ROADS REPORT: Who’da thunk it?

There are interesting lessons around every corner. For example . . .

Blog Entry March 11, 2014

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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Winter driving could be worse
After a winter of bone-chilling temperatures and record snowfalls that threatened to shut down the Super Bowl and the entire city of Atlanta, spring is finally on the way. But according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), don’t expect the warmer weather to make the roads any safer.

NHTSA statistics show that you are actually more likely to be killed in a car crash on a nice sunny day than you are in a blizzard. Experts say this could be because there are usually few drivers on the road during snowy weather, and those who are out drive slower. Plus it’s hard to text with mittens on.

So if not a polar vortex, then what is the deadliest weather condition for drivers? Statistics say it’s fog.

Facebook is changing how we sue
Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions that may be overwhelming for younger readers. Parental discretion is advised.

A Nova Scotia woman is filing a lawsuit claiming that a traffic accident has left her (this is your last chance to turn away) unable to enjoy Facebook. The horror!

This unspeakable tragedy began in 2011 when Joanne Conrod was driving over a bridge in Halifax and a dump truck entered her lane and collided with her.

Conrod is suing the truck driver and his employer because she claims her injuries have left her with ongoing back, neck and leg pain, which makes it difficult for her to do anything requiring the use of her arms.

She says these conditions prevent her from being able to work and have compromised her recreational and social activities, including (gasp) the amount of time she’s able to spend on Facebook. (Thankfully her Twitter tweeter was not injured in the accident.)

It’s actually not as silly as it sounds. In a written statement concerning the case, a judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia admitted that given social media’s widespread popularity, Facebook-related evidence is becoming more relevant to personal-injury claims.

Car thieves are handi-capable
When Shamal Battice visited a car dealership in Ocala, Fla., he told a salesman that he wanted to swap his wheelchair for a faster ride.

What the salesman didn’t realize was that the 28-year-old paraplegic had no intention of paying for his new car.

Instead Battice asked the salesman to help him into a 2009 Pontiac G8 to see how it felt. Once inside, Battice locked the doors, turned on the vehicle and zoomed off the dealership lot using a collapsible cane to work the gas and brake pedals.

That kicked off a 50-mile police chase that ended only when the Pontiac began to run low on gas.

Deputies had already abandoned the pursuit, so Battice thought it was safe to stop and refuel. Only problem was he didn’t bring any money. Police eventually found him stranded at a gas station, begging other customers for change.

Your Prius packs a lot of power
When the power went out in Bob Osemlak’s Toronto neighborhood this past winter, he could have panicked.

After all, nearly a full day of no electricity or heat in the midst of a giant ice storm that wreaked havoc on the city could have been dangerous.

Fortunately, Osemlak is a retired aircraft technician with 50 years of experience, so he knows a thing or two about electrical systems. Using the vehicle-to-home (V2H) technology in his Toyota Prius, along with some long extension cords, Osemlak was able to siphon off electricity from his car to power his home.

Osemlak had prepared for a potential blackout by installing an outlet on his furnace. That way when the storm struck, he was able to just run an extension cord from the furnace through his basement window out to the self-customized V2H system in his car.

Once the temperature in his home was comfortable, Osemlak would unplug the furnace and power other critical items in his home instead, like the fridge and the TV.

By switching back and forth between heat and electricity, Osemlak was able to power his home for nine hours while only reducing his Prius’s fuel gauge by less than one bar, roughly the equivalent of a single gallon of gas.

Osemlak’s family appreciated his ingenuity, but was still a little bummed that they couldn’t use the classic “Guess-we-better-eat-all-the-ice-cream-now-before-it-melts” excuse. R&B

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