Alex Perdikis Asks: Is a Green Car in Your Future?

By Alex Perdikis

You’ve heard a lot about electric and hybrid vehicles, but though you like the idea of driving an environmentally friendly car, you haven’t take the plunge. You’re not alone. Green car sales in the U.S. fell off last year. But hybrid sales picked up by the end of the year and 2017 is poised to continue the upward trend. Could a green car be in your future?

Hybrids and Plug-Ins – A Not So New Idea

Believe it or not, the first gas/electric hybrid was produced in 1899. Ferdinand Porsche designed and produced the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid from 1900-1905. The horseless carriage was a convertible and available in a 2-seat or 4-seat model. The motor had two motors fueled by an electric battery as well as gas. Obviously, the idea of a hybrid vehicle has been around for some time.

Electric cars have a long history as well. In fact, electric cars, the Jeantaud Duc and La Jamais Contente, held the land speed record until 1902 when steam vehicle Gardner-Serpollet took the prize. Electric cars fell out of favor with the driving public due to lack of speed, short battery range and competition from the much faster internal combustible engine. However, electric powered trains and other vehicles are still in use.

Modern Day Green Car Development

The motive behind developing hybrid and electric cars is different now than it was for those early developers. Ferdinand Porsche, and other inventors like him, were busy developing ways to push the public forward, away from horses and into a world of motorized vehicle travel.

“Now, concern for the environment and federal mandates geared toward fuel efficiency and cleaner consumption are the driving factors.” – Alex Perdikis

Reducing greenhouse gasses, less dependency on fossil fuels and reducing reliance on foreign fuel suppliers all drive the market and challenge manufacturers to create more fuel-efficient and cleaner options. Those early pioneers laid the groundwork for today’s green cars.

Honda introduced the Insight, the first hybrid available in the U.S., in 1999. It had a limited distribution. The big splash came in 2000 when Toyota unveiled its Prius gas/electric hybrid. Other major manufacturers, including Ford and Chevrolet, quickly followed suit. Now green car buyers have a host of options to choose from.

The innovations keep on coming. Automakers are experimenting with technologies and innovative ideas that may or may not reach production stage, some of which are highly entertaining. For example, Mercedes is working on an electric concept that, in addition to the usual fuel-efficient options, has what the company calls “multi-voltaic” paint. According to company officials, the paint doubles as a solar and wind power source to gather electricity.

Another clever idea developers are working on is changing the structure of the battery. Batteries can be cumbersome, are often heavy and worst of all, have a low-energy density. How can innovators turn the battery problem around? How about turning the entire car body into a super capacitor?

Developers are working on car panels that are not only attractive, but carbon capacitors as well. The polymer carbon fiber blend charges and stores more energy quicker than conventional batteries. When hood, roof and trunk panels were replaced with carbon capacitor panels, one experimental model dropped 15 percent of battery weight and extended its range 80 miles. These and other exciting possibilities are the future. But, what if you’re ready to buy now?

How to Buy Green

Do you know the difference between a conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid? If you’re ready to buy now or in the near future, there are a few things you need to know. Here are some tips and points to think about:

  • Conventional versus plug-in: The conventional hybrid uses electricity as a supplemental energy source. Electricity is not meant to power the car alone except for short distances. The plug-in uses a rechargeable electronic battery pack. Plug-ins can run solely on electricity until the battery runs out of electricity. Distance varies from model to model. Current distances range from 25 to 50 miles per charged battery. After the battery runs down, the gasoline engine automatically takes over.
  • You’ll pay a higher price:  At least for the time being, expect to pay a higher price than you would for a non-hybrid. You might be eligible for a government subsidy when you purchase a green car, however. Check with your dealer.
  • Look at used hybrids: You might be able to find a used hybrid that’s more affordable. Most manufacturers warranty components for a long time. If the used hybrid you’re looking at is still under warranty and the warranty transfers, you could save thousands.
  • Test drive a lot of different models: Hybrids are not only manufactured differently, they drive differently. The driving experience varies. Test drive as many different models as you can before you buy.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Alex Perdikis Tips: Used Car Buying Best Practices

By Alex Perdikis

A brand-new car isn’t in your budget, so you’re looking at used cars. Approximately 40 million preowned cars are sold, both by dealers and private parties, in the U.S. every year. With so many used cars available, how do you go about finding the vehicle that’s right for you? And how can you protect yourself from falling victim to an unscrupulous seller? Follow these tips to find the right car and stay safe when you’re looking for a used car.

