Partners in crime

The key is choosing a sidekick with good sense and a strong beak

Blog Entry February 08, 2016

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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Dangerous liaisons

February is the month when we celebrate love, but sometimes when romance is in the air, our judgment becomes clouded.

 

Take, for example, new research from the U.K. showing that motorists engage in some saucy and sometimes dangerous behavior in the privacy of their own cars. 

 

The survey by OSV Ltd. asked 500 drivers whether they have ever engaged in a list of specific activities while behind the wheel.

 

One of the most unexpected results was that 14% of drivers admit to having engaged in sexual activities while driving. And, surprisingly, the main culprits were not younger drivers—60% of those who fessed up were actually between the ages of 30-59. 

 

However, hanky panky was only the second-highest admission on the survey. First place goes to the decidedly unromantic “picking your nose,” which 40% of drivers admit to doing.

 

Other scandalous confessions include checking social media (10%), taking a selfie (4%), driving naked (2%) and eating with utensils (2%). 

 

Instructions included

Cambridge, Mass., officials are testing out a new traffic light system that they hope will reduce pedestrian accidents. 

 

The only problem is that the system is so confusing for drivers, it requires instructions to figure out.

 

The system is called the High-Intensity Activated crossWalK, or HAWK, and here’s how it works.

 

As drivers approach the intersection, they will see three clusters of three traffic lights. At first the lights will all be off, meaning that it’s safe for drivers to proceed. 

 

However, when a pedestrian activates the system, each cluster will display a single blinking yellow light before switching to a pair of solid yellow lights, warning drivers to prepare to stop. 

 

Next, the solid yellow lights will turn red, telling drivers to stop. Then those red lights will be replaced by blinking red lights, which means that it’s safe for drivers to proceed as long as there are no pedestrians in the crosswalk.

 

Finally, the lights will turn off again, giving cars the right-of-way until a pedestrian reactivates the system.

 

Pedestrians also will have their own set of walk signs telling them when it’s safe to cross.

 

In a study of its effectiveness, the Federal Highway Administration determined that there was “a statistically significant reduction in pedestrian crashes” when using HAWK. 

 

The city installed the HAWK system outside the headquarters of biotech giant Biogen, at the company’s request. To help with the transition, Biotech employees began handing out instructional pamphlets to pedestrians, while police officers and electronic signs tried to educate drivers. 

 

Officials are treating the installation as a pilot program before considering future installations elsewhere in the city.

 

Everything’s “owl” right

A routine overnight patrol shift turned into a real hoot for a Louisiana police officer this past December.

 

Covington Police Officer Lance Benjamin was riding alone with his windows rolled down, slowly exiting a subdivision, when suddenly he felt something hard hit the side of his face.

 

“I’m thinking ‘OK, maybe it was a football or something,’” Benjamin told New Orleans TV station WVUE. “And then I felt some scratching on the back of my head and some pecking.” 

 

It was an owl, which had flown into the driver’s side window and started attacking the officer with its wings, talons and beak. 

 

The assault caused Benjamin to temporarily lose control of his patrol car and drive into a ditch. Fortunately, he wasn’t injured and managed to scramble out of the vehicle and away from his assailant.

 

Not about to try and cuff the perp, Benjamin instead rolled down the passenger side window and tried to coax the owl out of his car. Finally after 45 minutes, it flew off into the darkness.

 

Benjamin suffered only minor scratches, but he was taken to a hospital for a tetanus shot and antibiotics as a precaution, and then finished the rest of his shift.

 

Thanks to his fellow officers, Benjamin now has a permanent partner for all of his late night patrols: A pink stuffed owl that rides along on his dashboard. R&B

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