Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Future Car

I'm guessing we're not too close to having the technology to be travelling around in Jetson-mobiles in the near future, but according to MSN Autos, our cars are going to come a very long way in the upcoming years. By 2020, MSN Autos predicts that our cars will have the following features:

1. Warnings Galore, including collision-mitigation systems that warn you when you are getting too close to other objects/cars. I could have used that ten years ago when I backed my dad's car into a pole. Ooops.

2. Eyes All Around, meaning rear view cameras in every car. I can see how this could be helpful, but I don't think I could rely on a camera instead of my own two eyes when backing up.

3. Pedestrian Detection and Night Vision. A pedestrian detection system apparently brings your car to a full stop if it detects a pedestrian in your path. I just hope that cars don't think they're smarter than us. I don't want to be stopping every time there's a pedestrian walking along the sidewalk or waiting on the corner to cross the street.

4. Easy Cruising, including adaptive cruise control that prevents you from getting too close to the vehicle in front of you. Good bye, tailgating!

5. Vehicle-to-vehicle Communication. Isn't this what cell phones are for? Apparently, not. This type of communication allows vehicles to talk to each other to avoid collisions.

6. A better way to connect. Easier blue tooth options could be very helpful. I always opt for speaker phone while in the car instead of trying to figure out how to use my blue tooth earpiece while on the road.

7. App central. Really? Talk about distracted driving. People have enough distractions. Adding the availability of apps, including Facebook and Twitter, to a car's dash sounds disastrously dangerous to me.

8. Fuel-sipper tech. Sounds great and all, except the part about adding $10,000 to the price of a new car. Yikes!

9. Advanced engines. No surprise there.

10. Exotic materials, to reduce weight and meet higher mileage standards.

All in all, the new, advanced features sound exciting and helpful, but I think I'd like to pass on a few of them.

Original MSN Autos article: 10 Things Your Car Will Have By 2020

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stupid or Not? Driving With Your Foot Out the Window

My friend called me up the other day and asked me a question I've never heard before. "Is it legal to drive with your foot out the window?' I didn't know what to say to her. "Uh. Um. Well, I don't think it's illegal," I replied.

My gut reaction paralleled my friend's assessment that it's dangerous to drive with a foot out the window. It seems like it would limit vehicle control. Especially in an emergency. And it looks stupid. Only idiots drive this way, as referenced by the YouTube clip above (as well as numerous other videos posted online),

And after the manner of said idiot, I tried it out this afternoon. I live in the county with very few cars around...the perfect place for such an experiment. I drove to the grocery store, about ten minutes in each direction. Now that I'm in the know (20 minutes worth), I'd like to share my experience with you.
Driving with my foot out the window.

Is it comfortable? The best part was having the breeze go through my toes. It was a fantastic feeling that I really like. Another plus is that feels nice to use your leg as an arm rest. There's a little notch for my elbow below my knee. Arriving at my destination, it was obvious that my leg had been in a new position since my muscles were slightly sore. I walked it off though in the produce section at the market. Bottom line, it's comfortable. However, I think having two feet on the floor is more comfortable.

Is it physically awkward? Pick your vehicle carefully. I'm 5'7" and flexible. My foot just wasn't going to go out the window of my SUV. However, I was successful with our small car. It's surprisingly not that awkward...though I need my hands to pull my leg to the window once I'm seated in the car. So that part is a little awkward.

How do others look at you? As far as I noticed, no other driver I encountered looked twice at me with my foot out the window. But I was certainly self-conscious! Traffic was mostly all on-coming but had I been on the freeway, I'm sure I would have gotten more looks. Also, as you can see in the photo above, my leg isn't nearly long enough to rest along the full length of the window. So I'm not sure how visible my foot actually was.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I didn't drive in my neighborhood with my foot out the window. Nor did I when I got into town and in the store parking lot. If someone I know saw me, I'd be thoroughly embarrassed and would understand if they had second thoughts about bringing their kids to our driving school.

How's vehicle control? Surprisingly, it's pretty good. I didn't have any issues driving around curves, making right or left turns, and lane changing. The only issue I had was checking my blind spots. I didn't have my usual full range of motion on head checks. Although I adjusted for that easily enough.

Is it dangerous? I didn't test handling or control during any emergency procedures or evasive actions, but will have my brother do that the next time he does skid training. For now, I think if you have long legs, are flexible, and are an experienced driver. you will probably be fine driving with your foot out the window. I still prefer both of my feet on the floor, though.

What do you think? Is it dangerous or not? I want to know if you've driven with a foot out the window before. If so, please weigh in with your thoughts on the questions above.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is your child safely secured?

As a mother of a 14-month-old, I understand the difficulty of wading through all the information, instructions, reviews, and opinions about child car seats. My husband and I kept our son in an infant seat until a couple of weeks ago simply because it seemed like too much of a hassle to figure out how to install the new one we had gotten for him. I resolved to make the switch after realizing that he was more than two inches taller than the height maximum on the infant seat. Not to mention that his legs were looking more than a little cramped. I had assumed that he still "fit" the infant seat because he weighed much less than the maximum weight allowed. As I pulled the new car seat out, I was immediately overwhelmed by the number of straps and contraptions attached to it. I finally got it installed, thankfully.

With child car seats on my mind, I was quite alarmed to learn recently that according to a study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 70% of children are in seats that are either inappropriate for the child or are incorrectly installed, while 95% of parents think their child is safely secured. That being said, and in light of the upcoming Child Passenger Safety Week (September 18-24), maybe we should all be asking if our children are in the right seats and whether those seats have been installed correctly.

The NHTSA provides a wealth of information to help us keep our children safe, including car seat recommendations for children of all ages, current child seat laws for every state, and information about Child Passenger Safety Week. Visit their website by clicking here.

As part of Child Safety Passenger Week, on Saturday, September 24, certified child passenger safety technicians will be available to inspect car seats and provide advice free of charge. Click here to find your nearest inspection station.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer 2011 Video Contest

Fresh squeeze your creative juices in the last month of our summer video contest. Whether you film the "I just got my license" happy dance or the "oh no, ____ is on the road" jitters, we want to see your license celebration! Complete the following entry form and submit it with your video for a chance to win an iPad or a pocket full of money. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Teen Body Bag" PSA

Anti-texting while driving public service announcements usually focus on the gore of a collision or the emotional factor of killing someone. But these two are different. They are clean despite their titles. There are no tugs on your heart strings. No lectures. No blood. And most importantly, they have me smiling every time I watch them. "I knew she liked me." See for yourself. And don't text and drive. Ever.

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