How Much Money is Too Much?

If you have the cash to pay for a car upfront, that’s great. But most people have to take out a loan. Your first job is to figure out how much you can lay out. Don’t kick any tires before you know how much you can afford to pay.

The general rule of thumb is your car payment should not exceed 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay. After you factor in maintenance and upkeep, you may want to look at a lower payment than 20 percent.

How Much Car Do You Need?

Consider why you’re buying a car. Is it because you need a new car to get to work and you want better gas mileage? Have the kids grown and you need to find something smaller than the bus you’ve been driving around? Perhaps your family is growing and you need a bigger car. Figure out what size vehicle you need and narrow down your choices.

List Your Possibles

Now that you know your budgetary and lifestyle requirements, it’s time to do a little research. Perhaps higher-rated used cars are out of your price range, but there are plenty of good quality options.

“Compare brands that fit your budget and your needs. Do your research locally because prices vary from region-to-region.” – Alex Perdikis

You can search prices and compare models for your area using smartphone apps or website price comparison tools.

Which Type of Seller?

You’re going to find the lowest prices by far from private sellers. New car dealers typically sell used cars as well and you’ll find used cars on independent lots as well as retailers. Dealer prices will always be higher because of higher overhead. The highest prices typically are typically certified preowned (CPO) car purchased through a dealer. CPO cars, unlike most used cars, have a warranty. Cars have been inspected and must fit the manufacturer’s criteria to become certified. The positive of purchasing a CPO is that you’re buying a used car that has a warranty and feels “new.” That peace of mind comes at a cost, thus the higher price.

Nearly all other used car purchases are “as-is.” There are no warranties. Whatever happens after you leave the lot, driveway or parking lot is on you. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a used car from your neighbor, but it does mean you have to be extra cautious.

Found One! Now What?

Before you run out and look at the car, contact the seller. If the seller is a dealer, find out as much as you can about the vehicle before you look at it. The dealer may provide information that rules the car out for you or sparks your interest even more. Speaking with the dealer also builds rapport to build on if you go look at the car.

If you’re dealing with a private party, you have to be more diligent. Ask the following:

  • Why they are selling?
  • Does the seller have mechanical and maintenance records?
  • Is the seller OK with you taking the car to a mechanic BEFORE you buy?
  • If inspections are required in your area, ask if the inspection is current. If not, ask if they are willing to have it inspected and/or emissions certified before you buy.
  • Ask about the general condition of the car and find out if the seller bought it used or new.

If the answers seem reasonable, set up a time and place to look at and test drive the car. Take someone with you if possible and make sure others know where you are. Meet with the seller during the day to more easily see  the car’s overall condition. If you must go alone, ask the seller to meet you at a busy parking lot or other public area so you’re not alone when you check out the car.

Love It? Don’t Buy Just Yet

Don’t fall completely in love just yet. Step back and take a few more steps before you agree to buy. Get a vehicle history report to check out the car’s history. You’ll need the vehicle identification number (VIN) to perform the search.

If you’re buying a car without a warranty, have the car checked out by a trusted mechanic before you buy. Yes, it costs money. But so does a faulty transmission, the cost of which will come out of your pocket after you buy the car. As-is means buyer beware. Protect yourself.

If everything checks out, negotiate your price and complete the paperwork. Then get out and enjoy your “new” used car.

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Don’t Neglect Your Car – Take Care of it Inside and Out

By Alex Perdikis

Does the inside of your car look like the city dump? How about the outside? Can you write “Wash Me” in the dust? Busy lives mean that some things get pushed to the back burner. If one of your back burner chores is keeping your car clean, you have some work to do. It’s not as hard as you think. In fact, you just might enjoy it. Even better, you’ll be proud of yourself when you’re done and you look at the clean, shiny “looks like new” car sitting in your driveway.

