ROADS REPORT

Article December 28, 2000
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Electric cars drawing heat from drivers


Electric cars drawing heat from drivers


General Motors has been forced to recall about half of all the high-tech ’97 EV1 electric cars it has leased in the past three years and all of its battery-powered Chevrolet S-10 pickups due to potential fire hazards.


The EV1 and S-10s operate off a battery pack that needs to be recharged with a special system provided by GM. The company said a part in the vehicles’ charging port could potentially overheat and catch fire during recharging, so they have asked owners to stop driving until they figure out a way to fix the problem.


GM said the S-10s can be fixed, but the EV1’s defective part is a 10-lb piece that would have to be redesigned. So far neither a repair nor a good reason to buy an electric car has been figured out.


Can cell calls cause car crashes?


A recent study, conducted at the University of Helsinki in Finland, found that talking on the phone can delay braking and contribute to rear-end crashes.


The study placed 19 drivers between the ages of 20 and 29 on the road. While following behind a lead car, the drivers were asked to perform different tasks such as dialing, talking and mental addition. Sensors then measured how long it took them to brake when the car ahead of them slowed down.


Researchers found that dialing and talking both caused about a half-second delay in reaction time—enough time to cause a crash in many everyday situations. They also indicated the problem seems to be driver distraction rather than drivers not looking at the road, making hands-free phones just as risky.


The authors of the study suggested better driver education about the risks of using a cell phone while driving, but many are asking for a ban on car phones altogether.


After Patricia Pena’s car was broadsided by a distracted driver, killing her 2-year-old daughter, she devoted herself to passing a nationwide ban on cell phone use in cars, except in cases of emergencies.


Currently no state bans the use of cell phones in automobiles, but California, Florida and Massachusetts have laws limiting cell phone use in moving vehicles.


Big Brother wants in the passenger seat


The Supreme Court has agreed to see if they agree whether police can routinely stop motorists at checkpoints in hopes of catching drug dealers.


A federal appeals court ruling said that Indianapolis police checkpoints that detained motorists for around three minutes at a time were nothing more than unreasonable and unlawful search and seizures.


Police usually need a court warrant or legitimate suspicion before detaining someone for several minutes. But the Supreme Court has allowed police to set up sobriety checkpoints in the past to detect drunk drivers and intercept illegal immigrants.


The Indianapolis "narcotics checkpoints" were started in the summer of 1998. Six road blocks in high-crime areas were set up and a predetermined number of cars were pulled over. Drivers were asked to show their license and registration while a drug-sniffing dog walked around the cars. In the program’s first four months, police arrested nearly 10% of the 1,161 drivers stopped, leading to 55 drug-related arrests. The checkpoints were suspended last July when two residents challenged the program, calling the unwarranted searches unconstitutional.


Supporters of the program site the high rate of arrests at the checkpoints as sufficient justification for reinstating them.


Keeping kids off the streets and in taxis


Ever wonder what that van full of small children cruising around in the afternoon was all about? Well, it probably wasn’t the black market but rather a child transportation service.


At least 100 kid cab businesses are booming across the country. For only a few dollars, they’ll pick your child up from school and deliver them to baseball practice, Cub Scouts or wherever they need to be. For families with working parents, this service is proving so valuable they’re bombarding the transportation programs with requests. The taxi services said they would need to be three or four times their current size to handle all the business, but they’re happy to stay small and personal.


Speed up to stay safe in Missouri


The Missouri DOT (MoDOT) traffic unit reports that since increasing the speed limits on rural interstates to 70 mph four years ago, the number of crashes is decreasing. Not surprisingly, though, the number of fatalities is up.


MoDOT, the Missouri Department of Highway Safety and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are working together to help decrease this number. Among the ideas on the table are a primary seatbelt law that would allow the Highway Patrol to stop and ticket a driver if anyone in the vehicle is not wearing a seatbelt; lowering the legal blood alcohol limit to .08; prohibiting the consumption or possession of any open alcoholic beverage by anyone in a vehicle; increased penalties for motorists with two or more drunk-driving convictions including the installation of a ignition interlock device; and increasing the penalty for speeding in a work zone.


Highway jumpers won’t go to the hopper


The law may not let you ride a bike on many sidewalks or skateboard almost anywhere, but it doesn’t say anything about jumping over highways on a snowboard.


This is the conclusion deputies in Colorado came to when they were called to the scene of an accident involving a 20-year-old Boulder resident. The college student and his friends had built a jump along a slope on a mountain pass 40 ft above Highway 6. When the jumper miscalculated his 60-ft flight and crashed into a snow embankment suffering minor injuries, the Colorado State Patrol was called in but decided the only thing the students could be charged with was stupidity since no vehicle was involved.


And as if skiing off mountains wasn’t dumb enough, a state trooper also said this was the second time police had been called to the same spot.


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