Category: Safety and Accidents
It’s that time of year again – when your morning commute gets 10+ minutes longer because of school buses, parents, and teen drivers. But there’s one part of your commute you should be taking extra caution: School zones. These are areas near schools where kids may be walking across traffic to get to school.
While actual speed limits vary between school zones, there are a few rules you should be aware of that are always in effect while the lights are flashing.
Slow down, no matter what
While it may be tempting to speed through a seemingly deserted school zone, law enforcement is typically strict about school speed limits. Speeding through can also be dangerous to other vehicles that have slowed down and aren’t anticipating your high speed.
Regardless of the traffic and pedestrian situation, you can still be ticketed upwards of $215.
Keep an eye out for pedestrians
Just because you don’t see children in a school zone doesn’t mean there aren’t any nearby. Children can be harder to see because of their size and can be hidden by trees, power boxes, or other cars. Some kids bike to school as well.
All cell phone activity is prohibited
While it’s not illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Texas, with the exception of texting, school zones have much stricter rules. Drivers are not allowed to use a cell phone at all while driving through a school zone. This is often overlooked by drivers who aren’t aware of stricter school zone laws. The fine for using a cell phone in a school zone? Expect a bill for $229.
This law extends to all school property as well. If you’re in the school parking lot, keep the phone down until you’re parked.
Don’t pass a stopped car near school zones
A stopped car might mean they’re allowing a pedestrian to cross the street. Passing the stopped car without stopping to look first may result in hitting a pedestrian. Stop, let people fully cross the road before proceeding.
Do not block crosswalks
Again, a crosswalk is a safe way for pedestrians to cross the street. Sitting on the crosswalk blocks this safe space for pedestrians, causing them to go a different route that other drivers may not expect.
Respect the crossing guard
Crossing guards protect children and other pedestrians. If they are on the road, wait for them to get to the sidewalk before proceeding. Crossing guards are also placed at the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians, which means that cars need to take extra caution to provide a safe area for everyone.
Stop for school buses
If a school bus stops with its lights on, whether in a school zone or not, be sure to stop – no matter what side of the street you are on. Flashing lights mean children are either getting on or off the bus. Kids are especially unpredictable and could run out unexpectedly or be obscured from sight. Wait for the bus to start moving again and turn off its lights before proceeding.
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There are plenty of driving and safety tips out there to help prevent accidents, but as long as human judgment is behind the wheel, there will always be accidents on the road. This is where tech comes in.
New technology is helping to make up for human error via sensors, automatic braking, smartphone connectivity, and more. Here is some of the latest tech we’re hoping to see more of in the next few years. Many of these are not only safer but also more convenient for you, the driver.
Adaptive cruise control
Instead of keeping your car at the same speed, adaptive cruise control can adjust speed based on the car in front of you. The radar system maintains a certain distance between you and the car in front of you. No more setting and re-setting your speed whenever traffic slows. ACC has been around a while but has previously only been available in luxury vehicles, like the Lexus LS430, which was first to use it. Now, ACC is becoming increasingly available in new vehicles.
Anti-collision warning systems
These monitors can detect when a collision is about to happen, allowing the driver to correct the car and avoid an accident. Some even brake for you.
This display keeps the info you need within your line of sight while driving. Many are customizable so you can put the information that’s most important to you on the display, and take off the things that aren’t important. This isn’t new tech – head-up displays have been long used in fighter jets. But they are now an affordable safety addition to your vehicle.
Steering avoidance systems
Like anti-collision monitors, this system will detect debris on the road and steer to avoid it. This can also keep your car centered in the lane. Braking anti-collision systems are incredibly valuable, but braking won’t always prevent an accident. This takes that protection to the next step.
This is currently only available in newer Mercedes models, but could save your life. The cabin produces a sound at a frequency that prepares your ears for the loud sound of a collision. This doesn’t help with the initial crash, but once the crash is over, you may still be in harm’s way. The noise of the crash can hurt your inner ear and be disorienting, but with PreSafe sound, you’ll have more control and be able to react to get yourself (and your family) safely out of the way.
App vehicle control
Available on some brands, smart-phone integration allows you to control different aspects of your vehicle. Some allow for remote start, parking and monitoring of the vehicle. Perhaps most useful is the ability to check if you locked your car, and locate it, from afar. Tesla’s version even monitors the charge of your battery.
Uptis airless tires
GM and Michelin have created a tire that can’t go flat. The tires have a series of rubber internal spokes that give the tires their shape instead of air. The companies expect these tires to have a longer life expectancy, to absorb shock better, and eliminate the danger of a flat or blowout on the road.
