Previous month:
March 2015
Next month:
May 2015

5 entries from April 2015

Stay Safe! May is All About Motorcycle and Road Safety

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Tomorrow is the start of May (wow, this year is just flying by!) and also the start of Motorcycle Awareness Month.

We all want to shake off the cabin-fever (particularly from this rather harsh winter) and are ready to get out on the roads.

But whether you're driving a scooter, motorcycle or car, take a few precautions so everyone stays safe on more crowded roadways.

The Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada is a national organization that advocates for the promotion of motorcycling interests. They are co-hosting, with various regional motorcycle clubs and councils, a number of events across Canada. Check your provincial association for local events!

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

In the meantime, the MCC offers tips for both Motorists and Motorcyclists on how to share the road safely:

Tips for Motorists

  • Keep a safe distance when following a motorcycle - at least 2 seconds.
  • Motorcycles use a full lane - treat them like other vehicles.
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots frequently, especially before changing lanes - a motorcycle is large enough to be entirely hidden within your blind spot.
  • Pay special attention at intersections, where almost 50% of motorcycle collisions occur.
  • Watch for off road motorcycles in rural areas.

Tips for Motorcyclists

  • Keep a safe distance around you and maintain proper lane position.
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots frequently - be alert for all other traffic particularly at intersections.
  • Be seen! Wear bright colours and reflective clothing, and ride with your lights on.
  • Be safe! Always wear an approved motorcycle helmet and protective gear when riding.
  • Ride at your own comfort level, be aware of wildlife and road conditions.

Coincidentally (or not), May 12-18 is National Road Safety week, sponsored by the Canada Safety Council. Over the last three years, fatalities of "in vehicle" occupants involved in an accident has steadily declined; however, the reduction in fatalities of "vulnerable road users" (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists) has not fallen at the same rate. The CSC is looking for Canadians to "Be a Road Hero" and drive in a way that saves lives. You can find materials about driving like a road hero on their website.

Are you a motorcyclist? How do you make sure you stay safe on the road? Share your thoughts in the comments!

- Rose R.

What's in a Cup Holder? Designing Vehicles Around Your Coffee

Car cup holder

I spent some time socializing with twenty-somethings recently and my interactions with them really activated my inner crotchety old man.

"You don't know how good you have it!" I wanted to yell at them when they complained about the wifi briefly dropping out as they were trying to watch some video of their young person music, "When I was 21, I had to rent videos from an actual store and REWIND them before I returned them! If I wanted to get on the internet, I had to hope that my roommate didn't interrupt my connection by using the telephone!"

My internal rant continued as I sipped a decaf (old person) coffee on the drive home. "And when I was growing up, the family car didn't even have cup holders! If you had a beverage in the car, you just had to HOLD it! With your HANDS!"

Naturally, that got me thinking about the evolution of cup holders - how they weren't even a consideration in the cars of my youth and how these days, the size and placement the cup holders are one of the first things a new car buyer notices (myself included).

Early vehicles did not include cup holders because automobile designers assumed that people would actually stop and get out of their cars to eat and drink. HAHAHAHAHAHA hilarious! Once the drive-in was invented in the 1950s and people started to enjoy eating in their stationary vehicle, the idea of cup holders started to take hold. If you could have this much fun eating in your parked car, could getting your root beer float "to go" be far behind?

Actually, it was rather far behind. While car manufacturers made some attempts to accommodate in-car sipping, most continued to design cars without beverage holders. A variety of after market cup holders filled the void in the 1960s and 70s. My better half fondly remembers these window-hanging beauties in the family catering truck:

Car cup holder

Cup holders as regular feature didn't really make their mainstream debut until the minivan was invented in 1983. It took nearly a decade for cup holders to become an expected feature, helped along by the rise of our North American drive-through and commuter cultures.

