By Chuck Mai, AAA
The vehicle with the most expensive claims for damage is, surprise, a Ferrari. The Ferrari California, to be exact, with an average payment per claim paid by the insurance company of $82,112. I just remembered why I don’t have a Ferrari.
In second place: the Porsche 911 turbo convertible 4WD ($24,679), followed by the Maserati Granturismo ($16,150), the Porsche Panamera turbo 4WD ($16,027), the Nissan GT-R ($15,285), the Maserati Quattroporte ($11,454), the BMW M3 ($10,259) and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class hybrid ($8,528)
Which vehicles have the lowest average claim payment per crash? In first place is the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid – $2,019. Wow. Followed by the Chrysler 200 ($3,378), the Toyota FJ Cruiser ($3,667) and the Chevrolet Colorado 4WD ($3,955). These numbers are for 2009 through 2011 models.
All this wonderful information comes to us courtesy the Highway Loss Data Institute, a partner of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Visit iihs.org/HLDI_composite for the full story, model-by-model for 2009 through 2011 vehicles.
It’s no surprise expensive cars cost more to repair. And that vehicles with powerful engines tend to crash more often not only because they can go faster but also because of the kind of driver they attract. No offense, Tony Stewart.
What is interesting is something else the HLDI tells us: when it comes to injury claims, small cars are less safe cars – owners of vehicles like the Toyota Yaris, the Suzuki SX4 and the Chevrolet Aveo submit more injury claims as a result of crashes than owners of vehicles such as the Cadillac Escalade ESV 4WD, the Land Rover Range Rover 4WD and the Ford F-150 4WD. Again, this ranking is for 2009 through 2011 model year vehicles.
As the IIHS put it, “In the real world, if all else is equal, a larger vehicle protects people better than a smaller one.”
By Chuck Mai, AAA
“What a drag it is getting old.” At least, that’s what Mick Jagger sang back in 1966, when he was 23. These days, as a “golden oldie” himself, Mick might be changing his tune.
Time catches up with everyone, even rock stars, but getting older doesn’t have to be a drag. One of the most important things to know is how age affects driving.
Although it might seem easy and natural, driving is actually a complex, fast-paced activity. It involves sensing information about traffic, road conditions, signals, markings, and the car’s behavior, deciding what to do based on that information, and then acting, all in rapid-fire succession.
A typical driver makes 20 decisions per mile, with less than half a second to act to avoid a collision.
Age affects all three steps in the process: sensing, deciding, and acting.
Sensing. We receive 85 percent of the information necessary to drive through our eyes. But typically our eyes begin to grow worse at age 40 or 50 and decline progressively in later years, even with corrective lenses.
Our ability to clearly distinguish details lessens and we have trouble changing focus quickly between near objects such as the instrument panel and those at a distance such as traffic signs.
The field of vision typically narrows with age, increasing the possibility of a side collision at an intersection. Older drivers are also bothered more by glare and take longer to recover from it. The enormous number of big pickup trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles on the road today in Oklahoma make night driving particularly difficult for older people. These vehicles ride high, so their lights shine directly into the eyes of a driver in an oncoming passenger car. This can temporarily blind the person behind the wheel, no matter what their age.
Deciding. Once we take in information through our senses, we have to process it and make a decision to avoid a collision. Although older drivers process information and react more slowly than younger people, experience, mature judgment, and good driving habits usually compensate for these diminished skills.
As a sign of continued good judgment, most older drivers recognize and avoid situations where their limitations put them at risk. They drive less after dark, during rush hour, or in bad weather, and they may avoid difficult roads, left turns or certain intersections.
Acting. Making good decisions is one thing. Carrying them out is quite another. Few older drivers can perform fast-paced motor activities as well as younger drivers.
Weaker muscles, reduced flexibility, and limited range of motion restrict their ability to grip and turn the steering wheel, press the accelerator or brake, or reach to open doors and windows.
