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4 entries from June 2015

Summer Road Trip Tips: Staying Sane in Traffic Jams

Traffic jam

It seems we are well and fully into the summer driving season. Earlier this week, we returned from Vancouver Island and just before we drove through the Massey Tunnel back to Vancouver proper, we hit a massive traffic jam.

It was hot, we all just wanted to BE HOME and more than one of us needed to find a washroom. To help everyone in the car keep their cool, we tried the following tips:

Tip #1: Relinquish control
There are few things more difficult than accepting that you are stuck in traffic and there's nowhere to go. You can't move the traffic with your mind. You can't turn on your car's helicopter function. You can't stop the dog from gassing you in the backseat. Stop mentally struggling and just accept that being in traffic is just part of your cosmic journey. Which bring us to Tip #2.

Tip #2: Breathe it out
Situations like traffic jams really increase our stress levels and can elevate our breathing. Elevated breathing triggers a "fight or flight" response in our bodies which just makes us more stressed. But we can turn this vicious cycle into a virtuous circle with some conscious breathing, a technique used in several yoga practices. Now, we don't want anyone doing a full Ashtanga practice in their car! But this simple breath exercise can reduce stress and anxiety: Breathe in through your nose, slowly, for five seconds. Hold your breath for three seconds. Breathe out through pursed lips, slowly and gently, for seven seconds. Repeat.

Tip #3: Play a game
My mother-in-law recently discovered trivia apps for her iPod touch and whenever there's a lull in conversation, she's ready with a memory-stretching exercise. Keeping your mind occupied with trivia rather than traffic fury can make those longer waits a lot more bearable - plus, you might learn something! Of course, not everyone is busting out Trivia Crack in the car - something as simple as 20 Questions can help keep things interesting.

Tip #4: Bust out the show tunes
Whether you're a fan of classic musicals like Oklahoma and Cats or prefer newer fare like Wicked or The Book of Mormon, you've probably memorized at least one catchy tune (or you have some with you on your phone or mp3 player). Belting a few tunes out at the top of your lungs (and encouraging others in the car to do the same) can make the time go by quicker.

Tip #5: Keep calm and carry on
A friend of mine likes to diffuse traffic tension on her daily commute by commenting on poor driving behaviour in a bad English accent - think Jane Austen for amateurs. So instead of yelling "You JERK!" at someone who cuts her off, she muses "I say, Mr. Darcy, you're cutting it a mite close with your carriage!" In a traffic jam, discussing the situation in a silly accent can bring a little levity to the car. "Well this is quite the pickle, Mr. Darcy, is it not?! You almost hit that other driver's barouche!"

We still ended up stuck in traffic for 20 minutes, but these tips did make the time go by a bit faster and with a lot more laughing than swearing.

How do you make the most of a bad traffic situation without resorting to some Max Mad-like behaviour? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

- Rose R.

Monthly Poll: Would you ever trade your SUV for a smaller commuter car or scooter?

Small car

We found ourselves out in rush hour traffic recently and once we reached highway, we realized gleefully that because there were two of us, we could use the HOV lane! Yay! We switched lanes and enjoyed a speedy journey to our destination.

As we passed legions of frustrated drivers waiting in traffic, I noticed that:

1) Most of them were driving quite large vehicles; and

2) There was only one person (the driver) per car.

Don't get me wrong - I love our SUV. But if I was commuting alone every day, would I really need all that car? And if not, what kind of vehicle would I choose?

In researching the idea of commuter vehicles, I saw a lot of write-ups on Smartcars and scooters - then I came across Elio Motors, which is producing a new style of personal transportation. The car's creator, Paul Elio, is a divorced dad who didn't want to drive his minivan around when he wasn't with his kids. So he created the Elio, a two seater commuter vehicle. He kept his minivan - but for commuting or just a fun drive, he has this smaller vehicle. It also gets amazing gas mileage. Clever!