V2V communication will allow vehicles to detect the behavior of other cars on the road. It will be able to detect when cars have slowed down ahead, when there’s a car you cannot visibly see, and detect an oncoming vehicle if you’re trying to pass on a two-lane highway. The benefits of V2V are numerous, and add another layer of safety to blind spot detection and anti-collision monitoring. The problem is that V2V is complicated. It will have to be government regulated, and there is some dispute over whether the communications should be via cellular-based 5G or dedicated short-range radio communication (DSRC). While this might make us wait longer than we hoped, V2V will be a major game changer when it gets off the ground.
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Do you know your driving rules? It’s important to follow driving laws to prevent accidents and unsafe driving behavior.
Test your knowledge with our driving rules quiz:
How well do you know your driving rules?
Sure, you may be a safe driver, but that doesn't always mean you're following the rules. Answer these driving law questions to find out how familiar you are with driving laws.
As a driver, you know there are a ton of distractions that can take your eyes and mind away from the road. Your teen may be aware of these distractions, but may not know how serious they can affect their driving.
Drivers under 20 are at the highest risk of distracted driving accidents, largely thanks to phones. Cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to get into an accident. In 2017, 100,687 crashes happened on Texas roads due to distracted driving.
One of the most important conversations you can have with your teen is about safe driving. Here are a few ways to positively encourage them to do so.
1. Lead by example
Kids learn behavior from their role models. They aren’t likely to stay off their phone behind the wheel if they see you on your phone behind the wheel. The earlier you can set an example, the better. If your teen has often seen you on your phone while driving already, tell them that you want to practice safer driving with them.
You can have them encourage you to stay off your phone or engage in other distracting behaviors while you drive, as you’ll do the same for them.
2. Give them the tools to succeed
There are several apps that can help reduce your teen’s distractions. If your teen uses their phone for music or Bluetooth calling, they probably won’t want to put it away completely. Instead, help them set up an app to lock certain features or allow hands-free control.
Keeping your teen’s phone on a mount also helps them keep their eyes close to the road and minimizes the time their hands are off the wheel should they use it.
This isn’t the perfect solution, but especially as we are increasingly depending on constant-communication, your teen may be less inclined to turn off and stow their phone. But this way, you can allow them to use it in a much safer manner.
3. Peer influence
Peer influence also plays a part in distracted driving. Others in the car can be a positive or negative influence on the driver. A 2015 AT&T study showed that 85% of participants would download an app to block their phone notifications if one of their “top 5” closest communicators asked them to. Many drivers are receptive to those they care about – if only those people asked them to change their behavior.
Talk to your teen and their friends about how they engage with one another. Encourage them to support one another to make safe driving habits. It’s also important to talk to them about being aware of their behavior in the car to support safe driving.
4. Positive reinforcement
New drivers hear a lot of negative comments concerning what they’re doing wrong. While this is often vital, they also need to hear positive reinforcement of their safe driving skills.
Both on and off the road, don’t be afraid to compliment your teen on something they did well. It could be the way they maintained the speed limit. Or how they told their friend to text them when they get home safely.
Even if they don’t seem receptive, small encouragements can help them see safe driving as an asset instead of an annoyance.
Some safe driving apps, like San Antonio-based Safe 2 Save, also reward you for staying off your phone, which also positively reinforces attentive driving. You can encourage them to earn rewards at local businesses, to give your teen incentive to stay off their phone.
You can even do it as a family and compete to see who can get the most safe-driving rewards. Again, your teen will have their good habits positively reinforced.
5. Practice practice practice
This is obvious, but for your teen to get better at driving, they need to spend more time on the road. Offer to let them drive if it’s just the two of you, and take them out to practice in heavier traffic. Often, teens don’t encounter difficult driving situations until they’re on their own. Having them encounter difficult driving situations with you there can help them in the long run.
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You love your car. You’ve been taking good care of it for years, but after the last accident, you’re not sure how much more repair you’re willing to pour into it. But buying a new is also a huge financial commitment. Here are a few considerations as to whether or not you want to commit to a new vehicle.
Obviously, newer cars are safer. They have the latest technology to keep you and your vehicle out of harm’s way. If your car is more than 5 years old, compare the safety features of your car to newer vehicles. Some things can be added on to your current vehicle, but others cannot. Features like automatic emergency braking, backup cameras, and blind-spot monitoring are almost standard safety now. If there’s a serious gap in the safety of your car and newer vehicles, it’s probably time to buy a new one.
Also, if you are looking for your teen driver, safer cars are the way to go. Anything that helps an inexperienced driver navigate the road will benefit them.
If you find yourself at the repair shop often, you may feel like your car is costing you more than it’s worth. However, the cost of a new car is much more burdensome. Not only would you probably be paying more in monthly payments, but you’ll also pay more in insurance and registration fees.
