How to Reduce Your Risk of an Accident

The staff here at Classic Autobody have seen it all—the bad, the ugly, and the uglier! Not a day goes by that we aren’t exposed to the realities of driving a powerful vehicle on our crowded Bay Area roads. It often feels like the number of cars on the road multiplies on a daily basis. While we are in the business of repairing your damaged vehicle, we feel it is important for us to share our knowledge of safe driving to avoid some of those incidents, and potentially save some lives!

One concept we would like to introduce is conscious driving. You might feel like this is an obvious way to drive, like why would we drive unconsciously? The reality is, it is all too common. As driving has become a norm in today’s society and all the distractions we’ve created (music, LED screens, billboards etc.), it’s no wonder why we have been desensitized to the severity of driving a 4,000-pound vehicle.

Driving consciously is a great way to minimize your risk of getting into a collision. What do we mean by this? Conscious driving begins before you even step foot into your vehicle. It starts by acknowledging the power that you have when you get behind the wheel—focusing on getting yourself to your destination safely. You have a responsibility to yourself and those around you to maneuver in a manner with intent, clarity, and with enough space and time to react safely to any unexpected situations. Once you have acknowledged this responsibility, continue that consciousness throughout your travel. Remember those things that you learned before you got your license—look over your shoulder, use your rearview mirrors, signal so others know what you’re doing, allow space between the car in front of you, and check the crosswalk for pedestrians.

You might be wondering, “how do I practice conscious driving?” Classic Autobody has an answer! Aside from practicing on your daily commute, California has numerous educational opportunities, some right in your backyard! Sonoma Raceway, located in the beautiful Napa County just off highway 37, is just one resource. Simraceway Performance Driving Center offers a wide range of experiences from Gokarting to Formula 3 racing school, safe driver training sessions and performance driving courses all driven on track at Sonoma Raceway. If you’re willing to travel a bit farther than the Bay Area, the Sports Car Club of America offers a great drivers school hosted at the Thunderhill Raceway in Willows. Both of these places will not only expand your knowledge of car handling, but you also have the opportunity to drive a vehicle on a real racetrack! A few of our staff members have taken some of these courses, therefore our recommendation is based on first hand experience. They truly make a difference! Check out their websites for more information, or stop by our shop to ask questions. We are here to help!

Why Weed and Wheels Don’t Mix

If you live in California, you probably know that January 1st 2018 marked the first day of legal recreational marijuana use for people over the age of 21. This decision has law officials bracing for an increase in DUI-related accidents due to cruising while using. As a collision repair shop with nearly 30 years of service under our belt, we’ve seen our fair share of accident-caused damage, so we’re extremely passionate about safe driving. Thus, we’ll do our due diligence to investigate this potential problem in order to keep our roads as safe as possible.

California Vehicle Code 23152(e) states that “it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug [including marijuana] to drive a vehicle.” It’s usually pretty easy to spot someone driving under the influence of alcohol, but with cannabis, it’s not always as obvious. Driving under the influence of marijuana can be defined as operating a vehicle when your mental or physical abilities are so impaired by the herb that you are unable to operate said vehicle with the care and caution of a sober person.

According to data from the Office of Traffic Safety in 2005, 26 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes had a drug other than alcohol in their system. By 2015, that number had skyrocketed to 43 percent. But it’s also important to note that this study did not specifically look at the effects of marijuana, merely “drugs other than alcohol”, one of which was marijuana. Regardless, multiple studies show that cannabis does impair psychomotor skills, although this impairment does not typically appear to be as severe or long lasting as that of alcohol. In driving simulator tests, marijuana intoxication is typically manifested by subjects decreasing their driving speed and requiring greater time to respond to emergency situations.

