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Driver's Education - Modules 9 & 10 (Critical Vehicle Systems//Sharing the Road)

Terms in this set (61)

Lights are important because they allow you to see your surroundings, give others a way to see you, and indicate to other road users your next move. Cars are required to have certain lighting fixtures, and these generally have luminosity regulations. Make sure that your vehicle has these fixtures in place and that they are fully functional.

Vehicles must be equipped with low-beam as well as high-beam headlights. Low-beams must be turned on when it gets dark or in any moment of low visibility due to bad weather.
Your vehicle must be equipped with:

High-beam headlights (bright lights). Objects 450 ft ahead should be visible with use.
Low-beam headlights, which must show objects 150 ft ahead.
Two red taillights mounted on the rear, which must be visible from 1000 ft.
A white light that illuminates the license plate and makes it visible from 50 ft.
Two red stop/brake lights, which should activate when the brake is pressed and be seen from 300 ft in the day.

High-beams are also located at the front of your vehicle and have a higher luminosity for greater distance. High-beams are to be used when visibility is low. However, you must not use high-beams in fog, as they only reflect the dampened air and blind other drivers.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles lists the following requirements for lighting on vehicles:

All vehicles must have at least one white light in front that is visible from at least 1,000 ft away.
All vehicles must have two red lights at the rear that are visible from at least 1,000 ft away, or one red light at the rear visible from 1,000 ft and two red reflectors visible from 600 to 1,000 ft.
Although every driver needs some general knowledge of engine components, it's still a complicated machine that can be intimidating. Indeed, some engine compartments can be outright confusing.

However, you should take a look under the hood and be familiar with some of the parts covered here. And, you should have a general sense of responsibility for car maintenance. Your car owner's manual will provide information about periodic maintenance schedules important to the life and health of the engine.

Although all cars are not the same, here are some basic engine parts and their location. Check your owner's manual to find out about the different features and functions of these components.

Engine Oil Level Dipstick
Determine the amount of motor oil in your car by checking the oil level at the bottom of the dipstick. In older engines, the oil level may need to be checked every few hundred miles.

Engine Oil Filler Cap
Remove this cap when you need to change your car's motor oil. You should change your motor oil every three months or 3,000 miles, or whenever the oil level falls below the recommended level.

Battery
The battery powers important electrical systems in your car and is essential for reliable starting, especially in cold weather. Typically, a car battery lasts for about five years.

Windshield Washer Fluid Tank
Make sure you have enough wiper fluid so that you can clean dust and grime from your windshield. The more often you use your wipers, the more often you must replace your wiper fluid.

Engine Coolant Reserve Tank
Check the coolant reservoir to make sure there is enough coolant to keep your car from overheating. The coolant level should be between the lines marked Full and Low when the engine is cold.

Brake Fluid Reservoir
Brake fluid ensures you can stop your car when necessary. When you need to replace the brake fluid, be sure to use only the kind specified by the car's manufacturer.

Radiator Cap
In many cars, you can access the radiator directly to check the level of coolant in the radiator and flush it when necessary. Never try to remove the radiator cap while the car is still hot.
Most new vehicles have air bags to provide vehicle occupants extra protection in a collision. They provide a protective cushion between the person and the steering wheel, dashboard, and windshield. Note that seat belts and air bags are designed to work together, and injuries may occur if seat belts are not used in air-bag-equipped vehicles.

Air bags are passive restraints. They are stored in the steering wheel or dashboard and inflate during a serious crash, usually a front collision that occurs at over 10 mph. To do its important job, an air bag comes out of the dashboard at up to 200 mph. This is faster than the blink of an eye. They take about 10 inches of space to inflate. The force of an air bag can hurt those who are too close to it.

Air bag related injuries can be prevented by following these safety tips:

Driver and front seat passengers should sit as far back as practical, particularly people of short stature. It is recommended that you sit at least 10 inches away from the air bag.

Everyone should wear both lap AND shoulder belts and remove any excess slack in the belt.

Children 12 and under should ride buckled up in the rear seat.

