Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year New Goal

Goodbye 2011 and HELLO 2012!

I'd like to make a New Year's Resolution about driving...but I can't seem to think of a good one. I stopped eating in the car for a month this past February, so I won't use that as blog material this year. I already don't drink and drive. Well, I don't drink alcohol ever, so that's not tough to do. I use my blinker and make complete stops. My phone operates in the speaker position when I'm driving. I can't resolve for my children to behave better in the car since I don't control them. When I have so many good driving habits, it's difficult to find and fine tune the little deficiencies.

But perhaps there is something I can do to influence the atmosphere in my vehicle. I can change my stress level which has the potential to positively affect their behavior.

I think fighting is the worst out of them. And they don't do it every time I drive. Only when we're late. So I guess that's a lot of times.

In January, I will get out the door with enough time so that we arrive at our destination ten minutes early. We will experience what life is like when we're not in a rush. When there isn't pressure to get somewhere quick. Leaving early will build in extra time for the last minute emergencies that invariably pop up before we get out the door (read diaper blow outs or searching for missing shoes).

This challenge will be bigger and more grandiose than the last one. Pretty much because it's ten percent longer...aka three days since January is longer than February. Ha ha.

Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

My new resolution: Arrive at destinations 10 minutes early.
Start date: January 1, 2012
End date: January 31, 2012

Steps to accomplish the goal:
1. Keep shoe shelf organized.
2. Figure out how much time it will take to drive somewhere and add 10 minutes.
3. Get out the door early.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What do you do when you see texting while driving?

Have you ever been driving down the road and looked to the person driving next to you only to notice that instead of paying an ounce of attention to the road, he is looking down at his phone while texting? This has happened to me too many times to count.

I'm determined not to write, send, or read text messages while driving. For my safety, because it's the law, and because I'm usually driving with this extremely precious cargo...


Distracted driving to me is looking in the rear view mirror at this cute little face while I'm driving, and occasionally paying too much attention to my navigation when I'm going some place I've never been before. Don't get me wrong, I'm tempted to grab my phone when I hear the little text message or email notification, but it's not worth looking. Nothing is as urgent as getting to my destination safely.

Despite the texting ban in Washington, I constantly see people texting/looking at their phones while driving. I usually get a little upset, but don't do anything. Occasionally, I have honked my horn to shift the driver's attention. Not only are these people putting their lives in danger, but as a driver sharing the road with them, they are also putting me and my family in danger.

I have been wondering lately what the proper etiquette is when I see somebody clearly paying more attention to his/her phone than the road. Do I simply ignore it? Do I honk at them to let them know that I noticed? Should I report it? I'm not sure that anything would come of reporting it. Plus, if I got the license plate number and made a phone call while driving, I would likely be more distracted than the distracted driver I am reporting.

What do you think? Do you do anything when you witness drivers texting while driving?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Teach Your Teen: Set The Example

My eight year old son sits next to his infant sister in our car. He likes to play with her and he's pretty good about putting her pacifier in when she cries. Recently, she was crying and the binkie wasn't calming her down. He got frustrated. And he yelled, "Come on! Mom, it's not working!"

Our binkie loving baby.
Seriously?! He just raised his voice? To a baby? Two realizations hit me. First, my son doesn't understand the difference between an infant's mental abilities and those of an older child. She's not trying to make him angry. He's just not meeting her needs. She wants her diaper changed or she's hungry, so giving her a binkie isn't going to calm her.  Second, it's obvious that I've been frustrated and raised my voice too many times. He's mimicking me. This isn't exactly the lesson I meant to teach my son.

I'm teaching him the same lessons each time I drive. He will pick up on all of my habits. For better or worse. Remember earlier this year when I stopped eating in the car? Well, my kids also stopped eating in the car, too. And driving down the big hill near our house...well he's learning that riding the brake isn't the best thing in the world to do. He's also learning that we stop at red lights. That we look before changing lanes. And mom talks on speaker phone while driving. In addition to the basics, there is so much more.

This time of year is usually tragic for many families. There are tons of parties and  holiday celebrations and  many people drinking alcohol. That makes for some dangerous roads. And yes, there are more patrols out trying to get drunk drivers off the road and keep us safe. But stories of fatal collisions continue to pile up every year. I don't want one of those stories to be about my family.

Whether your kids are with you at the party or not, it's important to teach them how to behave. Tell them how much they mean to you. Let them see you plan ahead for how you're getting home. They will learn from your example. Let them see you arrange for a designated driver. Or call for a taxi ride home. If you are staying home, open a line of communication with them about alcohol, parties, and driving. It' is safer to stay home than to be on the roads with drunks.

Set the example. The example of defensive driving habits. The example of planning ahead. The example that your actions speak so much louder than words.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gift Card Winner

Not only am I celebrating my birthday today, but I'm also celebrating because Ashley can use the $25 gift card to Advance Auto Parts that has been patiently waiting for over a year to be spent. Congratulations Ashley!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Backing-In Project

My husband has been lecturing me on the virtues of backing cars into the driveway for years. It's safer, it's easier to drive away, yada, yada, yada. I guess I've always agreed that it's a good idea, but not worth my time or energy.

Last week, I witnessed a near miss that scared me into having a change of heart. It all happened in a matter of seconds. I had parked across the street from my house to get the mail. I got out of my car and noticed my neighbor backing out of his driveway. Normally this wouldn't cause any alarm, but I also happened to notice that three children were approaching his car. Because of a hedge on my neighbor's yard, neither the kids, nor the driver saw each other. The kids were talking and laughing while walking home from school, completely oblivious to the car that was about to him them. The driver was minding his own business, backing out of his driveway, completely oblivious to the children that would appear behind his car in mere seconds. It wasn't until I screamed at the kids to stop, that they stopped in their tracks and noticed that they were about a foot away from being hit by an approaching car. The incident nearly gave me a heart attack.