Therefore, although not as immediately obvious as alcohol intoxication, driving under the influence of marijuana clearly can impair one’s ability to drive. The delayed reaction time is particularly concerning, as quick thinking and actions can often prevent accidents before they occur. Think about it this way, even if you’re following all the rules of the road, other drivers may not be. In order to ensure your own safety, you have to be hyper-vigilant and anticipate potential problems caused by other drivers or obstacles in the road. If you’re not completely clear-headed with fully functioning reflexes, you’re much less likely to be able to avoid a perfectly preventable accident.

If that isn’t enough to deter you from driving high, the penalties for a first time marijuana DUI conviction may include informal probation for three to five years, between 96 hours and six months in county jail, a fine of $390 to $1000, and the suspension of your driver’s license for six months. In other words, it’s just not worth it.

Although Berkeley has always been a fairly weed-friendly city, this newfound legalization may make it more tempting for people to inappropriately consume cannabis to the detriment of public safety. According to research from both pro and anti pot studies, the primary ingredient in marijuana (THC) has been shown to impair its users’ ability to complete tasks involving the use of fine motor skills and cognitive quickness. Therefore, under the influence of cannabis, one simply cannot drive as consciously, defensively, and safely as when sober.

It’s illegal for a very legitimate reason, and as an experienced collision repair shop, we know that the more clear-headed you are, the less likely you are to be involved in an accident. If you’re under the influence, just be like our friend Indi and hop in the passenger’s seat! Let’s make 2018 the best year it can possibly be by staying safe and sober on the road!

The Risks of Texting While Driving


If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, or anywhere in California for that matter, you’ll know that texting while driving is absolutely illegal. It’s been almost a decade since the first laws banning vehicular cell phone usage were put in place, and the resulting decrease in auto-related deaths is quite impressive. According to data from the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at U.C. Berkeley, handheld cell phone driver deaths saw a 47 percent drop between the years of 2008 and 2012. Continuing in this safety-conscious vein, a few new cell phone laws implemented just this year have made it illegal for drivers to hold their cell phones in their hands for ANY reason, including using those addictive smartphone apps.

Law enforcement can and will pull drivers over for violating these cell phone laws. The base fine for a first violation is $20, while it’s $50 for any subsequent violations. You might be thinking that $20 or $50 for a ticket doesn’t sound too outrageous, but the risks of using your phone while driving are much, much greater. If you’re looking at your phone, you’re not watching the road, and out on the road, anything can happen in a split second. You could veer into another lane, a tire could blow on the truck in front of you, traffic could screech to a stop, and a million other possible dangerous scenarios. If you’re concentrating on your phone, you won’t be able to react fast enough to the things happening around you, and the results are often devastating. A few seconds can be the difference between life and death.

If you don’t believe us or think we’re just being over-dramatic, here are some eye-opening facts about texting or using your phone while driving. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone usage while driving causes 1.6 million crashes a year. If you text and drive, you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash. Fiddling with your phone or scrolling through apps both increase the risk of an accident by three times. You may think a few seconds with your eyes off the road can’t do any harm, but crashes typically occur a mere three seconds after a driver becomes distracted. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. To put this in perspective, that’s enough time to cover the length of an entire football field when driving 55mph. The scariest statistics involve fatalities. In 2013, the Department of Transportation reported that 3,154 people died and another 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by cell phone usage. Worst of all, teenagers are the ones most likely to be involved in these fatal crashes. In fact, 21 percent of all teenagers killed in car crashes each year were found to be using a cell phone at the time of the accident.

As sobering as these statistics are, there are many easy ways to avoid the likelihood of cell phone-caused crashes and fatalities. Bluetooth and other hands-free devices are very reasonably priced and can make it easy to communicate with others while you’re on the road. Many newer vehicles even have Bluetooth as an available feature, so talking with a hands-free device can be done very easily. Many phones also have a talk-to-text feature that will interpret your voice commands and send a text to whoever you like. However, the best and safest solution is to wait until you’re not driving to use your phone. If you absolutely have to send that highly important text message right this instant, just pull over to the side of the road to do so instead of playing Russian roulette with your life and the lives of others. Trust us, it’s just not worth the risk.

