Outside Mag Includes Oregon Coast Highway on List of America’s Best Touring Roads

OR19261011i1Whether you actually enjoy driving or just suffer through commuting to get where you need to go, we at Butler Auto Group think it’s safe to say gorgeous scenery makes any road trip that much better. So we were pleased to run across an article in Outside Magazine this morning listing America’s Best Car Touring Roads.  And we’re excited, though not surprised, to see the list includes Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast!  Have you driven any of these stretches?  What’d you think?  And did Outside miss any?  If you need further road trip inspiration check out our Pinterest page dedicated to Rave Roads.  Are there any others elsewhere on the globe you’d like to add?

Image courtesy:  www.aaroads.com

NHTSA Reports Seatbelt Use Lower at Night

NHS1-25618 Parents of Teens.inddCan someone explain this to us?  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says seatbelt usage is at an all-time high but not at night.  What?  Why?  The government agency released the information as part of an announcement regarding its 2013 “Click It or Ticket” campaign designed to remind drivers to buckle up (scroll down to read the entire press release).  While the campaign highlights Memorial Day weekend travel, the fact is seatbelts save lives all year long.  According to the NHTSA, we’re doing pretty well in terms of using those belts:  IN 2012 86% of us did the right thing… during the day, at least.  That number dropped at night… At night, when visibility drops and the odds of being involved in a wreck are greater.  We at Butler Auto Group don’t understand it but we do know how to change it.  Buckle up.  It’s that easy.

NHTSA Press Release:

Seat Belt Use at Record High, But Not at Night

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today launched the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2013 “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement mobilization effort and reminded motorists about the severe risks of driving unbelted, day or night.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that while nationwide seat belt use was at a record high of 86 percent in 2012, seat belt use at night continues to be lower than during the day.

“We’ve made great strides in getting people to buckle up since the first seat belt campaign was launched in 1985, but we still have work to do,” said Secretary LaHood. “The ‘Click it or Ticket’ program builds on those earlier efforts – sharing the message that seat belts save lives.”

According to NHTSA, the risk of being involved in a serious crash is greater at night than during the day. In 2011, 62 percent of motorists who died in a crash that occurred at night were unrestrained; compared to 43 percent of those who died in a crash during the day. During the Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement will focus on both day and night time drivers for seat belt use.

“Law enforcement officers across the country will be out day and night handing out tickets to unbuckled motorists,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “We hope our ‘Click It or Ticket’ efforts will encourage more motorists to buckle up and make it a lifelong habit.”

According to a NHTSA 2011 telephone survey, most people buckle up when officers begin writing more tickets, and many drivers continue the habit after the enforcement period ends.

Read more about seat belt safety in NHTSA’s latest issue of SAFETY 1N NUM3ERS, a new online monthly newsletter on hot topics in auto safety – including problem identification, people at risk, and recommended practices and solutions to mitigate injury and death on our nation’s roadways.

Set a Good Example for Teen Drivers

Image courtesy: www.drivingskillsforlife.com / Students participating in Ford's Driving Skills for Life program

Image courtesy: http://www.drivingskillsforlife.com / Students participating in Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program

We often joke about the terror associated with handing the car keys to our teenaged drivers. But no matter how much we laugh about it the fear is justified: Traffic accidents are the number one cause of death among American teens. While we tend to think driver’s education starts when teens get their permit, the fact is we are unwittingly teaching kids our good – and bad – driving habits from the first time we put them in the car. Ford Motor Corporation’s Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program shows teens tend to emulate how their parents drive, and a majority of teens and tweens surveyed say they rely heavily on their parents’ advice when they start to drive. So, here are some tips to help you set a good example and guide your teen into becoming a safer driver.

• Engage in the driving process – As teens get closer to earning/acquiring their learner’s permit, actively engage with them about driving. Talk about safe driving behaviors, practice with them, seek educational opportunities, and be clear that unsafe actions won’t be tolerated.

• Buckle up – It’s the law, and if you go without your seat belt, your teen is more likely to do the same. In a crash, a person not buckled up is much more likely to be injured or killed than someone wearing a seat belt.

• Never speed – Research conducted for Ford Driving Skills for Life shows that if parents speed, their teens are more likely to do the same. Excessive speed continues to be a factor in about one-third of all traffic deaths nationally.

• Don’t drive distracted – By setting a tough “no distractions” rule for your teen, and modeling this same behavior, you send the message that distracted driving will not be tolerated.

• Don’t follow too closely – Keep the proper distance from the car in front of you. Rear end collisions are common and preventable.

• Always scan ahead for hazards – Remind your teen to be aware of what is going on around them by scanning to the right and left as they drive

• Limit the number of passengers – Research shows young drivers can easily be distracted by just one additional passenger – increasing the risk of a crash exponentially. Many graduated driver’s license programs restrict the number of passengers as a condition of issuing an early license or permit; Enforce those restrictions.

• Never drink and drive – Remind your teen that drinking and driving will not be tolerated.

Ford Driving Skills for Life
In addition to hands-on clinics, Ford Driving Skills for Life will reach an additional 150 high schools with its safe driving materials, Web-based learning, partnerships with state highway safety agencies, fun contests and free educational materials for parents and teachers.

