Wednesday, March 14, 2012 17:13
Ah, Nuts. As we rode up a mountain road, my friend repeatedly swerved to miss squirrels darting across the road. I told him: “If you crash while trying to dodge a squirrel, I’m going to go back, kill it and fry it up for your last meal.” This Chicago-area driver should have taken my advice.
Something's Fishy on I5. The “Most Dedicated Trooper Award” should go to the Washington State Patrol’s Jamie Arnold. Instead of leaving potential hazardous and certainly disgusted fish heads in the road, Trooper Arnold grabbed a broom and cleaned up the mess. Now, THAT’S how we want our tax dollars spent!
Friends Til the End. Using a designated driver can be a great idea, but this pair failed on several levels. They didn’t abstain from alcohol, they failed to get medical care for their friend, and they didn’t stop driving when they discovered he was dead.
Wilmaaaaaaa. Maybe he was trying out for the role of Fred Flintstone. A Michigan man knew his brakes were inoperable (and his license suspended), but he drove anyway. While trying—and failing—to stop his vehicle by dragging his feet on the pavement, the man’s pickup hit a total of four cars. The driver passed sobriety check, so he can only fall back on the “I’m stupid” excuse. And you drive among people just like this every day.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 17:49
“You’re crushing my canaries!” My driving students, whether car-company test drivers or teens on their first lesson, often hear me shout some version of that phrase. All are first told to hold the steering wheel with a gentle, light touch: “As if holding a bird.”
A white-knuckle grip does several bad things. The driver’s biceps, trapezius and neck muscles are rigid. Steering motions are made with a Heisman Trophy-style straight arm. Small, precise steering inputs are impossible. Passengers get queasy or frightened.
White-knuckling performance drivers can’t feel what the front tires are doing. The car could be on the edge of adhesion or miles away. I can feel more from the right seat than do these inexperienced, untrained drivers.
For racers, vibration transmitted through stiff muscles produces blurry vision or what Wile E. Coyote sees after taking an Acme anvil to the head. (When I tested a Reynard 95I CART Indy car, regular driver Parker Johnstone warned that I’d see several rotating images in bumpy corners. “Don’t try to drive them all,” said Johnstone. “Just pick one and drive it.”)
I make white-knucklers repeatedly open their grip. Sometimes, I require they hold the steering wheel with just their fingertips. I’ve even massaged trapezius muscles in an effort to get drivers to relax.
White-knucklers often are concentrating so hard that they fail to breath. One student was very rough with the wheel, so I glanced at his hands: white knuckles. Then I noticed his face was turning blue. “Sir, let’s slow down and take a breather,” said I. “I’m not breathing!” said my student. “Yeah, I know,” I responded. “And you’ve squeezed the intestines out of the bird!”
Monday, January 23, 2012 02:38
A growing pandemic is sweeping the nation: Drivers are taking their vehicles onto railways, causing untold damage and delays. As a professional journalist, I can make this dire assessment by reading news reports from two other journalists, one in California and one in Georgia. Also helping this leap to judgment: The Georgia report included video of both a vehicle retrieval gone wrong and a seriously shocking image of how a Ford F-150 can snap a railroad-bridge truss.
Most recently on the left coast, sfgate.com reports that a driver “blundered” into the Muni Metro tunnel in downtown San Francisco. It was determined blundering as he made it about a half mile into the tunnel. That appears to be a record for driving into this particular section of rail, says the report. If this was part of an organized underground effort to defeat public transportation, it was successful as it stopped train service for more than two hours.
Meanwhile, a man tried to create a shortcut from Georgia to South Carolina by using a Norfolk Southern railroad bridge in Augusta, GA. According to a report from the Augusta Chronicle, the speedometer in the man’s new-appearing pickup was stuck at 60 mph after the crash. The impact not only destroyed the truck and sent the driver and his passenger to the hospital, but it snapped a diagonal beam on the railroad bridge. The recovery operation didn’t go so well, either. On the bright side: A S.C.-bound train was able to stop before it slammed into the pickup.
Is it a coincidence that both happened after 5 a.m. and before 6 a.m.? Shockingly, alcohol appears to have been involved in both incidents.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 02:04
I was shocked to discover that running stoplights and stop signs was still illegal.
From observing drivers in South Carolina where I live, apparently they’re required to run stoplights and stop signs to enter a two-lane rural highway, but ONLY if:
- There is fast-moving vehicle within 150 yards traveling in the lane the stop sign runner is about to enter
- The stop-sign runner is going only short distance
- The sign or light runner is going to do it slowly
Several times, I’ve been forced to use full-emergency anti-lock braking to avoid someone who ran a stop sign to go 100 feet at 15 mph before turning into a driveway. If a South Carolina driver waits at the stop sign, it's almost certain he’s going to travel more than 10 miles. More...
Friday, December 30, 2011 00:28
A lot of people make plans to go home for the holidays, but not all of them get there. With the season of peace and joy comes an increase of accidents, and even experienced drivers can get caught up in the surge of crash statistics. Young drivers especially are at risk during the holiday season because of a number of factors that make driving more hazardous.
If you started driving in the last year, you’re more likely to have an accident than after you’ve gained some more time behind the wheel––and that’s just on normally traveled roads in good weather. Roads clogged with cars driven by frustrated shoppers, parents with crying kids in the back, and commuters weaving their way home from an office party won’t lessen the odds of being involved in an accident.
Weather is a factor too. Slippery roads and poor visibility contribute to enough accidents without factoring in inexperienced drivers. Just as it was safer to take your first drive in a deserted parking lot with an experienced driver, it’s smarter to learn about driving on icy roads or in the pouring rain some other time of year.
Perhaps the single most effective strategy for tipping the odds in your favor during the holidays is staying off the roads late at night when attention levels and visibility are low, and blood alcohol levels are high. It should go without saying—but it will be said anyway—that you shouldn’t drink and drive, and not just during the holidays, but ever. If you have to get to a party on New Year’s Eve, remember taxis are cheaper than lawyers, and getting into a cab is a lot easier than getting out of a DUI.