With the holidays upon us, the roads are more congested than ever before! Whether it be from frazzled shoppers not paying attention to the road or holiday partiers making the terrible, illegal decision to drink and drive, the holidays always bring about the absolute worst cases of distracted driving. If you’re someone who plans on partying during the holidays, have a designated driver, call a cab, take an Uber, or hop on BART. Moreover, if you’re not driving, you can text and use your phone to your heart’s content the entire ride home! If you’re traveling during the holidays, be patient, be courteous, and be conscious of everyone else on the road. Don’t be another statistic. Please don’t text and drive. From the Classic Autobody team to your family, we wish you all the safest and happiest of holidays!

Wet Weather Woes: How to Safely Steer Your Way Through the Rainy Season

Most motor-vehicle accidents happen when the weather outside is more frightful than delightful. According to data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over the last ten years, 46 percent of weather-related collisions occurred during periods of rainfall. When the skies open up and drench the oil-slicked pavement with rainwater, driving doesn’t just become difficult — it becomes dangerous. Luckily, we at Classic Autobody have put together some pivotal tips and information about how to adjust your driving to safely suit the will of wintry weather!

Preemptive Strike: What to Do Before You Drive

If you read our last blog about buying new tires, you’ll know that checking your tires for signs of wear before driving in inclement weather is very important! You can do this yourself by sticking a penny and/or quarter into the tire’s main groove. If you can see the top of the Presidents’ heads, your tires aren’t safe to drive in rainy weather. After checking your tires, you need to make sure your windshield wipers are in good working order. If they’re cracked or broken, they must be replaced. Dirty wipers can cause dangerous visibility-reducing streaks on the windshield, so you should also make sure your blades are nice and clean. Next, ensure that your headlights are fully functional and ready for extensive usage. Turning your headlights on in rainy weather is essential to every driver’s safety, and in most states, it’s an actual legal requirement. Last but not least, do a cursory check of your tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals because a problem with any one of these can easily cause an accident.

Do’s and Don’ts of Driving in the Rain

DO slow way, way down! Driving in wet conditions with poor visibility makes your vehicle’s reaction time much slower than usual, so it’s imperative that you reduce your driving speed to about 5 to 10 mph below the speed limit. DO give yourself lots of space! Because your vehicle functions much slower in the rain, it’s important to give yourself twice as much stopping distance, or several cars’ worth of space, between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Another way to measure this distance is to count in seconds how close you are to the vehicle ahead of you. In dry weather conditions, it’s recommended that you stay 3 to 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you, but wet weather requires an extra few seconds, making that number 5 to 6 seconds instead.

DON’T use cruise control! When driving in the rain, it’s important to manually reduce your speed to avoid loss of tire traction, and cruise control prevents you from doing this. Also, because cruise control causes your vehicle to maintain a constant speed, it can actually make you lose control of your vehicle while driving on wet pavement. DON’T drive through standing water! Driving through puddles and standing water of a few inches can cause your car to hydroplane, so it’s very important to avoid those portions of the road.

How to Handle Hydroplaning

Have you ever skidded while driving on wet pavement and momentarily lost control of your vehicle? If so, you’ve most likely experienced hydroplaning, a dangerous condition that occurs when light rain mixes with oil residue on the road’s surface, causing your tires to lose their grip on the road. This is obviously a very scary experience, and it’s actually the primary cause of wet weather accidents. Luckily, the likelihood of hydroplaning can be reduced by making sure your tires are in good shape before you hit the road. But if you do start to hydroplane, try not to panic! Seriously, hydroplane-caused accidents usually occur because the driver’s immediate reaction is to slam on the breaks and steer sharply in the opposite direction. Breaking harshly and swerving wildly are the two things you absolutely SHOULD NOT do because they force the skidding car’s tires to spin out, resulting in an even more dangerous loss of control. What you should do instead is immediately ease your foot off the accelerator, gently follow the direction your car is going (try to keep steering straight, but if the vehicle veers, don’t try to steer it in another direction), and simply wait for the skidding to stop. If you don’t brake or steer away, your car should stop skidding on its own fairly soon, and you will have successfully avoided a potentially disastrous situation.

