is your danger zone, try to avoid driving during this time if you can. If you must drive at that time, drink extra water and eat a healthy snack before you hit the road.
  • Share Driving – When possible, it is always a good idea to share driving with someone else. Even if you prefer to be the driver, allowing someone to drive for even an hour will give you that necessary break to recharge.

Driving drowsy is not something to take lightly. Just like planning ahead and having that designated driver or Uber ready to go after indulging in a couple cocktails, planning ahead and having a solid game plan to avoid falling asleep at the wheel is another important responsibility to keep our roadways safe.

6 Ways to Maintain the Resale Value of your Vehicle

It is never too early to think about the resale value of your car. There many items that should be considered and addressed from time of purchase, especially if your intent is to eventually trade in or sell your vehicle down the road. Certain makes and models hold their value better due to reputation, but these items are critical to getting the highest amount possible for your vehicle.

1. Mileage – Keeping the mileage down is an important factor in resale value. That’s why the mileage limit on leases is typically 15,000 miles a year, keeping the resale value of the vehicle high. A couple of mileage numbers that are important for resale are 50,000 and 98,000. People tend to look for cars with less than 50,000 miles or under 100,000, but if it is too close to the 100,000 mark it can be a deterrent. Stay under 98,000 if you plan to resell is recommended.

2. Maintenance – We all know how important maintenance is to our vehicle. For many people looking for a used car, knowing that the car has been regularly maintained by the previous owner can make a significant difference. The only thing better than keeping up the maintenance is keeping all the maintenance records – people like documentation!

3. Keep it clean – Keeping the vehicle clean inside and out makes your vehicle stand out immediately. When looking for a used car, people are drawn to clean cars with low mileage. Regular washes and vacuuming are important. Using a stain guard on the interior and investing in some good floor mats also helps. Take a little extra care in cleaning the car and add a fresh coat of wax right before trading it in or selling it to send the message to buyers it has been taken care of and well maintained.

4. Choosing your parking spaces carefully – Where you park is extremely important in maintaining the outside of your vehicle. Park away from other vehicles to avoid scratches and door dings. Park in the shade but away from trees with pitch helps the paint maintain its brightness.

5. Maintain and replace tires – Tires are critical items car shoppers look at and want to avoid having to replace immediately. Make sure to have the alignment checked and tires rotated as recommended to help the tires wear properly and last longer. Clean and shine tires prior to resale and remove any brake dust from your wheels.

6. Keep all paperwork – CARFAX (which is provided by US Auto Sales on all our used cars) shares most of the car’s history. It’s also a good idea to keep records of the maintenance completed on your vehicle, especially if you were diligent in completing all recommended maintenance. This includes all oil changes, tire rotations and scheduled maintenance. If your vehicle was in an accident that required body repair, the records from these are helpful especially if your insurance company allowed the body shop to use original equipment parts.

4 Important and Easy Vehicle Maintenance Needs

We all know how important it is to keep up with the maintenance on our vehicles. Many of us bring them in for regular maintenance checks. However, we may not remember to do some of these other very important things to ensure that our cars run smoothly and we don’t get stuck on the side of the road.

Oil Changes

It used to be recommended that you get an oil change every 3 months or 3000 miles, whichever came first. Now with improved oils, many cars can go 5,000 to 7,000 miles between oil changes. The best way to know what is recommended for your car is to look in the owner’s manual.

Tires and Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is extremely important for many reasons, including handling and fuel economy. Many cars now have tire pressure monitoring systems which cause a dashboard light to go on when the pressure is low in one or more tires. This can reduce accidents, increase fuel economy and help tires wear more evenly and last longer.

Tires should be replaced when the tread on any part of the tire is less than 2/32 inch. One quick and easy way to check this is by inserting a penny into the tire tread with Lincoln’s head upside down. Do this on several different areas on each tire. If you are able to see all of Lincoln’s head, the tread is less than 2/32 inch deep and most likely it is time to invest in new tires.

Washer Fluid and Antifreeze

There are a variety of types of washer fluid. Where you live and the weather conditions are key factors on what type is best for your vehicle. Some repel water better than others. Some are designed for colder temperatures. Make sure whatever type you choose is suitable for the weather conditions of your area. Each car’s owner manual will describe where and how to add windshield washer fluid.

Antifreeze or coolant is also important, particularly in extreme cold or heat. Not only does it stop your engine from freezing, it is also much more effective at keeping an engine from overheating than water. Again, every car’s owner manual will explain how to check the levels of coolant and add more if needed.

Windshield Wipers

Anyone who has ever lost a windshield wiper during a torrential downpour knows firsthand how important it is to replace windshield wipers regularly. There are a wide variety of wipers available. Take the weather in your area into consideration when selecting the appropriate wipers for your vehicle. It is important to have the make, model and year of your vehicle available when selecting wipers to ensure that the ones you select fit your vehicle correctly. A simple way to increase the life of your wiper blades is to wipe them once a week with an alcohol wipe to remove dirt and residue.

