Keys to Prevent Personal Injury

It is always important to ensure that your automobile is in safe and proper working order on a regular basis for the safety of you, your family, and other people on the road. The drivers of Tractor Trailer trucks (18 wheeler trucks), are required by law to complete an extensive safety inspection prior to driving on the roadway. Yet, there are no such laws requiring drivers of automobiles to do the same. However, the need to do a safety inspection is every bit as important to all those who drive. Just a few simple safety improvements through simple inspections can dramatically improve the safeness of your vehicle to reduce the risk for automobile failure induced car accidents and to reduce the risks for severe personal injury in the event an automobile accident does occur. Here are several tips that we recommend you do to make your car or truck safer and to make your drive safer for everyone.

#1) Check your Seat Belts: First, you should check the Belt. Seat belts are actually very durable, however, they can become damaged which could cause the failure in an emergency. The seat belt fabric can wear down due to prolonged sun exposure, severe cold weather, battles with a car door or simple general usage for older models. So, you should look for tears, frays, cuts, holes and insecure stitching in the seat fabric. These imperfections can cause the seat belt to lock up unexpectedly or can cause complete failure to lock in an emergency.

Second, you should check the Seat Belt Buckle regularly. It is necessary to make sure that the buckle can fasten smoothly and securely. Make sure that the buckle will release quickly as well. It’s also a good idea to make sure no small objects, coins or even food has made its way into the buckles, causing blockage of the locking mechanism. This could occur without being obvious to the user of the seat belt, as the buckle may seem secure but when pressure is placed against the belt in an emergency situation, the belt would lock in place and not restrain the occupant of the vehicle.

Third, you should check the Seat Belt Retractor. This is the locking sensor of the buckle and seat belt. This should securely lock in place at all sudden stops at 5mph or greater. Test this be securing the seat belt in place over yourself or another person then pulling the belt itself away from the body as quickly and forcibly as possible. If the seat belt does not restrict then you retractor has failed and needs replaced. You should also test this mechanism on the road, in a safe area without other traffic around by driving the vehicle at 5mph and 10mph and suddenly applying the brakes in order to stop. The seat belts should restrain the occupant.

#2) Replace your windshield wipers, so your car can handle foul weather. In Georgia and Alabama, we can have sudden and major thunderstorms with excessive rain. Your windshield wipers must work and work effectively so that you can see the roadway. If your wipers are working properly, you should immediately get to the side of the road, stop, turn on your hazard blinkers and wait out the storm.

#3) Check your tire pressure every week or two weeks, and keep them at the proper pressure. This will keep you safe … and save a little gas.

Anything from a leak to the outside air temperature can lower the pressure in your tires over time. In fact, for every 10-degree drop in temperature, the air in your tires decreases by one PSI (pound per square inch). So, especially here in Georgia and Alabama where the temperature can drop 20-30 degrees or more over night, it is important that every car owner frequently check the tire pressure on their vehicles at least once a month and more frequently during the colder months – because low tire pressure has some interesting effects on your vehicle that can be both dangerous and costly.

First it can be costly by reducing your gas mileage.

Properly inflated tires not only increase your gas mileage overall, but they provide for better vehicle performance and handling when an emergency presents itself.

Second, low tire pressure can reduce your vehicles stopping time. Tires that are underinflated take longer to stop, especially on wet pavement when it is needed most. Also, studies have shown that the major contributing cause of SUV rollovers is underinflated tires.

Finally, low tire pressure can cause tire failure or blowout. Low tire pressure can reduce the life of your tire and can reduce your tire tread life by up to 25 percent. In the worst case scenario, low tire pressure can lead to complete failure of your tires. Too much contact with the surface of the road increases friction, and this heat can cause tread separation, blown tires, and likely, a bad accident as a result. Overinflated tires are just as problematic as underinflated ones. When refilling your tires, consult the recommended PSI for their specific size on the outside of your tires. Stay as close to this limit as possible without going too high.

#4) Check the tread by applying the penny test to your tires. Point a penny so Abe Lincoln’s head is pointing down, and stick it in the lowest part of the tread. If it covers Abe’s head, your tires are good. If it doesn’t…time for new ones.

Insufficient tread on your tires is considered such a danger to all persons on the roadway, that this simple maintenance, over all others, has been made a law in the most states including Georgia and Alabama.

#5) Check your tires every night for possible puncture hazards: nail heads, sharp rocks, and so on. These dangers can cause slow leaks which could potentially place you in a dangerous situation unexpectedly. Also, these dangers will weaken the tire and increase the risk of tire failure and blow-out at moderate or high speeds.

#6) Keep a car safety kit in the trunk: Your safety kit should include: flares, warning signs, a tire jack, a spare tire, tire re-inflation canister, battery charging cables, a tire patch kit, a first-aid kit, a window shield ice scraper, kitty litter (melts ice on the road), and an air horn. Most of it will fit in the spare compartment in the trunk.

