ROADS REPORT

Article December 28, 2000
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Highway angel

Hudson “Boots” Rager of Casselberry, Fla., recently became the 400th recipient of the Highway Angel award for rescuing five family members involved in a serious accident during a winter storm.

One January morning, Rager was slowly driving down I-57 near Effingham, Ill., in the middle of an ice storm. The temperature was in the single digits and the roadway was a solid sheet of ice. Rager noticed a Ford Explorer traveling about 20 mph ahead of him spin around, veer off the road down a median strip and turn upside down.

Rager stopped and helped all five family members out of the vehicle. One of the children, still fastened in her seatbelt, was hanging upside down. “The little girl was scared toothless,” he said.

The family had been returning from a Florida vacation when the accident occurred. Rager reassured them and brought them into his warm truck to await help. When a state trooper finally arrived, he asked Rager to take the family to a motel. The trooper said he was needed at a seven-car pile up down the road. Knowing most of the motels would be full due to the road conditions, Rager drove the family all the way to their home in Bloomington, about 70 miles away.

Road rage revved by lane hogs

A study by Potomac AAA found that Washington-area motorists are overwhelmingly frustrated with slower drivers who stay in the left lane, even those cruising at the posted speed limits. The annual AAA transportation survey found that 97% of respondents agreed that slower highway drivers should always keep right and that 86% believed motorists traveling at the speed limit should always make way for faster drivers. In both cases, a large majority said they felt strongly about the issue, according to the National Motorists Association News. Left-lane crawlers were identified as a leading cause of aggressive driving.

Additionally, 46% of the respondents listed aggressive driving as the top safety threat, 20% listed congestion as the top safety threat and 18% said drunken driving, followed by large trucks and overall road conditions. This year’s telephone survey of 425 motorists marked the first time AAA had solicited opinions about left-lane driving.

Cracking down on cellular calls

Thailand’s police department recently requested the Cabinet to issue a ban on the use of mobile phones by drivers. Police are hoping the ban will cause a reduction in the number of road accidents. As of press time, a penalty for driving while talking on a mobile phone had not been decided.

According to the Thailand Health Research Institute, Thailand has the most traffic accidents of any country in southeast Asia. There are an average of approximately 17,000 road deaths and $2.7 billion in damage each year from traffic accidents, according to the institute.

Gambling trip takes tragic turn

Marc Morial, Mayor of New Orleans, said the bus accident that killed 21 people and hospitalized 16 in May was the worst traffic accident in the city’s history.

The chartered bus was carrying members of a casino club on a Mother’s Day gambling excursion when it swerved from the left lane into the right lane, then crashed into an embankment at a tunnel for golf carts at the city park course. It then came to rest on a grassy area along the highway, which passes through a residential section of the city.

A witness said a white car swerved in front of the bus, which changed lanes. Then, the car swerved back in front of the bus, which ran off the road and crashed into the embankment.

Low pay causes inspector shortage

A study recently indicated that trucks with bald tires, worn brakes and loose bolts are being allowed to barrel down roads in Illinois and Indiana due to a shortage of inspectors. A joint investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times and Post-Tribune of Gary revealed that both states do fewer in-depth inspections, take fewer trucks off the roads and invest fewer resources in truck safety than other states with comparable commercial traffic volume.

The newspapers reported that in Illinois, key stretches of highway are left without surprise inspections for weeks at a time because there are 56 state troopers conducting inspections—one for every 45,551 trucks registered. Indiana has 32 state troopers assigned to commercial vehicle code enforcement full time and 20 part time. The state also uses civilian inspectors.

The shortage is being blamed on the low wages paid to civilian inspectors, many of those positions remain unfilled. Starting salary has been frozen since 1995 at $16,190 a year.

Fatal fall

A man who was attempting to get a place in the Guinness Book of World Records was killed when he fell from the Brooklyn Bridge in April. Robert Landetta, who was trying to set a record by climbing five bridges in four hours, slipped off a cable and fell 500 ft to the street.

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