October is here and there’s nothing quite like carving a pumpkin to get you into the Halloween spirit. Steve Dahlke — a professional pumpkin carver for more than 20 years — demonstrates a few tips, tricks and hacks which might come in handy for you this Halloween. Happy carving!
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It’s a beautiful day and you’re out for a drive. There’s nothing but open road and blue skies ahead, until…d’oh! A deer. And it’s standing right in the middle of the road, squarely in your car’s path. A split-second reaction is crucial to ensure the safety of the animal on the road and the passengers in your vehicle, while keeping your car intact.
Each year in the U.S. there are between 1 and 2 million collisions involving vehicles and large animals such as moose, deer and elk, according to a study from the Federal Highway Administration. These kinds of crashes almost always involve only one vehicle and typically occur on low-trafficked, straight roadways with dry surfaces.
The good news is, some of these collisions can be prevented. James Solomon, program development and training director at the National Safety Council, offers his tips on how to best handle encounters with wildlife on the road.
1. Know your environment.
Are you in the city or out in the country? Your answer will determine how large the animal you encounter might be. In urban and suburban areas, smaller animals such as dogs, cats and squirrels can sneak in front of your car. In rural areas, keep an eye out for horses and cows that could stray onto the road.
Solomon warns drivers to stay extra cautious when driving in a wooded area where trees are near the roadway — that can signal an increase in the likelihood that animals like foxes and deer could be in close proximity. Also be aware of signs for animal refuges such as petting zoos, game farms, state parks, etc., where animals are likely to roam freely. Areas with horse trails are also potential danger zones.
2. Learn how to “read the road.”
Along with staying focused on the street in front of you, the National Safety Council recommends keeping close tabs on road shoulders. There may be animals nearby that could dart into a driving lane, so stay in the middle lane when possible. Slow down below the posted speed limit in areas where your vision of the side of the road is blocked or limited.
3. Keep your poise.
If you encounter an animal on the road, do not speed up to scare it off the road. Doing so may confuse the animal and cause it to act unpredictably, especially in an unfamiliar setting like a road that’s lit up by a car’s bright headlights. “It may actually result in the animal coming through the windshield,” says Solomon.
Stay calm. “Closing your eyes or taking your hands off the steering wheel are big errors,” says Solomon. “Be prepared to steer out of trouble, preferably to the side of the road, without making a violent stop or hitting an object on the side of the road.”
4. Consider some “bells and whistles.”
Solomon says a bumper-mounted deer whistle that you can find at your local auto parts store may help reduce the chances of a collision. The frequencies of the whistle are inaudible to humans but can be heard by deer, antelope, moose, and other wildlife, warning them of a fast-approaching vehicle. Proper maintenance is important to make sure the whistle functions properly over the long term. “You must clear the whistle hole out after each car wash,” says Solomon.
The bottom line is: Stay alert. Just like many other potential road hazards, animals can be unpredictable. Defensive driving techniques like those detailed above can help you avoid an unfortunate animal encounter.
There’s a lot to love about autumn — the changing leaves, pumpkin carving, sweater weather — but when it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car, the change in season from summer to fall can add some challenges. With the wetter, frostier conditions, fallen leaves and fewer hours of daylight, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the roads ahead. Here’s a list of a few autumn driving challenges.
In fall, rain is quite common, which can make visibility difficult and may cause hydroplaning. And if it’s an especially chilly day, rain can turn to frost. Be alert, give yourself enough space to stop and avoid breaking suddenly (unless you have to), says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If fog rolls in, use low beams and maintain an appropriate distance between other vehicles, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
School is back in session, which adds more hustle and bustle in the streets — from increased traffic, to school buses frequent stops and pedestrians crossing. Make sure to follow the speed limits and be aware of pedestrians at all times, says NHTSA. And don’t forget: Halloween brings out trick-or-treaters, so be especially alert on Oct. 31.
