5 Tips for Preparing for Winter Wonderland Driving

winter driving
Winter Driving

Winter is can be a dangerous time for American driver and winter driving can be hazardous.  Drivers in parts of the country that get snow should be well-prepared for conditions over the next couple months and your vehicles must be prepared too.  You are likely to experiences infamous black ice, all-encompassing whiteouts and blizzards so why not prepare now? Brave the winter with the following five essential tips for safe, accident-free driving:

#1 Survival Kit, Assemble!

It is recommend that you gather essential supplies in your trunk, so that if you're ever stranded, you'll be able to survive Bear Grylls-style. Pack the essentials into a duffel bag for ample space. Begin assembling your survivor kit with spare prescription medicine, high-calorie food (perhaps any of the now defunct Hostess products), bottled water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, thick blankets and an assortment of tools to make Tim Taylor proud. It's also wise to bring jumper cables, a shovel and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction when you might be able to get yourself out of trouble without the aid of a tow truck.

#2 Winterize Your Car

It is a good idea to have a mechanic check your car's fuel, ignition, cooling and exhaust systems every year. Fluid levels and batteries should be checked; and belts, brakes, wipers and hoses should be in good condition.  If you are not sure you can afford all the maintenance at once, it's a good idea to spread out the costs or learn to do some DIY maintenance.  Slippery winter conditions mean you'll need good dependable tires with adequate tread for good traction in snow. Snow tires a good option if you live in an area with harsh winters.  Michelin tires are the best you can buy since they provide great performance in all driving conditions, including wet winter weather, and last a long time.

#3 Slow Ridem

There's never a better time to drive defensively than winter. Slow down—you shouldn't be going as fast as you do in the summertime—and be extra-careful going over or under bridges and overpasses. Allow extra space between yourself and the car in front of you, in case you need to make a sudden stop. Inspect your tires before you leave to make sure they're inflated and wearing evenly. Make sure you're familiar with the skills to recover from a skid—if you start skidding, gently steer your car in the direction of the car's rear. Keep an eye out for disabled vehicles on the side of the road, never pass snowplows and, above all else, wear your seat belt—click it or ticket.

#4 The Man with a Plan

If you're planning to make a trip during the winter, make sure someone knows where you're going (and your route); check weather conditions before you leave. Most state patrol or highway department websites offer up-to-the-minute information on road conditions. Television and radio stations, including weather band radio, also provide current and reliable weather forecasts. Before you leave, double-check that you've got everything you need in your survival kit. Check around the circumference of your car before you depart, and every time you stop, ensure that your tires and other equipment are still in good condition. Take frequent breaks at rest stops or gas stations to prevent exhaustion and fatigue, and pull over to the nearest shelter if a storm becomes overwhelming. Don't allow your gas tank to drop too low before refilling; fill that sucker up frequently.

#5 Stuck in the Snow & Nowhere to Go

When you're stuck in feet of snow or some other winter-related wretchedness has wrecked your car, turn on your blinkers and stay put in the driver's seat; you don't want to run the risk of being hit by passing traffic. Use the supplies in your emergency kit, stay warm and periodically check your exhaust pipe—if it's clogged with snow and ice, you could pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're hopelessly stranded with nary a cell phone signal, you'll be forced to flag down another vehicle or walk to the nearest service station for assistance.

Experts, including law enforcement, agree that the key to safe winter driving is twofold: advance planning and awareness. Start your preparations now, pay attention to weather conditions and you can overcome cranky Old Man Winter.

2012 Teens Drive Smart Video Contest Wants You to Win $50,000 in College Scholarships

Teens Drive Smart Video Contest

Bridgestone recently opened up submissions for their 2012 Teens Drive Smart Video Contest. This contest gives students the chance to showcase their creative movie making skills, while trying to grab part of $50,000 in college scholarships Bridgestone is giving away.

The Teens Drive Smart Video Contest is looking for short automotive safety-themed videos, which encourages drivers to make good decisions behind the wheel. A good example for a theme would be “Don't text while driving.” (Something I am sure you don't do… right?)

Students who are between the ages 16-21 years old are eligible to enter. If you want to submit a video to be judged by Bridgestone the deadline is June 22nd, 2012.

After receiving the video submissions Bridgestone will have a panel of judges determine the Top 10 videos. These Top 10 will then be posted on Youtube, so the public can vote on on their favorites.  The three videos that receive the most votes will win the coveted scholarships; The Grand Prize winner will receive $25,000; second place receives $15,000 and third place receives $10,000. Not too bad if you ask me!

The scholarships are not the only prize in the competition. The Grand Prize winner will have their video air on the MTV Jumbotron in Times Square in New York City during August. Just try to imagine the awesomeness of your video up on a Jumbotron!

Also, the Top 10 Finalists of the contest will have the chance to have their video used as a public service announcement (PSA) on television stations across the United States.  In addition they will receive a new set of four Bridgestone or Firestone branded tires.

