Motorcycle Safety: 5 Tips for Drivers

May was Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, but we think it’s just as important to be safe in June, July, and August, when warmer weather means more riding opportunities. In the past, we’ve offered info on motorcycle safety and provided safety tips for our freewheeling friends. We even have an entire section on our website dedicated to answering your questions about motorcycleinsurance.

But here’s a new one: What can you, as a car driver, do to help avoid accidents with motorcycles? Here are 5 basic tips for sharing the road:

1. Look 3 ways before changing lanes

Though you probably have a sense of where cars are around you, you still can’t see vehicles in your blind spot. To avoid accidents, always look 3 ways — rear view, side view, and quick head check — before changing lanes or turning.

2. Use your signals — always

Most motorcyclists are cautious, responsible riders. They have to be. With very little between them and the road, accidents can be fatal. As a result, bikers tend to drive defensively. They watch you and try to anticipate what you might do next. Since motorcyclists have to adjust their riding behavior based on what you do, always signal your intentions.

3. Move over

Lane sharing (or lane splitting) is something motorcyclists often need to do. Some bikes can overheat at slow speeds, so in heavy traffic motorcyclists will sometimes split lanes. Don’t get mad. And don’t try to block them. If you see a bike approaching in the rearview mirror and you’re able to do so safely, move over slightly so the bike can pass.

4. Don’t tailgate and be careful when passing

Never tailgate motorcyclists. They can slow down by downshifting, so you can’t expect to always see a brake light. Additionally, always leave plenty of room around a bike on all sides. If a motorcyclist is surrounded on 3 sides by other vehicles, don’t become the 4th.

If you need to pass, signal first, then plan your move. Long before you approach the bike, move over to the next lane and stay in that lane until long after you’ve passed. Be sure to avoid having the biker in your blind spot.

5. Don’t make it personal

Sometimes bikers will rev the engine. More often than not, they do this to alert you to their presence, not to show off. Same goes for passing. Some motorcyclists may speed up to pass you, not to show off, but to get out of your way. And remember that minor road conditions can pose major hazards to motorcyclists, which is why they may suddenly change speed or adjust lane position.

Now that the milder weather has arrived, expect to see more motorcycles on the road. Think of the person beneath the helmet as your friend and give them the courtesy they deserve.

Additional resources

Learn how to enhance traffic safety
Learn more about motorcycle safety

Summer Road Trips: Tips for Getting Better Gas Mileage

Summer is here! (We hope you enjoyed the first week.) If you’re like many summer vacationers out there (about 63 percent according to a TripAdvisor poll), you’ll pack the car, fill up the tank, and hit the open roads to get to your vacation hotspot.

Though gas prices have been steadily dropping from their astronomical prices in the past 5 weeks, we’re still paying more for gas on average than last year. According to AAA, the average price of regular unleaded is $3.55 per gallon — $0.79 more than it was a year ago. To help you save, here are a few tips for increasing fuel economy on your summer road trips and getting the most bang for your buck (or 4).

1. Get appy

In the old days (you know, around 2006), we had to rely on Google Maps and other route-planning tools to map trips and reduce those stressful, “Where the heck are we?” moments.

Now, with smartphones and cool apps, you can not only map out your routes, but also check on traffic conditions and look up roadside attractions.

Speaking of amazing apps, have you tried Fuelcaster? It’s a website that forecasts whether gas prices are expected to rise or fall the next day. That way, you can decide whether it’s better to fill up today or wait until tomorrow. If you need gas pronto, it can also help you navigate to the closest gas stations with the cheapest gas.

By planning your route carefully, you can minimize your time spent driving in circles or stuck in traffic and also find the cheapest gas in town — no matter where you happen to be. We love life in the modern world!

2. Do the dirty work

Though not necessarily fun, proper vehicle maintenance can help you save a lot of moolah in the long run. A well-tuned engine will increase gas mileage and reduce risks for breakdowns along the way.