What’s more, 50 percent of the middle-aged population and 80 percent of people in their 70s suffer from arthritis, which makes turning, flexing and twisting painful.
Concerned about your or a loved one’s driving skills? The remedy may be as simple as an eye exam, a visit to the doctor, a regular exercise program, a driver refresher class (AAA Oklahoma calls theirs a Motor Vehicle Crash Prevention course), or a more appropriate vehicle. Also, a good free resource open to anyone with a computer is SeniorDriving.AAA.com. T0ns of tools and advice.
A free teen driver safety event on Oct. 6 will feature classic cars, iPad giveaways, nationally-known speakers and Oklahoma City Thunder entertainers the Thunder Girls and Rumble.
Sponsored by the Oklahoma City Thunder and AAA Oklahoma, the “Hot Cars & Hot Topics” event will take place in the Freede Wellness Center at Oklahoma City University from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. There is no charge and pre-registration is not required.
“We’re hoping to reach teen drivers and everyone interested in teen driving with an afternoon of prizes, surprises and fun – and the message that teens can do a lot to reduce their risk on the road,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Simple things like limiting distractions, avoiding alcohol and buckling up can enable teens to survive driving.”
Members of classic auto clubs will have their “hot cars” there, concessions will be available, the Thunder Girls will perform and Rumble will put on a show of high-flying trampoline dunks on the Freede Wellness Center’s basketball court. Drawings will be conducted for iPads and Thunder prize packages plus there will be lots of free giveaways.
Speakers include Bruce Shults, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Dr. Bill Van Tassel, Driver Training Programs Manager at the AAA National Office; Lt. George Brown of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Cheryl Nichols, a mother who lost a son to a texting-while-driving crash; and Jan Moran, External Relations Manager for AT&T, who will show the powerful AT&T video “It Can Wait.”
The Freede Wellness Center is located on the north side of the Oklahoma City University campus on NW 27th St. between N. Indiana Ave. and N. Florida Ave. Take NW 27th St. east from N. Pennsylvania Ave. and go three blocks – or take NW 27th St. west from N. Classen Blvd. and go three blocks.
For more information, visit www.AAA.com/TeenSafety or call Chuck Mai at (405) 753-8040.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
First of all, let me say that AAA’s position is that we want mature drivers to drive for as long as they safely can. To that end, the auto club provides free information and tools to the public to allow this to happen. We have free events (like CarFit, where AAA-trained inspectors make sure mature drivers are able to use safety equipment in their cars to their maximum benefit), websites (like SeniorDriving.AAA.com) and programs (like Roadwise Rx, on the SeniorDriving.AAA.com website) that help mature drivers drive more safely.
But sometimes, family members may feel like it’s time start a conversation with grandma or grandpa about driving and safety.
How can you tell whether an older driver presents a hazard on the road?
Experts agree that you can’t answer that question by age alone. Biological age and chronological age are two completely different things. Despite what many people think, mature drivers are among the safest on the road. In fact, they often voluntarily avoid high-risk driving situations, such as driving at night, making tricky left turns (by making three right turns instead) and driving in bad weather.
Nevertheless, aging affects our ability to drive in three distinct areas: visual, physical and cognitive. We need sharp vision and peripheral acuity to pick up vital cues as we drive. We need to stay flexible to look over our shoulders and turn our heads side to side, and we need strength and stamina while driving. And we need to be able to quickly mentally process what we see and hear.
If you’re a family member or friend, worried about an individual’s driving safety, these are signs your concerns may be well-founded:
- Unexplained dents and scrapes on the vehicle, mailbox or garage door;
- Showing poor judgment at intersections or having difficulty judging gaps when making left turns or at entrance and exit ramps on divided highways;
- Getting lost or confused on familiar roads or in well-known neighborhoods;
- Feeling uncomfortable or anxious while driving;
- Delayed responses to unexpected driving situations (for example, a sudden stop in traffic or a ball or object in the street);
- Difficulty staying in his or her traffic lane or traveling too far to the right or too close to parked cars;
- Increased “close calls” or “near misses”;
- Difficulty paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings.