Taking the time to make sure that these simple yet extremely important maintenance needs are met will help give you peace of mind knowing you are doing your part to ensure the safety of your vehicle.

The 3 F’s of road trip survival

Have you ever hopped in the car for a six hour trip with kids in tow, got about an hour into it and thought “I really wish I had planned this out better,” If you are more like me and like to take spontaneous road trips when time allows, you might wish you were more prepared so that you could jump in the car and head on your way. Whichever the case, I am sure you will find the following list of road trip must haves a helpful tool to ensure you are better equipped for your next extended car ride.

To make it easy, here are the three F’s to road trip survival.

FOOD

  • Water – Packing 8-ounce bottles takes up less space and minimizes restroom stops. Freeze a couple to use as ice packs to save space in the cooler and have something nice and cold to drink towards the end of your trip.
  • Healthy snacks – If you are traveling with the kids minimizing sugar is key. Having fruit, veggies, cheese and crackers, pretzels, etc. is key. If you are organized enough to have them all in single serve containers even better!
  • Your favorite picnic lunch – If you are planning to be in the car for more than four hours and don’t want to have to stop for food, pack something you really enjoy and will look forward to taking a break to eat. This is key to not caving and stopping for fast food.
  • Mints and sugar free gum – Need I say more?

Don’t forget a couple garbage bags so that when you stop for that restroom break you get rid of the car clutter.

FIRST AID

Have a first aid bag with the basics in your car at all time but remember that most drugs should not be left in a hot car. I have a small backpack I use that is specifically for my road trip first aid kit. It includes:

  • The basics – Bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment and disposable ice pack.
  • Pain reliever, antacid, antihistamines, and cough drops – There is nothing worse than not feeling well and having nothing to relieve the symptoms.
  • Wet wipes – keep these easily accessible. Sticky hands are terrible when you have nothing in the car to clean them with!
  • Sunscreen – If you have your windows down or have a sunroof or convertible, there is a good chance that you could end up with a nasty, blotchy burn if you are not prepared,
  • Pocket knife, bandana, and small blanket – Hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation where you are need of these basic emergency first aid items, but better safe than sorry!

FUN

It’s easy as a passenger to bury your head in a phone or tablet, but a road trip is an opportunity to take in the sights and bond with those you are with. Here are some ideas that make family trips more enjoyable.

  • A music playlist – This is fun to put together with everyone going on the trip. Compile everyone’s favorites so no one must endure one person’s preference the whole time.
  • The ABC game – Try to be the first person to find the letters of the alphabet in order. You can use signs, license plates, writing on vehicles or buildings.
  • Mad libs – These are always sure to be a good time, and they’re inexpensive to buy.
  • Cheap toys – for longer trips with younger kids, here’s a strategy for success. Go to your local dollar store. Figure out how many hours you’re on the road and buy one toy per hour for each kid. (It’s probably a good idea to buy the same toy for each kid.) Every hour, throw a new toy into the back seat.
  • Folding chairs – Keep a couple in the trunk when you find a nice place to take a break and recharge.

Hopefully you found some new ideas to add to your road trip must haves.

Treat yourself!

It’s about to be Christmas in August, people. It’s the dog days of summer, sure, but it’s been a minute since you really treated yourself. Whether you spend your days in traffic, running errands, or otherwise, your life is being aided every day by your vehicle.

So when you’re thinking about how to spend that mid-year splurge, why not think about that thing you use every day to get you where you need to go (literally)?

  1. A Navigation System

Many newer models have this feature, and if you have the travel bug, it’s well worth the investment. It’s been in the vogue for several states in the US to have strict hands-free cell phone laws, so having a GPS system natively built into your car will save you the hassle of being pulled over and increase your car safety. Win-win!

  1. A Better Sound System

Yes, your current one can currently “make do,” but does it really get your gears going when you’re driving down an empty road in the middle of summer? If you’re a metalhead or pop music junkie, having your tunes operating at maximum efficiency is the ultimate pick-me-up. What’s better than belting along to your favorite songs?

  1. Detailing

Oh, the real splurge. The thing that will get shock and awe from even the most novice of car aficionados. It’s expensive, but hey, it’s a splurge, right? Getting your car professionally detailed is a step above the normal car ownership and can even help the lifespan of your car. Staying in shape isn’t just a concept for you—it applies to the wheels as well!

  1. Dash Cam

What seems like a splurge now will save many a headache for you, your insurance company, and anyone who may be involved with your car in the future. This nifty little device is here to record the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but, so help it’s little technological heart. Even if it seems unnecessary now, your “splurge” could pay off big time in the future.

Splurges are the time to treat yourself, and like everything else, should be treated with caution and moderation. But if you have the money, time, and means, even the smallest of splurges can have innumerable benefits.

Rain-Proof Your Ride

Summer is a great season full of long, bright days and warm breezes. You constantly hear the siren call of a long, aimless drive around the countryside. But with the changing of the seasons comes drastic weather changes: one minute you’re riding with the windows down, and the next you’re stuck in a freak thunderstorm.