“Wash Me Please”

When you think about warm summer days in America, one of the pictures that comes to mind is of Dad and the kids washing the car in the driveway. Whether you’re a dad, Mom or anything else, taking care of your car begins with a wash. Before you head outside with a bucket full of dishwashing soap and a sponge, read the instructions below for the best way to wash your car.

Tip: “Say no to dishwashing liquid. It’s not meant for a car’s finish. It’ll leave streaks and residue you’ll never get rid of.” – Alex Perdikis

Buy car wash cleaner and read the instructions. Most car wash cleaner is concentrated so follow the instructions to get the formula right. You can use a regular sponge as long as it’s clean. Washing mitts work great, too. You’ll also need a terry towel or chamois, buckets, garden hose and soft bristled brush. A tar and bug remover is also handy.

Fill one bucket with the properly apportioned cleaner and another with clean water. Begin by using the garden hose to soak down the entire car. Using your cleaning mitt or sponge soaked with cleaning solution, clean the roof. Rinse the soap off with a low pressure stream from the garden hose. Then move to the next section and repeat the pattern. Wash higher parts of the car first and work your way down, rinsing each section as you go. Use the brush to dislodge and remove stubborn debris.

Purchase a tire and rim cleaner for the tires. Clean one tire at a time and rinse before going on to the next.

Dry the car using a clean, damp terry cloth or chamois. Begin at the top and move downward, removing excess water as you go.

Need a Wax?

Now that the car’s clean, give it a wax to restore its shine. Make sure the car is dry and, if it’s been sitting in the sun, moved to a shady spot to allow it to cool down. You’ll need a can of car wax, an applicator, a clean terry cloth and a polishing cloth. Work on one panel at a time, frame out an area with wax first and then fill in the center. After the wax dries to a dull haze, use the terry cloth to rub the surface in one direction. After the haze is removed, use the polishing cloth and rub in the opposite direction until the surface shines. Repeat over the entire vehicle, working  one small section at a time.

The Inside Clean Up

People spend a lot of time in their cars and it doesn’t take long for “stuff” to accumulate. Fast food wrappers, coffee cups, napkins and other garbage along with the kids’ sports gear and toys, receipts and whatever else lurking about certainly gives your car that “lived in” look. You know this can’t go on. It’s time to grab a garbage bag and clean it up.

First, clear out all debris. You may discover some forgotten treasures as you go through the mess. Hang on to the garbage bag – you’ll need it throughout the cleaning process.

You can purchase interior car cleaners or use household cleaners you may already have on hand. Gather the following supplies:

  • Household cleaner
  • Window cleaner
  • Several clean terry towels or rags. You can also purchase car cleaning wipes.
  • Microfiber towel
  • Cotton swabs
  • Water source

Begin with the console. Use a cleaner moistened cloth and wipe down the console, from cleanest areas to dirtiest. Use a damp cotton swab to clean grooves in the steering wheel and other areas. To clean around buttons, wrap a cloth around a butter knife tip and run it in the grooves along the buttons to remove accumulated dust.

Use a microfiber towel and window cleaner to clean windows. Avoid ammonia-based window cleaner.

Remove the floor mates. If the mats are plastic, shake them out and hose them off. If they’re made of carpet, vacuum and spot clean outside of the car.

Vacuum the interior from top to bottom, beginning with the ceiling. Don’t forget to move the seats and vacuum the hard to reach areas.

If you have leather seats, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for caring for them.

Spot clean fabric seats and plastic pieces with only manufacturer approved products. Avoid using window cleaner on upholstery.

Air the car out after you’re finished. Add an air freshener, if you like. Put the mats back in the car and get ready to enjoy a much nicer ride.

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Car Expenses Too High? Here’s How to Save

By Alex Perdikis

Everyone knows  the cost of owning a car or several cars doesn’t stop when you buy. Cars require fuel, maintenance and insurance to run efficiently and legally, none of which is cheap. Did you know you can save and still have an insured, well-maintained vehicle? Here’s how.

Maintain Your Way to Savings

It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget that in order to run well your car needs attention. Not only does a well-maintained car run more efficiently, it runs more economically as well. In fact, keeping up with routine maintenance can save you hundreds of dollars every year.