For additional warning signs, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com/resources-family-friends.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
I was sitting at a red light the other day in Oklahoma City when I chanced to sneak a peek at the woman in the car next to me. This is a dangerous thing for a married guy to do.
If you happen to make eye contact, she may think you’re looking for companionship or worse yet, that you want to rob her.
Luckily, she was looking straight ahead so I was able to see if she was talking on her mobile cellular telephone, which had been my objective in the first place.
Nope, no cell phone in her hand. That’s good, I thought. However, I did notice with some amusement that she was singing along with the radio. No, not singing exactly, talking – she was talking along with the radio. No, she was in fact talking to somebody on her hands-free cell phone.
I was seriously crest-fallen.
Somehow the myth that hands-free cell phones are safe has taken hold. In some parts of the country, hand-held cell phone use by drivers is illegal but hands-free is okay. This, my friends, is pure bunk. The dangerous part of using a cell phone while driving is not holding the phone, it’s holding the conversation.
Finally, good solid research has been done which backs me up.
A few years ago, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released the results of a study on cell phones and crash risks, concluding that “drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.”
The IIHS report says hands-free equipment did not reduce chances of injury to drivers. “Injury crash risk didn’t differ from one type of reported phone use to the other.”
This research reinforces results from studies at the University of Utah and at Virginia Tech University.
The message is clear: hands-free is not risk-free. Two-thirds of crashes in the IIHS study involved people on hands-free phones. The IIHS study also found the crash risk increases at similar rates across genders and ages. Male and female drivers and drivers younger and older than 30 all experienced about the same increase in risk from using a phone while behind-the-wheel.
Driving has never been riskier. More cars, more drivers, higher speeds. And, unfortunately, more distractions, of which cell phone use is only one of many.
All driver distractions need to be reduced: eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting the radio/CD player/iPod, checking on-board navigational devices, dealing with children and other passengers, looking at objects outside the car away from the roadway, etc.
Parents should be especially concerned about cell phone use by teenage drivers. Teens are inexperienced drivers who often fail to fully appreciate the dangers of multi-tasking on the road. A good parent-teen driving contract addresses these concerns. For a free downloadable copy, visit TeenDriving.AAA.com.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the most effective and easiest way to save gasoline is just to not drive. Like to and from work. But if mass transit or carpooling aren’t options, you might want to investigate working from home.
If more and more of us telecommute, rush hours could someday be as old-fashioned as carbon paper.
But does productivity suffer when a company lets employees telecommute?
A project undertaken by Pennsylvania State University a few years ago looked at 46 studies on telecommuting and came up with some surprising results. In short, telecommuting works. Specifically, PSU reports that:
• Employees have a greater sense of control over their work environment when telecommuting.
• Telecommuting is good for the family, reducing conflicts between work and family; but if the employee works from home three or more day per week, that tends to have a detrimental effect on workplace relationships.
• Mid-level and top management needs to buy-in to the idea and make adjustments to accommodate telecommuting.
• Managers’ ratings of the efficiency of telecommuting employees rose, based on this study, meaning productivity was enhanced.
• Employees were happier when allowed to work from home.
The PSU study also found that telecommuting employees are less likely to quit.
And it’s likely there are fewer distractions at home than in an office.
There are downsides, such as the need possibly for additional equipment, such a secured laptop and additional phone or fax lines. And employees who telecommute need to possess high levels of self-discipline and be self-motivated.
Plus, you’ll have fewer schmoozing opportunities – chances to engage in hallway or office conversations with superiors that some may feel essential to ultimately obtaining a promotion. Then again, you may be spared office politics and episodes of office drama.
I drive 25 minutes each way to and from work and while it’s not a bad drive, I could just as easily do what I do at home rather than in an office. Plus, on my lunch hour, I could get some work done out in the yard.
