Theft, drugs and yuletide cheer

Jan. 1, 2005

Ratted out

What kind of nut would drive through a red light at an intersection without even slowing down? Apparently a pecan.

That’s what Carol Windham of Ardmore, Okla., is claiming after the brake pedal in her van failed to depress and she was forced to run a red light last month. After safely negotiating the intersection at full speed, Windham was finally able to slow the van down by pressing hard with both feet on the brake pedal.

Ratted out

What kind of nut would drive through a red light at an intersection without even slowing down? Apparently a pecan.

That’s what Carol Windham of Ardmore, Okla., is claiming after the brake pedal in her van failed to depress and she was forced to run a red light last month. After safely negotiating the intersection at full speed, Windham was finally able to slow the van down by pressing hard with both feet on the brake pedal.

The van was towed to a repair shop where mechanics found about 50 pecans under the hood, likely the result of a rat nest. They believe that Windham’s brakes failed because a pecan became lodged next to the accelerator cable, causing the throttle to stick open.

Experts say that rat problems are not uncommon at this time of year. Besides tampering with your brakes, rats are known to chew through fuel lines and electrical wires.

Windham said that when she returned home and checked under the hood of her other vehicle, she was surprised to find a half-eaten pizza, a copy of Ivanhoe and a child’s sled.

What a pain

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people stuck in traffic are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack within the hour than those who are doing almost anything else.

The study focused on hundreds of heart attacks in southern Germany and found that nearly one in 12 was linked to traffic.

While a subway pass may seem like the obvious solution, researchers found otherwise. Their results showed that while heart attacks were

2.6 times higher for people stuck in cars, they were 3.1 times higher for those stalled on public transportation. What the study could not determine was whether the excess heart attacks were due to stress or exposure to vehicle pollution. Either way, though, the study concluded that unemployment is the key to a long, healthy life.

Tips from the road

If the traditional reasons for not drinking and driving aren’t enough to convince you, consider the fact that alcohol can severely limit your ability to think rationally in a time of crisis.

A northern California man learned this lesson the hard way last month. In the midst of a two-day drinking binge, the clutch on Claud Gipson-Reynolds’ 1983 Chevrolet gave out on a windy, one-lane street just north of San Francisco. He wound up stuck in the mud on the side of the road.

Knowing he would need help to free his car, Gipson-Reynolds walked to a nearby volunteer fire station. Unable to find a phone, he decided to commandeer a fire truck instead, inconspicuously crashing it out of the fire station through the closed garage doors.

His “plan” was to use the fire truck to free his car and then drive the truck to a pay phone and call for a tow truck. Unfortunately he managed to drive the fire truck off the road about 20 ft away from where his car was stuck. It was not until this point that Gipson-Reynolds realized that the fire truck had its own radio. He used it to call for a tow truck, but dispatchers sent out the California Highway Patrol instead. When officers arrived on the scene, the beer cans and Narcotics Anonymous pamphlets in Gipson-Reynolds’ car told them all they needed to know.

Got the weed for speed

Bartering may seem like an old-fashioned means of exchange that has become largely irrelevant since the creation of money, but try telling that to the youth of Sacramento, Calif.

Two young men drove up to a local Sears Auto Center last month in need of two new tires. Short on cash, they offered to trade an employee some marijuana in exchange for the tires. The employee declined.

Frustrated with Sears’ obvious lack of appreciation for ancient economic practices, one of the men stepped out of the car and swung at the Sears employee with an aluminum bat.

The worker was able to avoid being hit and managed to shatter one of the car’s windows with a rock as he ran back into the store. While he rounded up reinforcements, the suspects snatched two tires and sped off.

An hour later, the two suspects returned to Sears looking for the employee who had broken their car window. The police were called and the pair were found a short time later swinging a tire iron at an electronics salesman who refused to give them a flat-screen TV in exchange for two tires and a hamster.

About The Author: Roads Report is a monthly roundup of unusual traffic-related events in the news. All the stories are true, but reported in fun.