Auto skills center offers free vehicle check ups
Randy Varner (center), a mechanic for hire at Fort Rucker's Auto Skills Center, helps Lancaster, Pa. native WO1 James Kerwin (left), 1st Bn., 150th Avn. Regt., Pennsylvania National Guard, troubleshoot mechanical problems with a car. The center is available to Soldiers for $5.50 per hour, plus the cost of tools. Maintenance personnel can assist with simple projects, such as changing oil, to more complicated tasks.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 16, 2013) -- Fort Rucker officials want everyone driving this summer to be as safe as possible.

In order to support this goal, the auto skills center offers free holiday vehicle inspections through May 24 by appointment.

"We conduct these free safety inspections before most major holidays. We want to make sure Soldiers and their Families are safe before they go on long trips," said Tina Barber, auto skills center program manager.

The mechanics will do an overall inspection of the vehicle -- checking multiple areas including engine fluid levels, radiator fans, tire condition, belts and lights.

Those with a Department of Defense-issued identification card may use the facility to conduct "do-it-yourself" maintenance for an hourly fee of $5.50, plus the cost to rent tools. The shop can also be used for motorcycle maintenance.

With the weather as hot as it is, Barber said people need to be sure the cooling system and the air conditioning system is working properly in the vehicle.

"It is a good idea to keep a reserve gallon of water in the vehicle," she said, in case of a leak.

The number of people on the road increases in the summer, so Barber had a few tips on staying safe on the road with numerous other drivers.

"Have good defensive driving, and make sure your tires are in good condition. The hot roads make the perfect condition to pop overused or weak tires," she said. "Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition as well."

Maj. Joshua Munch, Fort Rucker deputy provost marshal, offers some additional tips to reduce risk.

"Make sure you have the proper car seat for your child's age and weight. Have them occupied with a game or movie so they do not get bored and distract you from driving," he said.

Road rage is another aspect of sharing the road with thousands of other drivers, but Munch advises everyone to be the bigger person and to keep their cool no matter what.

"Don't let someone else's actions get you to a point that you [retaliate]," he said.

Munch also advised to not provoke anyone by honking or displaying obscene gestures, and to not be the instigator.

"Be courteous on the road. If someone tailgates you or cuts you off, don't make the situation worse. People have been shot in road rage incidents. It is not worth it," he said.

Munch continued by saying that technology can hinder a safe trip.

"A lot of people have global positioning systems. It is vital that [drivers] update before a long road trip. It is also a good idea to have a citizens band emergency radio. If you do not have cell service and you are out on the road somewhere a CB radio can be a priceless tool to get help," he said.

Rest is an important factor when it comes to safe driving as well, and Munch said that it can be more dangerous than being drunk. Stop every few hours to stretch, eat and get reenergized.

"Make sure you know how your prescription medicine effects you before you drive, but do not skip doses because you can be impaired if you skip even one dose while driving. So make sure you take it at the same so you can avoid side effects," he added.

Having a road safety kit, which holds things such as road triangles and fuses, can be priceless when broken down, said the deputy provost marshal.

Other safety tips for summer driving:

• If driving an unfamiliar car, learn how to operate the lights and wipers before getting on the road

• Don't excessively adjust the radio

• Avoid high traffic hours by driving early in the morning or travel the day before and after a holiday

• Do not talk on the phone or text while driving

• Don't busy hands by eating or putting on makeup

• Don't let passengers be a distraction

• Always have Plan B in case a tow is needed or if stranded on the side of the road for hours.

Page last updated Thu May 16th, 2013 at 12:52