Now, I just need to sell my wife on the idea.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
In Oklahoma, the number of motorcyclist deaths has increased each year from 65 in 2006 to 106 in 2009. Oklahoma, however, is bucking the national trend which according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, shows motorcyclist fatalities nationwide decreasing from more than 5,000 in 2007 and 2008 to 4,462 in 2009.
State data shows:
–Of the total of 71,218 traffic crashes reported in 2009 in Oklahoma, 1,406 (2%) were motorcycle-related and involved 1601 individuals that were either drivers (90%) or passengers (10%) on a motorcycle.
–Though only 2% of crashes were motorcycle related, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of persons identified as having an inpatient hospitalization and 14% of persons who died.
–420 motorcyclists were hospitalized or died as a result of the crash as compared to 1.7% hospitalized and 0.4% died among persons in a car or pick-up truck crash.
–There were 649 (46% of the total) single vehicle crashes, 700 (50%) involving multiple vehicles and 57 (4%) involving animals or pedestrians.
–Hospitalization or death is more frequent among motorcyclists not wearing a helmet.
–Based on Oklahoma data for 2009, typical hospital charges are more than $13,000 higher for unhelmeted motorcyclists than for those wearing a helmet.
–Injuries to the head/face/neck are twice as frequent among unhelmeted motorcyclists than those wearing a helmet.
That’s the problem. So, what’s the solution?
First of all, motorists need to pay special attention while driving and watch out for motorcycles. Sometimes they’re hard to see – so always look once and then look again before turning or pulling out onto a roadway.
And there are some things motorcyclists can do:
–Don’t ride if impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.
–Wear a proper fitting DOT-approved helmet; you may want to consider helmets that are also Snell certified.
–Wear clothing or specialized gear that provides protection against road rash and impact injuries to other parts of the body.
–Be extra cautious if riding at night or on narrow rural roads, especially if you are unfamiliar with the road.
This information comes from the Oklahoma Traffic Data Linkage Project, a joint effort of the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Their good work is very much appreciated.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Here are some simple ways to cut down on airport travel stress.
Print boarding passes in advance
Check in online 24 hours (or earlier) prior to departure using the airline’s website. Avoid check-in lines, confirm flight schedules and check baggage less expensively.
Know baggage fees
It’s $0 to $25 for the first checked bag; up to $70 for the second depending on destination. A good travel agent can help assess costs. Fees increase for overweight or oversized bags, some specialty items are exempt and special rates are available for sporting equipment.
Dress for Stress Success
The Travel Security Administration (TSA) requires removal of bulky jewelry, belts, wallets, jackets, sweaters, pocket change and cell phones, before passing through Advanced Imaging Technology. Use your carry-on bag for some items. Wear slip on shoes.
3 ounces, 1 quart, 1 bag. This is the TSA rule for carry-on luggage. Liquids, gels, and aerosols are permitted in 3 ounce containers, placed on the conveyor belt in a 1 quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag, 1 bag per traveler. Yogurts, pudding and other gel-like substances are not allowed. Notify a TSA office for larger quantities such as medications, baby formula and food. If in doubt, put liquids in your checked luggage.
When possible, don’t pack oversized electronics (laptops, full-size video game consoles, DVD players and video cameras that use cassettes) in checked baggage. However, if these things are in your carry-on bags, they must be removed and submitted separately for X-ray screening. Small electronics, such as iPods, can remain in carry-on baggage.
Going for Christmas?
Do not carry wrapped gifts in your carry-on bags. TSA will probably unwrap them.
Rule of thumb: arrive 60 minutes early for domestic and 120 minutes prior for international trips. Many carriers mandate baggage check in at least 45 minutes before departure.
Check with a travel agent you trust. They can supply information that may make to your airport visit easier.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
You gotta envy those motorcyclists tooling down the highway – wind in their hair, the open road unfolding in front of them, a quick and powerful engine between their legs – ah, that’s the life. Well, on second thought, scratch that part about the wind in the hair. I’m too fond of living to go without a helmet. It’s not a law in Oklahoma that you have to wear a helmet, except for those under age 18, but it makes sense.