Follow these rules for optimal car maintenance:

  1. Keep your car tuned up. A tuned up car uses approximately 25 percent less gas than a poorly tuned vehicle. Poorly tuned cars are also more likely to require costly repairs down the road. Paying for a tuneup saves big time in the long run.
  2. Change your oil, but check your manual first. The old recommended standard was a 3,000 mile oil change, but newer vehicles are often built to go longer. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.
  3. Check the oil filter every month. Clean or replace the filter to optimize gas mileage.
  4. Only use premium gas only if your car requires it. If your car requires premium, by all means use it. Again, check the owner’s manual for your car’s specific needs.
  5. Check fluid levels when you change the oil, including automatic transmission, power steering and brake fluid levels. Maintaining required fluid levels is an inexpensive way to avoid a costly repair later on.
  6. Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Properly inflated tires are safer, improve gas mileage and last longer. And, speaking of tires, have them rotated and balanced once a year. They’ll last longer.

How to Save Big on Gas

Gas prices are lower now than they were a few years ago. That’s a welcome relief, but who knows how long lower prices will last? Even with lower prices, you can’t say that gas is cheap. How can you cut down on your gas and save? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Drive less. You’re probably wondering how you can possibly drive less. You have to go to work, get groceries, transport the kids around and run errands, right? Yes, you do. But, have you considered running all of your errands in one trip instead of two or three? How about running your errands on your way home from work one evening? Is it possible for you to carpool with co-workers? Don’t forget public transportation. If your city has a good system, perhaps you could use it a day or two a week to save. If you have kids who have to be taken to sporting or educational events, can you work with other parents and divide transportation duties? Driving less is not only great for the pocket book, it’s also good for the environment.
  • Don’t warm your car up in the mornings longer than a minute. Today’s cars don’t need long warm up times. You waste fuel if you idle your car longer.
  • Buy your gas early or late in the day and early in the week. Believe it or not, you get more gas in the early morning or evening than you do midday because higher temps reduce gas density. Gas prices tend to moderate early in the week and rise midweek, so buy gas Monday or Tuesday and save.
  • Keep your car adequately maintained. Routine maintenance keeps the engine running efficiently.

How to Save on Car Insurance

Car insurance is a necessity, but there are ways to lower costs. Your first step is to speak with your agent. If you’re a good driver, consider raising your deductible. Sure, you’ll be responsible for a larger amount if an accident occurs, but could come out ahead if your record stays clean.

Go over your policy with your agent. Does your car have safety features that your agent isn’t aware of? Ask about additional discounts for which you may be eligible. Some insurers offer discounts for non-smokers and non-drinkers and people with multiple accounts, such as a homeowner’s policy.

Tip: “If your car is older and paid for, drop collision and comprehensive coverage for additional savings. Keep liability, however. It’s a legal requirement.” – Alex Perdikis

Drive safely and maintain your good driving record to keep your rates to a minimum.

You can cut down on insurance costs even if you have teenage drivers in the house. Many insurers offer discounts for kids who get good grades or who have taken safe driving courses. Also notify your insurer if your child goes to college and doesn’t have the car. Premiums typically go down but the child is still covered during breaks at home.

Shop around and find the best auto insurance value for your money.

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Stay Safe in the Days of Road Rage and Fake Accidents

By Alex Perdikis

No one likes dealing with a fender bender, but as a driver, you’re lucky if that’s the worst you ever have to deal with. Drivers today have to be ready to deal with all types of difficult situations, from the minor fender bender to fake accidents.

How can you stay safe? Here are tips to follow if you find yourself in a dangerous situation while driving.

I’m Not Mad, You Are!

Temper, temper. Everyone faces moments of irritation while driving. Why did that guy cut Alex Perdikisme off? Did that woman really speed up so I couldn’t pass? It happens every day. But let’s face it. No one is perfect. You’ve made mistakes, too. Other drivers probably wondered what you thought you were doing when and swerved in front of them because you almost missed your exit. But, what happens when anger gets out of control?

It’s always better to avoid road rage in the first place if you can. Leave your ego at the door and drive courteously. Don’t cut people off. Do not tailgate. Don’t point, glare, make gestures, use revenge tactics or show any sign of anger.