A new car loses about 20 percent of its value in a year. This can leave you “upside down” in payments before long: You’ll owe more than what it’s worth. While this is a normal part of getting a new car, you’ll likely be stuck with it when this happens – for better or worse.
However, if your current vehicle is a gas guzzler you’ll likely save money on fuel by switching to something more efficient. This would be a great reason to trade in your vehicle.
Peace of mind
Sometimes the worry of an old car breaking down is not worth holding out to buy a new one. Repairing an old problem doesn’t guarantee another major problem won’t happen sooner than later.
You may just be fed up with an ongoing problem in your vehicle: An annoying engine noise, a broken radio, worn upholstery…there is a multitude of everyday annoyances and worries getting a new car can fix. Constant trips to the repair shop are stressful and can leave you several days without your vehicle.
Buying new comes with the peace of mind that you’ll probably not be in the shop for a repair. And if you do, you’ll probably have a warranty to cover it for several years to come.
If you’ve had a car a long time, you may have a sentimental attachment to it. Saying goodbye can feel like abandoning an old friend. While this isn’t necessarily a big reason to keep the vehicle, it may influence a decision to keep your old car. Think about it this way: Sentimental value makes the car more valuable to you than it would to anyone else.
Making a decision
While multiple factors have to be considered in your decision, there are a few instances we’d recommend buying new:
- Your car problems frequently make you late for work or cause you to break down in a potentially dangerous location.
- You have a major repair that will cost more than half the value of your car.
- You already want to get a new car and your repair shop informs you of costly work needing to be done (but be transparent about what needs to be done when you go to sell).
- You have a teen driver and the car in question has needed frequent repairs – it’s best to get them a car with a warranty and current safety features.
Let’s be honest. Central Texas’ worst drawback is the traffic. Whether you’re driving into San Antonio, Austin, or just trying to get through town in San Marcos, congestion is abound. That’s why it’s smart to have a plan to kick the stress for your mid-week traffic jam.
Not only will calming down help you cope with a frustrating traffic situation, but people who are stressed or angry tend to exhibit reckless driving habits. This is dangerous for you and the cars around you.
Here are a few ways you can de-stress behind the wheel and get some enjoyment out of an otherwise stressful commute.
1. Listen to a podcast or audiobook
Preferably, your listening material shouldn’t be high-energy or aggressive, as we can often channel into our behavior. Instead, listen to something that takes your mind (partly) off the traffic around you. Listening to engaging audio could help your mind stay alert while distancing yourself from the stress at hand.
2. Turn your phone off
Using a phone while driving is illegal in some places, but ultimately your phone is a major stress machine. If you’re driving and hear several alerts going off, you’ll likely feel an urgency to check it. Turning it off doesn’t give you the option to feel this way.
3. Do some yoga
Yes, you read that right. Practice some yoga as you drive. Some stretches are best done when the car is fully stopped, while some, like practicing your breathing, can be done while driving. Start by sitting up straight. Roll your neck and stretch your muscles gently, and slowly. Focus on your body and you’ll soon feel calmer.
4. Let it go
Sometimes we let ourselves get carried away. Who hasn’t let a bit of road rage fester while you’re driving? But the key to staying calm isn’t not to feel that way. It’s to choose to let those feelings subside. Anger is a natural reaction when someone cuts you off, but to reject that feeling will help you stay calm and focused. Remember that you have no control over the actions of other drivers. The best you can do is observe and react as safely as you can.
5. Take a break
If the traffic is making you feel anxious or too stressed, you can always pull over if you need to. Try stopping at a coffee shop or convenience store for a snack and a proper stretch. You might even hang around for a bit while traffic subsides.
Texas has miles and miles of highways. With all those roads, thankfully the Lone Star State does not rank at the top for the most dangerous highways in the country. California ranks number one in that category. But maybe you’re curious, what are the most dangerous roads in Texas?
If you travel near any of the major cities, take note of some of the most dangerous highways.
Topping the List in the San Antonio Area
A recent study showed that a 14-mile stretch of I-410 claimed most of the 176 fatalities that occurred from 2013 to 2015. The study also showed that I-35 is on the list and in the San Antonio area, there were nine accidents near mile marker 101 that resulted in 13 fatalities. Eleven more crashes occurred near mile 128 that resulted in 11 total fatalities.
Two areas of Interstate 10 also ranked in the top 25 on the list. U.S. Highway 90, FM 2252, SL 13, and SL 1604 were also on the list. As many San Antonio residents may know, some of these are in high traffic areas which increases the risk for major collisions.
What drivers can do on dangerous roads
Knowing which areas are at a greater risk for accidents can help drivers be more aware and possibly avoid the need for auto body repair and reduce the risk for injury or death. They should always be aware of their surroundings and other vehicles.