If your steering wheel is adjustable, tilt it downward. This points the air bag toward your chest instead of your head and neck.

Never place a rear-facing infant in the front seat if the air bag is turned on.


Types of Air bags:

1. Frontal air bags inflate to prevent vehicle occupants from hitting the interior of the vehicle in moderate to severe head-on collisions.
2. Side air bags inflate to protect your head and/or chest when your vehicle is hit from the side. There are of three main types of side air bags: chest, head, and head/chest combination. Side air bags are designed to protect your head and/or chest in a severe side-impact collision. Unlike frontal air bags, some of the side curtain air bags may stay inflated for several seconds during a collision to provide additional protection in case your car rolls over.
Regular maintenance is health insurance for your car. Maintenance helps a car keep its safety, dependability, performance, fuel economy, and emission control capabilities. Regular maintenance also makes sense economically; low-cost maintenance can prevent high-cost repairs. Maintenance also helps prolong the life of tires, brakes, and other vehicle parts.

The best source of maintenance information about your car can be found in your vehicle owner's manual. A list of maintenance services (including the mileage intervals or time when they should be performed) is included as a part of every owner's manual. The manufacturer wants to help you keep your car in good working condition, but no carmaker can know exactly how every vehicle sold will be used. That's why every owner's manual has different maintenance schedules for different driving conditions.

A poorly running engine may lose power needed for normal driving and emergencies. It may not start, get poor fuel economy, pollute the air, and could stall when you are on the road causing a traffic problem.
Check the engine cooling system frequently. The antifreeze/coolant level should be checked periodically to ensure proper levels recommended by your vehicle owner's manual. Improperly maintained levels can result in overheating in warm weather or engine freezing during winter. Always keep an eye on the engine temperature gauge.
Be careful to check your radiator ONLY when the vehicle is cool, not immediately after operation.

Be sure your vehicle always has at least a half tank of gas before starting any trip of significant length. Running out of gas on the roadway can be dangerous and could cause traffic jams or collisions. It is important to keep an eye on the fuel level gauge while driving.
Tires should be frequently inspected for proper inflation pressure, tread depth, uneven wear, and cracks. They should be replaced when tread depth is low or if cracked.
There are several easy ways to check tire tread depth. You can measure tread depth with a tread depth gauge. You can also use a penny to check tire wear. Tire wear bars are also used on new tires as a hands-off visual indication that a tire needs replacement.

Here's how to use a penny for quick reference: Insert the penny into the tread groove with Lincoln's face showing. The head should be pointing towards the tire. If you are able to see all of Lincoln's head while looking from the side of the tire, the tread is not sufficient. The tire needs replacement.

If you see a wear bar across the width of the tread while facing it, it's time to replace the tire.
Generally, it's best to replace tires in sets of four. If your car's tires show signs of abnormal or uneven wear, have your car looked at by a professional technician.
If uneven wear is present you should check inflation pressure and/or the wheel balance and alignment of your vehicle. Have problems corrected immediately or you may be forced to purchase new tires.

Properly inflated tires are critical to vehicle control and good gas mileage. Under-inflated tires flex too much and build up heat, which can lead to blowouts or the tread separating and peeling off. Tires should be inflated to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure in the owner's manual or inside the driver's side car door or glove compartment.
Recommended tire pressures are for cold tires (check pressure before driving). Look for your tires' recommended air pressure in the car owner's manual, inside the driver's side car door, or glove compartment.

Check your tire's pressure at least once a month with a tire gauge. This will measure pressure in pounds-per-square inch (psi). Tire gauges are available at most auto parts stores and come in three types: pen, digital, and dial. Dial gauges are considered easier to read than pen or stick designs.

How To Check Tire Pressure

1. Remove the tire's valve cap.
2. Place the gauge over the tire's valve stem and press firmly so that no escaping air can be heard. The tire gauge will indicate how much pressure is in the tire. It is in your best interest to purchase your own high-quality pressure gauge. Gas station and convenience store gauges are sometimes damaged and inaccurate.
3. Adjust the tire's air pressure if needed. When adding air, push the air hose into the valve firmly until the air stops escaping. Check the pressure every few seconds to help judge the amount of air going into the tire until you reach the recommended air pressure. If the tire pressure is greater than it should be, use the valve on the tire gauge to press the center of the tire stem and release air.
4. Replace the valve cap.
5. Repeat the process for the other tires. Don't forget to check the spare tire.

