Watch where you’re going! Pedestrian deaths reach 20-year high

the-traffic-light-2157162_960_720Source: Watch where you’re going! Pedestrian deaths reach 20-year high

PDF: The_Clarion-Ledger_State_20170403_A004_2

Recently, as my son and I were walking across the grocery store parking lot to get some groceries, we were nearly hit by a car whose driver seemed oblivious to our presence as she turned the corner. Luckily, we were paying attention and had time to get out of the way. As we continued into the store, a store employee who was collecting shopping carts and saw the incident shook his head sympathetically and said, “it happens all the time.” It’s actually the second time in a year we’ve been nearly mowed down in the grocery store parking lot.

It’s a dangerous time to be a pedestrian in the United States. The Governors Highway Safety Administration just released its annual study of pedestrian deaths, which examines the problem of people getting killed after being struck by vehicles. The grim statistic: nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in 2016, the highest in 20 years.

That’s a 25 percent increase from 2010, making pedestrians the largest portion of all traffic deaths recorded in the past 25 years. And the 2016 spike marks an 11 percent increase from 2015 (the previous record-holder). The GHSA, a nonprofit made up of state highway safety offices, notes that the numbers could be higher, owing to the under-reporting of incidents. All told, 34 states had increases, and Mississippi ranked 20th in the nation for deaths as a percentage of total population for the first six months of 2016 (that’s actually an improvement from the previous year, but the second-half 2016 statistics haven’t come in yet.)

So, what’s causing all this mayhem? The authors of the study note the rapid increase in the use of smartphones could help explain at least part of the phenomenon because these devices present a “significant source of distraction for both pedestrians and motorists.”

We’ve all seen them, and maybe you’ve been one of them: people whose attention is focused on their smartphone while walking carelessly. Videos abound of people falling headlong into fountains, disappearing into open manholes or tripping on the curb while checking their email, posting to Facebook or looking for that elusive “Pokemon Go” character. Others fail to pay attention to oncoming traffic while crossing the street, leading to their being struck and often killed.

Drivers, too, are distracted. It’s been well-established that phone use while driving can present a serious attention deficit for drivers, becoming more serious the faster they drive. Unsurprisingly, alcohol also plays a role here, as it does in auto crashes in general. Thirty-four percent of pedestrians and 15 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated at the time of the crash, noted the study.

And although vehicles are getting better about avoiding crashing into things through collision-avoidance technologies, and local cities and states are taking measures to make things safer, the numbers continue to rise. It could be, the study’s authors note, more people are walking for fitness and economic reasons at the same time the numbers of vehicles on the road has risen because of the improving economy.

“This latest data shows that the U.S. isn’t meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways,” Jonathan Adkins, GHSA executive director, told PBS Newshour. “Every one of these lives represents a loved one not coming home tonight, which is absolutely unacceptable.”

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center ( has some helpful tips to make your walk or run safer. Here are a few:

  • Wear brightly colored clothing and reflective tape at night. These can help increase your visibility to motorists.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available; if not, walk facing traffic so you can see approaching vehicles.
  • Don’t assume drivers will stop. Try to make eye contact with the driver and be prepared to move if he or she doesn’t appear to notice you.
  • Cross streets only at crosswalks, if possible.
  • Don’t wear earbuds or use your phone while walking.

And finally, if you’re a driver in the grocery store parking lot, please … slow down, put down your phone and pay attention. You might save a life.

Millennials differ from parents on car choices


Source: Millennials differ from parents on car choices,

PDF: millennialcars

Remember back to when you were just starting out and considered getting your first car? While most of us probably had a vehicle in high school and college, and a lucky few were presented with a new vehicle upon graduation, the vast majority of us started out with a banged-up beater that had seen better days.

For me, it was a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. My mom and dad had bought the car used; by the time I got it, the car was 8 years old and had high mileage. But that didn’t stop me from falling in love with it. I took great care of it all through high school, until I said a wistful goodbye a few years — and many miles — later.

There is a special relationship between young people and their first car, and when they finally get the chance to buy a vehicle on their own, they usually know what they want. But a new study from indicates car-shopping millennials (loosely defined as those born from the early 1980s through the late 1990s, or ages 25-34), have wildly different preferences than their parents (Generation Xers) when it comes to buying those first vehicles.