Preservation + Caution = Salvation

Lastly, we’ve created a little equation to help you remember the necessary adjustments for driving in the rain. If you make sure your tires, headlights, and windshield wipers are all in good working order (preservation) and drive with extreme attentiveness (caution), you are essentially stopping danger in its tracks and paving the way for your own safety (salvation). If you follow these steps, we guarantee that driving in the wet is much less of a threat!

To Buy or Not to Buy? Several Common Tire Buying Questions Answered Just in Time for the Rainy Season!

If you’re like most vehicle owners, you’ve probably spent more than a little time stressing out about purchasing new tires. The sheer number of tire manufacturers and suppliers alone can make buying new tires a pretty daunting task for even the most well-seasoned automotive experts! Luckily, we here at Classic Autobody are happy to help break this process down by addressing some of the most frequently asked questions about tire buying. With the rainy season quickly approaching, there’s no better time to get serious about taking care of your tires!

When do I need to buy new tires?

If you take care of your tires by driving carefully (no harsh braking or accelerating) and performing routine maintenance (sustaining proper tire pressure and alignment), they can last for 5,000 to 70,000 miles. So before you rush into a tire showroom, inspect your tires for signs of significant tread wear, sidewall cracks, and bulging or discoloration. If you see any of these things, you should look for new tires. Also, if your tires are over 10 years old but seemingly undamaged, you should still consider buying new ones because rubber breaks down with time and exposure to oxygen.

When do tires become worn out and unsafe to drive?

The best way to determine if your tires are worn out and in need of replacement is to measure the tire treads. All tires are built with treads, or grooves in the surface of the tire. Their primary purpose is to siphon up water from wet ground in order to sustain the tire’s firm grip on the road. This helps prevent hydroplaning, a dangerous condition that occurs when light rain mixes with oil residue on the road’s surface, causing the driver to lose control of their vehicle. New tires start out with grooves of about 10/32 of an inch deep. Throughout most of the United States, tires are legally considered bald, or unsafe to drive with, when one or more grooves have worn down to 2/32 of an inch deep. To identify this dangerous balding, tires are built with molded horizontal bars at the base of the grooves. When you have a bald tire, these wear bars are swamped by the surrounding tread to warn you that you need to replace the tire as soon as possible. But bald tires aren’t the only thing you need to look out for. Worn tires can be just as hazardous as bald tires, especially during the winter if you’re driving in rain and snow. In fact, if you know you’ll be driving in inclement weather, it’s highly recommended that you replace tires with so much as a 4/32 inch groove. Checking your grooves for proper depth is actually pretty easy. If you have a tread-depth gauge, you can just stick it in the main groove to measure the level of wear. You can also go the more thrifty route by using a penny and a quarter. The top of Lincoln’s head to the edge of the penny measures about 2/32 inches, while the top of Washington’s head to the edge of a quarter measures about 4/32.

What type of tire(s) should I buy?

The two most important things to consider are tire type and tire size. Luckily, you can rely on your car’s manufacturer and the experts at your local tire shop to help with this! In your vehicle’s owner’s manual, you should be able to find your manufacturer’s tire type and size recommendations. Some examples of tire types are all-season tires, high-performance tires, winter tires, and off-road tires. If you have a standard four-wheel drive, you’ll probably want all-season tires because they work well on most roads and in most weather conditions. If you’re planning on doing a lot of driving in inclement weather this rainy season, you might want to consider winter tires because they are designed for durability in wet, icy, and snowy conditions. Understanding the tire size is less important because that information comes in the form of a multi-digit code etched into the tire’s sidewall. Both your owner’s manual and your tire dealer can help you identify these digits and unpack their meaning. All you really need to know is that the tire code reveals the size and conditional specifications of your vehicle’s tires. You’ll want to tell your tire dealer things like what conditions you’ll be driving in, what kind of handling you’re interested in, and how much tread you want, and they will be able to take it from there.

