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,


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.


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.

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.
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