Safety tips from the Indy 500

Like many of us, Indy 500 drivers will cover some serious miles — 500 to be exact — Memorial Day weekend.

Believe it or not, we can learn plenty about safety from drivers who’ll reach speeds of more than 200 mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Here are just a few practices the field of 33 drivers will employ that can keep those hitting the highway for vacation safe as well:

•  Buckle up. True, a minivan probably isn’t equipped with a five-point racing safety harness (unless it’s the coolest minivan ever), but we’re positive it has a seat belt. Use it.

•  Use your mirrors. While it’s unlikely that we’ll see Helio Castroneves look over his shoulder before changing lanes, you can bet he’s checking side mirrors constantly. Indy car or road car, they all have blind spots, so checking those mirrors often is important at any speed.

•  Leave space. Indy drivers realize the importance of giving their fellow drivers a little space —though some are better at it than others. All drivers appreciate the courtesy of room to maneuver. Share some space, especially in high-traffic or construction zones.

•  Slow down for emergency vehicles. When emergency vehicles are on the track at IMS, the yellow flag comes out and all drivers give safety personnel a brake. They’ll also give them that extra space we talked about above. On the highway, we need to do the same. Slow down and move over to the side of the road for emergency vehicles.

•  Stay cool. Overly aggressive driving on track will get a driver (we’re talking to you, Paul Tracy) black-flagged or into even bigger trouble. On the highway, it’s just as dangerous. Stay cool and arrive at your vacation finish line stress free.

•  Obey speed limits. No speed limits for Indy drivers? Think again. The speed limit on pit road at IMS is 60 mph (actually 55 with a 5 mph cushion). If the guys and gals going 200+ mph can obey a speed limit, we can, too.

For additional driving safety tips and other information, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at

Crank up the safety for trail rides

Things started out well on Jim’s mountain bike excursion. He cranked through the first few gentle, rolling hills with ease. Then, the trail narrowed to single-track. Trees and low-hanging branches got closer, and Jim gripped the handlebars a little tighter. On a steep incline that featured a mixed bag of roots, ruts, and rocks, Jim came to the conclusion that he was in well over his helmeted head.

With safety being a focus this month (May is National Bicycle Safety Month), it’s important to note the unique safety precautions trail riding requires. At the top of that list, as our friend Jim can attest to, is a firm understanding of the trail and what it demands from riders. Choose trails that match your riding abilities. Highly technical
trails require many more skills from riders than just pedal power.

Other tips to ensure your trail experience is a good one:

•  Wear a helmet. This is non-negotiable for any ride, but particularly on trails.

•  Make sure all equipment is in good working condition and tires are inflated to the correct pressure. Loose or worn bike parts can quickly lead to broken body parts.

•  Plan accordingly. Make sure to have all the supplies needed for the length/type of ride you have planned. Items to consider packing are simple bike tools, water, food, cell phone, trail map, and compass.

•  Be aware of the trail conditions. Recent rain or snow can have a major impact on trails. Know what you’re in for before saddling up. It’s always a good idea to chat with riders coming off the trails to hear what they encountered.
To find trails in your area, visit the sites below.

Uncovering the myths of storm safety

Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

How often have you heard that phrase?

It’s a common saying, but it’s not a true one. Lightning can hit anywhere more than once – in fact, according to, the Sears Tower in Chicago is hit roughly 40-90 times in a year.

There are countless other beliefs about storms that are not only false, but dangerous if trusted during severe weather. Here are four common myths and the truth behind them:

Myth: Rubber tires on your car will protect you from lightning.
Truth: Tires have nothing to do with it. Your car, however, will protect you by dispersing the electric charge from lightning to the ground around you. But the electricity can transfer to metal inside your car, such as a steering wheel or stick shift, so turn off your vehicle and keep your hands in your lap until the storm passes.

Myth: If you’re caught outside in a storm, lie down flat on the ground to avoid lightning strikes.
Truth: You’ll only create a larger surface to hit. Instead, find a low-lying area, crouch as low as you can, tuck your head between your legs, and cover your head with your hands. You want to become the smallest target and have as little contact with the ground as possible.

Myth: Go to the southwest corner of your home for safety during severe weather.
Truth: No corner is safer than any other – in fact, your best option is to move to the center of your house on the lowest level, away from windows. Choose a small room such as a closet or bathroom if possible.

Myth: Open your windows during a tornado to equalize the pressure inside and outside your home.
Truth: Opening windows will only allow the strong winds to cause internal damage to your home. Plus, letting the wind in from outside will push up on your roof, increasing the chances of lifting it off the house.

For more storm safety information, visit