(BPT) - Have you ever thought about all of the distractions associated with driving? Weather, kids, pets, eating, cell phones, billboards, the radio and even a friend riding shotgun all compete for the driver’s ever-shrinking attention span.
Some distractions like cell phone usage - whether talking or texting - pose a greater risk than others in keeping the road a safe place. At any given time, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. are using their phone or other electronic device while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency. If that’s not scary enough, a study by the University of Utah reports the impairments associated with cell phone usage are similar to intoxicated drivers. In short, distracted drivers, much like drunk drivers, are more likely to drive aggressively, tailgate, hit the brakes harder, have slower reactions and cause accidents. Now more than ever, defensive driving has become critically important.
“One way to battle distracted driving is to be extra attentive to what’s around you as a driver,” says Andrew Briggs, director of marketing and product planning for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “Pay attention to what’s in front of you, behind you and to your sides. Keep enough distance between you and the other vehicles. Try to anticipate the action of the other drivers. These defensive driving techniques are already familiar to many of us, but practicing them in our daily driving, especially these days, can help determine whether one will be in an accident or avoid one.”
The ability to stop quickly or change lanes is another essential technique and that’s where your tires can play an important role. “Your tires are the only part of your vehicle that grips the road,” says Briggs. “The first line of defense, even before you get on the road, is to make sure that your tires are properly maintained. You always want to make certain your tires have enough tread depth to ensure ample traction.”
Checking your tires’ tread depth is easy, Briggs says. “Tires should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch to help prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Simply place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with at least that 2/32 of an inch that is a minimum amount of tread required. If you can see all of his head, you should buy new tires.”
When it comes to the ongoing battle against distracted drivers, Briggs says today’s tires can really help. “There are new tire technologies that can help improve traction and handling. For example, we now incorporate the use of orange oil in many of our tires like the AVID Ascend. Orange oil creates a special compound resulting in a balance of all-season handling, long tread life and great fuel economy.”
Briggs offers more tips that will keep your tires road-ready:
* When the tires are cold (at least four hours after the vehicle has been driven), check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. Be sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep dirt out and a seal against water and foreign objects. The tires’ proper inflation level - as recommended by the car maker - can be found on a placard in the glove box, on the car door or in the owner’s manual.
* Check tire alignment once a year. Misaligned tires create unnecessary tire wear and lower mileage.
* Rotating your tires will prevent uneven wear and promote a better ride. Because the weight distribution on your car or truck can vary, it’s best to rotate your tires a few times a year, like every time you get your oil changed.
* Balancing act: Tires that are balanced correctly will give you a smoother ride and help prevent improper wear. You can get your tires balanced at the same time as your regularly-scheduled rotation.