Since that day, I have backed my car into the driveway every time I have come home. I have been convinced that it's just much safer. I'm not going to lie, it is more of a pain than simply pulling in and parking, but I'm getting used to it and getting better at it. 

I also must add that I have noticed that my neighbor has also been backing his car in since that day.


(This isn't my car or my house, but this guy also thinks backing his car in is pretty awesome).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

$25 Gift Card Giveaway


Tyler: Hello! How may I help you today?
You: I have a gift card. How do I complete the online order? There doesn't seem to be a place to enter in the information.
Tyler: Gift cards are in store only
You: I live near Seattle. How can I use the gift card?
Tyler: Sorry but thats a in store item only you can only use it in a local advance store 
You: Ridiculous.
Tyler: I am sorry you feel that way but it says when you buy it in store only 
You: It was a gift to me...hence the name: gift card.
Tyler: Well people buy them because they think they are accepted online and never read the details 
You: Perhaps you should instigate a change in the company. Every other store on the planet with gift cards accepts them for online purchases.
Tyler: Every other store just not us at this time sorry 
You: Does the value of the card ever expire?
Tyler: I dont think so it should say in the front if it does but I dont see why 
You: Okay. What states are you in?
Tyler: Sorry but there is not store in Washington at this time. At this time only in the east coast and Texas 
You: Thanks.
Tyler: Thank you for chatting with Advance Auto Parts. Join us on FaceBook!

I want you to know that I had to work for the card in question. I got it last year at the Driving School Association of the Americas conference after I participated in a focus group for Advance Auto Parts. I was cleaning my desk today, found it and decided to go online and finally use it. How was I supposed to know its limitations? 
This is what I wanted. It's only $14.99. But with $8.66 for shipping, it quickly ate up the card's value. HmphI didn't really want to organize my car anyway.

Give Away Rules:
1. You must live on the United States' East Coast or in Texas.
2. Leave a comment with your name and email/contact info.
3. Winner will be chosen using random.org.

Extra Entries given to those who share this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or another social media site. You must come back and leave a separate comment for each time you share. 

And one more thing...the deadline will be next Thursday. I will announce the winner on Friday, December 9, 2011.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Local Memorials Company,

The other day when I drove by your store front, your sign caught my eye. It read,

  TXT N DRIVE
WE CANT WAIT

Seeing as you are in the business of making grave markers and monuments, I actually got a good laugh after reading your sign. Was it a little tacky? Yes. But, was it still funny? Absolutely. I have probably driven past your business hundreds of times and never even noticed that you were there until I read that sign.

I thought that a picture of your sign would make a great blog post, so I drove over to your business the other day to get a picture. I was slightly disappointed to see that you had changed your sign to this:



It seems that you have decided to drop the sarcasm and be a little more genuine and sensitive. I already know not to text and drive. I like the old sign better.


Sincerely,

Ammused by your old sign, not so much by your new one

Monday, November 14, 2011

Public Transportation Will Never Replace My Car

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a traffic safety conference in San Francisco with my brother and a colleague. I've always loved the Bay Area but had somewhat of a sticker shock when I found out it would cost $45 a day to park a car at our hotel on Fisherman's Wharf. Adding that to the cost of a rental car equated to us choosing to make our own adventure experience. Enter in Bay Area Rapid Transit. I actually like figuring out how I can get from point A to point B in a new city. It's like a game to me. I win if we arrive when we're supposed to. I won big on our first day when my plan to get us from the airport to the Alcatraz tour worked seamlessly.

BART is a fantastic system of trains that took us directly from the airport into downtown San Francisco. All for the low low price of $6.80.  The trains and stations were clean (no food or drink allowed), schedules were convenient and no one looked scary. I brought my infant with me and each time we rode there was at least one person offered me a seat when it was crowded. Being a visitor, BART was a tremendous asset to me. But if I lived there, I know I'd never give up my car.


Top 5 Reasons Why Public Transportation 
Will Never Replace My Car

1. Family Un-Friendly. Public transportation is innately not family-friendly. My baby was the one of 5 children I saw during my five train, three bus and one trolley rides. From the crowds of people to the hurry up and get on "I don't have time to wait for you" departures, keeping my brood together is extremely difficult at the grocery store. I'm pretty sure I'd end up leaving one at a station somewhere if I didn't have them strapped to me.

2. Passenger Safety. Why is it that taxis, school and city busses and other modes of public transportation don't require seat belts? It just doesn't make sense. Especially with cab drivers. Those guys drive crazy. And no, we didn't tell them why we were in town. 

3. Transfers. It seems like there are very few places that you can go that are on only one line. We usually had to transfer at least once (sometimes twice) to get to where we wanted to go...and we were centrally located. It would have been so much worse if we'd been off the beaten track.

4. Time. It takes a lot of time to get somewhere when there are multiple stops before arriving at a destination. For trolleys and busses, our route time was doubled. I have to mentally put myself into a slower mindset to be okay with this. I told myself I was sightseeing as I watched the Occupy San Francisco group march down the street.