Millennials appear to be thinking more about the environmental impacts of their vehicles and care somewhat more about features, according to the survey. However, they care less about price, reliability and brand than the previous generation. And about half of millennials said they planned to hold on to their vehicles for five years or less, contrasting sharply with their parents’ generation, most of whom said they planned to keep their vehicles much longer.
The generations also differed somewhat in what they considered their favorite makes and models. The Ford Mustang was the only favorite make and model both groups named (when asked what they’d consider their favorite performance car model). For trucks, millennials preferred the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, while Gen Xers preferred Ford F-150s. For a small car, millennials tended to choose the Honda Civic, while Generation X preferred the Honda Accord. When asked about their SUV preferences, millennials chose the Honda CR-V, while the older generation chose the Toyota RAV4.

The study is just the latest in the mixed bag of news for the auto industry. While some of those trends portend well for automakers, others could spell trouble down the road. Last year, the University of Michigan found that just 60 percent of today’s 18-year-olds have driver’s licenses, compared with 80 percent in the 1980s. Many millennials have come to view cars less as a status symbol and more like just a way to get from Point A to Point B. As a result, services like ride-sharing and personal transportation options — such as scooters and electric bikes — are becoming more attractive to millennials. Those trends, however, are more pronounced in densely packed urban areas; preferences of millennials in a largely rural state like Mississippi are probably more like their parents’.

Still, it’s obvious things are changing. Whether all this data mean millennials are truly different from past generations remains to be seen; it could be that they’re just hitting life’s milestones later. However, it’s also possible that how Americans view, purchase and use automobiles is undergoing a major shift. The age of the autonomous vehicle is about to dawn, and together with a generation with changed expectations, the automotive landscape will likely be unrecognizable in just a few years.

Uber settles charges with feds

Source: Drivers taken for a ride: The dark side of Uber

The ride-sharing phenomenon has hit the nation by storm in the past few years. Coming from what was virtually unknown a decade ago, companies like Uber and Lyft have carved a business worth an estimated $40 billion worldwide, according to Reuters.

Ride-sharing companies, though, must depend on the availability of privately owned vehicles and drivers willing to transport passengers. That means being able to convince vehicle owners their efforts will reap financial rewards for driving, and in some cases, enticing drivers to lease a vehicle to be used for ride-sharing services.

But last week, the Federal Trade Commission presented San Francisco-based Uber Technologies with a $20 million invoice to settle charges that the company exaggerated how much money drivers could make, and that the company made false promises to potential vehicle owners. With almost unprecedented speed, Uber paid the FTC on the same day the settlement was announced.

“Many consumers sign up to drive for Uber, but they shouldn’t be taken for a ride about their earnings potential or the cost of financing a car through Uber,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release Thursday. “This settlement will put millions of dollars back in Uber drivers’ pockets.”

Specifically, the FTC alleged Uber “exaggerated the yearly and hourly income drivers could make in certain cities and misled prospective drivers about the terms of its vehicle financing options.”

For example, the agency alleged that Uber promised drivers they could average more than $90,000 in New York and more than $74,000 in San Francisco, while the actual median income was closer to $61,000 in New York and $53,000 in San Francisco. “In all, less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities earned the yearly income Uber touted.” In addition, the FTC alleged that Uber repeated this pattern in a number of cities.

Uber also agreed to settle FTC charges that its Vehicle Solutions Program (through which Uber drivers could purchase vehicles) would provide drivers with the “best financing options available,” regardless of the driver’s credit history, and told consumers they could “own a car for as little as $20/day” ($140/week) or lease a car with “payments as low as $17 per day” ($119/week), and “starting at $119/week.” The agency alleged the actual lease payments exceeded $160 and $200, respectively, well over what consumers with similar credit scores would have to pay.

For its part, Uber admitted no wrongdoing, but in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune, a spokesman acknowledged the settlement. “We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with the FTC,” said Uber spokesman Matt Kallman. “We’ve made many improvements to the driver experience over the last year and will continue to focus on ensuring that Uber is the best option for anyone looking to earn money on their own schedule.”

MDOT: Be careful around log trucks


Log Truck Graphic.png

Mississippi Department of Transportation (


via MDOT: Be careful around log trucks

If you live in Mississippi, you are familiar with log trucks. These rigs ply Mississippi roads, with their valuable cargo of newly harvested logs. Logging is a vital part of the state’s economy, with a growing impact. Most of those logs travel by truck to mills for processing. Last year, according to the MSU Extension Service, loggers harvested about $1.67 billion worth of trees.