Tire Rotation:

Rotating your tires can prolong their life. Refer to your owner's manual for the recommended rotation interval and pattern (a rotation interval of 6,000 miles is generally recommended). The rotation pattern varies with different makes and models. Some vehicles have different size tires on the front and back or directional tires. This limits where the tire can be placed on a vehicle. When in doubt, check the owner's manual or consult a professional technician. Tire rotation also gives you a good opportunity to have the tires and wheels balanced. This is just one more step you can take to maximize your tire investment.

It's important to keep your wheels balanced and aligned.
Wheel balance is the proper distribution of weight around a revolving tire and wheel assembly. Poor wheel balance can have a marked impact on both your car and your safety.
Proper wheel balance ensures that the wheels do not have a heavy spot that causes vibration and premature wear of tires, struts, shocks, and other steering and suspension components.

The most common signs of unbalanced tires are vibration and noise problems. When driving with an out-of-balance wheel, the wheel bounces rather than spinning smoothly. This can affect the speed, handling, and fuel consumption of your vehicle. It's a good idea to have your car's wheels balanced when rotating the tires. It's not uncommon for wheels to lose weight from time to time; so periodic balancing minimizes the impact of unbalanced wheels on your car.

Have your car's alignment checked once a year. Normal wear and road conditions can take their toll on a car's steering and suspension system, possibly throwing off the alignment settings. For best results, seek a reliable alignment shop and qualified technician who can perform a four-wheel alignment on your car.
Battery

Today's vehicles have more electrical demands than ever, and batteries play an important role. Do-it-yourself maintenance can maximize the life of your battery. It is also important to have your battery and charging system checked at least once a year. Early detection of a weak component can save you time and money.

If the battery has removable vent caps, remove the caps on a monthly basis and check the level of electrolyte (a solution of sulfuric acid and water found) inside your battery. This level should rise above the top plates of the battery. If fluid is needed, add distilled water. Be sure to avoid overfilling the cells. Use distilled water, not tap water. Tap water may contain mineral deposits that reduce battery life.

Alternator belt

The alternator drive belt should be inspected often and replaced if cracked, oil soaked, glazed, badly worn, or otherwise damaged. The belt should be adjusted for proper tension following the vehicle manufacturer's guidelines. Too much tension can overload the alternator's bearings and shorten the unit's life. Too little tension may cause the belt to slip.

Lights

Checking your vehicle's lights is a simple process. Begin by walking around the car with the headlights turned on and checking each light to make sure it is lit. Don't overlook the license, parking, and side marker lights. Next, turn off the headlights and turn on your four-way hazard lights. Then, check all four corners again. Most cars use the same bulbs for turn signals and hazard lights, so you can now also consider your turn signal bulbs checked. To be sure the turn signal light is working properly; turn the ignition to the "on" position without starting the engine. Check each turn signal (in the front and the rear) once more. Now shift the transmission to reverse. Have a helper look at the reverse lights and brake lights as you press the brake pedal.
Fuel system

Leaks in your fuel system can cause fires or expose you to toxic gases. These leaks can occur in the fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel pump, carburetor, and fuel injector lines, or by not having the car's gas cap securely attached.

If you can smell gasoline in the cabin after filling up, the evaporative emissions system should be checked for leaks.
This system includes the fuel filler cap, the opening and vent, the fuel filler tube (to the fuel tank), the fuel lines (running to and from the engine compartment), the purge valve and vacuum system, and the charcoal canister.

The evaporative emissions system is designed to trap fuel vapors from the fuel tank and fuel lines and store them in the charcoal canister. The purge valve is controlled by the engine management computer and provides engine vacuum to the canister during startup. This draws any stored fuel vapors into the engine where they are burned.
Does your vehicle still have the original fuel cap? An incorrect replacement could leak fuel vapors.