Loss of Pressure
Temperatures rise and fall during autumn. These changes may cause car tires to expand and contract, which can result in loss of air pressure. Check your tires regularly to make sure they’re properly inflated. Typically, you can find the proper air pressure for your tires, measured in pounds per square inch (psi), in your car’s owner’s manual.
The colors of fall leaves are a beautiful sight to see, but when they’re in piles on the road, it may turn ugly. Soggy leaves can be as slippery as a patch of ice, according to the National Center for Rural Road Safety. They can also camouflage road hazards, like potholes. If you see wet leaves in the street, proceed carefully.
Deer in Route
All fall long, but especially come November, pay attention to animals crossing the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, you’re 3.5 times more likely to hit an animal — especially a deer — in November than at any other time of the year. This fall month coincides with deer mating season when bucks are likely to be roaming. Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs and be extra cautious if you’re driving at dusk or dawn, the highest-risk times for deer crashes. If you encounter an animal on the road, try to avoid swerving, says the University of Illinois Extension. Ideally, you’ll want to come to a controlled stop and let the animal pass.
After a long, balmy summer, the shift to fall can feel like a nice break. Soak it up while staying alert to the driving challenges of the season.
Here are some common reasons why you may want to consider roadside assistance and how to stay safe if your car is broken down on the side of the road.
Most cars have a spare tire in the trunk or mounted on the back. It likely even has a small jack and tire iron. If you know how, changing a flat tire yourself is generally quick and easy, as long as you can do so safely. If you’ve never done it before, then you probably won’t want to try learning once you’re stranded. Flat tires are one of the most common reasons to contact roadside assistance.
Need a Tow
If you break down or are in an accident, you’ll need to get your car off the road and into a repair shop. Sometimes a one-time tow may be pricey if you haven’t done your research. You also don’t want to try and find a towing company while you’re broken down. Consider contacting your insurance provider if you think you require a tow. They’ll make sure to send a trustworthy company to your location.
Jumper cables are a key component in a car emergency kit. Make sure you know how to use the jumper cables properly. If you’re alone and need to jump start your car, you should call for help. Never flag down another motorist, which could be dangerous, says Consumer Reports. If your battery is completely dead or you haven’t stored your jumper cables properly, even the cables might not work, says AutoGuides.com.
Locked Out or Dead Key Fob Battery
Most cars come with two keys or key fobs. Naturally, giving your spare key or key fob to a loved one or keeping it in your home can be helpful in this situation as you can contact your friend or spouse and wait for them. But, if you’re far away, don’t have time to get a new key fob battery or need to get into your vehicle more quickly, contacting roadside assistance might be your best bet. If you don’t have roadside assistance already, some companies may provide help without signing up in advance.
Out of Gas
For safety reasons, you should not keep a filled gas can in your vehicle, says the National Agricultural Safety Database. Having an empty gas can may come in handy, but you have to get from your car to a gas station and back. Most basic roadside services include fuel delivery because running out of gas is a common problem for motorists. Keep in mind that in most cases, the gas is provided at cost to the customer.
Car Breakdown Safety Tips
Whether you’re broken down because of a flat tire or an accident, you should keep the following safety tips in mind from the Insurance Information Institute and Consumer Reports:
Pull your car over to the side of the road or shoulder as soon as it is safe to do so.
Turn on your car’s hazard lights and put out your emergency reflector triangles, if you have them, to help alert other drivers.
Don’t attempt to repair your vehicle on a busy highway.
If you’re able to safely walk to another location, leave a note on the windshield of your car with your phone number, lock your car and call for assistance once you’re in a safe location.
If you cannot walk to a safe location, stay in your car with the doors locked and your seat belt fastened. Call for assistance and wait for them to arrive.
Roadside assistance may not be as expensive as you might think, but be sure you understand exactly what is included in your plan to ensure you have the right coverage. You may not need roadside assistance often, but you’ll be glad you invested in it if a problem arises.