But it can be a dangerous occupation. Those who drive log trucks may be combining two of the most dangerous occupations (as listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics): Timber cutting and truck driving. While the vast majority of loads get to their destinations without incident, other drivers may not keep a proper distance from the truck, especially when approaching from the rear. The Mississippi Department of Transportation this week issued a reminder for drivers to keep a safe distance between their vehicles and log trucks.

The warning is especially timely, as many of us are still adjusting to the fallback for Daylight Saving Time, combined with the shorter daylight hours of late fall. “To help reduce potential crashes, we want to ensure the traveling public is aware of these log trucks and alert for them, especially during early evening and morning hours,” said Chief Willie Huff, director of the MDOT Office of Enforcement.

Most drivers learn to gauge distances pretty well, using the brain’s remarkable ability to learn and adapt. We use a combination of experience, visual cues and depth perception to figure out just how far away an object is so we can adjust our speed and distance accordingly. Most of the time, it serves us well. But when a vehicle is traveling at highway speed, complicated by low visibility, the task becomes much harder.

To help avoid crashes, state law requires log trucks to follow certain regulations. For example, log truck drivers must have a permit to be on the road two hours before sunrise and two hours after sunset. Log trucks may let their cargo “overhang” 12 feet from the back of the truck, and the longest log must be marked with a red flag during the day and an amber or red flashing light at night. This is so drivers behind the truck can have a fixed point by which to gauge distance.

To help illustrate, MDOT has produced a video to demonstrate the visibility of a log truck at 90 feet, 20 feet and at 10 feet. It would be a good idea to review it, and (especially for less-experienced drivers) to understand that you need to give log trucks (or any truck) a wide berth.

To report safety concerns on Mississippi highways, visit For current travel information, visit, dial 511 or download the free MS Traffic app from the App Store or Google Play.

Silencing cellphones for safety goal


via Silencing cellphones for safety goal

At some point in the not-too-distant future, using a cellphone in a vehicle could be as unacceptable as lighting up a cigarette in a no-smoking zone is today. The alarming rise of texting-related deaths and injuries has fueled a national discussion about the dangers of using phones and other devices in vehicles. Device providers and manufacturers are facing increasing pressure from safety advocates and others, who warn the problem is only getting worse.

Government agencies and private companies and organizations have spent millions on campaigns to make people aware of the dangers and change their habits. But it many such messages are going unheeded.

According to the U.S. government website, 3,179 Americans died in 2014 due to a variety of distractions, but cellphone use led the list. Young drivers appear particularly susceptible to distracted driving, constituting four in 10 (38 percent) of drivers in fatal crashes who had been using their phones.

MOAK: Get off the phone and #justdrive

Of course, distraction takes many forms; who hasn’t seen people putting on makeup, shaving, reading newspapers or fiddling with the radio while behind the wheel? But of all the things that can distract us, perhaps none is so dangerous as using a mobile device.

The attention required to take your eyes off the road and focus on your device’s screen can be costly. An often-cited example says that looking at your screen for even four to five seconds at 55 mph can mean your car travels the length of a football field without anyone watching. That’s pretty scary when you consider that a lot can happen in that short time: a neighboring vehicle can swerve into your lane; you can swerve because you’re not paying attention; a pedestrian or animal can cross into your path; the driver of the car in front of you can slam on his brakes.

Even the act of talking on a phone can distract our attention. While you might think that getting drivers to stop texting is priority No. 1, many advocates are aiming for a bigger prize; they want to ban mobile device use in vehicles altogether, whether used by drivers or passengers. Some advocates note the mere presence of a phone in the vehicle is distracting enough to pull a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. Few people can truly ignore a ringing phone or a ping letting you know you’ve gotten a text message.

A Ridgeland-based company called VRM Telematics has brought to market what some might consider a radical solution: a device called Sentinel, a small black box that connects directly to the vehicle’s electrical system. You buy the device for $199, then pay $19.99 a month for the service.

The device hides inconspicuously under the dash but constantly monitoring for the presence of cellular signals in the car. If signals are detected, the Sentinel device will send a warning to the driver to turn off the phone, or switch it to airplane mode. If others in the car use their devices, they’ll set off the Sentinel as well.

