Time again for letters we wish we’d received.

Dear AARP DSP, Last summer, one of your columns explained how to cool off a vehicle quickly after it’s been sitting with the windows up. Please explain it again. Signed, Hot and bothered

Dear Hot, When it’s 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a parked car can rise to 100 degrees within 10 minutes, to 120 degrees within 30 minutes. It isn’t pleasant while you wait for your air conditioner to cool off the car, so here’s a simple way to drop the interior temperature in almost no time. First, open one of the car’s windows; for example, lower the passenger’s side window. Second, open and close the door opposite the open window five or six times; in this example, you would open and close the driver’s side door. You’re pulling the hot air out as you alternately open and close the door, while drawing (relatively) cooler air in through the open window.

It goes without saying that children and pets should never be left in a closed car even for a few minutes.

Consumer Reports found that using a car’s air conditioner at highway speeds reduces fuel economy by more than three miles per gallon. However, a study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers showed that driving with the windows up and the air conditioner on is actually more fuel efficient. Because of the parachute-like drag created when the windows are down, fuel efficiency was reduced by eight percent or more.

So who’s right? SAE’s rule-of-thumb for deciding when it’s best to open the windows and switch off the air conditioner is around 40 miles per hour. Why? Because at low speeds, the engine produces less power, so it has to work much harder to power accessories like the air conditioner. When the engine operates at higher speeds, it’s producing ample power for both the engine and any additional equipment.

But keep in mind, you’re safer when you’re comfortable while you’re driving.

Dear AARP DSP, My fiancée doesn’t want me to drive after I’ve had only two glasses of wine. It’s not like I drank a couple of mixed drinks. Is she right? Signed, Tipsy

Dear Tipsy, Your fiancée is correct. It’s not the kind of drink you imbibed, it’s the alcohol content. In the U.S., a standard drink is defined as containing 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. That generally corresponds to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of “spirits.”

For both women and men, one drink per hour results in a blood alcohol level (BAL) of 0.02 percent; the ability to track moving objects and perform tasks requiring divided attention may suffer. For women two drinks per hour, for men two to three per hour results in a BAL of 0.05 percent; thought, judgment, and restraint are more lax, and vision is impaired.

For women, two to four drinks per hour, for men three to four drinks per hour results in a BAL of 0.08 percent; movements are clumsy, reaction time is even slower, and you’re three to four times more likely than a sober driver to have a crash. And you’re legally DUI.

Learn about safe driving strategies by attending an AARP Smart Driver (formerly Driver Safety) class. For a class schedule, call 888-227-7669, or got to The class is available on line.

Mark Berg is a former instructor for the AARP Driver Safety Program. His email address is

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