Monday, January 30, 2012

Making Driving a Little Easier

As we age, our physical condition naturally starts to decline. It's said that between the ages of 30 and 70, our range of motion declines by 20 to 30 percent. After age 70, this declination accelerates to around 50 percent less spinal mobility. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but it really is, especially when it comes to driving. Poor spinal and neck movement ranges can increase the risk of getting into an auto accident. Lessened mobility in the neck can more than double the risk of a car accident amongst these folk. Luckily the majority of these accidents are not fatal. Still, the risk is high enough that something needs to be done to help the elderly maintain their independence.

Advances in automobile technology have come up with a solution to this. Automatic car parking systems can help to eliminate the need for an elderly driver to keep turning their head. If the driver truly has poor mobility, this feature in a car is undisputedly a huge benefit for them.

These systems can detect if a parking space is large enough for your vehicle to fit inside. If you are in search of a parking spot, you simply push a button and the system does the looking for you. A message will sound for you to stop the car once the system has detected that your car will fit within a space. The machine walks drivers through the parking process; you just need to follow the commands that are prompted. When the car tells you to put the car in reverse, you do so and the rest of the work is basically done. The car can sense where obstacles are such as other cars and the curb. The steering wheel will spin on its own and park the car with minimal effort on your behalf. You just need to put the car in gear and follow directions. The driver still maintains control of the accelerator and the brake, so you can still use these functions of your car if you wish.

While all of the kinks are not yet worked out of these parking systems, they provide a huge positive service for the elderly. They can help minimize the amount of mobility necessary for city driving. Still, it is important that the person driving be in good enough physical and mental health for them to get behind the wheel. If you feel like your elderly relative is unable to drive, it's still important that you have this difficult conversation with them. But if the amount of hindering factors is minimal, a smart parking service within their car might be just the thing they need to keep driving themselves.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tow Truck Services and Car Lock Outs

Being locked out of your car is not only a stressful obstacle, but it can be scary (and dangerous!) if you are in the wrong part of town. Do you have a plan "B" if you find yourself on the outside looking in? It is always smart to have a backup plan in order in case you end up in this situation. If you need help with car lock outs or roadside assistance, a tow truck company can help. That's right, not only are they your worst enemy when illegally parked, but they are your best friend in time of emergency.

At some point in your life you are bound to have an experience with a tow truck. Businesses and homeowners are two examples of people who personally appreciate their services. People who are illegally parked or taking up parking spots that are assigned for customers or guests SHOULD be moved. This is why there are blatant signs for areas that are protected by towing companies. If there is a sign, that company can legally tow your car. Homeowners have rights to call tow companies too! If there is a car blocking a driveway or in a paid/assigned parking spot, then the illegally parked car can expect that they will be removed with just one phone call to a tow company.

Another time when these services are crucial is when you have a break down and are stuck pulled off to the side of the road. A tow truck can come safely transport your car to wherever you need it to go...whether that destination be home or an auto repair company. These services are available 24/7 in case of emergency. This is why it is smart to have a local tow company's number stored in your phone so you aren't forced to leave your car unattended.

The same company that can take your car away from a scene, can help you get inside of the vehicle in case of a lock out. When you call them for assistance they are prepared for all car makes and models. You have to show proof that it is your car and before their arrival they will ask you which year, make, and model you drive. This is so they know the correct tools to bring to help unlock the vehicle.

In order to be safe, consider storing a local tow and lock out company's number in your phone. Not only are they ready to help keep businesses happy, but they can help bring you and you vehicle to safety.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Can Driving a Manual Transmission Vehicle Really Help to Protect Our Kids and Keep Them Safe?

One of our local news stations did a story about the increase in parents getting their newly licensed kids vehicles with stick shifts instead of with automatic transmissions. It made me wonder if this kind of subtle change could really help keep these rookie drivers safe.

I'm sure most of us can recall when we were learning how to drive. No matter what we did those two pedals always seemed to feel a little bit strange. I tried to be as gentle as I could, on the brake, but I couldn't get the hang of it; evidence of this was my Mom and Dad getting mild cases of whiplash in the passenger's seat.

I recall having a difficult time getting this heavy machine I was controlling to do what I wanted it to do. To make matters worse there were all of these obstacles in the way that I had to account for; other vehicles, pedestrians, trees, etc. were all things that I had to keep tabs of and an eye on. Mastering the feel of the vehicle was one thing, processing all of the ongoing and changing surroundings was a completely new experience.

Recently there have been pretty substantial pushes to make driving a safer experience for all of us. Here in California laws have been passed that prohibit cell phone use while driving unless a hands free device was used. While I applaud the law on principle I do question its overall effectiveness. Sure keeping your hands on the steering wheel will place you in more control of the vehicle, and able to respond to a situation quicker, but what if your mind is just too involved in the call. Just because your hands are not holding the cell phone doesn't mean that your brain, and attention, is not divided between the call and the road. Even though the law may have some fundamental flaws it really is a good start in keeping our hands free of fussing with our portable electronic devices.

That brings me to the primary reason that parents are getting manual transmission vehicles for their children. The theory is that their hands will be too busy steering the vehicle and shifting gears to be texting. It does make sense doesn't it? For all of us who have driven a stick shift there are a bunch of things going on to get the vehicle to go and stop without stalling the darn thing. New drivers should be dedicating 100% of their attention to the roads and operating the vehicle. Putting them in a vehicle that doesn't shift gears for them really forces them to devote their attention to the task at hand and not who is going to the party Friday night.