You can find more information online at www.DrivingSkillsForLife.com.

In Praise of the ‘Big Wheel’

The classic 'Big Wheel'

The classic ‘Big Wheel’

Of all the childhood toys I miss the most one stands out above the rest:  the awesomely indestructible Fisher Price Big Wheel.  There was just something about that plastic trike crunching down the sidewalk, honkin’ front wheel leading the way, handlebar-fringe flying, that screamed “Look out, world, here I come!”  Add a couple friends on Big Wheels and we became a gang, a force to be reckoned with, an aural assault (one Big Wheel makes plenty of noise;  A handful of Big Wheels sounds like a tornado)!  It was transportation at its best – effective, efficient, and fun.

I’m pretty sure all that time spent piloting a Big Wheel colored my vehicular expectations.  While other factors are now taken into consideration – cargo space, insurance, monthly payment – my primary requirement is still that the driving experience be a hoot.  At least, that is, until I rustle up the nerve to invest in an adult-size Big Wheel and relive old times, kinda like the guys in the Devin SuperTramp video below.

Then I’ll start searching for an Easy-Bake Oven.

Gas Prices and Consumer Behavior: What’s YOUR Pain Threshold?

First, it was $4.00.  That was the magical amount economists said a gallon of gasoline would have to cost before we saw definite changes in consumer behavior.  It was considered a kind of “psychological threshold” at which point severe sticker shock would set in prompting drivers to alter their routine to save money.  But $4-a-gallon gas came and went (in some parts of the country, like here in Oregon, it came and stayed) and, while we complained a bit louder, most of us continued on our merry way albeit a little lighter in the wallet.

So that threshold was revised upwards to $5.30 a gallon.  Surely, at that point, we’ll all be tempted to garage the SUV in favor of a bike, or even public transportation.  Hopefully, it will be a while before we find out.  While parts of Southern California saw fuel prices slip over $5 earlier this year but much of country is still filling the tank for $3.50-$4.00.

It took a while for this blogger to feel the aptly named “pain at the pump”.  I usually put a dollar amount in the tank – $30 at a time – rather than top it off.  Then I realized I was dropping $30 bucks on fuel every other day.  Hello, sticker shock; Farewell random kayaking trips in remote Northern California.  There are plenty of lakes closer to home.

So, our question to you is what’s YOUR threshold?  Have you already changed your driving habits?  If so, how?  And if not, when will you?  In the meantime, anybody up for a carpool?


In Support of a Dying Breed: The Manual Transmission

Bumper sticker available at http://www.zazzle.com

America as an entity may be one nation under God but beyond that, things get a bit more divisive.   As a people Americans relish taking sides, claiming affiliation with the like-minded, and talking trash about the opposition; Think politics, global warming, the superiority of the manual over the automatic transmission.

While I try to stay informed as to happenings in the political arena, and think there’s probably some validity to the global warming argument, neither topic gets me riled up enough to consider planting lawn signs.  But, the prospect of an automotive universe devoid of the stick shift?  Well, that’s enough to make me quake in my card-carrying Independent-voter boots.

Depending on the source, the number of new vehicles rolling off the assembly line with a manual transmission over the past few years was anywhere from 3 to 5-percent.  Time.com recently reported a small spike – up to 6.5% – but quotes Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury as saying sticks are “on track to be virtually extinct in the next 15 to 20 years.”

Why, why, why can that be???

My admittedly shallow research into the growing segment of drivers who prefer an automatic seems to point to two reasons:  1. Drivers who multi-task – talk on the phone, apply make-up, and eat, all at the same time – do not have the required three hands necessary to do all of the above while also changing gears and, 2. The more people drive automatics, the fewer people teach their kids to drive a stick.

There is, however, a small but determined faction of drivers who prefer using all four limbs to engage with their vehicle.  Take Eddie Alterman, the chief editor at “Car and Driver”, for example.  Alterman’s not your typical stick-afficianado; The man is literally on a crusade to “save the manual” (join him in his mission at  http://www.caranddriver.com/features/save-the-manuals-official-headquarters or https://www.facebook.com/SaveTheManuals).  In a recent interview on NPR Alterman explained, “”It’s about do-it-yourself, it’s about having fun… It’s about actually having a connection to the mechanical part of the car” (Listen to that podcast at: http://www.npr.org/2012/03/26/149398112/car-guru-stop-downshift-in-manual-transmissions).

Then there are the arguments made by the guys at AskMen.com on their list of the “Top 10 Reasons Real Men Drive Stick”.  No. 10 states that “a manual transmission is the ultimate in control”.  No. 4 goes on to say “you get better fuel economy with a stick” (which is true although the difference is slight).  The rest of the article deals mostly with impressing women.  But if the experts in a field usually employ the best equipment, AskMen reminds us that “every professional racecar driver knows how to drive a stick.”

Ultimately, though, I prefer driving a manual because it’s a hoot.  Alterman agrees.  When NPR asked him about the prospect of living in a world restricted to automatics he replied:  “I don’t want to live in that world, to tell you the truth.  It’s a world without guys building tree houses for their kids. It’s a world without train sets. It’s a world without fun.”