Check out this video about the genesis of the Elio motors project:

A smaller personal vehicle like the Elio seems like a no-brainer - we should all just get one! Right now! But then I started thinking about my mom. I don't think you could pay my mom to get in to one of these tiny cars. Several years back, her sedan was basically totalled by an SUV. When it was time to get a new car, she went out and bought the same SUV that had taken out her original car because obviously, it fared well in an accident! I can see why she would want to upgrade, especially after being in an wreck - in an SUV, you're in a larger vehicle and you sit higher up and that feels powerful. Not everyone is interested in a compact driving experience.

What do you think? Would you ever drive a tiny car to work/errands? Or do you prefer a larger vehicle for all your driving needs? Take our poll below!

- Rose R.

Summer Road Trip Tips: Keeping Your Car Safe

Thief stealing purse from car

Some friends and I were reminiscing the other day about absurd events in our lives and one of them said "Remember that time my sister left her car running while she ran into the gas station to pay and someone stole her car?" Hahahahahahaa! Oh, wait…that wasn't that hilarious.

Thinking about it later, I realized that we are all tempted to take a short-cut every now and then because we feel pressed for time. We also take safety routine shortcuts when we're outside our usual environment and a little distracted such as when we're on a road trip or vacation.

Since it's coming up on peak road trip season in Canada, we thought we'd review a few car security tips from the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Their first tip is always take your keys with you! When I got my first car and my dad was reviewing things with me, he said "When you turn off the car, the first thing you do is pull the keys from the ignition and put them in your pocket." I think he was more worried about me locking them in the car, than the car getting stolen - but I did take the lesson to heart. 25 years later and its still the first thing I do when I turn off the car.

Other tips from the IBC include:

  • Roll up your vehicle's windows, lock the doors and pocket the key.
  • Park your vehicle in a well-lit area.
  • Don't leave your car unattended while it's is running!
  • Don't leave valuables or packages in full view; put them in the trunk.
  • Keep your vehicle registration certificate and proof of insurance with you, not in your glove compartment.

The RCMP encourage the use of anti-theft devices such as a steering wheel lock or after-market immobilizer, especially on older model vehicles. They also suggest engraving any removable car parts or accessories with your vehicle registration number.

Finally, keeping a handy record of the specifics of your vehicle to give police in case your vehicle is stolen. I have all this information, but not in one place. I'm adding it to a note in my smart phone today!

  • Vehicle Year, Make, Model & Colour
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • License Plate Number
  • Ignition key number
  • Insurance Company Phone Number & Policy Number
  • A current photograph of your vehicle, with a description of any distinguishing features (dents, scratches) - A list of regular contents of the vehicle (stereo system, etc.)

Do you have any other tips for keeping your car secure, especially while traveling? We'd love to hear them in the comments!

- Rose R.

Be Aware and Share the Road: Summer Bike Safety Tips

Cyclists in the city

If May was Motorcycle Awareness Month, then June should be Cyclist Awareness Month!

Between sporty commuters taking advantage of the nicer weather and kids getting out of school, the summer months typically see an uptick in vehicle/bicycle collisions. June's always a good time for some reminders about sharing the road and bike safety.

Here are our tips for drivers from a previous post:

  • Slow down when passing a cyclist and allow one metre clearance
  • Always shoulder check when changing lanes
  • Watch for bikes before exiting your vehicle
  • Always yield to cyclists when you are making a turn
  • Be aware of and respect bike lanes! They are there for everyone's safety.

And for cyclists, be sure to obey the rules of the road and check out this short safety PSA video from Parachute:

As the days grow longer, being visible at night may seem like less of a priority, but that doesn't mean you can forget your reflective gear and lights! In researching this post, I also came across this neat product the Volvo co-created called LifePaint, which sprays on invisible but lights you and your bike up brightly when a car's headlights turn towards you.

This video shows how it works: 

No word on when LifePaint will be available commercially, but it seems like a great idea for you evening and early morning riders.

If you're looking for more information on bike safety, definitely check out the CAA's Bike Safety site. And if you think you already know all of the rules of the road for cyclists, then take the CAA's Bike Safety Quiz and see how you do!  

Have any tips on sharing the road - as a driver or a cyclist? Share them in the comments!

- Rose R.