These days, cup holders - their size and location in the vehicle - are one of the first things car designers consider. The cup holder needs to be able to hold everything from a slim can of energy drink to a giant fountain soda and everything in between. According to market research conducted by GM, 83% of North American drivers have beverages in their cars every day.

Cup holders are a pretty basic technology, but that doesn't stop car manufacturers from experimenting with more ways to attract beverage-loving drivers. According to this article in the Globe and Mail:

"BMW has experimented with heating and cooling capabilities, Ford and Chrysler have added lights in certain models and the Cadillac CTS includes power-assisted doors that close to hide the cup holders."

I remember the first cup holders I had ever experienced. My parents bought a slightly used 1990 Ford Taurus and the cup holders were in a little plastic tray that popped out when you pushed a button. Between that cup holder and the new electric garage door opener, it felt like we were the Jetsons!

Our current vehicle has cup holders between the two front seats and a pop-out cup holder in the back for passengers. And the front cup holders have a rubber insert that you can remove in the case of giant beverages - a function we have yet to take advantage of. But it's nice to know it's there.

Are cup holders a consideration when you buy a vehicle? Did your first car feature cup holders? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

When is it Time to Get New Tires?

Comparing tire wear

Now that winter is (hopefully) behind us, it's time to switch out the winter tires! So now seems like a good time to ask - how do you know when it's time to buy new tires?

In general, you should be checking the air pressure and doing a visual inspection of your tires once a month. With normal wear and tear, tires should be replaced at least every six years. But if you spend more time in your car than the average commuter or frequently drive over rough terrain, you may need to replace your tires sooner.

Here's what to look for when you're inspecting your tires:

Check the tread wear. The main function of your tire treads is to avoid hydroplaning by diverting water from under the tires. The more worn the tread, the less traction you have on wet roads.

There are a few ways you can check the tread wear on your tires. One of the most popular is the "penny" method. Insert a penny with the Queen's head facing down between the treads of your tire. If you can see the Queen's whole head, that means your tread is worn down to 1.6mm (2/32"), and it's time to replace your tire. Since our penny has been discontinued, it might be tricky to find one for this test!

Fortunately, there are other ways to check your tread depth. You can purchase a tire tread gauge to check your tread depth or you can check for the tread wear bars on your tires, which run perpendicular to your treads. The more worn your treads, the more visible the tread wear bars become. Once the tread wear bars are flush with the treads themselves, it's time to get new tires.

All that said, waiting until the treads are worn down to 1.6mm is similar to waiting until your car is running on fumes before filling up the tank. To maintain good handling and traction on wet roads, some experts suggest replacing your tires when the tread depth is 3mm (4/32") rather than the standard "Queen's head" measurement of 1.6mm (2/32").

Check the sidewalls. If you see any bulges in your sidewalls, that's an indication that the rigid interior of your tires has been damaged (by going over a particularly deep pothole, for example) and air is pushing against the flexible exterior of your tires. A bulge or wave in your sidewall could mean that a blow-out is imminent, so be sure and take your car in as soon as possible for a tire change.

Cracks or cuts in the sidewalls present a similar problem - the rubber may be drying out or your tire could be developing a leak. Avoid getting a flat by replacing any cracked or cut tires.

Note any changes in handling, traction or vibration. If you feel like it's taking longer to come to a stop or that your car isn't handling well in wet conditions, your tires might be the culprit. Similarly, if you're noticing a marked increase in vibration when you drive, it could be that your tires are aligned incorrectly or that your shocks aren't working properly - but it could also be a problem with the tires themselves. When in doubt, get your tires inspected.

For more information about replacing your tires and how to choose new ones, visit And if you're switching out your winter tires, check out our post about how to store your tires when they're not in use.

When's the last time you replaced your tires?

- Rose R.

Monthly Poll: Which driving sins are you guilty of?

Texting behind the wheel

Last fall, we were on our way to drop my visiting mother-in-law off at the airport. We left with plenty of time but someone in the car is a nervous traveler and we were all keen to make sure that someone did not miss her flight.