It happens! Here’s how you can prepare your car for sudden showers in a quick and easy way:

  1. Protect your paint

It seems counterintuitive, but rainwater famously does not get along with your car’s paint. Instead of letting it erode your car’s awesome exterior, give the body of your car a quick rinse with a hose and keep it out of the rain. (Alternatively, wax is also a great way to keep the integrity of your car’s paint!)

  1. Keep up your tire health

Ultimately, your tires are one of the most overlooked aspects of your car. Let’s fix this! Without the mighty tire, you’re on a road to nowhere. For rainy days in particular, you need to make sure the tread is at its optimal depth so the tire can properly grip the road without sliding.

  1. Ensure your car openings are properly sealed

That little rubber strip between your car and the elements is your best friend. Just by making sure these strips aren’t damaged can save you so much heartache. Who wants to deal with a swamp in their car exterior? (Hint: no one.)

  1. Monitor your wiper fluid and blades

We know, it’s a habit to flick on that windshield wiper as soon as the first raindrop hits your window. That’s what it’s there for, after all! To make sure it can continue doing its great job, you need to ensure that the windshield wipers have the appropriate level and the blades aren’t worn out. Visibility in the rain is imperative for your safety and taking risks in inclement weather should never be an option.

What other hacks do you have for rainy days? With preventative maintenance, you can take even the gloomiest of skies and make it a bright future for you and your car!

What’s the Deal With Air Filters?

Picture a confused Jerry Seinfeld lamenting to his friends in a New York City apartment. That could be you the next time you take your car to the shop, ready to hand over the necessary cash for your six-month servicing, and being asked the same question:

“When was the last time you changed your air filters?”

A shudder. A gasp. Well, probably not—probably a shrug. Instead of looking like an air quality novice, let us break down the reasons your air filter is a necessary part of your car servicing.  Dirty air filters…

  1. …hurt acceleration.

Next time you need that extra burst of speed, think of the air filter that’s clogging up precious real estate in your automobile. According to a 2009 Department of Energy study, a clogged air filter can affect acceleration from 6 to 11 percent. Don’t push off that air filter notice! It might just stop you from going where you need to go.

  1. …keep you from running properly.

If you’re having trouble starting your car, idling, or anything of that ilk, your air filter may be to blame. You never know what can be weighed down by a sooty filter. Your spark plugs simply cannot “spark” without the help from their clean friends, your trusty air filter.

  1. …hurt your emissions ratings.

Many times, emissions tests are necessary not only for your car’s health, but for registration, insurance purposes, selling previous cars, et cetera. It’s during times like those that you’ll want your car operating in top shape. Why have something as simple as an air filter make the difference between a pass and a fail?

  1. …reduce overall vehicular power

Fuel needs air to burn efficiently. If your engine isn’t getting enough air through the air filter, you’re going to have less power while using more fuel.

  1. It hurts your dashboard aesthetics

We listed it last a for a reason, folks. For the overly organized group of us, having a “Maintenance Required” light constantly drawing your eye is a major inconvenience (especially when you were just at the shop!)

So it’s time to simplify and answer Jerry’s question. The deal with air filters is that they’re more important than we really know!

How To Pet Proof Your Car

Dogs are man’s best friend, but man’s best friend comes with some unique challenges when you have them in the car. Whether you’re dropping them off at doggie daycare, driving them to the park, or cruisin’ with them on Sunday morning, make sure your US Auto Sales car is operating at the top standard for all the members of your family—even the four-legged ones.

We broke down a few simple problems you risk running into once Gizmo knows it’s time for a ride.

#1: Car surfing

As talented and athletic as your pooch is, make sure that car surfing is one skill they never learn. Having the dog jump back and forth between the front and back seats is not only dangerous for them, it’s dangerous for everyone else in the car as well. Thankfully, there are simple ways to solve the surfing problem. You can take removable mesh netting and fasten it over both headrests in the front and passenger’s side seats, or you can buy a “seatbelt” for your pup. Seatbelts are safe and cheap options to keep your pet tethered to the backseat, where they can lay down and enjoy the ride in peace.

#2:  Dealing with the fluff

We know, the groomer is never anyone’s favorite place. But we still have to contend with the remnants of your Husky so someone can’t guess the color of your dog simply by sitting in your car. An easy solution is putting down nylon or canvas covering over the backseat. Due to its easily removable nature, you can store it in your trunk and have it ready whenever you feel the need for a pup adventure on the road. It’ll save you so much time and effort from busting out the cordless Hoover every weekend!

#3: Accidents

No, not the normal kind you think of in a car. We need to prepare for the “accidents” exclusive to pets unaccustomed to travel: i.e. upset stomach, vomit, unintended bathroom breaks, et cetera. This is all about prevention. Before a long trip, make sure you take Spot out for a long walk. Don’t over-indulge him during breakfast. It’s also never a bad idea to take along extra garbage bags, paper towels, and disinfectant that’s safe for the interior of the car.

You don’t have to cruise alone! Just make sure you’re providing a safe ride to every passenger, no matter what their species.