As part of your tune-up, make sure you:

  • Check the brakes (for obvious reasons)
  • Check all filters and fluids (coolant, windshield washer, etc.)
  • Check the hoses and belts
  • Check the tires (to keep you safe and improve fuel efficiency)
  • Check the gas cap (a damaged gas cap will increase emissions and fuel loss)

3. Pack smart

Minimalism isn’t just a Zen aesthetic — it can also help increase your mpg and make traveling that much easier. According to fueleconomy.gov, removing excess items from your trunk will increase mpg by 2 percent.

When it comes time to load up the car, put in the heavy items first, and then stack the little things around it. Avoid packing things on your roof since it can make the vehicle top heavy and increase wind drag (thereby lowering fuel efficiency). Plus, you never know what could fly off as you’re zooming down the highway.

Going somewhere this summer? Tell us in the comments section.

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Can Cruise Control Save You Money?

Cruise control technology, originally invented in 1788(!) by James Watt and Mathew Boulton to help control steam engines, maintains a constant speed by regulating the amount of fuel an engine receives. The speed-controlled steam engine did a lot to drive the Industrial Revolution forward, but its uses were mainly limited to factories, tractors, and (you guessed it) locomotives.

It wasn’t until 1945 that Ralph Teetor, a blind mechanical engineer, invented today’s modern automotive cruise control. Thanks to Ralph, this handy feature now makes long drives easier, keeps our speed constant, and even helps us save money.

How cruise control helps you save

Setting your cruise control at the posted speed limit can help you avoid speeding tickets and all the expenses (traffic school, higher car insurance rates) that come with them. And, as you know, a clean driving record could earn you car insurance discounts and lower car insurance rates.

In addition, by limiting the amount of fuel your engine receives and reducing gas-wasting acceleration and deceleration, cruise control can improve your fuel economy. If you set your speed at a steady 60 mph, you could increase your gas mileage even more — dropping from 70 to 60 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 17.2 percent!

When not to use cruise control

Although cruise control offers many benefits, there are times to avoid it for safety reasons. Police officers recommend avoiding cruise control:

  • On winding roads, in heavy traffic, and when you approach a bridge or overpass
    Obviously, it’s never a good idea to try and cruise when driving a constant speed is impractical.
  • On icy roads, during and after the first rain of the season, and during downpours or hailstorms
    Any situation that causes slippery roads — be it winter ice or the first rain after a long summer — increases the danger of sliding or hydroplaning. When this happens, the best thing to do is slow down. If you’re using cruise control when you do this, however, it will continue trying to maintain your speed. So when you stop hydroplaning, you’ll be back up to 50 or 60 (or whatever your favorite cruising speed is) in no time, and therefore in danger of losing control again.
  • Late at night or when you’re tired
    When you’re sleepy, cruise control can quickly turn into snooze control. Since you don’t have to actively engage with the gas pedal, cruise control makes it easy to doze off … and lose control of your vehicle.

Cruise control 2.0

Today, some cars come equipped with adaptive cruise control, which enables you to set a desired speed while the system automatically reads traffic and keeps your car at a safe following speed. In other words, it does the braking for you. In some systems, adaptive cruise control will brake, and then accelerate to the pre-set speed automatically. (Way cool!)

So now that you better understand cruise control (and how it can save you money), drive steady, cruise safely, and enjoy the benefits of Ralph Teetor’s automotive invention.

Avoid overpaying for gas with Fuelcaster™

Speaking of savings, before you hit the road this summer, make sure you’re equipped with Fuelcaster — the gas price predictor™. This website predicts whether gas prices are expected to rise or fall tomorrow. That way, you can decide whether it’s better to fill up today or wait. If you need gas pronto, it can also help you navigate to the closest gas stations with the cheapest gas.

Related links

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What to Do If Your Car Overheats: 5 Must-Know Steps

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