ROADS REPORT: When dogs drive

That will be the day when pocket change eradicates speeding and inflation makes theft too expensive

Blog Entry February 08, 2013

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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A blast from the past
Remember 1989? That was the year that Taylor Swift was born and George H. W. Bush became President, and when we weren’t watching “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” on VHS or blasting a Milli Vanilli cassette tape, we were glued to the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the crumbling Berlin Wall.


That also was the year that a brand new red Chevrolet Corvette was stolen from a dealership in San Diego.


Now, two decades later, long after the downfall of both cassettes and Milli Vanilli, the thief has finally come clean, turning over the stolen car to police because the cost of storing it had just gotten to be too expensive.


In fact, storage facility records show that the unidentified man spent $70,000 over the past 23 years to keep the car hidden.


According to the L.A. Times, the man told authorities that he was “coerced by gangsters into stealing the car and storing it.” In the years since, the Corvette has been locked up and never driven. When police recovered the car, they found that it had just 67 miles on the odometer, flat tires, and “still had that new-car smell on the inside.”


Once the Corvette was returned, it was dusted off and sold on eBay for $39,741, almost exactly the same amount as the suggested retail price posted on the original 1989 windshield sticker.


Positive (re)inforcement
There are obvious financial incentives to obeying speed limits. Tickets are not only expensive, but they also can jack up your insurance rates.


And yet speeding is still the most prevalent type of traffic violation and the most common factor contributing to traffic crashes.


What if the threat of financial penalty was combined with the chance for financial reward? That’s exactly what a town in Alberta, Canada, is going to try this year.


Beginning next month, the mountain town of Canmore will begin using photo radar not only to ticket speeders, but also to record the license plates of vehicles driving under the speed limit. These good drivers will be entered in a draw, and each week one will win a $250 gift certificate to the Canmore business of their choice.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Canmore just might be onto something. A NHTSA study from last summer placed GPS speed trackers in eight cars loaned to 50 different drivers. The drivers were told that if they kept their speed within posted limits for a whole week, they would be paid $25. This small incentive turned out to be incredibly effective at reducing drivers’ speed.


Of course, any parent could have told them that “Clean your room and I’ll give you $25” works much better than “Clean your room or you’re grounded.”


Motoring mutts
A pair of rescue dogs in New Zealand have passed their driving test, on live TV no less.


The event was part of a local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals campaign to encourage the adoption of pets from animal shelters.


A schnauzer cross and a bearded collie-cross were plucked from the pound and spent weeks practicing with a Hollywood dog trainer in a modified Mini Cooper.


The Mini’s accelerator and brake pedals were raised up beside the steering wheel, the auto gear shifter was tweaked to accommodate paws, and a custom seat-belt harness and accelerator limiter were installed.


During the televised event, the dogs successfully started their cars, shifted into drive, grabbed the steering wheel, drove 200 ft down a track while a trainer walked beside, and then stopped the car at the trainer’s command.


Fortunately for everyone, the test did not include parallel parking. R&B

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