#7) Test your brakes on a regular basis: Automobile brakes are designed to wear out. Different types of brakes that are assembled on various car and truck models will wear out at differently as some will wear out quicker than others. If you feel any slippage or grinding or hear squealing when the brakes are applied, you should immediately have the brakes on your vehicle inspected by a trusted brake shop. If you delay or take too long between brake inspections, you will likely run into additional costs.

If the brake pads wear too far, the metal backing on the brake pad comes in contact with the brake rotor. Once you make metal to metal contact, you’ve not only damaged the rotor, but put yourself and others in a very dangerous situation.

#8) Check your lights every few months: a blown-out taillight can be the difference between safe driving and getting rear-ended or broadsided.

Visibility is the most obvious purpose of a proper vehicle lighting system. Increasing your ability to see, particularly while driving at night or in adverse weather conditions, is the greatest deterrent to driver error in these conditions causing a wreck. Some drivers suffer from nyctalopia, or what is more commonly known as night blindness. Dim or in operating headlights magnify the dangers of operating a motor vehicle for individuals with this condition. Even drivers with good night vision can have trouble seeing with low-quality lighting. Instead of driving around with the high beams on at all times, drivers who wish to increase their visibility should consider upgrading their headlamps.

While increasing visibility goes a long way toward improving vehicular safety, the other very important reason for properly functioning vehicle lighting is to help make sure that other drivers can see you. Properly working brake lights are extremely important because they let drivers know when the vehicle in front of them is slowing or stopping. When brake lights are too dim or not working at all, the warning to other drivers that you are slowing or stopping may not register with the driver, causing him or her to stop too late and collide with your vehicle instead.

Blinkers and corner lamps are other important lights on a vehicle, as they make it easier for drivers to know your intent to make a turn or change lanes. This notice will prevent collisions due to their failure to yield the right of way or for an improper lane change.

While increasing visibility goes a long way toward improving vehicular safety, the other very important reason for properly functioning vehicle lighting is to help make sure that other drivers can see you. Properly working brake lights are extremely important because they let drivers know when the vehicle in front of them is slowing or stopping. When brake lights are too dim or not working at all, the warning to other drivers that you are slowing or stopping may not register with the driver, causing him or her to stop too late and collide with your vehicle instead.

When a driver has a flat tire or other mechanical issue and needs to pull over to the side of the road, the driver is putting himself or herself and others at great risk. Even worse is when a vehicle actually breaks down in the middle of a lane. To make sure other drivers do not collide with your vehicle should always make sure that the emergency flashers are in proper working order. These lights should flash fast and bright, making them nearly impossible to ignore and alerting other drivers of your stalled vehicle.

Engine motor oil. Remove and wipe clean the dipstick, then insert it for a clean read. In most cars, you just need to pop up your hood, find the oil dipstick, pull it out, and wipe it down. Repeat that again and you’ll have your oil level. If it’s in the safe level zone, continue on your merry way. If it’s not, you need to add more. Most mechanics recommend that you check your oil every time you fill up with gas if you have seen signs of oil loss; otherwise, checking the oil approximately once a month is sufficient.

Engine/motor coolant should also be checked every time you check the motor oil levels. To check the coolant levels look for the clear overflow plastic container near the radiator. The fluid level should be at and within the recommended amount indicated on the container. Water can be a temporary emergency fix for low coolant levels, but do not rely on water as your fulltime engine coolant. In the winter, water can freeze causing engine damage and, in the summer, water will eventually overheat and not perform as a coolant.

The danger of not having a sufficient amount of oil or coolant is that your car’s engine could suffer immediate engine failure while you are driving on the roadway leaving you in a precarious and dangerous situation and vulnerable to a collision from another vehicle not expecting you to be stranded in the middle of the road.

Power steering fluid keeps the vehicle in proper operating condition by giving the driver easy control and maneuverability. When driving, you will want the vehicle to be as efficient as possible. If you notice it becoming more difficult to turn your steering wheel or if the steering becomes less responsive, you should immediately get your vehicle to a certified mechanic for inspection and maintenance. The power steering is a mechanism that enables you to steer and turn the vehicle easily. Low power steering fluid can cause difficulty in your ability to avoid sudden dangers that develop while driving. This endangers you, your passengers and all those that are on the road.

#10) Stick to a regular maintenance schedule. Tune-ups and basic maintenance done by a qualified mechanic will prevent mechanical problems that could cause a crash.

In older cars, a tune-up was needed every 30,000-45,000 miles. However, most new cars can drive without a tune-up much longer. A major tune-up is usually recommended if a car starts running poorly but it is best to stick to a regular inspection and maintenance schedule.

Due to the electronics and newer technologies the recommended mileage between “tune-ups” or spark plug replacement has gone up to 30,000, or 60,000 and even 100,000 miles! This is because the computers in newer cars have done away with older engines need for a distributor, and spark plug wiring. Recommended parts to get replaced for newer cars and trucks during a “tune-up” are: the spark plugs, fuel filter, air filters, PCV valve and include testing to verify the electronic engine management system (if equipped) is doing its job.