5. Convenience. I like having stuff with me. Just in case I need it. In my pockets. In my car. Where ever I am. While traveling I had to make several down-sizing adjustments to effectively manage my travel. It's okay to do once in a while. But for the majority of the time, I feel way more comfortable surrounded by my stuff.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Video Contest Winner

Have you seen the winning video for our Summer 2011 Video Contest? If not, you need to check it out! Congrats again to our winner, Tim Harding!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Teach Your Teen: Where To Start

The Look
So, your teen just got their learner's permit and they are so excited to finally be able to drive. For real this time and not just sitting in your lap as a child or backing out of the garage. You on the other hand are experiencing some trepidation and possibly are even breathing into a paper bag. I mean, your life is on the line. You've already had this conversation. So what's next?

Three Great Practice Areas
Finding the right practice area keeps your nerves calm and anxiety in check. Choose a place where there aren't too many cars are things to hit. Good practice areas act as a protection. Students learning to drive need to be shielded somewhat from the consequences of missing a stop sign and other common mistakes. Three recommendations:

1. A quiet neighborhood.
2. A large parking lot that doesn't have too many cars in it (a church on a weekday).
3. A cemetery (they have lots of little roads and you have no worries about hitting anyone since most occupants are already dead).

Each area should have very few cars or people, straight stretches of road and several intersections. The goal is to make these first sessions as comfortable as possible for both the parent and driver. Basic skills need to be perfected before moving into busier traffic situations.

First Train Your Eyes
When I first started playing basketball, I looked at the ball each time I dribbled. I got to be pretty good at it, but in games I'd dribble myself into a corner and then look up to see who was open for a pass. Most drivers start out by trying to do the same thing in the driver's seat. They look just over the hood and then wonder why they can't drive in a straight line. Or perhaps, they missed seeing a stop sign or even worse, a pedestrian. The first training item must be the driver's eyes. Just like I never made a basket by looking at my hand dribbling, a driver will never make it down the road without a collision if they are looking right over the fender. Teach your teen to raise their eyes. They must see what is 100 feet in front of the car. Vision should then be expanded to a block ahead and then several blocks ahead. Training eyes to see potential hazards well in advance improves the odds that good decisions will be made when problems arise. In addition, looking well ahead or aiming high will cure lane weaving problems, wide turns, cutting turns, parking difficulties, timing issues and more. It's pretty much the cure-all for lousy driving.

Smooth Starts and Stops
Vision cannot be improved without addressing basic driving tasks. On a straight stretch of road, new drivers can practice smooth starts and stops. Knowing how a car behaves with varying degrees of pressure on the gas and brake must be experimented with to be perfected. To stop smoothly, direct your teen to press down on the brake gently and steadily until it's about 85-90% depressed. Then lift up 5% (creating a slight hesitation) and press the brake down to the floor. It will feel smooth and keep the jolt to a minimum. When starting, hesitate when moving your foot from the brake to the gas. Let the vehicle idle a moment before gently pressing the gas. This will prevent any sudden change in movement and you won't feel so queasy.

Turning
The art of turning includes two basic parts. Hand positioning and speed. When steering, your hands should be in a balanced position (at 9 and 3 o'clock) with the thumbs up for optimal control. Whether you choose hand-over-hand or push/pull turning techniques is up to you. The wheel rotates about 3/4 of a turn to go around a 90 degree corner. Be careful to resist putting extra spin in the wheel. It will require increased effort to recover and drive straight in your new path of travel. For speed, slow down about halfway into a turn and then accelerate out. Steady pressure on the gas will help the wheel glide back to its straight position.

Skill Mastery
Keep practicing in your practice area until driving straight, stops, starts and turns are mastered. Having confidence in your teens abilities to perform basic maneuvers will help you keep you at ease when you progress to busier driving.

Trouble Shooting
If you are unsure of a good practice area near your home, call your local driving school and ask them where they practice with their students. Drive your teen to that area and then practice the basics above.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Traffic Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treating



Traffic safety on Halloween hits especially close to home for me. A couple of years ago, my niece and some of her friends were hit by a passing car while trick-or-treating. Luckily, everybody is okay now, but there were quite a few injuries, some of which were very serious.

Trick-or-treating is fun, but can be dangerous if we don't take the proper precautions. This is especially the case here in Washington where many neighborhoods don't have sidewalks.

The CDC has come up with this list of safety tips for trick-or-treaters.
While, they're all important, I'd like to focus on the one relevant to traffic safety:

* Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.

*Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.

*Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.

*Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Drivers' Ed Is Dead

I was hooked at first sight!  "Drivers' Ed Is Dead" by Pat Delgado immediately piqued my curiosity when I happened upon it while on Amazon one afternoon. I had to buy it. 


It's a short and fun read about two boys who signed up to take driver's ed in high school but the class was cancelled and replaced by a business course. For them, what started out as a class project ended up as a real life business when they opened their own driving school.

My review: I enjoyed this tale on a few different levels.
1. Teenage boys learning how to be responsible always nets a positive review.
2. Building interpersonal relationships with those in different generations brings blessings to all involved.
3. Imagining a teen teaching another teen how to drive makes me chuckle. Out loud.

My only complaint may not be an issue for you. As a driving instructor and school owner, I find it hard to believe that Ms. Delgado, a school teacher, doesn't address any State regulations regarding driving schools. Specifically, licensed instructors and an approved curriculum as well as school records. They only had to get a business license. What makes it better is that with their grand opening money, they had to account for their expenses before taking home any money. And that's a good business practice that many failed businesses never learn.

I did have one more problem. The target audience for the book is teenage boys yet the graphics on the cover and inside illustrations would appeal to my grandmother.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Traffic Law Myth Busted

Did you know that it's against the law to eat a lollipop or paint polka dots on the American flag in Washington? Oh, and you can forget about buying any more meat on Sunday. Supposedly, anyway.

