Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Serious Holiday Preparations

The facts are sobering.

More than 6 million car accidents occur in the United States every year, killing one person every 12 minutes. More than 40,000 people a year die on the nation’s roadways and another two million are permanently injured. And highway accidents are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 2 and 34.

Not exactly holiday cheer, but those numbers should make everyone take notice. One wrong move or one ill-timed decision could leave you and your family in danger on the side of the road.

It’s likely holiday travel is on your schedule. After you load the car, take a moment to protect your personal safety. Can you see out the back window? Enough gas? How’s tire pressure? Most drivers wear a seatbelt, but it’s equally important to belt in your backseat passengers and even pets, according to The National Safety Council and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Check writer Lee Grayson’s auto travel tips at USA Today’s Travel page. Be safe on the roads now and in the New Year, too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Grinch’s Holiday Greeting

Crash! It’s over in seconds as the car window explodes inward and shards of glass pepper the seats. A quick reach in unlocks the door and in less than 20 seconds the thief has disappeared into the parking lot with the bags of expensive holiday gifts you bought earlier in your trip. This is not the holiday greeting you want when you return to your car.

Finding the perfect gift has priority, but it should never trump your plan to maintain personal safety, especially at this hectic time of the year. Not only should you hide packages in the trunk, always be alert and check your surroundings to avoid becoming a target for someone who might rob, or even worse, harm you.

Here are practical tips from Tom Patire's Personal Protection Handbook.

Parking Lot Safety

* Hide or remove valuables.
* Park close to your destination if it is dark, or soon will be, even if you must wait for a space.
* At night, try to park under a streetlight.
* Leave the engine running until you've gathered everything and check your surroundings before leaving the car.
* If possible, back into parking spaces in order to leave quickly in dangerous situations.
* Hold your keys when walking to the car so you can get in quickly, or use them as a weapon.
* Always take the most brightly lit path.
* Upon return, check the front and back seats to make sure no one is hiding.
* Lock the doors once inside the car.
* If someone suspicious approaches, honk the horn and flash the lights to draw attention.
* If your instincts suggest danger when you are parking or returning to the car, leave until you're sure it is secure.