Do you habitually squeeze the fuel nozzle when filling up to get as much fuel into the tank as possible? This may seem like a convenient way to get extra fuel, but it can actually harm the evaporative fuel emissions system by forcing liquid fuel into the charcoal canister.

Carefully inspect under the hood for any evidence of a fuel leak. Check the fuel lines and fuel rail, the fuel pressure regulator, and around the throttle body unit. Fuel leaks are serious fire hazards and can also present other dangers. Vapor from a leak under the hood can be drawn through the fresh air intake vents at the base of the windshield and carried into the cabin through the heating/air conditioning system.
There are several things you can do to operate your motor vehicle efficiently and economically.
First, you should avoid making fast starts and stops and cornering too fast. This is not only unsafe, but this behavior also increases the cost of operating and maintaining your vehicle by wasting fuel and wearing out tires and brakes.

The second thing you can do to save money is drive slower. Fast driving requires more fuel to get you the same distance. Obey speed limits and you will save fuel and reduce the risk to others.
Another thing you can do is anticipate when you need to stop. Quick braking excessively wears your brakes and tires. Look ahead while you are driving so you can anticipate stops. Practice stopping smoothly and gently.

Periodic or preventative maintenance of your vehicle will also lower your long-term operation costs. Periodic tune-ups reduce fuel consumption by making your vehicle run more efficiently. The money you spend on periodic maintenance can also save you large expenses due to major engine failure and breakdown.

The cost of owning and operating a vehicle is the sum of the costs related to actual driving (gasoline, replacing tires and other components that wear out with use, and oil changes) and costs that are largely the same regardless of how much you drive (insurance, registration, depreciation, and maintenance that must be performed regardless of miles driven).

Depreciation, the amount of value your car loses as it ages, is a significant cost in owning a vehicle. Depreciation is particularly high during the period immediately after buying a new car and for the next few years. After that, the rate of depreciation will plateau and your car's resale value becomes more dependent on its condition, mileage and specifications.

If you drive your car very little, gas mileage and maintenance may not be a significant consideration. However, depreciation, insurance, and registration will always be important. If you drive your car a lot, gas mileage and day-to-day repairs will be significant cost considerations. While it is difficult to estimate the costs of owning and operating a vehicle, you should consider all of these types of costs when making a decision about what type of vehicle to purchase.

It is important to consider all the costs of owning and operating a vehicle, not just the price you are paying, when determining whether you can afford the car.
If you buy a new car, your costs for financing, depreciation, registration, and insurance will be higher. However, your maintenance costs will probably be lower, the dependability of the vehicle will probably be better, and the collision worthiness and fuel efficiency may be better.
It is wise to have a used vehicle inspected for mechanical condition prior to purchase.
To drive safely in the presence of large trucks and avoid collisions, you must be familiar with their physical capabilities and maneuvers.

Braking
A large truck will take longer to stop than a car traveling at the same speed. Don't pull in front of a large truck and suddenly slow down or stop. The trucker will not be able to stop quickly enough to avoid colliding into you.

Turning
For all turning vehicles, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels. The longer the vehicle, the greater the difference. This is why truck drivers must often swing wide to complete a right turn. When you follow a truck, look at its turn signals before you start to pass. If you think it's turning left, wait a second and check the turn signals again. The driver may actually be turning right.

Blind Spots
Passenger vehicle drivers often incorrectly assume that truckers can see the road better because they are higher off the ground. While truckers do have a better forward view and bigger mirrors, they still have serious "blind spots" in which your vehicle can get lost. If you stay in those "blind spots," you block the trucker's ability to take evasive action to avoid a dangerous situation. Generally speaking, if you can't see the truck driver in his or her side mirror, you can't be seen.

A truck's blind spots are called NO ZONES. A No Zone is the area around the truck where your car is no longer visible or where you are so close that the truck can't stop or maneuver safely. In both cases, when you are in a No Zone, you are in much greater danger of getting into a collision.

