Weekly auto rail, with tips for teaching teens about distracted driving, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.

Tip of the Week

Research complied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that distracted driving caused 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries in 2008. And data shows that these numbers are continuing to grow. Research also shows that teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a distracted-related collision than any other age group. Here are some guidelines you as a parent should stress to your teen:

- Keep both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road (use mirrors).

- Avoid cell phone use - Cell phones are the No. 1 distraction for teenager drivers. Cell phone use falls under the categories of visual, manual and cognitive distractions. Mobile technology has made texting, surfing the Internet and social networking all too easy.

- Encourage teenagers to avoid using their phones, for anything at all, until they are safely pulled off the road and parked. Devices are available to disable cell phone use in autos.

Teenagers should also refrain from the following activities while driving, according to the US Department of Transportation:

- Eating and drinking

- Having lengthy or involved discussions with passengers

- Grooming

- Reading (including maps)

- Using a PDA or navigation system

- Watching a video

- Changing the radio station, CD or MP3 player


The List

According to Edmunds.com, here are consumers’ favorite minivans:

1. Honda Odyssey
2. Toyota Sienna
3. Mazda MAZDA5
4. Chrysler Town and Country
5. Kia Sedona

Did You Know

General Motors and OnStar are working on a system that will let drivers update their Facebook pages with verbal commands.

Car Q&A

Q: I own a 1996 T-Bird that keeps blowing a 10-amp fuse for the power door locks, power mirrors and interior lights. I do not want to put in a bigger fuse in fear is melting wires. What do you suggest?

A: The best way to approach short circuits is to start disconnecting one item in the circuit at a time. There is a wire somewhere grounding out of defective device in the circuit. Never put a larger amp fuse in the fuse box.

- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist

GateHouse News Service