We've all heard rumours about these types of "crazy laws" that are still somehow on "the books." While I think these laws are comical, ridiculous, and entertaining to hear about, I find myself wondering if they're really still in existence, or if they ever were.

I recently saw this ridiculous Washington law cited all over the internet:

All motor vehicles must be preceded by a man carrying a red flag (daytime) or a red lantern (nighttime) fifty feet in front of said vehicle.

Really? So, we're all supposed to be driving 2 miles per hour everywhere? Yikes.

Well, if this law happens to actually still be in existence, it's obviously not enforced. I don't recall ever being pulled over for not having a man carrying a red flag in front of me. But, as far as I can tell, it's not still in existence. Not one of the internet sources citing this supposed law cites a corresponding RCW (Revised Code of Washington) to support it.

RCW Title 46 deals with Motor Vehicles. Only one law (RCW 46.37.440) mentions flags and lanterns, but is there any mention of any man preceding any vehicle? Nope. This particular law only says that flags and lanterns must be carried in trucks in case of emergencies.

You can sleep easy now. I'm fairly certain that you won't be pulled over for not having a man fifty feet in front of you with a red flag/lantern. Phew.




Saturday, October 8, 2011

Teach Your Teen: You Have Control

I like driving with teens. I like teaching them a skill and working on it for a bit and seeing them improve. It's amazing what an hour of concentrated practice can do.

My friend Diane expressed concern not too many months back about her daughter learning to drive. It's the worst part of having a teen. We're in different stages of life. Her children are in their teens and 20s. Mine are young (the oldest is almost 8). I asked her if she'd like to trade kids with me. Just for a few days. A week, tops. She's got a good memory, though, and didn't want to step back into the world of potty training and coloring on the walls.

One thing that I've only done on a couple occasions, is to ride with a new driver without my passenger-side foot brake. With it, I'm calm and assured. Without it, I get really nervous. Teens are notorious for doing random and unexpected maneuvers while driving. Gas/brake confusion is really distressing. Turning left in front of on-coming cars or lane changing into another vehicle are just as bad. And as I remember these situations, I begin to understand Diane's less than enthusiastic attitude about teen drivers. Aside from about 6-8 formal driving lessons, parents provide most of the practice time with their new drivers. And that can be terrifying.

Before driving with your teen, have the following conversation:

  • You: When I say stop, you stop. Do not ask questions. Just do it. We'll talk about the why when it's safe. 
  • Teen: Okay (Or something in the affirmative. If the response is less than 100% obedience, your teen may lack the maturity to learn to drive right now. A little time and a lot of walking usually cure this.)

Do not fear. You have a lot of control when your son or daughter is driving. Or at least more than you realize. In addition to this initial warning, you may want to discuss the following so that your child knows what to expect out of you.

  • You will be calm and give instructions well in advance.
  • You will be sitting in a ready position to take control of the vehicle if necessary.
  • The steering wheel is not sacred ground. You may be guiding it if there needs to be a minor course adjustment.
  • If there are gas/brake issues, they may feel you grab their knee to lift their foot off the gas or brake.
  • In an emergency, you may pull up on the parking brake. 
  • In an emergency, you may shift into neutral.
  • In an emergency, you may turn off the car.
Use this list of controls wisely and in moderation. You can avoid most of them by not putting your child in a driving situation beyond their abilities. Excessive stimulation from the radio, traffic, siblings in the car or new places usually translates into potential danger. You can do this. The more effort you put into practicing specific skills with your child, the better driver they will become.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Think before you drink and drive

I went with my little family and some friends to the Puyallup Fair last week. We had a great time. We took our kids on rides,visited the petting zoo, ate corn-on-the-cob, bbq, and cotton candy, and enoyed the atmosphere you only experience at a fair.

On our way out, we saw this car (or what's left of it) by the exit:

As you can tell from the picture, the car hardly even looks like a car anymore. When I looked up close, I couldn't believe how compact the inside had become.

The remains of the car were next to a giant poster board detailing the life of Sam Stephens, a young man who was killed by a drunk driver in a head-on collision. The poster detailed aspects of Sam's life. He was engaged to be married just two weeks after the collision. My heart aches for his fiance, his family, and his friends.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Effective

I had the opportunity to do a presentation yesterday at the Department of Licensing's annual Fall Conference for traffic safety instructors. It was pretty nerve-racking for me. Even though I have had little to no trouble standing in front of a group and speaking since I was a kid, this time was different for me. The auditorium was filled with 150 of my peers and DOL staff over traffic safety. I had my newborn daughter with me and we sat in the back before it was my turn to present. Half the people I saw in back had their phones out and were playing games.

I'm usually not a high-stress teacher. I don't have a lot of expectations for my audiences. Just that I like them to be awake. All of them. Including the one who only got a few hours of sleep the night before. I am relieved to report that although the first couple of minutes were awkward for me, the remainder of the presentation was fantastic...and even fun.

video

Humorous videos are more effective in getting a message across than lecture.

Having teams build a case and debate against each other in traffic court is more effective than lecture. 


Getting out your phone to see how fast you can text, figuring out how far your car travels during that time and then watching this movie is far more effective than the best lecture in the world.

video

Even if you think you're the best speaker in the world, with the best subject ever, you will be cutting your sphere of influence short if you rely on lecture instead of engaging your listener.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Move it or lose it

A few days ago, while on my way to work, I had one of the scariest driving experiences I've ever had. I was driving down I-5, going about 64 MPH, when I noticed that the car in the lane to the right of me was approaching me from behind, and getting dangerously close to the dividing line. I wasn't in the car's blind spot, so I assumed that the driver was simply getting too close to the line, would realize his mistake, and move back over. I honked my horn (over and over) to let the driver know that I was directly next to him in the lane he was trying to get into. Instead of getting back into his own lane, he continued to just move on over. Out of pure instinct, I moved over into the HOV lane to avoid an accident (screaming in fear all the while), barely missing the car and barely missing another car driving in the HOV lane.

