New York Highways Get Texting Zones For Safety

Taking a road trip and want to send a text with your ETA? In New York, you’ll have to wait until you see signs for the next “texting zone.” Part of an initiative to crack down on distracted driving, New York has designated more than 90 rest stops and parking areas along state highways as safe places to stop and send text messages. Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled 300 signs with the message “It can wait” and the number of miles to the next texting zone. If caught texting while driving, motorists can face a fine of $150 and points on their license.

Winter Road Trip? You’ll Need This Stuff To Survive

If a winter road trip is in the works and reports of major winter storms have not scared off the idea yet, we have some hard-learned tips. Unlike a summer road trip, winter road trippers have some different challenges. Besides the obvious (snow, rain, sleet and hail), simply not being able to roll down the window or pull off the road to visit some place not on the planned route can add a different dimension to the experience. Still, while the price of fuel is down, there might not be a better time for a winter road trip.

Tune-up and test
To help ensure survival on a winter road trip, take that car to a trusted mechanic for any needed maintenance before heading out on the road. Duh. While with the mechanic, consider maintenance items especially important to you for this winter trip.

Check tread depth on tires, test battery life with a load test designed to see how it will perform in exactly the conditions you are about to experience. A check of that electrical system, which may be used more than normal, is a good idea too. Right now you really don’t care if the AC is a little low on refrigerant.

Be realistic, really
Sure, your 4×4 can take us off road to places where no one has been. But should we? If you have an all-terrain vehicle and a decent amount of experience, there’s nothing quite like being the first vehicle on a snow-packed road.

Days from when you go off road – after daytime highs have melted roads and nighttime lows have re-frozen them – the ride will be bumpy. Right after snowfall? Like driving on air.Check weather and traffic reports, briefly
This was really important ten years ago when GPS-equipped autos did not indicate heavy traffic areas. But now they do; who cares? Someone without one does and a good second-choice is Google maps.

Like other GPS devices, Google maps change the color of roads and highways based on the speed of actual traffic on the road (compared with posted speed) to give an accurate traffic reading at any given time.

Emergency help
Emergency help can be just as close as a call from your smartphone. American Auto Club (AAA) members have 27/7 assistance via Emergency Roadside Service, an included membership benefit. Taking others along on your winter road trip? Ask if they are AAA members or if their parents are; benefits cover you in an emergency when the vehicle you are either driving or riding in becomes disabled.

No AAA? Your auto insurance company or cellphone service provider may also offer roadside assistance too, included in the price. If not, it’s usually an inexpensive, easy option to add on.

Winter survival gear
If you did all of the above, odds are swinging to your favor for surviving that winter road trip. Still, as all good people who live in winter climates can tell you: see someone who works in this weather for an idea of what you need.

Just “making it” from point A to point B during a winter storm is an accomplishment for many travelers. Those who work in that weather have a completely different definition of “accomplishment” and what makes for a good day on the road.

Years ago, I delivered newspapers (printed publications containing news, feature articles, advertisements and correspondence) in big vans that had to be on the road every day. When schools and businesses were closed, power was lost and even the postal/UPS/FedEx workers stayed home, but we worked. We had/did all these things and more to be able to drive during a major winter event.

An emergency car kit will have the basics for survival and can be bought online in a variety of sizes. Beginner 72-hour kits from a number of sellers like Emergency Essentials start at $39.95. Want to be prepared for anything? A Comp II Emergency Kit has a comprehensive set of preparedness items needed to survive for the first three days of a major crisis/world-ending event.

Want professional quality? Add snow chains and know how to use them. Best bet: buy in the summer when lying down on the ground to practice putting them on does not freeze you to the street. Also, try to get that time down to less than five minutes. In the winter, you will appreciate the training.

Some extra weight in the trunk is always a good idea too. In newspaper vans with thousands of publications to weigh them down, this was not an issue. Still, every fall, many who drive in winter climates know a bag of sand or something else of weight in the trunk can help with traction. Make that sand some bags of kitty litter or salt and getting stuck is not the end of the road trip, just another adventure along the way.

[Photo credit- Flickr user D. Bjorn, Catchin’ Up]

Travel Hubs To Avoid For Memorial Day 2012

Holiday travel can be hectic, especially when it comes to transportation. Despite the potential to be a scary experience, AAA statistics show that 34.9 million Americans used plane, train and automobile transportation last Memorial Day. With this year expected to be just as crazy, Foursquare has compiled data from 20 billion users, to let travelers know what the busiest travel hubs are expected to be this Memorial Day.