“Let faster moving cars get by you, even if they’re speeding. It’s not your job to enforce the law. You can report speeders if you can safely do so, but let law enforcement handle lawbreakers.” – Alex Perdikis

If you make a mistake, smile and apologize to the other driver if you make eye contact. Keep your cool and you may be able to diffuse the situation before it starts.

What if you do all of that and still find yourself the target of an aggressive and angry motorist?

Follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Don’t make eye contact or acknowledge the other driver in any way.
  • Keep your windows rolled up.
  • If the driver seems intent on interacting, drive to a public area, such as a busy store parking lot or a police station. Never drive to your home if someone is following you. Honk your horn to attract attention.
  • Do not give in to the urge to stop your car, get out and talk to, or more likely yell at, the other driver.
  • Get the car’s plate number.
  • Call 911 if none of the above works to deter the other driver.
  • If the incident was particularly egregious, file a police report.

What to Do When an Accident Isn’t Really an Accident

A car accident is possible every time you get in your car and drive down the road. That’s why you have insurance. An increasingly common scam has erupted lately where scammers fake an accident to make bogus insurance claims. And, unfortunately, those scams always involve innocent drivers like you. Here’s an overview of some of the most common staged accidents and how to protect yourself.

The Not-So-Friendly Wave

Imagine you’re trying to switch lanes. The driver in the lane you want to move to slows down and waves you ahead. What a nice guy, you think. He’s nice until you try to switch over. That’s when he speeds up and collides with your car. The driver tells police he didn’t wave you over and places the blame on you.

When a T-Bone Doesn’t Taste So Good

The t-bone scam occurs as you drive through an intersection. Another driver, waiting for the right opportunity, hits the gas and t-bones your car. This type of fake accident usually includes “witnesses” who are ready to testify that you were at fault.

Swooping, Slamming and Running the Lane Accidents

Slamming on the brakes right in front of you is one of the more simple, yet effective accident scams. It should be noted, however that if you are far enough behind the vehicle in front of you, you should be able to stop anyway.

The swoop and stop scam is where a car suddenly pulls in front of you and stops as another vehicles pulls alongside to keep you from swerving to avoid a collision.

The dual turn sideswipe occurs as your vehicle and the scammer’s attempt to make same direction turns. The fraudster swipes the side of your car and accuses you of leaving your lane.

Many of these scenarios involve not only the driver, but additional helpers who corroborate the driver’s story.

If you think you’re the victim of a staged accident, follow these guidelines:

  1. Record as many of the details as you can, including the other driver’s license number, vehicle registration, insurance information, contact details and general driver description as well as physical descriptions of witnesses and passengers.
  2. Do not move the cars until you get pictures, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Take multiple pictures of the accident damage and vehicle positions from every angle. Take pictures of the other car’s plates as well as photos of any people involved.
  3. Call the police and make sure they know you believe the accident was staged.
  4. Inform your insurance company and tell them you believe the accident was a setup. Make sure insurers receive copies of your photos and detailed notes. The insurance company will take it from there.

 

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

These Simple Road Changes Can Save Lives

By Alex Perdikis

The year 2015 was a landmark year, but not in a good way.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 38,300 people were killed in on U.S. roads in 2015. Another 4.4 million were injured. That’s the largest one-year percentage increase in 50 years.

The reasons for the upsurge in traffic deaths include a better economy, lowered gas prices and lowered unemployment – all increasing the numbers of people on the roadways. Let’s look at what’s being done to stem the rising tide of deaths and injuries.

Improving Roads and Highways

In the 1990s, Sweden came up with a concept that proved to be a lifesaver: Roads with two wide lanes were redesigned and revamped into roads with three narrow lanes. The middle lane became a dedicated passing lane with allowed passing alternating between each side. Dedicated passing lanes made it easier for drivers to both pass and be aware of what other drivers were doing. In the first 10 years, an estimated 145 lives were saved.

The U.S. Transportation Research Board took note and recommended redesigning highways to the 2+1 road model, particularly on two-lane rural highways. An added plus is that the highways are already built. Increasing safety is simply a matter of reducing lane widths and adding a dedicated passing only lane. Lives saved!