Once the near-accident was over, I looked over at the car to see a very elderly man driving. A man who obviously should not still be allowed to drive. He didn't appear shaken up or apologetic in the least. In fact, I don't even think he realized what he had just done. I'm pretty sure he was completely oblivious of every other car on the road. I was really shaken up. It was the closest I have ever been to a serious accident and I can't explain how angry I was with this driver. I got his license plate and seriously considered reporting him to the police for reckless driving.

After this experience, I was curious to find out what procedures we have here in Washington to ensure that senior drivers are still qualified and capable of driving. I was surprised to discover that Washington does not require more frequent renewals or have any special requirements for senior drivers. This means that seniors only need to renew their licenses every 5 years without taking any additional tests unless somebody at the DOL deems it necessary. Really?? I respect my elders and don't think their privilege to drive should be taken away unnecessarily, but we all know that older drivers cause a disproportionate amount of accidents. Shouldn't we be making sure that they are still capable of driving before renewing their licenses? Shouldn't we consider the safety of not only the older drivers, but also all the other drivers out there?

I did read online that after age 65, a person must renew his license in person and pass a vision test. (Phew, at least we're doing something). However, I could not find any regulation to back that up and could not get through to the DOL to have them confirm it. (I waited on hold for 35 minutes and finally gave up.) Do any of you know if that's really the case?

Some state require an accelerated renewal (more frequent renewals than the standard), additional tests, physician's certification, etc. What do you think is appropriate?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

School Busses: Should I Stop and Wait?

For the past two years Jett has dreamed of riding a school bus with his older brothers. Some days the chatter has been non-stop.

Luckily, dreams really do come true. If only my dreams of teleportation were so easily fulfilled!

But since I won't just be appearing wherever I need to go, it looks like transportation is in my life for the long haul. And as convenient as school busses are for me to get my kids to school, I still don't like it when I'm stuck behind one in traffic. Then my mind starts to twist what I know about right of way laws and school busses. Looking for ways to justify me getting around the bus and on my way.

Look at this next photo. I came across a scene very similar to this (with a real bus) not too long ago. I stopped at the stop sign.

Question: Should I wait? Or turn since the students won't cross my path?


The Washington State Driver Guide states:
You must stop for a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your side of the road, the opposite side of the road or at an intersection you are approaching. You are not required to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing when the stopped school bus is traveling in the opposite direction and the roadway:
- has three or more marked traffic lanes,
- is separated by a median, or
- is separated by a physical barrier.
After the school bus red lights have stopped flashing, watch for children along the side of the road and do not proceed until they have completely left the roadway. (Page 42)
Answer: Yup, I gotta wait, even though I'm pretty sure that a school bus shouldn't be stopping in the middle of an intersection. Ugh!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Future Car

I'm guessing we're not too close to having the technology to be travelling around in Jetson-mobiles in the near future, but according to MSN Autos, our cars are going to come a very long way in the upcoming years. By 2020, MSN Autos predicts that our cars will have the following features:

1. Warnings Galore, including collision-mitigation systems that warn you when you are getting too close to other objects/cars. I could have used that ten years ago when I backed my dad's car into a pole. Ooops.

2. Eyes All Around, meaning rear view cameras in every car. I can see how this could be helpful, but I don't think I could rely on a camera instead of my own two eyes when backing up.

3. Pedestrian Detection and Night Vision. A pedestrian detection system apparently brings your car to a full stop if it detects a pedestrian in your path. I just hope that cars don't think they're smarter than us. I don't want to be stopping every time there's a pedestrian walking along the sidewalk or waiting on the corner to cross the street.

4. Easy Cruising, including adaptive cruise control that prevents you from getting too close to the vehicle in front of you. Good bye, tailgating!

5. Vehicle-to-vehicle Communication. Isn't this what cell phones are for? Apparently, not. This type of communication allows vehicles to talk to each other to avoid collisions.

6. A better way to connect. Easier blue tooth options could be very helpful. I always opt for speaker phone while in the car instead of trying to figure out how to use my blue tooth earpiece while on the road.

7. App central. Really? Talk about distracted driving. People have enough distractions. Adding the availability of apps, including Facebook and Twitter, to a car's dash sounds disastrously dangerous to me.

8. Fuel-sipper tech. Sounds great and all, except the part about adding $10,000 to the price of a new car. Yikes!

9. Advanced engines. No surprise there.

10. Exotic materials, to reduce weight and meet higher mileage standards.

All in all, the new, advanced features sound exciting and helpful, but I think I'd like to pass on a few of them.

Original MSN Autos article: 10 Things Your Car Will Have By 2020

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stupid or Not? Driving With Your Foot Out the Window

My friend called me up the other day and asked me a question I've never heard before. "Is it legal to drive with your foot out the window?' I didn't know what to say to her. "Uh. Um. Well, I don't think it's illegal," I replied.


My gut reaction paralleled my friend's assessment that it's dangerous to drive with a foot out the window. It seems like it would limit vehicle control. Especially in an emergency. And it looks stupid. Only idiots drive this way, as referenced by the YouTube clip above (as well as numerous other videos posted online),

And after the manner of said idiot, I tried it out this afternoon. I live in the county with very few cars around...the perfect place for such an experiment. I drove to the grocery store, about ten minutes in each direction. Now that I'm in the know (20 minutes worth), I'd like to share my experience with you.
Driving with my foot out the window.