In high traffic areas, it’s especially important to watch your speed, watch for road signs, as well as erratic or careless drivers. High speed can lead to serious accidents (and we know how SA drivers love to speed). Slowing down can give you more reaction time if you need to drive defensively.
At ProCare Automotive and Collision we not only work in San Antonio, but we also live here. We care about our neighbors and our community.
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Maintaining good quality tires on a vehicle is something car owners must do. Insufficient tread or air pressure leads to more than just a flat tire. In 2017, tire-related crashes resulted in 738 fatalities nationwide. While the number of tire-related crashes has dropped in the past decade, they can still happen and cause serious damage.
Proper tire maintenance is one of many steps car owners can take to prevent an accident.
Proper tire tread
The tread on tires can vary depending on the type of tire and the type of vehicle. You want enough tire tread to allow water on the road to go through the tread. This gives your car traction.
There is a quick test you can do to check your tread. Insert the penny in the tread with Lincoln’s head pointed down into the tread. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the worn tires on your vehicle.
If you don’t have change, look for the tread wear indicator bars which are located on several areas of the tire.
Check the tire pressure
The tire pressure for every vehicle can vary but is typically between 30 and 35 psi. Make a habit of checking your tire pressure routinely and it is especially important to do this before you drive on slick roads.
While most newer vehicles are equipped with tire sensors, you do not want to always rely on that in case the sensors malfunction. Under-inflated and damaged tires are leading contributors to a blowout, which can result in a serious collision.
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You step out of your car, and you take a look at the damage to your vehicle. That’s the moment you know it’s more than a fender bender. You may ask yourself “Is my car totaled?”
It’s unlikely you’ll find out at the scene of a crash: The car’s value and body shop repair cost determines if it is repairable. It’s also important to know your insurance policy and the process to file a claim for repairs, which can make the process of repairs more affordable and/or timely.
What to do with a car totaled accident
The repair team will inspect the damage, complete the repair estimate, and compare it with the car’s current value. If the repair estimate is more than the current car value, the insurance will not qualify it for repair.
For example, a car with a value of $5,000 that needs $7,000 worth of repair will not qualify.
Check your insurance policy to know what you should expect with a vehicle that is not repairable. In most cases, the insurance company will issue you a check for the value of the car. If you do not agree with the amount, you can get quotes from used car dealers, view prices online, and note any additional or special features on your car. Show this documentation to the insurance company to dispute the amount.
Keeping a totaled vehicle
Cars hold sentimental value for many and some choose to repair a totaled vehicle.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. The insurance company will subtract the vehicle’s salvage value from the amount it planned to pay you. To drive the car again, you need a salvage title. Repairs are your responsibility.
If you want a totaled car fixed, find a body shop you trust to provide an accurate estimate to repair the vehicle.
At ProCare Automotive and Collision in San Antonio, we have experienced and trained technicians who know exactly what it will take to repair the vehicle back to a safe and drivable condition again.
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No parent wants their teen to have an accident and wind up searching for an auto body shop. Driving for the first time can come with mixed emotions for any teen. They can be extremely excited, nervous, or overwhelmed. Parents can also feel similar emotions as they teach a teen safe driving.
There are a few ways to demonstrate good driver responsibility to your teen.
Drive by example
AAA recently surveyed driving instructors. According to the survey, parents today do not prepare their teen drivers as well as parents did a decade ago. The instructors reported parents setting bad examples through their own driving behaviors. Research shows that young drivers will mimic the driving of parents and other family members.
Remember when your child gets closer to learning how to drive to be aware of how you operate a vehicle. Re-familiarize yourself with traffic and safety rules. Reduce behaviors you wouldn’t want your teen driver to do. This includes reducing distractions like cell phone use and obeying the speed limit.
Having a soon-to-be driver in your car can help you get back in the practice of responsible driving.
Practice, practice, practice
As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” The more experience that your teen can get behind the wheel will help your new driver respond better to a potential accident. It is better to expose them to different driving situations with you in the car next to them so they can learn from you can put your guidance into practice in the future.
Young drivers often do not get enough practice in inclimate weather, night driving, and heavy traffic – situations where they’re most likely to get into a crash.
Encouragement is important
Every parent knows that praise is helpful when their teen is doing the right thing, especially when they are driving safely behind the wheel. Positive reinforcement of good driving can be encouraging and help your teen build driving confidence.
But encouragement in other ways is also important. Have discussions with your teen to let him or her know it is a good thing to speak up if they don’t feel safe driving or to also speak up with their peers about unsafe driving. Sometimes discussing what to do or say in social situations can help your teen set boundaries (and a good example!) with other young drivers.
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