Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and with the traditional festivities come the traditional holiday fatalities. Last year was one of the safest Memorial Day weekends on the road in the past decade, according to California Highway Patrol statistics. Street Smart hopes this one is just as safe, if not safer. In this week's column are tips to help keep you safe over the upcoming weekend. They're courtesy of the Automobile Club of Southern California, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the CHP.
On the CHP's list of top holiday driving sins is driving while tired. "An awful lot of accidents happen because people are simply not alert and fall asleep," said CHP spokesman Sam Haynes.
To combat this, Haynes recommended taking frequent rest breaks and leaving enough time so that you don't have to hurry. He also said drivers need to be less reluctant to let someone else take over when the eyelids begin to feel heavy.
"People shouldn't be afraid to acknowledge that they are tired," Haynes said. "Let someone else do the driving. It is not a concession of a major character defect."
Another big no-no is drinking and driving, of course. Haynes warned that alcohol may be even more potent for those who are tired from driving, playing and spending time in the sun.
Haynes also urged everyone to wear seat belts while traveling and reminded drivers that children under 4, or children under 40 pounds, must be in approved car seats.
Have a food or rest break every two hours or 100 miles, whichever comes first.
Always wear seat belts.
Don't drink and drive.
Drive with your lights on to make your car more visible.
Don't block drivers attempting to pass you, even if you believe you are driving at the maximum safe speed.
Use your signals to alert drivers to your moves. Watch for their signals as well.
Allow time for unexpected delays. Also, take your time and don't hurry.
Vehicle Maintenance Tips:
Check the condition and level of the power steering fluid, brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid and motor oil. Change if necessary.
Check the condition and level of the radiator coolant. Flush if necessary. Also check cooling system hoses and replace those that are cracked or worn.
Make sure all belts--including the fan belt--are at the proper tension and not frayed or cracked.
Check the condition and air pressure of all car tires, including the spare.
Check the battery condition. Clean and tighten all connections.
Check all front, rear and side lights.
Hot weather tips:
If your car has a tendency to overheat in traffic, shift into neutral while stopped in traffic with your foot on the brake. It allows the engine to idle and cool faster.
Turn off the air conditioning to reduce demand on the engine.
Turn on the heater at the lowest level for a few minutes. It sounds weird, but it allows more coolant to circulate through the engine.
If the car overheats or the radiator boils over, pull over, shut off the engine and raise the hood to allow the engine to cool. Do not remove the radiator cap--water could spurt out and scald you. Wait for 30 minutes, then remove the cap and add water if needed before restarting the engine. Drive to a repair facility to have the problem checked out.
Dear Street Smart
I read with interest your column about which freeway lanes are the fastest. Even more important, I think, is which freeway lanes are the safest?
Warren H. Eckert, Long Beach
Most freeway accidents occur during peak periods and are caused by congestion, lane changes and people driving too fast for the conditions, according to Caltrans traffic analyst Joe El-Harake. He says the leftmost lane is generally safest during these times, since it is the most isolated from the merging actions which can cause fender-benders.
El-Harake was quick to add that accidents can occur in any lane, depending on conditions. For example, the left lane might not be so safe if someone is tailgating you, he said.
Holiday Deaths Drop
California highway fatalities during Memorial Day weekend last year matched the lowest in a decade: 1991: 40 \o7 Source: California Highway Patrol\f7