Is it comfortable? The best part was having the breeze go through my toes. It was a fantastic feeling that I really like. Another plus is that feels nice to use your leg as an arm rest. There's a little notch for my elbow below my knee. Arriving at my destination, it was obvious that my leg had been in a new position since my muscles were slightly sore. I walked it off though in the produce section at the market. Bottom line, it's comfortable. However, I think having two feet on the floor is more comfortable.

Is it physically awkward? Pick your vehicle carefully. I'm 5'7" and flexible. My foot just wasn't going to go out the window of my SUV. However, I was successful with our small car. It's surprisingly not that awkward...though I need my hands to pull my leg to the window once I'm seated in the car. So that part is a little awkward.

How do others look at you? As far as I noticed, no other driver I encountered looked twice at me with my foot out the window. But I was certainly self-conscious! Traffic was mostly all on-coming but had I been on the freeway, I'm sure I would have gotten more looks. Also, as you can see in the photo above, my leg isn't nearly long enough to rest along the full length of the window. So I'm not sure how visible my foot actually was.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I didn't drive in my neighborhood with my foot out the window. Nor did I when I got into town and in the store parking lot. If someone I know saw me, I'd be thoroughly embarrassed and would understand if they had second thoughts about bringing their kids to our driving school.

How's vehicle control? Surprisingly, it's pretty good. I didn't have any issues driving around curves, making right or left turns, and lane changing. The only issue I had was checking my blind spots. I didn't have my usual full range of motion on head checks. Although I adjusted for that easily enough.

Is it dangerous? I didn't test handling or control during any emergency procedures or evasive actions, but will have my brother do that the next time he does skid training. For now, I think if you have long legs, are flexible, and are an experienced driver. you will probably be fine driving with your foot out the window. I still prefer both of my feet on the floor, though.

What do you think? Is it dangerous or not? I want to know if you've driven with a foot out the window before. If so, please weigh in with your thoughts on the questions above.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is your child safely secured?



As a mother of a 14-month-old, I understand the difficulty of wading through all the information, instructions, reviews, and opinions about child car seats. My husband and I kept our son in an infant seat until a couple of weeks ago simply because it seemed like too much of a hassle to figure out how to install the new one we had gotten for him. I resolved to make the switch after realizing that he was more than two inches taller than the height maximum on the infant seat. Not to mention that his legs were looking more than a little cramped. I had assumed that he still "fit" the infant seat because he weighed much less than the maximum weight allowed. As I pulled the new car seat out, I was immediately overwhelmed by the number of straps and contraptions attached to it. I finally got it installed, thankfully.

With child car seats on my mind, I was quite alarmed to learn recently that according to a study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 70% of children are in seats that are either inappropriate for the child or are incorrectly installed, while 95% of parents think their child is safely secured. That being said, and in light of the upcoming Child Passenger Safety Week (September 18-24), maybe we should all be asking if our children are in the right seats and whether those seats have been installed correctly.

The NHTSA provides a wealth of information to help us keep our children safe, including car seat recommendations for children of all ages, current child seat laws for every state, and information about Child Passenger Safety Week. Visit their website by clicking here.

As part of Child Safety Passenger Week, on Saturday, September 24, certified child passenger safety technicians will be available to inspect car seats and provide advice free of charge. Click here to find your nearest inspection station.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer 2011 Video Contest

Fresh squeeze your creative juices in the last month of our summer video contest. Whether you film the "I just got my license" happy dance or the "oh no, ____ is on the road" jitters, we want to see your license celebration! Complete the following entry form and submit it with your video for a chance to win an iPad or a pocket full of money. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Teen Body Bag" PSA

Anti-texting while driving public service announcements usually focus on the gore of a collision or the emotional factor of killing someone. But these two are different. They are clean despite their titles. There are no tugs on your heart strings. No lectures. No blood. And most importantly, they have me smiling every time I watch them. "I knew she liked me." See for yourself. And don't text and drive. Ever.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wired's Feedback Loop

Wired Magazine captivates me every month with some of the most random articles about various technologies that I never knew I was so interested in. As I was reading the July 2011 issue, I found myself fascinated with an article about feedback loops and how our brains work (by Thomas Goetz) . . . and the coolest part was that it linked itself to drivers and Your Speed signs.
In the portion about drivers, the basic premise is that drivers slow down an average of 10% when they compare their speed to the speed limit. Ten percent may not seem like a lot but in some problem areas that makes the difference between a crash being injury-only or having fatalities. 
The following diagram was presented in the article (which I highly recommend that you read) as a way of positive reinforcement for driving the speed limit. 
1 EvidenceThe radar-equipped sign flashes a car’s current speed.First comes the data—quantifying a behavior and presenting that data back to the individual so they know where they stand. After all, you can’t change what you don’t measure.
2 RelevanceThe sign also displays the legal speed limit—most people don’t want to be seen as bad drivers.Data is just digits unless it hits home. Through information design, social context, or some other proxy for meaning, the right incentive will transform rational information into an emotional imperative.
3 ConsequencesPeople are reminded of the downside of speeding, including traffic tickets and the risk of accidents.Even compelling information is useless unless it ties into some larger goal or purpose. People must have a sense of what to do with the information and any opportunities they will have to act on it.
4 ActionDrivers slow an average of 10 percent—usually for several miles.The individual has to engage with all of the above and act—thus closing the loop and allowing that new action to be measured.