Passing
It is extremely dangerous to cut off a truck in traffic or on the highway. Whether you are trying to reach your exit, turn, or beat a truck to a single-lane construction zone, the safest thing to do is slow down and wait your turn. It only takes a few extra seconds and could prevent a collision.

If you are attempting to pass a truck in a level, legal passing zone use the following method:

Check the area around the front and rear of your vehicle. You may move into the next lane if space is available. You can let the truck driver know your intention to pass by flashing the headlights on your car.
Trucks often move much slower on an upgrade. For this reason, it should be easier to pass a truck on an upgrade than it is to pass a car. However, trucks traveling on a downgrade move faster. In this situation, you should increase your speed (at a safe rate) to pass.
Finish the pass as quickly as possible at a safe speed. If the driver flashes the lights of the truck, this is a signal meaning that it's safe to pull back into the lane. It is safe to move back in when you can see the front of the truck in your rearview mirror.

If a truck is passing you, make sure you share the road. Reduce your speed and keep to the far side of your lane to avoid causing a collision. Watch the truck's signals for indication of when the truck driver is ready to return to your lane.

SAFETY FIRST

Don't follow too closely or tailgate trucks. When you follow behind a truck and you cannot see the truck driver's side view mirrors, the trucker has no way of knowing you are there. Tailgating a truck, or any vehicle, is dangerous because by doing so you take away your own cushion of safety. Where will you go when the vehicle ahead suddenly stops?

It is easy and extremely dangerous to underestimate the size and speed of an approaching tractor-trailer. A large tractor-trailer often appears to be traveling at a slower speed because of its large size. Many passenger vehicles/large truck collisions take place at intersections because the vehicle driver did not realize how close the truck was or how quickly it was traveling.

Prepare yourself when you see a truck approaching you. When a truck passes you, it can create wind gusts that can push you off the road or out of your lane. Always keep both hands on the steering wheel when passing or being passed by trucks.
Any pedestrian or person driving a vehicle and approaching a railroad-highway grade crossing must stop no less than 15 ft (but not more than 50 ft) from the nearest rail of the railroad in the following cases:

An approaching train is visible and close to the railroad-highway grade crossing
The electrical or mechanical warning signs are flashing
The crossing gate is in a lowered position
An operator is using flags to warn of an approaching train

Never start across a railroad crossing if there isn't room for your vehicle on the other side of the tracks. Don't proceed until you can see clearly in both directions whether a train is approaching.
Do not go around or under any closed railroad gate. It's illegal and deadly. Wait for the gates to rise. Cross only when it is safe.

Never race a train to the crossing—you'll lose every time. When at multiple track crossings, watch for trains on the other sets of tracks, not just the track set immediately in front of you. ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN! Freight trains do not follow set schedules.
Don't be fooled—that train is closer and moves faster than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before crossing the tracks.

Never walk near a train track. It's illegal and it's dangerous. By the time a train operator can see a trespasser or a vehicle on the tracks, it's too late. The train cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision. Remember: railroads and recreation do not mix!

If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, get everyone out of the vehicle. Get as far away from the tracks as possible and call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
If your vehicle ever stalls on a track as a train approaches, get out immediately and move away from the tracks. Do not run away in the direction the train is traveling—if you run in the same direction, you could be injured by flying debris when the train hits your car.
Motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on public roadways as automobile drivers. While everyone must follow the same traffic laws, motorcyclists face unusual dangers because they are hard to see and because motorcycles require exceptional handling ability. To increase their visibility, many motorcycles have headlights that run whenever the vehicle is moving.

HOW TO SHARE THE ROAD SAFELY WITH MOTORCYCLISTS:

When changing lanes or entering a major thoroughfare, turn to check for motorcycles, in addition to using your mirrors. Motorcycles are small and this allows them to tuck easily into blind spots.
When preparing to make a turn, make sure you check for motorcyclists and know their speed.
Motorists must not attempt to share the lane with or crowd a motorcycle. Motorcyclists are allowed to use the entire lane just like any other vehicle.

When sharing the road with a motorcycle rider, drivers of other types of vehicles must be aware of differences in their steering abilities. If you have never driven a motorcycle, you are probably not familiar with the steering techniques needed.

