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Let's all resolve to be better drivers in the New Year

Dear Car Fix: Happy New Year. As many people make New Year's resolutions, I have to tell you that there are so many drivers that don't pay attention this time of year. Can you give other drivers advice so I don't get road rage?

-- K.B., Clarence Center

Dear K.B.: Here are my top five New Year's driving resolutions. These recommendations are for all year long and will keep everyone safer on the road. A change or two to your driving style can make all the difference on the road -- and could even save your life. So here they are:

Concentrate: If you must use a phone, go hands-free. There are plenty of Bluetooth devices on the market from which to choose and they all free up your hands and peripheral vision. Also, if you must eat on the road, pull over for 15 minutes so you're not spilling the contents of your burger into your lap while traveling at 70 mph down the highway.

*Drive right: The left-most lanes are meant for passing. If you're not passing or not completing a pass in less than a minute, move over and let others by.

*Back off: You should have one second of travel distance between cars for every 10 mph. In other words, there should be five seconds of travel time between you and the car in front of you at 50 mph. Don't tailgate. It only puts the driver in front of you on edge and can cause an accident.

*Pull over: Any time you see an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing, pull over. There are exceptions to this, such as when there is a solid median and the emergency vehicle is traveling the other direction. However, many drivers don't yield for emergency vehicles even when they're right behind them. They're trying to save lives. Let them do their job.

*Signal your intentions: While we all like to think that other drivers know what we're going to do next, the truth is most of us don't have ESP. Use your turn signal. It's a simple flick of a lever and is a courtesy that many of us forget too often.


Dear Car Fix: During the holidays, our whole family travels including the dogs. What is the safest way to travel with our dogs?

-- A.M., Ellicottville

Dear A.M.: Animals need safety protection as much as their human drivers do. Unrestrained pets aren't just a driving hazard, they're a danger to you and them. They can disrupt your attention, but they can also suffer serious injury in an accident unless they're properly secured. Here are some pet safety tips for traveling.

Air bags deployed could harm your pet. An unrestricted pet will be thrown about and possibly injured, or injure a passenger during panic-braking or in a collision. Pets should be restrained in the rear seat in pet harnesses or pet carriers that are secured by seat belts.

*Don't let your cat or dog run around in the car. It's dangerous for both of you. Cats may get upset and try to claw at you or climb under your pedals. Always crate your cat and place it on the rear floor.

*Don't let your dog hang his head out the window. Dogs love it, but it's an easy way for them to get eye damage from flying dust and dirt.

*Don't let your dog or cat sit on your lap while you are driving. It can be dangerous in a panic situation to try to maneuver around your pet.

*Never leave an animal in a car on a very cold or hot day. Hundreds of animals die every year in this way.

*Never let an animal run free in the bed of a pickup truck. This is the primary cause of death for animals in car accidents. Please crate your pets if they must be in the back of a pickup truck. Then tie the crate to the bed so it doesn't move around in the bed of the truck.

*Small dogs should be crated and secured. Place it on the floor or, better yet, belt it to the rear seat. Never allow a little dog to ride on your lap or help you drive by putting its paws on top of the wheel. Yes, it is really cute, but if the air bags deploy, this could lead to a bad situation.

*A lot of little dogs enjoy riding in the area under the back window. This is also a dangerous spot for them if you should stop suddenly.

*Purchase a safety harness, it should be constructed of strong, soft nylon webbing and restrain the animal around the body and neck. There are a variety of harnesses and attachments that fit seat belts. Surf the Net for "pet seat belts" and you'll find a host of offerings.

Some harnesses have dual purposes, and you can unhook your pet from the car and use the same harness with his leash for quick-change convenience. If adults and children shouldn't ride unrestrained, neither should your best friend.


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