So, who’s with us?

Links for the Stick Faithful:
Last Gasp for the Stick Shift?  http://moneyland.time.com/2012/08/02/last-gasp-for-the-stick-shift/

10 Best Cars That Still Offer a Manual Transmission: http://editorial.autos.msn.com/the-10-best-cars-that-still-offer-a-manual-transmission

Save Gas and Money with a Manual Transmission: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/01/save-gas-and-money-with-a-manual-transmission/index.htm

Top 10: Reasons Real Men Drive Stick:  http://www.askmen.com/top_10/cars/top10-reasons-real-men-drive-stick.html

Manual vs. Automatic? http://manualversusautomatic.com/

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Proposed Mileage Tax

Image courtesy of www.autoblog.com

Any conversation about the San Francisco Bay Area wouldn’t be complete without someone mentioning the traffic:  how bad it is, how fast people drive, how many miles commuters travel.  And soon, taxes could be tied up in the whole mess.  The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission are floating a plan to tax Bay Area residents according to the number of miles they drive.  The plan would require all vehicles registered in the area to be outfitted with a GPS-like device to track the distances traveled.

At issue is a loss of tax revenue at the pump.  Vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient… so, the less fuel it takes to run your car or truck, the less you spend on gas.  The less you spend on gas, the less gas tax you pay.  Some say the mileage tax could raise as much as $15-million a day.  That amount of money is tempting even if you’re not trying to solve budget problems the size of California’s.

But we think the bigger issue is a loss of privacy.  If police are banned from sticking a tracking device on your vehicle without a warrant, why should city government be any different? And then there are questions of fairness:  Those who can afford to live where they work – primarily in San Francisco – will pay less than those who had to move out into the suburbs to find affordable housing but still commute into the city.  And who will have access to the information gleaned from your GPS?  Could it be held against you at trial?  What’s next:  a fingerprint required to turn over the ignition?

The proposed mileage tax is in the research phase right now, and the governing bodies are not expected to act quickly to implement it even if it does go into effect.  But don’t be surprised if that conversation about the Bay Area soon includes another complaint… about Big Brother in the back seat.

Sources: www.autoblog.com and www.sfgate.com

Parking: What Our Cars Do Most

Image by Oleg Mitiukhin from Fotolia.com

The American love affair with the automobile has been well documented: From the Beach Boys harmonizing about their “Little GTO” to the fantasy of the flying Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the talking cars in the movie of the same name, we pin names, personalities, hopes and dreams on our wheels. We drive ‘em, we shine ‘em, we show ‘em off, we use ‘em and we abuse ‘em. But a new report from the International Parking Institute sheds new light on what we do most with our buggies: We park ‘em.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking survey says our rides spend 90% of the time sitting stationary. It also reports that 30% of drivers in city traffic are looking to park. That has city planners and designers coming up with all kinds of creative ideas to distribute parking evenly, make some parking spots more attractive than others, even encourage drivers to park in certain places at certain times of day. Check out this podcast from the radio show “99 Percent Invisible” on the subject:

And take peek at the survey:  http://tinyurl.com/bmlhd76You might learn something that could make your daily driving time a little easier.  After all, life may be about the journey.  But the stress is over where you’re going to park when you get there.

Sources:  www.autoblog.com,  and http://www.parking.org/media

Before You Travel: Know the Cell Phone Rules of the Road

Because we in the Rogue Valley live so close to California news  that the Golden State had banned the use of all hand-held cell phones by drivers a few years back made local headlines.  Not long after, Oregon followed suit with a similar ban.  But what about cell phone laws in other states?  Washington and Nevada also ban the use of hand-held devices on the road.  But the rules radically change the further east you go.  Before traveling by car this summer, take some time to check the legalities of using your cell behind the wheel at all locations between home and your destination as some city regulations differ from those of the state.  And then, even if the laws do allow you to use your phone, consider imposing a ban of your own.  After all, the ultimate measure of any good road trip is that you return safely home.

Cell phone laws by state:   http://www.iihs.org/laws/cellphonelaws.aspx

Winter Driving Kit

The holiday travel season is upon us which means it’s also time to prepare for inclement weather.  We on the West Coast may not see frequent snowstorms – at least in the valleys – but that doesn’t mean we’re not at risk of getting stuck out on the open road.  So, in the interest of survival, let’s revisit the idea of a Winter Driving Kit.  Here’s what ODOT suggests you keep in your vehicle at all times:

Make sure your vehicle is stocked with the following:

  • Rechargeable flashlight
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Extra food and water
  • Flares
  • Tools: jack, lug wrench, shovel
  • Road maps
  • Blanket/sleeping bag(s)
  • Extra warm clothes, boots, hat and gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Pocket knife
  • Matches or lighter
  • Battery jumper cables
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Paper towels
  • Extra washer fluid
  • Chains or traction tires
  • A full fuel tank

Source (and for more on winter driving): http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/COMM/winterdriving.shtml

Drive safely!