Secure Your Load Before Hitting the Road
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that nationally over 51,000 car crashes are caused by debris on the road every year and about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of unsecured loads and improper vehicle or trailer maintenance.
Drivers have a much bigger responsibility when it comes to preventing debris on the roads than most realize – both outside the car for the protection of other drivers but also inside the car for the protection of themselves and their passengers.
Whether you’re packing the car for a Fourth of July road trip or bringing home a haul from a local yard sale, securing your load before hitting the road is of the utmost importance.
Tips for Securing Vehicle Load:
- Tie down load with rope, netting or straps.
- Tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer.
- Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting.
- Layer your load: put lighter items at the bottom and heavier items on top to help keep them in place, then secure the heavy top items.
- Don’t overload your vehicle (take multiple trips when necessary).
- Always double-check your load for secureness.
For motorists in a vehicle behind one with a heavy load, do not tailgate or drive too closely behind them. Give your vehicle space to come to a complete stop or safely change lanes in the event that debris falls from the car in front.
In North Carolina, drivers face a $100 fine for creating road debris and South Carolinians will be charged with a misdemeanor along with a $100 fine. A full list of U.S. state road debris laws can be found here.
Securing the items inside your vehicle is equally important for the safety of the driver and the passengers. Loose items can cause major damage in the event of a crash.
Pets in Hot Cars: A Dangerous Combination
While most of us are aware that the hot summer months can be a dangerous time for children and the elderly, it is important to think about our pets as well. Many motorists have a habit of leaving pets in their cars while running errands. Even with the windows cracked, this can be a deadly decision.
The temperature inside a vehicle rises 20 degrees in just ten minutes. Even on a relatively cooler day, the temperature inside the car can rise much higher than the temperature outside. This happens on sunny days as well as cloudy days.
Studies have shown that cracking the windows does little to stop the temperatures from rising quickly.
Our furry pets are not able to sweat when they overheat like people can, so their only defense is to pant heavily. When this fails to be enough, pets can suffer from heatstroke. Below are common symptoms of heatstroke:
- Excessive drooling
- Increased body temperature (above 103 degrees)
- Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heart beats
- Stoppage of the heart and breathing
- Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress
- Vomiting blood
- Muscle tremors
If you are driving somewhere that will not allow you to bring your pet inside, please leave them at home where they can happily await your return in the air conditioning and remember to always travel with water for your furry friend.
In North Carolina, cruelty charges are probable for owners found guilty of leaving any animal in a confined, dangerous condition.
If you pass by a parked vehicle with an animal inside it and no driver in sight, please take action. It is recommended that you:
- Attempt to locate the owner, or if that doesn’t seem feasible/the matter is too urgent:
- Call 911. Any rescue worker (police, animal control, firefighter, animal cruelty investigator, etc.) has the legal authority to enter the vehicle if the animal is believed to be in danger.
- Remain with the animal until help arrives
- If you believe the animal to be in imminent danger and help has not arrived, you should use your best judgment (considering the possible legal ramifications of breaking and entering) to save the pet.
Tread Lightly: Worn Tires Put Drivers at Risk
New research from AAA reveals that driving on relatively worn tires at highway speeds in wet conditions can increase average stopping distances by a staggering 43 percent, or an additional 87 feet — more than the length of a semi-trailer truck — when compared to new tires. With nearly 800,000 crashes occurring on wet roads each year, AAA urges drivers to check tread depth, replace tires proactively, and increase following distances significantly during rainy conditions.
In 2017 alone, AAA Carolinas Emergency Roadside Assistance responded to 135,910 calls in North and South Carolina regarding a faulty tire – which is 13.47 percent of their total calls.
You can test your tires at home by slipping an upside down quarter between the grooves and look at Washington’s head, if you can see all of it, you need new tires.
In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA conducted testing to understand performance differences at highway speeds between new all-season tires and those worn to a tread depth of 4/32” on wet pavement. AAA research found that:
- Compared to new tires, tires worn to a tread depth of just 4/32” exhibit:
- An average increased stopping distance of 87 feet for a passenger car and 86 feet for a light truck.
- A 33 percent reduction in handling ability, for a passenger car and 28 percent for the light truck on average.
If tested side-by-side at 60 mph, vehicles with worn tires would still be traveling at an alarming 40 mph when reaching the same distance it takes for vehicles with new tires to make a complete stop.
While AAA’s research found that tire performance does vary by brand, price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. In fact, worn tire performance deteriorated significantly for all tires tested, including those at a higher price point. AAA advises shoppers to research options carefully before selecting a replacement tire for their vehicle, and never choose one based on price alone.