Top 10 Busiest Airports:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to airports vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
2. San Francisco International Airport
3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
4. John F. Kennedy International Airport
5. McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
6. LaGuardia Airport (New York)
7. Denver International Airport
8. Boston Logan International Airport
9. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
10. Newark Liberty International AirportTop 10 Busiest Train Stations:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to train stations vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. New York Penn Station
2. Grand Central Terminal
3. Union Station (Washington, D.C.)
4. Chicago Union Station
5. 30th Street Station (Philadelphia)
6. Long Island Railroad Jamaica Station
7. Newark Penn Station
8. Union Station (Los Angeles)
9. New Jersey Transit Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station
10. New Haven Union Station

Top 10 Busiest Bus Stations:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to bus stations vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Port Authority Bus Terminal: New York, New York
2. South Station Bus Terminal: Boston, Massachusetts
3. Harbor Pointe and Shuttle Area: Anaheim, California
4. Boltbus Midtown Stop (34th Street and 8th Avenue): New York, New York
5. Megabus NYC Stop (West 31st Street): New York, New York
6. Megabus DC Stop (Union Square Parking): Washington, D.C.
7. Frankford Transportation Center: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
8. International District/Chinatown Station: Seattle, Washington
9. Hollywood Studios Bus Stop: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
10. Magic Kingdom Bus Stop: Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Top 10 Busiest Highways:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to highways vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Lincoln Tunnel: New York, New York
2. Bourbon Street: New Orleans, Louisiana
3. Lombard Street: San Francisco, California
4. Rodeo Drive: Beverly Hills, California
5. Huntington Beach: Huntington Beach, California
6. Long Island Expressway: Long Island, New York
7. Holland Tunnel Toll Plaza: Jersey City, New Jersey
8. I-95 on Georgia/South Carolina State Line
9. Brooklyn/Queens Expressway: Brooklyn, New York
10. I-95 on Florida/Georgia State Line

Top 10 Busiest Rest Stops:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to rest stops vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Delaware Welcome Center Travel Plaza: Newark, New Jersey
2. Maryland House Travel Plaza: Aberdeen, Maryland
3. Molly Pitcher Service Area: Cranbury, New Jersey
4. Lake Forest Oasis: Lake Forest, Illinois
5. Cheesequake Rest Area: Sayreville, New Jersey
6. Woodrow Wilson Service Area: Hamilton, New Jersey
7. Chesapeake House Travel Plaza: North East, Maryland
8. Grover Cleveland Service Area: Woodbridge, New Jersey
9. Charlton Service Plaza (Westbound): Charlton, Massachusetts
10. Des Plaines Oasis: Des Plaines, Illinois

Conservation victory: Serengeti highway plans cancelled

Plans to build a paved, two-lane highway through the Serengeti National Park have been canceled.

The road, which was supposed to bring better access to Lake Victoria, will possibly be rerouted further south to avoid having an impact on the Serengeti’s rich wildlife.

There’s already a gravel road across the park, but paving it would have attracted much more traffic and probably fencing. The U.S. government expressed concern, as did UNESCO, after a study showed the project would affect the annual migration of millions of animals that’s one of the wonders of the natural world.

This is a rare victory of common sense over unbridled “development.” It’s also an example of how being eco-friendly can be good for the economy. Tourism generates a major part of Tanzania’s income, and there’s no way a road cutting through the nation’s most valuable natural resource wouldn’t have had a negative impact.

[Photo courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson]

Winter weather still causing travel delays in Germany

Two weeks ago we reported how winter weather had caused travel delays in Europe. One of the worst-hit areas was Germany, with thick ice on the roads, canceled flights, an an overworked rail system.

Now it appears Germany’s bad winter isn’t over. Cold temperatures and thick ice on the roads has prompted Berlin’s fire brigade to declare a weather state of emergency. Yesterday about 180 people were injured because of falls or auto accidents. One crash involved a tour bus and 30 people were injured. Numerous flights have been delayed or canceled. Other parts of Germany are also affected, although the capital appears to be the hardest hit.

Current conditions in Berlin are cold and foggy, meaning that the ice won’t be going away anytime soon. If you’re travel to, from, or within Germany over the next few days, be sure to check ahead to see if your plane, bus, or train is running on time. If you’re driving, get chains and go slow.

[Clever photo of snowy Hamburg courtesy user Alexsven via Gadling’s flickr pool]