4 Ideas for a Safe New Year’s Eve

It’s been awhile since Ella Fitzgerald sang “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” but the million-dollar question remains: Where to spend those last 10 seconds of 2010?

With so many New Year’s parties and events planned, it’s hard to decide which way to go. And with so many revelers on the town, it’s often impossible to get there. Not to mention the fact that no one wants to drink and drive.

So, keeping all these challenges in mind, we came up with a short list of drive-free, stress-free ideas for  a safe New Year’s Eve.

Throw a PJ party

Invite a few friends over for an all-nighter. To make sure no one tries to drive home late-night, collect everyone’s car keys at the door and hide them somewhere you’ll remember. Point out all the good sleeping spots, and proceed to pour the champagne and make ready the noisemakers.

Throw a popcorn party

Who says you have to go out to have fun? Queue up a few classics, pop some buttery corn, and snuggle in for a cozy night of mellow movie watching. If you time it right, you can see the ball drop in Times Square too. (Because, seriously, it’s not really New Year’s Eve without Dick Clark!)

Call a taxi

If you decide to go out on the town, schedule a taxi to pick you up and take you home. Most cab companies are busy on New Year’s, but if you call in advance, you can usually arrange for scheduled pickups. At the end of the night, you won’t have to worry about driving or finding a cab either. It’s win, win.

Order room service

Whether you get a hotel room in New York City or in the middle of nowhere, hotels offer a novel way to ring in the new year. Hit the town in style knowing it’s just a short walk back to your room, or kick back with a bottle of bubbly and enjoy the last hours of 2010. Either way, you won’t have to drive once the party gets started (or make your bed the next day).

However you decide to spend your New Year’s Eve, have fun and stay safe. See you in 2011!

From Flying Cars to Solar Power: Transportation Innovation of 2010

Sure, the DeLorean is pretty cool (it can take us back to 1985, after all), but by today’s standards it’s about as technologically hip as a floppy disk. In the past 15 years, cars have come a long, long way. iPods and satellite radio replaced CD changers; GPS units made actual road maps nearly obsolete; and hybrids and EVs evolved from concept cars into everyday vehicles. Not all that surprising when you consider the speed of transportation innovation these days.

Each year cars get more and more futuristic, and 2010 was no exception. Here’s our list of the top 5 automotive innovations hat made headlines this year:

1. Terrafugia Transition®

True, the Transition, a drivable aircraft or flying car, has been a concept vehicle since 2006, but in 2010 it finally got the go-ahead from the FAA. In addition to flying at a speed of 115 mph and at a range of 460 miles, the Transition can drive on any surface. Priced at a cool $200k (cheaper than most Lambos), the first models will be delivered next year.

2. EV charging stations

2010 was the year of the EV, but without charging stations, EVs are limited in range. Thankfully, 2010 was also the year of the electric car charging stations. The first public charging station debuted in NYC in July 2010 and many more are slated to appear in the coming year.

3. Pedestrian Detection System

Safety just got a little bit safer. Volvo’s S60 Pedestrian Detection System uses radar and cameras to detect pedestrians in the road. It warns the driver if anyone walks into the car’s path, and automatically brakes if the driver doesn’t react in time.

4. Solar-powered cars

The 100% solar-powered car is still a futuristic concept, but some models of Toyota’s 2010 Prius leaped ahead by installing solar roofs. While it only powers the AC for now, the sun-powered roof nevertheless bodes well for the future of solar technology. And thought it seems a little space-aged today, you might one day see sun-powered cars cruising your way.

5. Google’s driverless car

Who needs a chauffer when there’s Google’s Prius? To date, the driverless car has driven itself 140,000 miles along busy streets and highways. And while this technology is not yet available to the public, it seems likely that it could be at some point in the future (but don’t quote us on that).

So what’s next? A DeLorean that can actually take us into the future? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, we can marvel at how far technology’s come and toast to another innovative year. Cheers!

6 Essential Nighttime Driving Tips (On the Shortest Day of the Year)

For those of us who live north of the Tropic of Cancer, December 21 marks the first day of winter and is also distinguished by having the longest night of the year. Unless you have nyctophobia — or an abnormal fear of darkness — the extra long night probably won’t mean much. But with more dim days and longer nights ahead, many of us will inevitably find ourselves doing more nighttime driving in the months to come.

Nighttime driving presents its own unique challenges and dangers, and according to the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicular fatalities are 3 times greater at night than during the day. With that dark fact in mind, we compiled a few simple tips to help you avoid after-dark accidents:

  1. Inspect your lights. Make sure that your headlights, taillights, high beams, and signal lights are clean and functioning properly. Also, confirm that your headlights are correctly aimed (the driver-side’s headlight should be pointed slightly lower than the passenger-side’s). You don’t want to accidentally blind other drivers or reduce your ability to see the road.
  2. Use your headlights properly. Use low beams when encountering oncoming cars and when following another vehicle.
  3. Keep your windshield and windows clean. You’ll increase your ability to see and avoid being distracted by that dead bug on your windshield.
  4. Slow down and leave extra following distance. Depth perception is impaired at night, making it more difficult to judge other vehicles’ speed and distance. So give yourself plenty of time and space to brake safely.
  5. Use the road as your guide. If the glaring lights of oncoming traffic impede your ability to steer straight and see clearly, watch the right edge of the road and use it as your guide.
  6. Get plenty of rest. Our bodies’ circadian rhythms naturally prepare us for sleep, making us more prone to drowsiness as night falls. To avoid fatigue behind the wheel, make sure you’re well rested before hitting the road. On long drives, stop frequently to fuel up with healthy snacks and stretch your legs, and if you feel tired, pull over for a quick nap before continuing on.