The device also tracks the vehicle’s location and speed and can send a text message or email to a parent or guardian if it detects cellphones, if the driver is speeding, if the vehicle strays from a certain predetermined geographic radius or drives past a certain time of day. Parents can check the vehicle’s location at any time. It’s a lot of control but promises to give anxious parents a little reassurance about their teen’s driving behavior.

VRM Telematics offered to let me use a Sentinel device for a couple of weeks during the summer. The device was quickly and easily installed, and as I drove out of the parking lot, it immediately warned me with a loud beep and recorded message to put my phone on airplane mode. Over the next several days, I learned to immediately switch to airplane mode and to watch my speed unless I wanted to hear the grating alarm and voice. However, I began to understand the power of such a device to regulate behavior most of us have come to accept as normal.

I noticed on the Sentinel site that my friend Pepper Carter had earlier been asked to be part of a test group. Carter, the mother of teenage boys, was interested because she wanted to help her sons learn good driving habits from the start. She was so impressed that she went on to record a promotional video about the Sentinel program, telling about her son Spencer’s experiences.

“I was very open to the idea because Spencer was an emerging driver,” she said. “The results were great! The reporting that I got allowed us to have great conversations about driving behaviors (good and bad) before they became habits. It helped Spencer to not text and drive, keep his speed down and all in all practice safe driving skills that are now habits.”

Besides marketing the Sentinel device, VRM has also become involved in efforts to get cellphone companies to change a basic feature of their phones: They want manufacturers to change “Airplane” mode to “Airplane/Drive” mode.

The company recently partnered with nonprofit consumer advocacy group We Save Lives to petition cellphone companies to make the change. We Save Lives is led by Candace Lightner, well-known for her previous founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Launched on Oct. 13, “Margay’s Petition” honors Margay Schee, a 13-year-old honors student who died in 2008 when a truck slammed into the back of her stopped school bus near Ocala, Florida. The driver reportedly told police he had been distracted by his cellphone.

Regardless of where we come down on the issue of using mobile devices while driving, it’s likely we’ll see more laws and regulations that will take away our right to make those choices. Until that happens, though, we still can choose. Making our cars “phone-free” zones, pulling over if we need to make a call or check messages, and training our kids to do the same can go a long way toward changing behaviors and saving lives.

For more about Sentinel, visit To sign Margay’s Petition, visit

Stop before pumping premium gas

via Moak: Stop before pumping premium gas


Many Americans are “wasting” more than $2.1 billion each year by choosing premium gasoline over regular gas at the pump, the American Automobile Association announced last week. According to a research report issued by the organization, many Americans are making the choice to buy more expensive premium gasoline, when their vehicles are designed to do just fine with regular gas.

“After using industry-standard test protocols designed to evaluate vehicle performance, fuel economy and emissions,” the organization said in a news release, “AAA found no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that only requires regular-grade fuel.”

In a partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA reported that it tested 87-octane (regular) and 93-octane (premium) gasoline in vehicles equipped with a V-8, V-6 or I4 engine designed to operate on regular-grade fuel. The test involved using a dynamometer, which places cars on a treadmill, and running them while hooked up to a variety of sensors. According to a news release about the findings, there was no significant increase in efficiency in any category.

“AAA’s tests reveal that there is no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that requires regular fuel,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “Premium gasoline is specifically formulated to be compatible with specific types of engine designs and most vehicles cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating.”

This news may be welcome for many drivers, who grew up thinking that premium gas was better for their cars than regular. There can be significant price differences between the two grades of fuel, and drivers might think the term “premium” means “better.” That’s not necessarily the case.

Of course, once upon a time, it was true. Our dads taught us that premium was better on some types of engines, and they were right. Splurging on premium every now and then was a good idea because it contained additives to help clean the engine, and many of us got into that habit. But today, according to many experts, most grades of fuel have additives to protect engines and cut pollution. In addition, today’s engines are “smarter,” equipped with technology that can make adjustments for lower-grade fuels and reduce the “knock” or “ping” older engines might produce when using lower grades of gas.

“In the old days, engines could not adjust to fuels with varying octane ratings. Use the wrong fuel and the engine would knock or “ping” audibly because the gas exploded prematurely,” noted the automotive site “This knocking damaged internal engine components over time.”