Here is how an experienced bike rider would explain these differences:
A car is a "two-dimensional" vehicle. Most of the time, whatever you do will leave you in a vertical position. Bikes take on a "third dimension," having to add the lean attribute.

If you want to turn the bike left, you have to steer the handlebars slightly to the right—in the opposite direction of the turn. When you steer the bike to the right, it leans to the left and the bike turns left. The rider controls the lean, and the lean controls the turn. This is VERY difficult to get used to, especially when required to perform high-speed turns. The seasoned biker knows there are not one, but two forces that control the available rate of turn: lean angle and speed. To decrease the radius of a turn, a biker must either increase the lean angle, or decrease the speed.

If there is an emergency ahead and the only escape route for you and a motorcyclist is to change direction or make a turn, remember these differences and don't expect the motorcycle rider to be the one to take evasive action.

There is another difference between motorcycles and other vehicles you should consider.
Motorcyclists must make a bigger adjustment in speed than other drivers when:

Encountering a storm drain, gravel surface, or pothole
Driving on a rain slick road or through a puddle
Driving in heavy rain and/or strong wind

Road conditions that are minor annoyances to other vehicles can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement can make it necessary for motorcyclists to change speed or direction suddenly. Strong winds can cause a motorcyclist to fall off.
If you are aware of these potential hazards and drive with care and attention, you can help reduce motorcycle collisions, injuries, and fatalities.
Just like drivers of automobiles, motorcyclists should follow the rules of defensive driving. There are also additional rules specific to motorcycles that can make for a safer and more pleasant experience.

Don't expect to be seen.
Help others to see you. Choose an appropriate lane position. Never drive in the blind spots of another driver. These are universal rules for any road user, but for motorcyclists they are especially important because motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles. Driving alongside a car or a truck is dangerous, avoid it whenever possible.

Be aware of the road surface at all times, especially when cornering.
It is crucial for motorcyclists to pay attention to changes on a road surface while riding straight ahead, but cornering is especially dangerous and requires even more attention to the road surface. Each irregularity or spot on the road should be treated with caution and avoided if possible. It could be oil or water, each of which can cause a skid.

Use the front and rear brakes for everything but leisurely stops.
Motorcyclists should never suddenly hit the brakes. Too much pressure on a front brake may lock the front wheel and the motorcyclist can be thrown over the handle bars.

When in traffic, follow the path of left rear wheel of the car ahead.
This position increases your visibility by making the motorcycle visible in the rear view mirror of the driver ahead. It is also a good idea to cross intersections along with other traffic. This can prevent you from being hit. A driver who might not see a motorcycle will see other cars.

Allow for sluggish handling when carrying a passenger.
When a motorcyclist carries a passenger, the handling of the motorcycle changes. With twice the load, the motorcycle requires more time to accelerate, slow down and do other maneuvers, so it is important to drive accordingly.
Plan your trip, no matter the distance. Planning reduces driving distance and stress.
Certain checks and preparations should always be made before driving, no matter how short the trip. Your vehicle condition is important. Don't take any chances. Always take a look under the hood and around the vehicle. Check the tire condition, vehicle lights, and fuel gauge. Make sure that you have enough fuel in your vehicle before leaving and that you have driving directions for your destination. It's always a good idea to have an alternate route in mind, in case your planned route is closed or redirected.

Don't forget critical documents, like ID cards, money, map, driver license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration.
For longer trips, pack lots of healthy snacks. Crackers, fruits, dried fruit, nuts, and chips are all relatively easy to eat on the road, especially for children. Most important of all, allow yourself enough time to reach your destination so you don't stress out on the way. If it's not urgent, avoid rush-hour traffic.

Preparing for an extended trip of several days, some of which may include high speed highway driving, requires extra preparation and planning.
Be sure to start your trip well rested. A drowsy driver can be as dangerous as a drunk one.

Before leaving on a long trip, schedule a detailed inspection of your vehicle with your mechanic. Your mechanic should especially check the following:

Tires—check for inflation, balance, alignment, condition of tread and sidewalls.