If you are interested in submitting a video, keep in mind your submission should make viewers be more more safety-conscious when using their vehicles. In addition the video should effectively and creatively communicate the message you are trying to get across.  Last year's winner Amber Cullen won with her video, “The Phone Bandit.”  You can also view last prior's winners via Teens Drive Smart website to get a better idea of what you should do for your video.

Each year the videos get more creative, fun, and interesting. I assume this year's contest won't be any different.

I am not eligible for this contest, but if I were I would try to use something crazy and fun.  Like my talented singing dogs! (We even made an appearance on Anderson with Anderson Cooper at Lincoln Center! :))

Anyway, try to remember it’s not just about getting a scholarship for college but helping make people more aware of dangerous driving habits. Your video can potentially create safer drivers on our roads.

For more info and to submit a video visit: http://www.teensdrivesmart.com

Dirty Wheels? Try Griot’s Garage Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner

It has been awhile since you have cleaned your car. I understand cleaning your vehicle is low on your To-Do list. When you finally do get around to cleaning your car though, you immediately notice you have black and dirty wheels. Don't you just hate that? Makes the car look a bit tired and old. You try to clean the front wheels of all that caked-on brake dust, to no avail. Man, that stuff is really on there! How do you get it off?

What you need to do is get some wheel cleaner that will help loosen that dirt and grime off those wheels, such as Griot's Garage Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner. This product helps get off all that dirty and ugly brake dust off your cars wheels.

I got this wheel cleaner and it only took me a few minutes and a old car washing brush to use it.  Click on my pictures below and see the before and after.

Oh, yeah! Clean wheels make the car look a lot better, right? You can see how dirty the front wheels were compared to the back. That is because the front of the car experiences 70% of the braking force, therefore releasing more brake dust onto those wheels.

A few nice shots of the Griot's Garage Heavy Duty Wheel Spray Cleaner worked extremely well to get off the annoying brake dust. Now our Toyota Camry looks and feels better. So don't forgot to pick-up a bottle of wheel cleaner next time you want to do a really good job cleaning your car.

Adam’s 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car

Replacing My Wipers for Cold Weather

With the unusually warm weather in January, I felt a bit odd posting a list of tips for winterizing your car.  Now that there is actually snow on the ground in Baltimore, and it is cold, it makes more sense posting this list.  No sense in posting a list in the Spring!

“Adam's 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car.”

  1. Hey, Your Car is Dirty:  This is something that is a good idea to do before it gets cold and there is snow on the ground.  (Ok, maybe I should have posted this earlier.)  It's good to clean your car of all the road grime and dirt, because during the winter cars tend to attract more dirt.  Clean the interior of the car as well.  If you don't have rubber floormats, I would consider buying them as it will help keep your car's interior cleaner.  Most people don't clean their cars during the winter, so that is why I suggest this.
  2. Ohh, My Battery Is Dead: It is a very good idea to get your battery checked or take a look yourself.  Low temperatures make it hard for the chemical reactions inside your battery to operate normally, meaning it has reduced power to get your car started.  Most auto parts stores do Free battery checks using specialized testers, and they can usually test your whole electrical system too.  If you have had trouble starting your car in the past due to the battery going dead or it has given you problems, you probably should just get a new battery.  If it is more than 3-4 years old, replace it.
  3. Get Rid Of That Battery Corrosion: Even if your battery is not that old, servicing it might be a good idea.  By that I mean making sure there is no corrosion on the terminals or cables.  If you are comfortable cleaning the terminals and battery, it is a good idea to do that yourself.  (Remember undo the negative cable first, then the positive cable.)  A quick way to get all the corrosion off is to pour warm water on top of the battery, which quickly washes away all that white sulfate deposit.  You can then take wire brush and clean the terminals and cables, ensuring you battery has a good connection.
  4. Can You See The Light?:  Having a Headlight or Taillight bulb out is an easy thing to miss. Hey, I understand!  Since the days are shorter and the nights longer in winter, it is good to make sure they are functioning properly.  Turn on your cars lights and walk around to make sure all are in working order.  Don't forgot to check those blinkers too!  If any are out or very dim, replace it.  Then you don't need to worry about it later.
  5. Keep Your Coolant:  You want to make sure you have a 50:50 mix of anti-freeze and water inside your radiator. If there isn’t enough anti-freeze in the mix, it could potentially freeze in the cold weather.  How do you know if you have a 50/50 coolant or anti-freeze mixture?  There are test strips and special tools to test the mixture and pH level of coolant.  I rarely see many shops using them, but you can buy them at auto parts stores.  You might want to consider doing a coolant flush if you have never done it, or if it has been 4+ years since you have flushed your coolant.  Don't forgot to also check your hoses.  If they are bulging hard, brittle, deformed, squishy, or have hairline cracks, replace the hose.
  6. Is Your Tread Dead?: When is the last time you checked you tire pressure?  Mmm… better check it, since tires lose about 1psi for every 10 degree change in temperature.   You gas mileage will improve and your car will handle better.  Also make sure you have adequate tread and your tires are not worn-out.  If you live in climate that gets heavy snow, switching to snow tires for the winter might not be bad idea.
  7. Can You See the Road?: Wipers are very easy to overlook, but very important for inclement weather.  Check your wipers are not streaking or has rubber falling off.  If they are old and aren't doing the job, replace them.  I recommend Bosch frame-less wipers, which last longer and work better.  I have Bosch wipers installed on my Honda Accord.  Remember to also make sure you have washer fluid.