Crosswalks and Intersections

When a pedestrian and car collide, the pedestrian always loses. Pedestrians usually have the right of way but does that matter when a two-ton machine hits a human body? Not really. Fortunately for pedestrians and drivers, crosswalk and intersection redesigns are becoming more common to make driving and walking safer.

Particularly useful in large cities, diagonal crosswalks are being developed to reduce pedestrian risk. In a diagonal crosswalk, traffic on all sides stops. Pedestrians walk from any direction, including diagonally, and safely arrive on the other side.

Another simple way to increase pedestrian safety is lengthening traffic light “walk” time. Additional time to cross the street gives elderly and disabled pedestrians the time they need. Longer waits may leave some drivers irritated, but isn’t saving lives worth a few extra seconds?

Slowing It Down

You don’t want to hear it, but lowering your driving speed is safer. Lowered speeds, particularly where pedestrians and traffic are both present, result in fewer injuries and fatalities. It may take a couple of extra minutes to get to work in the morning, but at least you’ll get there.

Safer Cars

Automakers are working hard to build safer vehicles. Many new cars have collision alarms, alert monitoring and backup cameras to name just a few innovative safety options. Many of these optional features will become standard in the near future, much as seatbelts and airbags did in the past.

The pursuit of safety doesn’t stop there, of course. Novel ideas such as Terreform’s “Soft Car” and Google’s self-driving vehicles incorporate safety, economy and energy efficiency. Clearly, technology is taking us toward a future where safety truly does come first.

5 New Car Safety Features That Can Save Your Life

By Alex Perdikis

Driving is so much a part of everyday life you probably don’t give it a second thought. But, every time you hop in your car, you risk your life and those of your passengers. And, if your family includes young or senior drivers, you have even more to worry about. The good news is that there are exciting new car safety innovations that make that trip to the store safer for everyone. Here are five safety features either already available or coming soon to new car near you.

Forward Collision Warning

Consumer Reports puts forward collision warning systems at the top of its list of must-have safety features. Why? Because forward collision warnings save countless lives.

The systems not only help drivers avoid accidents, but they lessen the impact when accidents do occur. Basic systems send audible or steering wheel vibration alerts to drivers, letting them know they’re closing in too fast on the vehicle in front of them.

A higher end option, forward collision warning with auto-braking systems, do more than alert. If you fail to react after the audible alert, the system auto-brakes to avoid a crash.

Features like forward collision warning systems are typically optional and somewhat pricey. However, Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com executive editor, says that “Among all the active-safety features out there — blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, lane departure prevention — this is the one that matters most.”

Backup Cameras

By May 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require car manufacturers to make backup cameras standard. Many automakers are already on the bandwagon, however. And, that’s a very good thing. The Center for Effective Government reports that annually 50 children under the age of 15 are injured or killed because of back-over collisions with vehicles. Backup cameras, also known as rearview cameras, provide an instant view of what is directly behind the car. If you’re purchasing a new car before cameras become standardized and you have children, they’re worth the extra money.

Lane Monitoring

Lane monitoring and departure warning systems are a great feature if you do a lot of highway driving. Depending on the car make and model, systems range from basic with flashing lights, vibrations or alarm sounds when your car drifts, to more advanced systems that automatically correct steering or apply the brakes.

Blind Spot Detection

You now have a weapon against the infamous blind spot – the cause of countless accidents, injuries and deaths. A simple but effective tool, the blind spot safety alarm appears in your side view mirror as a flashing light whenever a vehicle, motorcycle, pedestrian or bicyclist is in your blind spot. Typically bundled with rear-cross traffic alerts, blind spot detection systems provide an additional layer of safety.

Alertness Monitoring

Those long road trips, late night drives and slow-moving bumper-to-bumper traffic have one thing in common – they make it easy for you to fall asleep at the wheel. Alertness monitoring detects erratic driving, such as drifting or sudden deceleration, and emits a loud acoustical warning that will wake you up in no time.

Other exciting safety features available now or coming soon include adaptive cruise control and park assist. Many will become standard over time. For now, weigh your driving situation and choose the options that best fit your needs and budget.