No matter what time of night or day you hit the road, take care and travel safely.

Related links

Preventing fatigue behind the wheel
Winter driving tips

Cool Car Accessories: If Your Car Had a Christmas Wish List

With the holidays burning rubber around the bend and the spirit of gift-giving in the air, we thought we’d take a moment to talk car accessories. (Sure, it’s not all that surprising.)

If you’re one of the 90 percent of Americans who drive, then your car’s most likely been working its trunk off over the past month or so. Doubtless, it’s taken you on countless trips to the mall and the grocery store (carried Tickle Me Elmos and turkeys), circled packed parking lots, and idled patiently in the crush of holiday traffic.

And what have you done for your car in return? Although it doesn’t usually take much to keep your ride happy (a little maintenance and a mango-scented air freshener can go a long way), many of us tend to neglect our vehicles during the busy holiday season.

With that in mind, here’s a short (and affordable) list of things that might be on your car’s wish list this year.

  • Windshield wiper blades. Although replacement blades generally cost less than 10 bucks, they’re also one of the most neglected components on our cars. Nonetheless, wiper blades should be replaced at least once a year, and the beginning of winter is the perfect time to do so. Your car will repay you for this gift by allowing you to see the road the next time it rains.
  • A good detail. With all the running around that we do, it’s easy to understand why our cars sometimes look as though they’ve been through the ringer. Having your vehicle detailed occasionally can help extend its resale value, and usually costs $60-$90. Or you can always run it through the carwash and vacuum it out for a handful of quarters. Both your car and your passengers will thank you.
  • Tire rotation. Like replacing windshield wiper blades, rotating tires is probably not all that high on your list of things to do. But because tires wear differently, it’s recommended that you rotate them every 5-10,000 miles. This can help extend the life of your tires and it costs as little as $2.50 per wheel. Your car will show its gratitude by keeping you safe on the road.
  • An oil change. With this, you can never go wrong (sort of like buying Almond Roca for Aunt Meg). The importance of changing your oil regularly can’t be overestimated, but neither can the ease with which this small task can be forgotten. The average oil change costs between $25 and $35, and your car will show its appreciation by not melting down on the side of the freeway on some Monday morning. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Air freshener. When you forget to put on deodorant in the morning, it’s embarrassing, right? Well think about how your poor car feels. Car air fresheners can cost less than a buck, and smell like everything from cedar to cotton candy to wild cherry. How will your car thank you? By smelling like a lush forest, your forgotten childhood, or delicious wild cherries.
  • Fuzzy dice. (Carstache?) No, cars are not people, but just the same, make your car feel special with a unique doo-dah this year. From fancy seat covers to Hula girls to fuzzy dice or other lucky talismans, there are (literally) hundreds of inexpensive accessories you can give your car to make it stand out a little. In turn, your car will show its thanks by being easier to find the next time you’re wandering the parking lot Seinfeld-style.

Whether you decide to grant your car its wishes or not, drive carefully this holiday season and stay safe out there!

Related links

Find out who invented the windshield wiper (it may surprise you)
Get some tire maintenance tips

Holiday Driving Tips: How to Play Nice When Suspected of Being Naughty

With more and more drivers on the road each holiday season, police officers are forced to amp up efforts to curtail risky driving behavior. Our holiday driving tips are the same as always: buckle up, use caution, stick to the rules of the road, and don’t drink and drive.

But if (Santa forbid!) an officer happens to suspect you of some other naughty driving practice and pulls you over, here are a few tips for safely navigating a stressful situation:

  1. Take a deep breath. Remain calm. It might be difficult to relax given the circumstances, but a calm demeanor and a friendly smile can make a difference. At the very least, a positive attitude can make the incident go more smoothly.
  2. Put on your hazard lights. This lets the police officer know that you’re planning to pull over.
  3. Pull over to a safe place as soon as possible. Generally, it’s recommended that you pull over to the right-hand side of the road, but if you’re on a busy street or highway, this may not be safe. Use good judgment and pull over only where it’s safe to do so.
  4. Stay in your car and wait for instructions. It may take a moment for the officer to get your license plate info before approaching you and providing instructions on what to do next. Be patient and wait calmly.
  5. Keep your hands visible. Keep your hands in plain sight (at 10 and 2 on the wheel) to signal that there’s nothing (literally or figuratively) up your sleeve.
  6. Provide info when asked. Make sure that you have your drivers license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance with you. (If you’re an Esurance customer, you can print copies of your insurance cards online whenever you want.)
  7. Don’t argue or pick fights. Whatever you do, don’t make things difficult for yourself or the police officer. You’ll generally get a better response if you’re polite and respectful. Remember, you’ll have your chance to fight the citation in court if you feel you’re in the right, but arguing with an officer is not likely to do you much good.
  8. Don’t admit guilt. By admitting guilt, you forfeit your right to contest the potential ticket in court. It’s no joke; anything you say could and might be used against you.

By being a safe, cautious driver, you can usually avoid being pulled over, but if you see blue lights in your rearview mirror, remember to stay calm and to play nice this holiday season.

Helpful winter driving tips

Don’t get caught out in the cold this holiday season — winterize your car before it’s too late with the help of this infographic

Refresh your winter driving know-how with these time-tested tips

One of the best ways to prepare for adverse weather conditions is to assemble a winter car kit — here are 11 essentials you should include