Article December 28, 2000
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Carpooling could be death trap for teens

Carpooling could be death trap for teens

Teen drivers face much higher odds of having a fatal accident when they have passengers in the car or when driving at night, according to a recent study.

A 17 year old is three times more likely to die in an accident when driving with three or more other passengers, the study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found. It also indicated the death rate of teen drivers increases sharply after 10 p.m.

The study further fuels arguments by groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that recommend beginning drivers not be allowed any passengers and drivers under 18 be banned from the roads after 10 p.m. They argue that teens tend not to concentrate as well when their friends are in the car and will sometimes show off for passengers by speeding or changing lanes without signaling.

Conversely the study found that amongst drivers between the ages of 30-59, most accidents occurred when the driver was alone; the least when there were two other passengers.

Free speech on the roads

In a scathing inditement on the recent bribery scandal surrounding the International Olympic Committee’s decision to hold the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, a Utah man ordered special Olympic vanity license plates reading "SCNDL." The only problem was state officials found the motorist’s stance a little too over-the-top and demanded he turn in his plates or lose his vehicle registration. But when the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, the state soon reversed its decision allowing the man to continue with his crusade against no good.

Louisiana motorists bearly make it home

Drivers out for a Sunday night cruise on a central New Orleans freeway were forced to grin and bear it while they waited for the New Orleans Audubon Zoo to round up a black circus bear that had tumbled out of a truck. While trying to get a bearing on his directions, the circus star was hit by a passing trailer but was not seriously hurt. Motorists who were forced to bear witness to the accident called police, who then contacted the New Orleans Zoo. Animal experts were forced to shoot the 450-lb performer with a tranquilizer gun in order to get him to the zoo for treatment. After a few hours of rest and some hay, the big guy was said to have shown bearly any after-effects from his ordeal.

Skate or die

What do you get when you race a few hundred in-line skaters through a tunnel as part of a "car-free" day event? A crash, a pileup and gridlock.

Just moments after a recent in-line skating race began in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, a huge human pileup resulted in 50 injuries. The race was part of "Car-Free Sunday," an event organized by environmentalists to call attention to rising traffic and pollution in The Netherlands. Automobiles were banned from the heart of Amsterdam and several road events were held.

Unfortunately while skating through the IJtunnel, one skater fell, tripping those around him, and a pileup of hundreds of racers quickly resulted. Luckily, the most serious injuries were broken arms and legs.

Marriage almost blows up on highway

A major highway interchange east of Los Angeles was shut down recently after a man parked a rental truck on a bridge over two roadways and claimed he had a bomb.

The threat closed Interstates 10 and 15 on a Friday evening causing huge traffic backups. Officers were eventually able to talk the man out of the U-Haul, at which point they found his proud one- and five-year-old children in the truck, but no bomb. While a bomb squad robot searched the truck, the man’s wife arrived and told police her husband was simply upset over marital problems. The man was later arrested.

Profanity on I-85 at all-time high

Be careful driving through South Carolina. The Highway Patrol there recently instituted a four-month crackdown on heavily traveled sections of I-85 resulting in nearly 9,000 speeding tickets (an average of 75 every day), nearly 60 arrests for drunken driving andmore than 90 arrests for driving under suspension. The initiative began due to the massive construction on I-85 and the high amount of congestion.

Just taking a shortcut

When 20-year-old Julie Sarbanis went out drinking April 22, she had no idea she’d end up in bed with a man named Spud—much less while still in her car. But that’s exactly what happend when Sarbanis, driving intoxicated, hit a knoll and flew 150 ft over two cars, a pickup truck and telephone wires crashing through Spud and Joanne Donovan’s wall and landing one foot above the couple asleep in their bed. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

Office on wheels

Envisioning the day when cars are much more than cars, GM will begin offering hands-free phone service and Internet access in all their vehicles equipped with the OnStar service.

The "Personal Calling" hardware will give drivers voice-activated cell phone access that will keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. With "Virtual Advisor," motorists will be able to read e-mails or information off the Internet when their car is parked. While driving, "Virtual Advisor" will read e-mails and web info out loud to you.

GM feels there is great potential for this service, as 50-70% of cellular minutes are currently used on the road.

Truckers tired of sleepy drivers

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) recently examined driver fatigue in its attempt to reform federal truck driver hours-of-service rules. Citing drowsiness as a cause in over 56,000 crashes each year, the ATA released some tips used by truck drivers for staying alert on the road. They suggest taking a nap before a trip, scheduling a break after every two hours of driving and exercising in some manner before getting behind the wheel again. Traveling with a companion on long trips also is recommended (unless you’re a teen driver in which case another passenger will only further increase your chances of causing an accident).

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