Many More Beside These

12 July 2010


I was driving my 1999.5 New Jetta in a beach roundabout the other day, and a blue minivan with a license plate something like the title went through a Yield sign and tried to get too close to me. In vernacular, she "cut me off." Of course, nothing came of it, but it left me with the feeling that I should call the police.

Readers of this blog know that I suggest we automate calls to inform police units about bad drivers.

So I was sitting at home 3 days later, and decided to just call 911, quickly, as I do not like to tie up their emergency line. The lady at the other end said to call the local precinct and request a "concern situation for a bad driver." She made it sound official.

I called. The local precinct said basically that there was not much they could do, and they had not heard of anything official like that. They even asked me to come in. In other words, the bad driver goes on with their life, and if I wanted to force the issue at all, my life would be put on hold while I took the time to drive in to the precinct to make a complaint.

This needs to change--

28 July 2009

Two Seconds

Getting back to the roots of this blog-- what exactly to do while driving-- I'd like to offer two seconds' thoughts as I was returning from the beach today.
Not everyone knows that there is a researched statement for how much we can do in two seconds. It is about forty to fifty different things. Another way to state this is-- humans have what's called a "moment," from twenty to twenty-five per second depending on age, where they can take in discrete information, and decide from it. This is testable, and different for other species-- insects and birds can do considerably more in one second.
So I was driving in the slow lane of Sunrise Highway, all the way to the right at about 45 mph, passing store entrances, cars parked on the median, through some intersections, and through some merge lanes with two-into-one style. I was looking forward to getting home. There were a number of options to get there-- Udall Road or Robert Moses Parkway, or back on the main restricted part of Sunrise.
I had a moment of decision-- how to get home. I was not in a hurry (never am when driving) but I saw that merging back onto Sunrise could avoid a couple of lights. This would've meant changing lanes to the left...
... but just near that moment I was passing a number of cars parked on the side of the road, near a store. I have strict discipline to just do one thing at a time while driving, and I needed to look closely at each of these cars. (In fact, dividing the twenty moments I get every second, I clearly see how many people feel they can use cellphones-- they simply switch from attention to looking when needed, and this is sufficiently fast to keep them safe. This is why it's a scofflaw as speeding is.)
So I waited, and then decided to just use Udall Road.
My personal driving law-- one thing at a time. I will not change lanes, or introduce a variable, when another one is present.

26 July 2009

When not to pass, or... finally! An application of what I learned in Multivariable Calculus

At this point of history, a "Best Driver In The World" should pass, not be passed, should live in the fast lane not the slow lane. There is the thrill of technologic speed. This must be made safe. The world will have more identification, and therefore respect, for a driver with some velocity.

I pass many, many more cars than pass me. Maria, my wife, and Joshua, my son, have a running humor about this; Correcaminos, my Celica, isn't worth more than a thousand dollars or so on the used car market, but we routinely pass 40 and 50 thousand dollar cars. To this I say-- especially to Josh-- something like the time-honored "you can buy a car but you can't buy style."

You can spend all you want on a car but this is not the same as driver knowledge.

Most all of my passed cars, in the fantasy-world where I am getting somewhere faster than they are, occur on a multi-lane highway, when I am in that fast lane. As I have mentioned before, this is done with a number of safety concerns for each and every moment near the other car. The important thing is to have no other variable-- nothing else that could happen.

Many people violate this concern of a multivariable situation. I can think of a spot on the Southern State Parkway, where the road splits into two other parkway choices, the Heckscher Extension or the Sagtikos Parkway. Approaching this, the three lanes are joined by another entrance ramp and then yet another high-speed ramp. A driver coming off these ramps may want to merge left, across two lanes, to go to the Sagtikos. I drive this many times a week and have to adjust my speed to the traffic's. Clearly, this is multivariable, yet many people choose to get near other cars here, to pass, even to change lanes to pass. I invariably follow cars through here, until the situation simplifies. Then, I go.