We were going at a pretty good clip approaching a left turn onto a major street and in a moment of exhilaration, we rocketed through the intersection juuuuust as the light switched from yellow to red. The noise we made was "Wooooo!" Then, we heard a different noise. And that noise was the police.

The police officer thoroughly chastised us for our reckless driving and reminded us that a fatality had occurred at this location just a few weeks before. He let us off with a warning. Of course, we felt awful. We're usually so responsible on the road. And there's nothing like getting yelled at by the police in front of your mother-in-law.

Let's face it - we all strive to be mindful and courteous to others on the road, but sometimes we aren't. Sometimes we're just in a hurry, sometimes we're frustrated with other drivers and sometimes we're simply distracted by other things - our partners, kids, pets, phones, the GPS, etc.

We've written several posts about driving safety and etiquette here on PumpTalk - here are a few of our greatest hits if you want a refresher on safe (and polite) driving practices:

But back to real talk - I'm not the only one who occasionally slips up on the road, am I? Don't worry - this poll is anonymous. Take our poll below and let us know: which of these bad driving behaviours are you most guilty of?

Now that you've confessed, time to vent! Which bad driving behaviours drive you most crazy on the road? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Vote for Canada's Worst Roads with CAA

Potholed road

Endless traffic jams, thrashed and potholed pavement, missing road lines, sink holes - we all have a road near us that needs some TLC. And thanks to the CAA's Canada's Worst Roads campaign, you get to cast your vote for the road you think is the worst in your province!

While we all enjoy a chance to complain, CAA's Worst Roads campaign isn't just about kvetching; the CAA compiles the information and passes it on to the province and municipalities, so that the roads you vote for might get much needed repair work done sooner.

Since the campaign started 12 years ago, "90 percent of the roads nominated to the annual list are repaired or scheduled to be repaired." So your vote does make a difference!

Here's where and when to cast your vote for your worst local roads:

CAA Atlantic (P.E.I., Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick): Vote from March 23 to April 17, 2015. Last year's top three worst Atlantic roads were: 

  1. Gillis Point East Road, Washabuck Centre, Nova Scotia
  2. Trans-Labrador Highway, Forteau, Newfoundland and Labrador
  3. Hanwell Road, Fredericton, New Brunswick

CAA Quebec: Voting for CAA Quebec's first Worst Roads campaign doesn't start until April 27, 2015. So mark your calendar, Quebec drivers!  

CAA Ontario:  The Worst Roads campaign got its start in Ontario and this year, they're featuring a contest for voters! You can vote for your worst road once per day and every time you vote, you'll be entered for a chance to win one of three $100 Petro-Canada gift cards and the grand prize of gas for a year! You can vote from March 23 to April 17, 2015. Ontario's top three worst roads of 2014 were:

  1. Dufferin Street, Toronto
  2. Stanley Ave, Niagara Falls
  3. Kipling Ave, Toronto

CAA Manitoba: CAA Manitoba is also running a contest for Worst Roads voters! You can vote from March 23 to April 17, 2013. Last year's "Worst Roads of Manitoba" were:

  1. St. James Street, Winnipeg
  2. 1st Street, Winkler
  3. Ness Avenue, Winnipeg

CAA Saskatchewan: Vote from March 25 to April 17, 2015. Last year, these three roads were voted worst in Saskatchewan:

  1. Saskatchewan 24, Leoville
  2. Saskatchewan 155, La Loche
  3. Saskatchewan 21, Paradise Hill

BCAA (British Columbia and the Yukon): The voting dates for BCAA's 2015 Worst Roads campaign haven't been announced yet, so keep checking back with their site.  Whenever it is, I will be poised and ready to cast my vote! Last year's top three worst roads in BC were:

  1. Silver Star Road, Vernon
  2. Westside Road, West Kelowna
  3. Cosens Bay Road, Coldstream

Do you plan to vote for a worst road near you? What do you think is the worst road in your area?

- Rose R.