Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Child Under 13 in Your Car? Washington Law Requires They Ride in Back Seat

A recent poll by PEMCO Insurance has found that, although a vast majority of Washington drivers understand that the safest place to have a child passenger is in the back seat, just 43 percent say they see other drivers in compliance.
Children's car seat, properly used.

Washington is one of 14 states that require a child under the age of 13 be seated in the rear of a vehicle "where it is practical to do so", according to the Revised Code of Washington.

Not only are front-end crashes the most prevalent type of auto accident, the added threat posed by air bags, which are designed for adult passengers, makes the front seat a dangerous place for youngsters. Air bags can severely injure or even kill small children seated in the front seat, even in an approved car seat.

This is a disparity of opinion among drivers as to what should determine when a child can ride in the front seat. Nearly half the poll respondents said height should be the primary criteria, and another 21 percent believed that weight should be the determining factor. Only 25% of respondents agreed with the state age requirement   that the age of 13 was the key factor.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), placing kids in back instead of in front reduces injury risk by 64 percent for infants and kids up to age 8, and 31 percent for children 9 to 12.

While age is the determining factor in where children should ride, height and weight are more important in deciding when a youngster is ready to move from a child safety seat to a booster seat, or just be restrained with a seat belt.

The general rule of thumb is that children under 40 pounds should be in a car seat. As kids outgrow the height and weight requirements of a car seat, the recommendation is that they first graduate to a booster seat that allows cross-body seat belts, then eventually to just using an adult seat belt.

Although car seats and booster seats can be inconvenient and expensive, the protection they provide for small children is vital. Besides, it's the law.

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle.
Child in booster seat.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 826 respondents in Washington, yields an accuracy of +/- 3.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 3.5 percent.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tips for Driving in the Rain

Western Washington in the winter is a pretty rainy climate, and combined with occasional freezing or near-freezing temperatures, this can make for hazardous driving conditions.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your chances of having an accident in the inclement winter weather.

Tires: Where the rubber hits the road

First, you should check your tire treads for wear. Even though you didn’t notice a difference this summer, now that wet weather is here worn tires may suddenly lose their grip on the road, and you could go sailing into another car or the ditch! Have your local tire center check to see if the tread is adequate.

Tires that are overinflated not only wear out faster, but can’t hold the road as well in wet or snowy weather. Reducing the air pressure in your tires will help you keep your car under control in treacherous conditions. By slightly reducing the pressure from 32 psi to 28 psi, you will make your tire have a little more rubber on the road surface, providing additional stability. Of course, when winter is over you will need to inflate your tires to the proper levels to avoid excessive tire wear.

Limited Visibility

Now is the time to make sure your windshield wipers are in good working condition, your windshield is clean and you have washer fluid in the reservoir. When it rains, worn wipers will streak your windshield, making it difficult to see, especially at night. Headlights of approaching vehicles will reflect this residue and make visibility even worse. Also, it is important to keep your windshield clean. Mud or leaves that get on your windshield can be smeared by your wipers, making it very difficult to see clearly, and if you get spattered by a passing car or truck, your windshield washer fluid can get it cleared off quickly.

If, for any reason, your windshield will not clear, leave the roadway as soon as safely possible and use a cloth and some clear water to thoroughly clean the window. Do the same for your other windows and side view mirrors, too.

Driving in a downpour

Usually, Seattle rain is fairly light, but occasionally a weather front will come in and dump rain in buckets. It’s best to avoid driving until it tapers off, but if you are caught in a deluge, here’s something that may help -- put on your sunglasses! Even at night, putting on your sunglasses in the pouring rain will help you see much more clearly. You will see drops on the windshield, but not the rain that's pouring down in front of your car. It also helps eliminate the sudden blindness from getting sprayed with a wall of water by a passing semi truck.

Don’t use cruise control in the rain

When you’re driving in rain, turn your cruise control off. The problem is when your tires begin to hydroplane in slippery conditions and lose contact with the road, cruise control can suddenly cause your car to accelerate to a higher rate of speed, and cause you to lose control of your car! Some cars are designed to shut cruise control down in wet or icy conditions, but yours may not be one of these.

Finally, slow down!

The speed limit may read 60 mph, but that is only applicable in optimum driving conditions. If it’s wet or icy, slow down. If you are involved in an accident in bad weather conditions, and it is found that you were going within the speed limit, that won’t help you in court if the conditions warranted slowing down. When weather conditions make driving hazardous, posted speed limits are not in effect, and motorists must drive at a safe speed or be liable for damages that they cause.