Brakes—check for wear and/or adjustment.

Windshield wiper blades and all lights.

Engine compartment—get a tune-up if necessary and check the oil, lubrication and filters, hoses, belts, brakes, radiator and windshield wiper fluids.

A pre-trip inspection will help you find problems that could cause a collision or breakdown. If you find anything unsafe during your inspection, get it fixed.

Here are some other important things to do in advance of travel. Make a schedule of your travel time and take care to pick an appropriate time of day to begin. Also, check the weather and road conditions for any construction work that might be happening on your route.
If camping or staying in hotels/motels, make reservations in advance.

If you are taking a trip in winter, you'll have to take some extra precautions.

Before leaving, make sure that the following systems are in working order: ignition system, fuel system, belts, hoses, fluids, brakes, exhaust system, wiper blades, heater and defroster, battery, and lights. Keep the fuel tank full—don't let it get below half before filling up. Also, make sure you have proper tire tread depth and inflation. Cold temperatures have a lowering effect on tire pressures.
Carry chains or have snow tires installed. Be familiar with your braking systems and know how to use them in emergency conditions (conventional or ABS).

Determine the number of miles to be traveled daily. The normal average on major highways is 100 to 110 miles every two hours with 10-15 minute breaks every two to three hours and one hour stops for meals. Travel on secondary roads through towns and cities will take longer, as will mountain driving.

If one person will be doing all of the driving, six to eight hours driving in any one day should be considered the limit. When two or more persons can share the driving, the total driving time should not exceed 10 to 11 hours. Be aware that people often tire between 1 and 5 p.m., and plan to take a break during that period.
If crossing a desert area, plan to do so in the cooler morning hours.

While on the trip, you should:

Watch gauges for signs of trouble.

Use your senses to check for problems (look, listen, smell, feel).

Check critical items when you stop, for example: tires, wheels and rims, brakes, lights and reflectors, etc.

The best way to prolong the life of your vehicle and save on fuel is to use it as little as possible. Trip planning can make your life easier and help cut down on your driving.

Take public transportation when it is available.

Avoid driving during heavy traffic. It causes extra wear and tear on you and the vehicle.

Use carpools or share rides whenever possible.
Maps are available from state and city offices, motor clubs, book stores, and many service stations. Whether planning a trip out of state or trying to locate an address in a nearby city or your own home town, using a map in advance to determine the best way to get there can make driving less stressful.
Many collisions have been caused by drivers who suddenly hit the brake or changed lanes as they realized that they had just, or were just about to, miss their turn. Unfortunately many people either do not take the time or do not know how to read a map.

Maps typically contain a chart or legend that explains the markings and symbols. For instance:
Different colors and width of lines are used to identify classes of roads (interstates, toll roads, two-lane, and four-lane divided and undivided, unpaved, scenic, under construction).
Different symbols are used for federal, state, secondary, and county roads.
Black and red numerals indicate mileage between major points.

To use a map when you plan a trip, follow these steps:

Find the map's legend. Pay close attention to the symbols, the map scale and all other information on the map.

Find your starting and finishing point. Decide what routes you will use to travel between them. Note the route numbers, street names and direction you will travel on each route. Pay close attention to places where you must change routes. These are important decision points.

Get to know the area around each decision point. Town names are often marked on guide signs. By knowing the towns around a decision point, you can travel through these decision points more easily.

Finally, if you are planning to use a limited access highway, use the map to find the interchange nearest your destination.

With maps you can identify the following for your convenience:

Rest areas
Toll roads and service areas
Airports
Camp ground facilities
Symbols for cities and towns of a given population
Scale of miles
Large cities

State maps have a town and city index with number/letter coordinates.
City maps have a street and major points of interest index with number/letter coordinates. On both city and state maps, the letters and numbers correspond to the letters and numbers located on the top/bottom and sides of the map.

If you use a computer, learn to access online driving directions and map websites. These sites can provide detailed directions from your starting point to your final destination. You can also take print-outs of the directions and keep them in the car for reference.
Never read directions or maps while driving.
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