Unfortunately, current industry guidelines and state laws and regulations frequently recommend that drivers wait until tread depth reaches 2/32” to replace tires. Not only does this recommendation jeopardize a driver’s safety, it minimizes manufacturer warranty costs and is often paired with environmental concerns. By prioritizing safety, AAA maintains that tires should be replaced once the tread depth reaches 4/32”, when stopping distances have already begun to deteriorate significantly. AAA’s comprehensive evaluation of tire tread laws and regulations across U.S. states found a state requirements range from inadequate to non-existent.
In wet conditions, tires can completely lose contact with the road and skid, also known as hydroplaning. The depth of a tire’s tread plays a significant role: the lower the tread depth, the more likely a car will hydroplane. AAA recommends the following precautions for drivers navigating rain soaked roads:
- Avoid the use of cruise control in order to respond quickly if the car loses traction with the road.
- Reduce speed and avoid hard braking and making sharp turns.
- Increase following distance to allow for ample space if a sudden stop occurs.
- If the vehicle begins to hydroplane, gently ease off the accelerator and steer in the direction the vehicle should go until traction is regained. Do not brake forcefully as this can cause the vehicle to skid.
Keyless Vehicles Make Starting the Car Easier, but Remembering to Turn It Off is Another Issue
As more and more vehicles have become keyless, there has been an increase in fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning after unknowingly leaving cars running in garages. A recent New York Times article has shed light on this phenomenon. According to the NYT, more than 24 people have died at the hands of carbon monoxide as a result of leaving the car running since 2006, and many others have been permanently injured.
Motorists with these vehicles do not have to physically use a key, so it can remain in their pockets or purses. The vehicle turns on and off with just the press of a button. This, coupled with the quieter engines of most new vehicles, as led to many motorists getting out of their cars while the engine is still running and forgetting to turn the car off. If this occurs in an enclosed space – such as a garage – carbon monoxide can build up.
“Unfortunately, keyless cars can make it more difficult to remember to turn your vehicle off, as you no longer have to physically take the keys out,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “But, with new technology comes new responsibility and this is something that car owners need to consider before purchasing a keyless vehicle.”
AAA offers the following tips for drivers of keyless vehicles:
- It is vital that drivers never start or leave a vehicle running in an enclosed space, like a garage, where engine exhaust gases containing poisonous carbon monoxide can be trapped.
- All homes should have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors to alert residents immediately if unsafe levels of CO become present.
- To prevent potential dangers when exiting the vehicle, AAA recommends that drivers move through a short mental list after every trip:
- Before walking away, always double check that the vehicle is turned off. Listen for any auditory warnings before closing a garage door and entering your home.
- Never leave key fobs in your vehicle, even if parked in a garage at home. Always store keys at least 20 feet from the vehicle.
This month, we are highlighting AAA Approved Driving School “123 Drive!” Driving Academy. Co-founders Mark and Doreen have been running 123 Drive! since 2010 in the Hilton Head/Bluffton S.C. area.
With eight state certified instructors, 123 Drive! is able to offer the community an array of different driving courses. Mark and Doreen are passionate about what they do and want every student to be road ready and safe drivers. And an added bonus: nobody will leave class hungry! Their snack selection at Saturday classes is amazing and students rave about it.
For teens, 123 Drive! offers:
- Basic Teen Course: 8 hrs of classroom and 6 hrs of behind-the wheel training.
- Basic Teen Course with Road Test: 8 hrs of classroom, 6 hrs of behind-the-wheel training including the road test with a safety officer from the academy. Students are able to take their documents to the SCDMV within 30 days of completion to obtain their license.
- Premium Teen Course with Road Test: 8 hrs of classroom, 6 hrs of behind-the-wheel training including the road test. 123 Drive! will then accompany the student to the SCDMV to obtain their license.
- Add-on Package: Students are able to add 6 more hours of driving lessons onto any package.
For adults – or those who have never been a licensed driver or just want a refresher course on safe driving habits – 123 Drive! offers:
- Hourly Lessons: 2 hrs or more, 6 hrs, or 6 hr lesson with the road test)
- Refresher with Road Test: 2 hrs of instruction and the road test.
- Insurance Discount, Refresher and Test: 8 hr classroom training and 2 hrs of instruction along with the road test.
123 Drive! also offers 4 point reduction defensive driving classes for students to improve their driving record and reduce insurance rates.
AAA members receive $25 off teen tuition and $10 off the 4-point reduction class. Military discounts are available as well as a sibling discount.
For more information on 123 Drive! or to view the class schedule, please click here.