The basic rule here is similar to what my New York State Driver's Manual told me many years ago when it mentioned not to change lanes in an intersection-- because too many things can happen. If you are choosing to pass in any kind of multivariable situation-- be it a blind curve, a turning lane, a child playing area, extra traffic-- or many more instances-- you are not in full control of what might happen. Yet you must be in control at all times. Therefore, these are areas not to pass in.

10 June 2009

Scofflaws-- for Gary

I've searched a bit on scofflaw psychology related to driving. Curiously, a brief Yahoo search yields numerous Top 25 entries on bicycling. But this entry is about cars.

The Scofflaws Three-- speeding, cellphone use, and incomplete stops-- who was the first person to cross the line? What does the Police Department feel when it instructs its officers (if it does) to "allow 70 mph in a 55 zone", as it seems they must do? How does an officer feel, or is there always a fantasyland of slow drivers around every police car?

What exactly is a proper stop at a stop sign?

For writers to only address the absolutism of these issues, i.e. going strictly by the book, is to neglect to look deeper at a wanted social future. For example, recently on LinkedIn Driver Safety, I offered some reasoning as to how the speed limit will evolve to allow us over 100 mph. This was met with resistance, but look at what this says-- that we will never be much over 70 mph? Two hundred years from now?

We will never have any outside communication from our vehicles, because it's been (shown) that even Bluetooth-type cellphone use is dangerous? What about the CB craze of the '70s? That did not stop from being dangerous. At the time, it was accepted as safe.

And will all stop signs become yield signs if we get good enough?

If the American public is thought of as intelligent, and in actuality resistant to these laws for some underlying reason, truths emerge, and better, informed driving laws can eventually result from open discussion.

Thus, a seeming outlaw nation is begging for explanation, justification, and eventual change.

31 May 2009

zero point five

I recently had an exchange of letters on LinkedIn Driver Safety, concerning reaction times. It was posted that the typical driver has one of 1.33 seconds-- I guess to an immediate change, a surprise, and I'm sure, in a laboratory.
So I thought about my own reactions and wrote my personal, rough estimate-- 0.4 seconds, thinking a little less than half a second is how I react to things changing around my car. It's kind of like counting one-misipi, two misipi as a kid-- not so exact anyway. But these reaction times are sought in labs.
My statement of reaction was challenged. We wrote back and forth, and it got me to this--
If I am in my car, and being preventive with events around me, do I even have to react?
If I react to two cars ahead, before the car ahead even has flashed its brake lights, is this a minus reaction time?
Does the time start (supposing it is a braking time) with my foot clearly on the gas pedal, or perhaps lightly on it, or moving off it as the situation in front changes, or covering the brake... or when, exactly?

04 March 2009

Proving It

I've encountered some upper-level driver instructors lately, all of whom have a claim to being a better (safer) driver than I am. Remember, the aim of Best Driver In The World is to be provocative, to claim a title that others will then want. But I thought I'd take a bit of time to offer my reasons for the title. This is some of what I do when I drive-- see if the advice is found elsewhere:

1. I keep away from all other cars, by
a. leaning away in a lane when close
b. passing a bit faster, 1-2 mph
c. spending less passing time in their blind spot, more with them in mine (I know where they are)
d) using long turn signals
e) at lights, preventing a rear-end by watching the car behind, leaving extra space in front, moving my car forward if needed.

2. I have an oversized rearview mirror. All cars should have this excellent safety device. Once used to the perspective (like a side mirror), your knowledge of what's behind you is much more visual.

3. When approaching a T intersection, I look right first-- a car may turn into where I could stop; then look left.

4. Covering the brake is a highly active and timed skill.

5. Social advocacy: citizens should have the right and ability to report bad drivers by a dedicated telephone number, like a 711, where they would only have to mention the license plate number. The police would use this by number of reports. (Please refer to the article "an addition to making driving safer," in this blog, for this idea reasoned out in more detail.)

Come drive with me-- it's the tip of the iceberg.