How many tires should I buy?

The answer to this question depends on the tire damage you’re dealing with. If only one tire is bald or worn, you should be looking for a singular replacement tire of the same brand, model, size, and speed rating as the others. If you have a pair of bald or worn tires, they should be replaced with a new pair that perfectly or closely matches the surviving tires. If all four tires are bald or wearing down, you can either replace them with a set matching the original, or, if you want a smoother ride, better handling, or longer treadwear, you can review the various tire categories to see what best fits your needs.

What’s the proper inflation pressure for my tires?

NEVER under-inflate! Consult your owner’s manual for the proper tire inflation of your specific vehicle. NEVER over-inflate! Tires should not exceed the maximum pressure noted on your tire’s sidewall. If a tire is wearing on the outer edges, this is a sign that it is under-inflated, whereas if it’s wearing in the center, it is likely over-inflated. When in doubt, always go for more pressure than less!

Why should I spend so much time, energy, and money on my tires?

Taking care of your tires is essentially the highest form of self-care! If you’re a driver, you know that wielding a 4000 pound plus vehicle is no laughing matter. It goes without saying that things can go very wrong, very quickly. That’s where your tires come in. Your tires are the buffer between you, your vehicle, and the road. They are vitally important, and the right ones can not only protect you from harm but prevent it from happening in the first place.


Should You Opt To Purchase Rental Vehicle Coverage?

Are you in the safe zone with coverage if you have car insurance already?

Whether you still have that summer family road trip ahead of you or your car is in the shop, perhaps you are looking at an automobile rental in the near future. Finding the perfect rental car may prove to be the easiest decision making process throughout your venture. After all, Enterprise Rent A Car will actually pick you up and drop you off at your destination so you do not have to wait. But, if you are like most individuals, the most difficult decision is whether to purchase the additional insurance coverage or damage waiver often offered by the majority of rental car companies.

Below are a few factors to take into consideration when considering the additional fees associated with added coverage.

Do you already have auto coverage?

  • You should! California drivers are required to have car insurance at all times
  • Typically personal auto insurance should extend to rental cars in the event of a collision or certain liabilities. However, be sure to check with your agent regarding the limitations that are set forth on this type of coverage. Questions to ask:
    • What is specifically covered when renting a car? Does your current insurance policy offer the full cost of replacement or repair to the rented vehicle?
    • What is your total deductible? This may be higher than what the rental company is offering you.
    • Are there specific restrictions surrounding vehicle damage if the collision occurred while you were speeding, driving on unpaved roads or driving while intoxicated.

What is the cost of additional coverage offered by the rental company?

  • Is the cost going to double your rental costs? Then perhaps this is not the best option for you.
  • Does the fee associated with extended collision/liability coverage cover all drivers of the vehicle, or just the primary driver?

Do you already have coverage offered through other outlets?

  • Some credit card companies offer rental car protection. Check with your credit card provider for details.
  • Again, be sure to inquire on what is actually covered, if the credit card company does in fact offer coverage.

With all that being said, some individuals simply opt to choose rental coverage because they fear their personal auto insurance rates will increase in the event of a collision. But keep in mind if you are at fault for any collision, it may not matter that you opted to cover your rental vehicle. An accident is an accident and will be reported as such under your name. So this thinking may not always be true.

These are just a few tips and guidelines when it comes to being an educated consumer renting a vehicle. Classic Autobody hopes that you and your family enjoy your rental, whether it is for business or pleasure. Don’t get stuck with unexpected costs should the unfortunate collision or liability event occur. Be safe out there!