How to Ensure That Your Teen Stays Safe On the Road

By Alex Perdikis

Driving is a rite of passage for millions of teens. When they get their license, it feels like the first step toward adult freedom, but for their parents, it can be a source of endless worry.

There’s a good reason to be concerned. Statistics show that teens are much more likely than other age groups to be involved in road accidents. But what can parents do to make sure that their children are as proficient as possible when they finally get behind the wheel?

Set the Right Example From the Start

Studies show that teens actually do listen to their parents when they dispense driving advice. In fact, at least one study found that parental encouragement is even more influential than advice from police officers in getting teens to follow safe driving practices.

This means that parents have a special role to play in transmitting knowledge about how to drive safely from generation to generation. Always drive safely yourself and never, ever, consider drinking and driving. There’s plenty of reasons not to, but one of the most powerful is that teens are much more likely to drink and drive themselves if one or more of their parents does the same.

As your children grow, keep telling them the right way to drive. Start educating them well before they can apply for their license. That way, they will have a store of knowledge ready to use when they get their first car.

Set Clear, Realistic Rules

Teens expect their parents to set rules about when they can drive, who can be in the car and where they can go, so don’t be afraid to lay down the law. Set a curfew for nights out and try to make sure there is a maximum of two people in the car at any one time.

However, it’s really important to be crystal clear about these rules. Don’t just state them once and assume that your child has internalized them. Researchers have found that when parents placed limits on using cell phones while driving, 13 percent of teen drivers report that these limits didn’t exist.

They weren’t lying. They just hadn’t taken this crucial information in and acted upon it. Make sure your child knows exactly where they stand.

Be Wary of Phoning Your Child to Call Them Back Home

When kids miss a curfew, parents start to worry. There’s nothing wrong with that, but think twice before you phone them to demand that they return. Cell phone use is one of the major factors in road accidents involving teens and if you call them late at night the dangers are multiplied.

Your child will probably know they are late and could be rushing home. They might not have much experience driving in the dark either, so don’t put them under pressure or distract them. It’s actually safer to enforce a zero cell phone calls policy than to pressure kids to take your calls.

Make Sure Your Child’s Car is Safe

Many parents are happy to pass on an old vehicle or to buy a second-hand model for their child to drive. While this is totally understandable from an economic perspective, it can pose additional safety risks that you need to be aware of.

A shockingly high proportion of accidents involving teens also involve cars that are over 10 years old. Older cars are more likely to have hidden defects that inexperienced drivers won’t necessarily be able to cope with. They are also prone to completely fail, placing everyone in them at risk.

If you want your child to be completely, safe, head to an auto dealership and find an affordable model with a good safety rating.

Trust Your Child, But Stay Vigilant

In the end, your child is their own person. The way they drive is mainly down to their character and ability. However, as a parent, you can shape both of these things as your child develops.

After they start to drive, reinforce your ground rules and stay vigilant. You can tell if any dents have appeared on the car, and when traveling with your child, you can assess their ability. Some young people are passed as fit drivers but struggle on real roads. If this applies to your child, be firm and make them take remedial lessons.

But if your child can drive and shows that they have taken your advice on board, try to relax. Talk to them about how their driving is going and make a point of riding with them regularly. Don’t overprotect or pressurize them. If you’ve done the groundwork, they will be as safe as anyone on the roads.

How We’re Getting Closer to a Single Blood Test to Detect Cancer

By Alex Perdikis

Cancer is constantly in the news. Every week, headlines announce promising new treatments and tests, along with sobering statistics on cancer’s ravaging effects.

Any advancement in technology and testing that can help patients is another step in the right direction. There are many tests available for genetic cancers, pre-cancerous conditions, cancer that is already full blown, and cancer that is in remission.

But what if there was one single blood test that could look for any cancer, even the smallest amount, located anywhere in the body?

For patients already undergoing so many invasive procedures, this would be a phenomenal advancement in care and and huge measure for proactive treatment. The amazing news it that this is not just an idea, it is already happening.

The problematic issue with cancer and early detection is that all it takes for cancer to start growing is a few cancerous cells. Once they grow and spread enough to provoke symptoms and positive test results, treatment becomes that much more difficult. Early detection is a big key to successful treatment options.