It got me thinking about the Your Speed signs in my area and how pure my motivation for seeing my speed match the sign really is. I'm always relieved when I'm out of the radar's view. I don't feel watched and analyzed anymore. And when I see that the the car behind me is going faster than me, a smile forms on my face. I'm safe. If a police officer were around then he'd pull over the other guy. I'm not sure that's exactly the point Mr. Goetz was trying to make, but I think that's my motivation for compliance.
I drive at speeds that are safe and reasonable. Most of the time, I agree with the speed limits that have been set. That said, sometimes I disagree. And what I consider safe is not always what the speed limit setter thinks is safe. 
For example, there is a stretch of county road near my house that I drive almost every day with the posted limit as 25 miles per hour. There are only a handful of homes on it and a few businesses, which are all set back at 50+ feet from the road and there are no sidewalks. Visibility is high and very open. As such, I believe the speed limit should be set at 35 mph. Because of a strong inclination to go faster, it takes major concentration on my part to cap my speed at 25 mph. My discomfort increases as tailgaters (everyone in back of me) pile up. And the pressure gets more intense to increase speed. I don't want to be that driver who holds everyone up. 
So, now I'm wondering, just like Your Speed signs help slow down drivers, would they also have the ability to help me feel justified for obeying the limit when seemingly no one else is?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Small Town Signage


This Memorial Day weekend, we went camping in Winthrop, a small town in Eastern Washington. I found three signs there that amuse me. Two because they are cute (Dear Xing and Whoa). One because it's oddly phrased (Hill Blocks View). My husband looked at the sign and commented about it. I laughed because the technical term for the warning sign is "limited sight distance". Unfortunately, it's not a sign we see often enough...especially living in an area with so many hills and curves and natural blind spots.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"One Of Those Times"

This past weekend I was lucky enough to get to go to a conference for women at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. One of the speakers, Dean Hughes, told fantastic stories about about driving, how we perceive our own driving skills with those of others, and deciding now how we will respond when someone does something to upset us (like driving 25mph in a 25mph zone). His main points are in bold.

Everyone drives lousy sometimes. I am reminded of a time my husband and I were in Southern California visiting a friend at Lake Arrowhead. We were trying to get on the right freeway to San Diego and that particular stretch of roadway seemed to have half a dozen different freeways crossing paths. It was confusing to say the least. We were two or three miles away from where our exit was supposed to be when we started noticing cars in the right lane slowing down. We of course went right on by. No need to get caught up in whatever that slow down was.

Unfortunately, we realized too late that the queue was for our exit. Fortunately, we'd rented a car (which happened to have Georgia plates on it) and a kind soul took pity on us out-of-towners and let us in...after several unkind ones had made it clear we were not going to cut in front of them.

We felt dumb. We should have anticipated the line up was for our exit. We didn't. And we weren't trying to cut. But we did. And the truth of Dean's statement that we all cut off someone sometimes rang true to me.

Most drivers (76%) think their driving skills are above average. If we were really all that good then we wouldn't have near the number of collisions and mishaps that we do. Research has shown that this false optimism about our own driving skills increases the likelihood that we'll make risky driving decisions...because after all, our skills can handle it. Ha ha. The truth is that the vast majority of us are average drivers.

Our response is important to our thoughts and sense of self. Sometimes, I call other drivers names relating to their lack of intelligence because they did something dangerous. And occasionally if the offense was particularly bone-headed, I ask them (as if they can hear me) what driving school they went to (gasp!) or if they'd like my card. - ha ha. Except I'm usually not joking. When I judge others harshly, I am elevating my driving skills above theirs...which may not be an accurate portrayal of our regular driving behaviors. It's healthier, both mentally and physically, to be truthful to myself. I should abstain from making a personal attack (name calling) and instead feel grateful that I had enough time and space to appropriately handle the situation.

When a driver does something wrong, it's important to remember that perhaps "this is one of those times". One of those times when the other guy may be rushing to the hospital to say goodbye to a dying brother. Or one of those times when someone needs to get to their wife who's in labor. Or one of those times when someone's alarm didn't go off and they are rushing to catch a plane.

Dean Hughes also asked us the question if we'd ever berated someone's driving and later realize that we personally know that person. Ha ha. Yes, that's happened to me. More than once. At that point, thoughts leave the offense and move to what may actually be going on with the driver (like a new baby may be screaming or their daughter is getting married in the afternoon and they are probably rushing to get the preparations in order).

There are plenty of reasons why someone may temporarily drive poorly. When we give people the benefit of the doubt, we defuse a potentially volatile situation and keep our emotions in check. We don't have to let someone's bad driving ruin our day. Our positive and forgiving response can be emotionally liberating.

So next time we're upset at the way someone drives, let's calm ourselves down by verbalizing that this may be one of those times.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Humor

I came across this joke today and laughed then sighed. Mainly because it's so true. I am reminded of the time I took my grandmother to renew her license. It wasn't until she told the licensing officer that she'd never lost consciousness (she'd had a couple of strokes) that I began to comprehend how much the ability to drive is linked to an elderly person's sense of self and independence.
A group of retirees were discussing their medical problems at the Senior Center over coffee one morning.
"Do you realize," said one, "My arm is so weak I can hardly hold this coffee cup."
"Yes, I know." replied the second, "My cataracts are so bad I can't see to pour the coffee."
"I can't turn my head," rejoined the third, "because of the arthritis in my neck."
"My blood pressure pills make my dizzy," commented the fourth, adding, "I guess that's the price we pay for getting old."
"Let's look at the bright side," piped up the first, "We should be thankful that we can still drive." -submitted to Guy-Sports.com.