I hope you enjoyed Adam's Auto Advice tips!  If you have a suggestion or comment about winterizing your vehicle  leave a comment below.  Keep warm this winter and please drive safely.  You never know what's on the road, so be prepared.

Bridgestone Launches New Website for Teen Drivers

Bridgestone has a new website for teen drivers, Teensdrivesmart.com. The focus is to educate by providing a comprehensive resource for young drivers. Resources are provided in the form of useful information, fun video games, informative videos, and a blog. However the site is not just for teenagers as there are great resources for parents and teachers as well.

Sometimes it can be hard for parents to think of the right things to say to the newly minted drivers in the family. The website helps with tips and advice. They have driving contracts for parents and teens. Fill these out and discuss the rules and limits when using the family vehicles. This is something a certain writer would definitely approve of… of course not when he was learning to drive.

The site has another great feature – teaching tools. Most schools don't offer driver ed's. But teachers and students do still talk about driving, and the site offers driving-focused lesson plans that teachers can use in high school and even middle school. The lessons can be easily integrated into instruction for many different subjects. If you are a teacher, check it out. Consider how to teach your students safe driving habits. Talking about driving should be a priority. This can save lives.

“With the website we provide all the information to make smart decisions. There are more distractions than ever,” says Angela Patterson Sikes, who manages teen driver safety initiatives for Bridgestone. Texting; cell phones; music: other teens – are all potential co-pilots with teen drivers, and all can be lethal. Sikes, who also writes for the site's “Driver's Seat Blog,” says the site offers tips on how teens (and adults) can handle those distractions.

“Teenagers are new drivers which is a great opportunity to learn good habits.” says Sikes. “We think safety is everyone's responsibility. We try to involve parents and teachers to get out the message.”

The blog, which encourages reader comments and an open forum, gives out this information in a conversational manner. Four young women are the primary contributors who connect to teens on their level, without talking down to them. “We want to put a face on the lessons we are trying to teach,” Sikes says.

The website is gaining traction. Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan, recently contributed with video messages chatting about the site.

If you sign-up to receive the newsletter you could win a $100 gas card. Check back for more information, contests, and great advice on teen driving.

Safety Scholars announces Winners!

Amber Cullen, 2011 Safety Scholars Grand Prize Winner

Three lucky people have won scholarships in Bridgestone's Safety Scholars video contest. Amber Cullen of Akron, Ohio, won the $10,000 grand prize for her video, “The Phone Bandit.” Two other people were also fortunate enough to win 5,000 scholarships, Robert Mai of Newport Beach, CA won second place and Everett, WA native Matthew Robertson won third place.

The three winners were chosen out of 1,466 entries from 16-21 year-olds across the United States and Canada (excluding Quebec) to become one of the 10 finalists. The top three finalist's won the most votes out of nearly 10,000 votes that were cast on Safety Scholars website to determine the winners. The other 7 finalist's are not empty-handed though. For their efforts they will be receiving a free set of Bridgestone brand tires, including the top three.

“Each year it's amazing to see how the quality of videos has progressed. This year we were especially pleased with what we got. They were really great messages that really resonated with teenagers,” said Angela Patterson Sikes, digital media coordinator, Community and Corporate Relations, Bridgestone Americas, who also manages the company's teen driver safety initiatives.

The three winners have the chance to have their video broadcast as a public service announcement (PSA) on TV stations across the US. Bridgestone supports these in cooperation with Driver's Edge, an independent, non-profit hands-on safe driving course that's offered free of charge to teens in select U.S. cities. The 2010 Safety Scholars PSAs have aired more than 27,000 times on TV and cable stations across the US. The 2011 PSA's will be aired on many more regional and national networks. Making this year's winners especially fortunate. The PSA's from this year's contest will be in distribution by Thanksgiving.

Congratulations to all the winners and the effort by all the participants.  I look forward to seeing just as amazing and creative videos next year.

To view the winning videos visit: http://www.safetyscholars.com/

Safety Scholars voting ends Today!

The Safety Scholars video contest voting ends today.  If you have not voted for you favorite video yet, please make sure to do so.  Remember you are not just voting for lucky students who will receive a $10,000 and $5,000 college scholarships, you are eligible to win a prize just for voting.

Part of the goal of Safety Scholars is to create messages on driving safety that are, “Coming from another teenager to another teenager.”  says Angela Patterson, digital media coordinator, for Bridgestone Americas.  I would say this is exactly what the participants in Safety Scholars have accomplished.  The videos are creative, thought provoking, and extremely well executed.  It was hard for me to choose my favorite among the videos.  Watch the videos and please try your best.

To vote visit:  http://www.safetyscholarsvideo.com/?/finalists#