Seventy-two motorcyclists lost their lives in crashes in Oklahoma during the first nine months of 2011 – up from 62 during that same time in 2010. Thirty-five percent of those 72 had been drinking.
Motorcycle helmet opponents will tell you helmets limit riders’ vision and hearing but the simple fact is that helmets saved the lives of 1,550 motorcyclists across the U.S. in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 706 lives could have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 37-percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
According to NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey, a nationally representative observational survey of motorcycle helmet, seat belt, and child safety seat use, use of DOT-compliant helmets in 2010 stood at 54 percent, a decrease from 67 percent in 2009. That’s not a good trend.
Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico require helmet use by all motorcyclists, while 28 states only require helmet use by a subset of motorcyclists (typically motorcyclists under age 18, like Oklahoma) and 3 states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) do not require helmet use by motorcyclists of any age. If you’re about to travel out of Oklahoma, you should know that among nearby states, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Louisiana all have helmets laws for riders of all ages.
Here’s one more set of stats: Sixty-six percent of motorcyclists killed in 2010 were not wearing helmets in states without all-age helmet laws, as compared to ten percent in states with such laws.
Feel like rolling the dice? Go helmet-less. The odds aren’t with you but maybe you’ll get lucky.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
The stop-start system, that shuts off the engine when your car is stopped in traffic, is now making its way to the U.S. from overseas where such systems are already in common use. Other names for this technology include idle elimination, idle-stop-go, and micro-hybrid. Lux Research predicts that more than eight million vehicles in North America will be equipped with engine stop-start systems by 2017. What does this mean for American motorists?
Early versions of stop-start technology, which shuts down the vehicle’s engine when you’re stopped in traffic such as at a red light, date back to the 1980s. Today, more than 40 percent of the new cars sold in Europe and Japan use this gas-saving technology. Engine stop-start isn’t brand new, but the latest systems benefit from significant advances made in the last few years. This technology is only going to gain momentum as vehicle manufactures work to meet the more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set for 2016.
What’s the big deal about stop-start? The system can improve fuel economy by up to 12 percent and contribute to a reduction in vehicle exhaust emissions.
How does it work? With an automatic transmission, engine shutdown occurs when the vehicle is stopped for several seconds with the brake pedal applied. With a manual transmission, shutdown takes place with the transmission in neutral and the clutch released. As soon as the brake pedal is released, or the clutch pedal is depressed, the engine restarts automatically.
How much does it cost? On some models, the stop-start system is standard equipment and its cost is included in the vehicle price. Where stop-start is offered as option it generally costs around $300.
How much can it save? If gasoline costs $3.40 per gallon, the owner of a car that normally gets 20 mpg and is driven 12,000 miles per year would save an estimated $152 per year in fuel costs if the vehicle were equipped with an engine stop-start system. In this case, the system would pay for itself in less than two years and offer ongoing savings thereafter.
Are there any downsides to stop-start? A major challenge in developing stop-start systems has been engineering the systems to meet consumer expectations. The engine stop-start transitions must be smooth and seamless, and drivers new to the technology will need to learn that engine shutdown at idle is a normal thing and not a sign of a problem. In some vehicles, heating and air conditioning performance could suffer if the engine remains shut down for an extended time. Finally, the larger and more powerful batteries that are required for stop-start systems will be more expensive to replace when the time comes.
What American market vehicles offer stop-start today? All hybrid cars have stop-start capability, although they use a different technology than the systems on conventional powertrains. The first non-hybrid stop-start systems in the U.S. market are on 2012 highline vehicles from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. For the 2013 model year, Jaguar will join that select group, but stop-start systems will also become available on popularly priced models from Ford, Kia, and possibly others. Even trucks will start to see some systems with Dodge adding stop-start to its V6-powered Ram 1500 pickup for a one mile per gallon fuel economy improvement.