But Edmunds notes that today’s systems “can compensate for low octane by monitoring knock activity and adjusting ignition advance to avoid knocking. This sophisticated electronic capability effectively tunes the engine on the fly and gives drivers more flexibility in the grade of fuels that they can safely use.”

“Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume the fuel is better for their vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “AAA cautions drivers that premium gasoline is higher octane, not higher quality, and urges drivers to follow the owner’s manual recommendations for their vehicle’s fuel.”

There are, of course, some exceptions. Some higher-performance engines are built to use higher grades of gas. While using regular gas every now and then in these engines is not likely to do harm, sticking with the manufacturer’s recommendation can avoid problems later. And many older vehicles will perform better using higher-octane gasoline. If you’re unsure, check with your mechanic.

If you’re still not convinced, or want to see if there’s a difference in your vehicle in which premium is recommended, Edmunds recommends you conduct your own study.

Monitor your fuel economy and performance over at least two tanks of premium gas. “Record the trip mileage, gallons used, fuel price and octane rating in a notebook or in an app,” Edmunds suggests. “If your car has an onboard fuel economy meter, make sure you reset it when filling up. Then, fill up on the same number of tanks of regular gasoline and record all the same data. Finally, compare the results. You’re looking for a drop-off in fuel economy or a sense that the car is slower or hesitant under strong acceleration.”

Could technology end hot-car deaths?


via Could technology end hot-car deaths?,

PDF: hot-car-deaths

It’s been a particularly bad year for kids left in hot vehicles. Here in Mississippi alone, there have already been two high-profile cases in which parents forgot their little ones in the car, then went about their business — to tragic effect. The website reports that 29 kids have died of heatstroke in the U.S. this year after being left in hot cars by parents or caregivers, and the number continues to climb.

While many parents shake their head in disbelief and doubt it could ever happen to them, the sobering truth is it could happen to anyone, under the right conditions. Few parents can claim to have a perfect record of knowing where their kids are every second, and most parents can tell a horror story about losing their child in a store, at an event, or just forgetting to check on them.

Every time there’s another case, the internet and media clamor with recriminations, suggestions and word of new techniques and technologies to help stop it from happening. But last week, a group of lawmakers announced their intention to force auto manufacturers to build preventive technology into their vehicles.

U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Peter King, R-New York, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, introduced the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS Act of 2016) on Thursday, which, if enacted, would require the U.S. secretary of transportation to issue a rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles be equipped with a child safety alert system.

“Every year, dozens of children die when left in vehicles — one child every nine days,” Schakowsky noted. “These are horrible, preventable tragedies. The technology exists to prevent these deaths. You get a warning if you forget your keys in the ignition. You should get a warning if you forget your child in the back seat.”

Child-safety advocates were quick to praise the ruling. “I want to be very clear that this is not just a ‘seasonal’ problem,” Jackie Gillan, president of a group called Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said in a news release. “When summer ends, the problem will not end. These deaths are happening year round. This is a very reasonable and effective way to stop preventable, unnecessary injuries and deaths.”

The bill would require automakers to produce some kind of visual and/auditory alert to a child in a rear seat when the motor is turned off and instructs the secretary of transportation to issue a report to a Senate committee on the “feasibility of retrofitting existing passenger motor vehicles with technology to provide an alert that a child or unattended passenger remains in a rear-seating position after the vehicle motor is deactivated.”

Some automakers have already been working on the problem. Back in June, General Motors announced it would debut a new system on the 2017 GMC Acadia SUV, which will flash a visible and auditory warning on the speedometer if a back door has been opened and closed before the driver’s side door is opened. Similar systems are likely to follow in most vehicles. But no matter the technology, the best way to prevent such tragedies is awareness.

“We encourage individuals in all communities to take action if you see a child alone in a vehicle,” noted Amber Andreasen, director of “Try to find the driver of the vehicle, call 911 and if the child seems to be in imminent danger, break the window furthest away from the child to rescue them.”

“You can’t buy a vehicle today that doesn’t remind you to turn your headlights off, close the door, check your oil, all these things,” Andreasen added. “There’s dozens of reminders in vehicles. Why not one for a child?”