14 January 2008

why the claim

I have seen many of us take or be given titles, and after 50 years of consideration, I would like to earn the title of The Best Driver in the World. Haha, you say. Good—I know I am entering a realm of some pride. We all need to care about this. I know I would need to prove it to you. Well, for starters, do you use an oversized rearview mirror?

This essay is the first in a series to contribute to one of the greatest needs I have encountered in my life, from 1956 to 2007—safety in cars. I’ve been interested in writing this ever since developing a mental dialogue, while driving, that addresses each moment and each challenge in a pro-active way—and I have not read anything else that is taking this exact path, to such detail. I want to share with you what I have learned, well beyond what was taught us in Driver Education, well beyond anything you have seen. I believe that, no matter how many technologic safety advances the auto industry will offer us, the ultimate safety will always be in the driver’s hands.

In this first installment, I’d like to justify why such a title is available to me, or anyone.

Type it as a search in Google— The Best Driver in the World.

You get some speculation that it belongs to Michael Schumacher of Formula 1, or rally drivers, and some sarcasm—not much else. Although we live in an era of hype and titles more than ever, why would this be?

It is a worship of celebrity, of auto racing. But fortunately for us, this clarifies 2 points—

1. the confusion Google shows is from the many types of racing and related auto sport and culture. No-one can say if a LeMans 24 Hour driver is better than a Nascar one, or if one of those stern, confident faces you see on TV car commercials, swerving around an obstacle, is the one. So there is fragmentation.

2. that the title of Best Driver in the World is for, possibly, anyone who drives, not just professional racers. Driving has no amateur status in First World nations. You get your license and go—you are now a trained professional. Instant professional, classified speed on the Long Island Expressway. We all face situations, each day driving, that are potentially more dangerous than any racing professional, and we encounter far more people—babies, elderly, families, everyone, who rely on our knowledge, judgment, and safety to continue living their lives. So the title could be claimed by a licensed driver, a layperson if you will. And I want it.

This is clearly different from other organized sports. The best? Baseball—those who throw the fastest, hit the farthest and most. Basketball—clearer still. Football- the toughest. Lists go on. But driving is more than a sport.

I offer the idea here that The Best Driver in the World should by rights go to a non-racer—to a licensed, experienced individual who proves to the world he or she knows all the psychological nuances the world of cars have created, where it is all going, how to accident-proof anyone, and how to help change our culture so that news of driving accidents all but disappear. To make the common idea of “accidents are unavoidable,” that we often hear around the water cooler, obsolete. To face directly the growing problem of safety for our children, wrest the basic solution from the hands of policy-makers, road engineers, auto safety devices, back to the control that it’s always been in—the ability of the driver.

I’ve written this first essay in short form, not having it accepted anywhere yet. In it, I hope to have awakened a kind of jealousy in you, strange as that might seem. I don’t know you, but I share roads with you. I see you in your car for a second or so, sometimes. I see you make so many mistakes, and in my 50 years of observation, I’ve seen these grow, get more serious, cause more fatalities, and even worse, seen these become acculturated. And then, I never see you again, as you go off on your journey to commit mistakes around others. Instead, I see another, and they make mistakes in judgment too. In a sense, there is no viewer audience in driving. Often, we are seen by each other for mere seconds. I know there is no way to prove who is a better driver, except by detailing so many situations, and correct reactions, far beyond what you’ve heard before, that no doubt will be left.

And before the next essay, which I hope will be published in column form, that you will bring other readers to (perhaps your teenagers), I must say that I am a modest man. It has to seem opposite to you—how arrogant to claim such a thing, you’re probably thinking! But I am outraged at what driving has become, and I know you are too. I am angered—no, frustrated—at an implicit, expertise tone that new car commercials and insurance commercials have taken, without imparting any useful information. I have thought what to do, and it is this.

I wish to earn the title of The Best Driver in the World. I know that, in this first installment, I’ve not given any examples of what to do. But what about this—now that you know someone seeks such a Grail, what will be your reaction next time you get the key and hold the steering wheel in your hand?

I have already helped you. The Best Driver in the World is not the fastest, but the Safest. Let me share what I have learned. Until next time….

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