Deep down, I wish we could just tell our kids about the dangers of using their cell phones while driving and that would be enough of a deterrent for them to not do it. Reality tells me that they will do it because they will also speed and drive without their seatbelts even though we have told them not to.

With a son getting close to sixteen this story really caught my attention. I have already begun talking to my son about driving when we are in the car together. I try to point out things so he can see potential issues on the roads before he has to make an emergency maneuver. Small things like looking at other drivers' eyes can help keep you out of a dangerous situation.

Even though he doesn't have a cell phone (because he doesn't need one) the day will come when he does own one and I want him to know how dangerous the combination of driving and cell phone use can be. Deep down parents everywhere hope that they have prepared their young adults for these challenges and that they make the right decisions.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Best Hybrid Cars - Why You Should Buy Them

The recent Political unrest in the Middle East have had a cascading effect on the global fuel supply and prices. The rising fuel prices have only added to the average consumers' woes, compelling them to resort to the use of fuel-efficient vehicles. To provide respite to consumers, the auto industry has introduced several hybrid cars, which are not only fuel efficient but environmentally friendly as well. These cars come equipped with a gas as well as an electric engine that allows you to alternate between the two. This unique trait makes it a very cost effective proposition for the average consumer. In this article, you will find 5 reasons why you should choose hybrid cars over fuel-powered vehicles.

1. Decreased expenditure - When you invest in a hybrid car, you no longer need to deal with the burden of fuel expenditure. These cars come fitted with two engines fueled by gas and electricity. When the gas supply in your car gets exhausted, it automatically switches to its electric power backup. The presence of an alternative source of energy in your car significantly cuts down on your fuel expenditure and you are able to save a lot of money in the process.

2. Better mileage and performance - Hybrid cars were designed with the objective of delivering a better output and mileage for the consumer. This is made possible by the use of a combined propulsion system in the steering mechanism of the cars. These cars are especially useful if you commute less than 40 miles a day, in that case you could save immensely on your gas consumption by utilizing the electric engine instead.

3. Safe and durable - One of the most notable features that is common to these cars in the market is that they rank high in terms of safety and durability. They are conceived using cutting edge technology that renders them extremely safe for travel. Additionally, the small size of these cars make them easy to maneuver, thereby reducing the risk of accidents.

4. Efficiency plus - Hybrid cars come equipped with the latest technology that makes them highly efficient vehicles. All such cars have on-board computers, which regulate and monitor the efficiency of both engines. Depending on your fuel levels, the inbuilt computer would alternate between gas and electricity at an increased efficiency that is not common to conventional fuel empowered vehicles.

5. Environmentally friendly - Another compelling reason to choose a hybrid car over a fuel-powered one is that it is safer for the environment. Global warming and climate change are a real and impending threat today. These cars are a greener choice as they come equipped with zero-emission features. This significantly reduces the combustion processes of gasoline and prevents the formation of toxic pollutants that are harmful to the environment.

Some of the best hybrid cars that are highly sought after in the markets today include the Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt, which have earned rave reviews on account of their versatility, fuel efficiency and utility.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fuel Prices Steer Consumers Toward Compact Cars

In Australia, the Holden Commodore was dethroned in 2011 as the continent's top-selling car for the past 15 years by the Mazda 3. And in the U.S., Ford announced that their world car, the Ford Focus, had become one of their top-selling vehicles. These are both fuel-efficient cars. It's apparent that people who buy a car nowadays have fuel efficiency foremost in their minds. Coinciding with this is the news that in the first quarter of 2012, fuel prices have breached record levels all around the world. A recent news article even revealed the results of a study which showed families eating less at mid to upscale restaurants just to accommodate their fuel budget.

Consumers are not abandoning their cars yet, and most cannot just switch to lifestyles that take a car out of the equation. We are too dependent on cars for that. Fortunately for people who need to buy a car, manufacturers from Toyota to Mercedes, even Porsche, have responded by offering much more fuel-efficient cars and, in Mercedes' case, even hydrogen-powered cars. So, we can rest easy that cars are here to stay. What is clearly evident though is that big thirsty V8s will disappear as a mainstream engine and that alternative fuels and technologies will combine to make gasoline a less critical factor in a car owner's budget.

Although people who buy a car for everyday commuting couldn't care less, it's noteworthy that even BMW, has downsized the engines on all their flagship performance cars like the new M5. The 2012 BMW M5 now has a V8, compared to its predecessor which was equipped with a V10 derived from the company's Formula 1 racing efforts. While having an output of 500 horsepower, the V10 was not one of the more fuel-efficient cars. Most owners described it as being a pig when it came to guzzling fuel. The latest M5 sports 560 horsepower yet consumes 40% less fuel. Even the Ford Explorer, which had an average fuel consumption rating of 17 MPG when it first came out is now rated at 28 MPG. At the other end of the spectrum, diesels are making a comeback and giving electric vehicles a run for their money. The benefit of the newest crop of diesel over EVs is that you don't need to hunt for charging stations and the performance of the latest diesel variants rival that of gasoline engines from just a decade back. As a fuel-efficient car, diesels have a lot going for them nowadays.

So there is hope for car enthusiasts, as well commuters, who want to buy a car. Cars aren't going away anytime soon, and the convenience, necessity and enjoyment that we have enjoyed since the first Ford rolled off the assembly line will be with us for the foreseeable future. As consumers of mass-produced vehicles however, it is your responsibility to buy fuel-efficient cars and promote technologies that reduce the global dependency on volatile fuel supplies.