KidsAndCars has a list of safety tips for download at Here are a few:

  • Never leave children alone in or around vehicles; not even for a minute.
  • “Look Before You Lock” — Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving your vehicle.
  • Create reminders to check your back seat. For example, putting your cellphone, purse or briefcase in the back seat will help you to remember.
  • Make sure your child’s daycare or preschool has strict policies about notifying you if your child has not arrived as scheduled, and keep your contact information up to date.
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages (and ask your neighbors to do the same). Many kids get trapped in cars by opening doors of a parked vehicle.

How to keep roads from turning deadly



via How to keep roads from turning deadly,

As school has started back, Mississippi streets and roads are once again filled with parents eager to get their kids dropped off at school so they can go on to work or their daily activities. According to some statistics, about a quarter of morning traffic every school day is from people driving their kids to school. And that’s on top of a typical day’s traffic, with drivers plying the roads, their attention often distracted by a thousand things — not the least of which are the ever-present electronic devices that grab our attention.

If you’re a pedestrian (or cyclist) trying to navigate these challenging roads, it can be dangerous — even deadly. The Mississippi Department of Transportation sent out a news release this week, urging Magnolia State drivers to be extra careful around pedestrians, and urging pedestrians and cyclists to increase their awareness as well. An MDOT news release cited some sobering statistics: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a pedestrian dies every two hours nationwide, with people being injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes. In 2015, 63 pedestrians died after being struck by vehicles in Mississippi.

As part of its mission, MDOT pays attention to such statistics, and tries to help increase our awareness so we can make streets and intersections safer. One way they do this is through two programs called the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program and the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program. “The Bicycle and Pedestrian Program provides many resources for those looking to walk or bike within the state from tour guides to information about laws,” notes the MDOT release. “SRTS promotes and enables children in kindergarten through 8th grade to choose safely walking or bicycling as their means of transportation to and from schools.”

You have probably seen the result of some of the great work being done by these programs. According to SRTS’ national website (, Mississippi communities benefited from more than $12.2 million in federal SRTS funds from 2005 to 2012, doing things like funding the building of sidewalks, bike lanes and providing training and resources for law enforcement.

But no matter how many sidewalks and bike lanes we build, if drivers, pedestrians and cyclists don’t pay attention to each other, those efforts won’t help save lives. Here are a few tips from MDOT about things we need to keep in mind:

When walking:

  • Follow the rules of the road. Obey all signs and signals, and walk on sidewalks if provided.
  • Watch traffic carefully, remembering that danger can come from two (or more) directions. Keep an eye out for vehicles pulling up or exiting driveways. Don’t let your attention be distracted by devices.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic, and wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to safely cross.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or carry a flashlight at night.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.

For drivers:

  • Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions like nighttime and bad weather. Dawn and dusk are when it’s often hardest to see.
  • Remember the “3-foot” law (formally known as the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act); vehicle drivers are required by law to yield at least three feet to cyclists.
  • Slow down, and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and stop back far enough from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they also will stop.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. (And, of course, NEVER pass a stopped school bus.)
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street; school zones and neighborhoods with children require extra attention and slower speeds.

Flood-damaged cars put back on market


via Flood-damaged cars put back on market,

PDF: flooded-cars

As the region cleans up after the catastrophic flooding of the past few weeks, there are going to be lots of folks looking to sell their flood-damaged cars. It happens every time there’s a major flood, and it often catches people off-guard. Usually, flooded cars often hit the market within days.

Vehicles in the path of floodwaters can have severe damage that is not always apparent or repairable. As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina here in Mississippi, flooded cars can be a big problem for unsuspecting buyers.

After insurance claims are settled, some cars are put back into the market. Unfortunately, it can be hard to detect a flood-damaged car. Unscrupulous owners and salesmen will often go to great lengths to hide flood damage. Legally and ethically, owners of flooded cars should disclose whether the vehicle has been in a flood, crash or other disaster. But unscrupulous sellers don’t always comply with the law, or care about ethics when there’s money to be made.

Just because a vehicle looks fine after being refurbished doesn’t mean it’s safe. Often, the floodwater has permanently damaged key components vital to operation and safety (such as the electrical system or brakes). While the vehicle may function fine at first, buyers can be on the hook for expensive repairs years later, with no recourse or warranties from the seller. And flooding can weaken the vehicle’s safety system through rust and corrosion, as well, making the vehicle unsafe to drive.

