ROADS REPORT

Article December 28, 2000
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Preventive maintenance
Almost one out of every three motorists experienced mechanical or operational breakdowns in the past year, according to a recent AAA Chicago Motor Club (CMC) survey. However, many of these breakdowns could be prevented if drivers maintain their vehicles properly. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,500 motorists surveyed said they had at least one problem in the past year that rendered their vehicle disabled.

Consumers are sometimes confused about what constitutes appropriate vehicle maintenance. Thanks to a barrage of marketing messages, advances in vehicle technology and a diversity of automotive products, most consumers aren’t certain what’s necessary when it comes to vehicle maintenance.

“There are many common misconceptions regarding what’s best for your car in terms of maintenance,” said Brian Sterling, AAA-CMC’s manager of public affairs. “In many cases, motorists may actually be spending more money than necessary to keep their cars running at peak performance.”

More than 65%of the motorists surveyed knew they should have their tires rotated every 10,000 miles or less, but they spent nothing on tire rotation in the past year. About a third of those surveyed didn’t know the correct tire pressure and nearly half didn’t know the gasoline octane rating that is recommended for their cars.

Read all about it
As part of a campaign to broaden public understanding of the role engineers play in everyday life, the National Engineers Week (Feb. 21-27, 1999) committee is making an effort to let the world know that more and more engineers are taking a shot at wordsmithing.

Former chief engineer for Manhattan, Richard Herschlag, spent years prowling New York’s underbelly. The endless miles of sewers, subway tunnels, steam pipes, electrical circuitry, emergency routes and other subterranean paths running beneath the island of Manhattan became Herschlag’s bailiwick. It’s that literal infrastructure that becomes the literary infrastructure upon which Herschlag hangs his story of murder and disaster, The Interceptor.

It’s no surprise that the long-standing advice to authors to “write what you know” makes no exception for engineers. What engineers know is often something that most outside the profession have only scant knowledge of. A review in Publishers Weekly noted, “the author obviously knows and loves the often bizarre, often treacherous labyrinth of tunnels and pipelines webbing the city; a three-page discussion on steam, gas and electrical power is actually thoroughly engrossing.”

Pikes Peak or bust
“Pikes Peak or Bust,” was the motto for gold miners in 1859. The man for whom it is named, explorer Zebulon Pike, saw the peak for the first time from 150 miles away in 1806 and later tried to climb it but gave up, saying no man would ever be able to reach the top. He was wrong and the view from its summit inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write America the Beautiful in 1893.

According to environmentalists, the beacon to pioneers and gold seekers in the Old West is being wrecked by a gravel road 300,000 sightseers use each year to reach its 14,110-ft summit. The Sierra Club is suing the city of Colorado Springs and the U.S. Forest Service to force them to pave the 19-mile road. Currently, all but six miles of the road are gravel. The group says the city is ignoring its own studies and a Forest Service recommendation that the road be paved to reduce environmental damage caused by runoff from the tons of gravel used to maintain it. City officials say they don’t have the money, nearly $15 million, needed to pay for the job.

Finding beauty on the side of the road
Five wildflower photos, submitted by Missouri DOT employees, received recognition in the national Photo Opportunity competition held by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) newsletter, Greener Roadsides. The five winning Missouri photos were chosen out of 89 submissions from 10 state highway programs.

Greener Roadsides sponsors the contest to support and promote roadside programs that plant and protect native vegetation and wildflowers. Photos from the contest are used in promotional and educational presentations, exhibits and brochures. Stacy Armstrong, roadside management supervisor and state Adopt-A-Highway coordinator at the Support Center, won first place in the close-ups category for her photo of a yellow coneflower in Cole County.

Road rage revisited
Preventing Road Rage—Anger Management for Drivers, a new video from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teaches angry motorists to be calmer, more polite and safer drivers. Designed to be used either by individuals or in classrooms, the video relates the story of Bill and Carl, two people with very different driving styles. Bill gets angry when things don’t go his way, honking his horn and competing for space with other drivers. Carl, in contrast, remains calm and takes traffic stress in stride.

Using the two drivers as examples, the video helps viewers look at stress in their own lives. It urges them to think about how they manage stress while driving and explains that drivers often get angry because their belief system is challenged. By changing their basic assumptions about how driving ought to be, drivers can reduce stress and make driving more pleasant for themselves and their passengers.

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