And unrelated to the first, this one made me laugh on a few different levels:

I tell you, women drivers are a hazard to traffic. Driving to work this morning on the freeway, I looked over to my left and there was a woman in a red Mustang doing 85 miles per hour with her face up next to her rear view mirror putting on her eyeliner!
I looked away for a couple seconds and when I looked back she was halfway over in my lane.
It scared me so bad I dropped my electric shaver in my coffee, and it spilled all over my cell phone! - submitted to Bulterwebs.com

I'd love to hear your driving jokes. Please share!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Traffic Calming Device

I saw this sign yesterday and my curiosity got the best of me. I had to know what a traffic calming device was and made a little detour on my route just to go down this road. Imagine my surprise when I didn't find classical music being broadcast for all to hear, but instead it was just a warning sign for some speed bumps ahead. Ha ha ha. Funny sign.

Traffic calming device sign.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Concerned Motorist"

Dear Concerned Motorist,

Thank you for notifying the authorities about my alleged HOV infraction. They mailed me a pamphlet on how to use the carpool lane. I've always wondered what happens when someone calls the 1-800-HERO line. Now I know.

You must have been the lonely driver next to me...resenting the fact that I was passing you. Maybe you thought I was the type of person who throws caution to the wind and drives on the wild side. It's nice to be thought of that way, even if misguided. Ahhh, to be so young again! 

http://www.wsp.wa.gov/
I do have a question though, how did you miss my four children in the back?  Or did you think that they were part of my cover? It would have been a good idea, really. I should invest in blow up dolls to sit in my kids' car seats. I'd even turn on the rear entertainment system to complete the effect. Then I'd get all the benefits of the carpool lane without any of the back seat bickering that usually accompanies it. 
WSP HOV Infraction Notice
I wonder if the Washington State Patrol would facilitate mailing you a "not a ticket" infraction notice to get you to go to the optometrist? Like you, I am a concerned motorist. The WSP probably also has a brochure they could send you about the 20/40 vision requirement to drive legally...and perhaps they also have a brochure on tattling that they could throw in.

Maybe I'm being judgmental. I'm sure you thought you were doing the right thing.

Sincerely,
Bridget
(The lady with lots of kids and tinted windows.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From Rain to Hydroplane

Though it rains in Western Washington a lot, there isn't usually a problem with hydroplaning...probably because it's usually just drizzle. We've had a few exceptions to the norm this year, though. It's just after 5pm and it's been raining all day today. It was raining when I went to bed last night and has been going non-stop all day. As a result, there is standing water on the roadways. I'd like to think that modern engineering would have solved this problem and the rain would naturally run off, and to a large degree it works, but it hasn't eliminated the problem and hydroplaning still occurs.

So what should you do when your vehicle turns into a pair of water skis and rides up on top of the water? Follow these three points:
  1. Have both hands on the wheel in a balanced hand position. That means the hands are in the 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 o'clock positions. Not so much 10 and 4. This will allow you maximum control of steering.
  2. Let off the gas. Slow down without braking. This will help your wheels sink to the pavement and gain traction without getting water in the brakes. It's just like slowing a ski boat will help a skier sink into the water.
  3. Increase your following distance and keep a large space cushion around your vehicle.
Be Safe and Happy Driving!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A New View

When I was seven I got glasses. It was a life changing experience for me as the world opened up right in front of me. My first impression was, "wow, I can see the leaves on the trees." They had been green blobs before. Now they were crystal clear and precise. My parents never had to remind me to wear my glasses. I wanted to.

Yesterday, I took my Pilot into the dealership for an oil change and to check on a couple of items. I thought they were simple fixes...it turns out only one of them was. My rear wiper hasn't been working for a few months. Since I wasn't raised with vehicles that had rear wipers, I didn't think it was a big deal not to have one. But I did notice things were a bit hazy checking my rear view mirror. We've had a lot of rain, spray, snow, slush, etc. on the roads this winter and it gets so discouraging to wash the car only to drive it once and the dirt mounds up again. So, most often I just live with the dirt. For a month at a time. Or two. Sometimes three.

When a not-so-easy, pull out the seats and dash problem made it impossible to take my car home, the dealer gave me a rental car until they could isolate the problem and then fix it. My first impression driving a new car? I could see clearly out that back window. Like going from an impressionistic painting to a sharp photographic image clear. A whole new traffic scene emerged and I was vividly reminded of my childhood experience getting glasses.

I'm going back to the dealer this afternoon to get my car back. Tightening one bolt fixed the wiper. So simple. And I have a renewed sense of importance for keeping that back window clean.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Safe Driving Fine Arts Contest WINNERS!

I am happy to announce that we have winners for our fine arts contest that was announced last fall. Thank you so much to all those who entered. I loved seeing the creativity. WELL DONE! About the the winning entries ... I'm a little surprised that they all happen to be photographs. I was pulling for a great limerick but alas, none entered. Maybe next time we will have to specifically hold a limerick contest if that's what I really want. Ha ha.

The winning entries had on average double the number of peer votes on Facebook as the others. I think these guys waged a massive campaign with their buddies to get the vote out. Of course, it also helps that they are still in high school and have a large social network.

In THIRD place,
Anthony Bermudez with "Check One" 
and a $75 prize:

In SECOND place,
Daniel Lam with "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Unsafe" 
and a $125 prize: 

In FIRST place,
Barjinder Singh with "Safe Driving State of Mind" 
and a $250 prize:
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