What a Drop of Blood Can Show

SRI Biosciences has developed a test called Fiber-optic Array Scanning Technology (FASTcell) that can rapidly detect a tiny amount of cancerous cells with one blood sample. It is important that testing not even take weeks to provide results, because weeks may be too long when it comes to beginning a treatment regimen.

“What distinguishes FASTcell from other sensors that look for cancer cells is the ability to scan very rapidly,” states the senior director of the Center for Cancer and Metabolism in SRI Biosciences, Lidia Sumbucetti. “We can scan 26 million cells in a minute. That allows us to survey all of the blood cells in the sample. This gives us a high sensitivity to find cancer even when there’s only one or two cells present. We can find one single cell in a whole blood sample. We compare it to trying to find a single star in a whole constellation of stars.”

In addition to extremely fast test results, this test also can determine the genetic makeup of the cancer cells, which leads to treatment that is specifically targeted to the particular cancer. Instead of time spent on treatments that may or may not work, specific treatment can be started from the beginning. This eliminates the difficult, time-consuming trial and error that has hampered treatment attempts in the past.

From Revolutionary to Routine

“It is revolutionary,” says Victor Vesculescu, co-director of cancer biology and professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University Cancer Center. “I think in the next five years, it will become part of an annual physical.” Johns Hopkins University has studied the “liquid biopsies” of hundreds of cancer patients.

Illumina announced in early January 2016 that they are forming a new company called GRAIL. This company will focus on blood based cancer testing and is receiving over than $100 million dollars in funding.

Keep your eyes open for more news on this incredibly exciting and promising research as it continues forward.

Is This Kind of Driving More Dangerous Than DUI?

By Alex Perdikis

For many years, drunk driving was viewed as the paramount cause of unnecessary car crashes. There were advocacy groups such as SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) dedicated to preventing drunk driving, laws being made, and random police check sites.

That was then. Drunk driving is still a major problem, but there’s a new threat among us now: distracted driving. Today’s widespread use of mobile technology means that there is much more distracted driving happening than ever before. What’s more, it is believed that distracted drivers are actually as dangerous — or even more dangerous — than drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Some studies say that texting while driving is eight times more dangerous than drinking and driving.

What “Distracted Driving” Means

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Changing the radio station, glancing down at something that fell onto the floor, letting your mind wander: any of these constitute distracted driving.

Using a phone and driving involves every aspect of distraction: using your hands, glancing away, and an unfocused mind. Texting and driving is the most dangerous activity of all, and the statistics are alarming. According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), approximately 660,000 American drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices at any given daylight moment.

From Brushing Teeth to Texting

Erie Insurance did a survey in 2015 which showed that drivers do many dangerous things behind the wheel including brushing their teeth and changing clothes. Moreover, Erie’s survey found that one-third of drivers admit to texting while driving. This is of course only the number of drivers who admitted to texting.

In 2009, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said that five seconds is the average time a person’s eyes are off the road while texting, which when traveling at 55 miles per hour is enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. Five seconds may seem to be a very short amount of time, but combined with the speed of a car, it clearly covers a very large distance.

Advocates on the Forefront

There are a growing number of advocacy groups dedicated to focusing on distracted driving and how to keep the statistics from growing. Stop The Texts, Stop The Wrecks, a partnership of the NHTSA and the Ad Council, aims to “show drivers that no matter how safely they think they can engage in distracted driving, the behavior is always dangerous for every driver, all the time.”

The Distracted Driving Foundation wants mobile phone carriers and car manufacturers to put technology in phones and automobiles that block using a phone when drivers are moving. They believe that “for many, the temptation to read a text message or answer a call when it comes in is irresistible.” Texts should be blocked until the car is stopped and phone calls should be directed to a voice prompt informing the caller that the person is driving and to leave a message.

End Distracted Driving (EndDD) is a group that is sending people out into the workforce and to schools to give presentations and real life stories, much like MADD and SADD did in the past.

It is the hope of these groups that, as the dangers of distracted driving and its deadly consequences become better known, the number of distracted drivers will significantly decrease in the years to come.