If you’re in the market for a vehicle, it’s a good idea to be extra careful of private-sale deals on vehicles. And running a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) check on Carfax, AutoCheck or another title-checking service may reveal whether the vehicle has been marked as salvage (but may not help if the title has been “washed” illegally). Any time you get a used vehicle, take it to a local mechanic you trust so they can check it out thoroughly.

There are a few things to look for which may signify the vehicle has been in a flood. sent me these helpful tips:

  • Check under the vehicle’s carpets or floor covering for mud or rust, and don’t forget the trunk. Often, hurried cleanups will ignore damaged areas covered by carpeting.
  • Take a whiff of the carpets. A mildew-like smell could be a sign of trouble.
  • Check for mud and debris in hard-to-reach areas, and on the underside of panels and brackets; they may have been missed during the cleaning process.
  • Look for rust on the heads of any exposed screws under the hood, around the doors or in the trunk.

If you find out you’ve bought a flood-damaged vehicle that wasn’t disclosed as such, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi attorney general’s office at 1-800-281-4418.

Key fobs latest VW woe


via Key fobs latest VW woe,

PDF: The_Clarion-Ledger_State_20160818_A002_5

If you own certain models of Volkswagen diesel vehicles, you’re probably aware of the $10.3 billion settlement involving “clean diesel” claims made by the German automaker. This history-making settlement between VW and the Federal Trade Commission promises to compensate consumers who bought VW models with 2.0-liter diesel engines in a “buyback” program of unprecedented size, in many cases, offering more than the vehicle’s current value, or making repairs and paying cash in addition.

Now, a new concern has emerged for VW owners: some VW cars’ remote keyless entry systems could be hacked, leading to your vehicle being stolen.  British researchers and a German engineering firm announced last week that the key fobs for millions of VW Jettas and Passats sold between 1995 and 2016, as well as those for some Audis and other brands, could be compromised, letting thieves potentially unlock and steal the vehicles. The vulnerability could affect as many as 100 million cars.

According to many sources, it’s not the first time that VW vehicles have been found to have security vulnerabilities; the same firm that released this week’s results also found significant vulnerabilities back in 2012, but announcement of those results were delayed for two years after VW allegedly sued to keep the story quiet (citing the increased risk of theft if the results were made public).

This developing story comes on the heels of the emissions scandal (some have dubbed it “Dieselgate”), in which Volkswagen was accused of having falsified emissions test results. The automaker admitted to using what’s been called a “defeat device,” which caused more than 500,000 diesel vehicles to appear to be more environmentally friendly than they actually were.

The emissions scandal is already producing a lot of confusion about the settlement and the “buy-back” program. The FTC this week warned VW, and independent dealers, that they should be careful when using the buyback program for marketing.  “It would be unwise for anyone — including independent VW dealers — to make separate offers implying either that an offer is part of the $10.03 billion settlement if it is not, or that affected diesel owners must buy a new VW or Audi,” the FTC noted in a news release. “FTC staff will be watching closely to ensure that the compensation process is unsullied by deception.”

The agency advises consumers that their first step should be to visit , the official settlement website. There, owners can register their vehicle, and find out their options. Buybacks could start in late fall of this year and emissions modifications will begin once approved.

VW owners shouldn’t feel pressured to make a quick decision; they have more than two years to decide. And, if they get settlement money, they can use it for whatever they want. Apparently, the FTC and other agencies have been hearing from VW owners who have been approached with alternate offers, trying to take advantage of the concerns.

“It’s unwise,” warned FTC blogger Lesley Fair, “for anyone — including independently-owned VW dealers — to make separate offers that: 1) falsely imply that the offer is part of the pending $10 billion settlement, 2) falsely tell owners they have to spend compensation under the settlement on a new VW or Audi or 3) use “Act now!” tactics to lock owners into a separate deal before owners have the full picture of what they stand to gain as part of the $10 billion settlement.”

“If someone makes you an offer for your VW or Audi car, or suggests limits on the buyback program that don’t exist, please report them to the FTC,” Fair added. “We worked very hard to get a fair deal for VW and Audi owners and lessees, and we don’t want anyone to undermine it.”

Meanwhile, many experts say that although the key fob vulnerabilities are real (and likely not limited to just VWs), it apparently takes quite a lot of effort, targeting specific vehicles. To find out more about the buyback program related to the emissions settlement, VW owners should visit