Take the money and run

Whether it’s avoiding a fine or selling test questions to young drivers, people are doing whatever it takes to get by

Blog Entry July 06, 2012

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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Details at 11
Last fall Travel + Leisure magazine named Miami as the city with the worst drivers in America. Now thanks to an undercover TV news investigation, we may know why.


South Florida station WPLG-TV took a hidden camera to the streets of Miami and found driving instructors selling copies of the exact questions and answers on the state’s written driving exam for $30.


What’s more, they were selling the answers right outside DMV offices.


Craziest of all, the Florida DMV said that this practice is perfectly legal under current rules because test takers still have to have the information memorized for the closed-book test.


Good thing, because a WPLG reporter found several people outside one DMV preparing for the test by studying the purchased list of answers. Each one admitted to never having read the 62-page Florida Driver’s Handbook, and yet they all still managed to pass the exam.


Perhaps this explains why so many Miami drivers believe that speeding through a red light minimizes your chances of being hit and that turn signals only give away your next move.


Loud and clear
High-end automakers know that their customers have a deep attachment to the signature sound of their engine’s roar. But modern technology keeps getting in the way, making vehicles quieter and more relaxing to drive each year.


BMW believes they have the solution, which will debut in U.S. showrooms with the 2013 M5. It’s called “Active Sound Design” and it plays pre-recorded V8 engine sounds in the car’s cabin through the stereo system.


A computer program even matches the amplitude of the recorded engine to the driver’s accelerator-revving.


The feature will come standard in the new $93,000 M5, but it can actually be found in more affordable vehicles under a different name: Power Window Down.


Street smarts
There are plenty of strategies for getting out of a traffic ticket. Some try flattering the officer, others go with tears and many just make up an excuse involving their kids or their bladder.


One underutilized tactic is submitting a four-page mathematical paper, complete with graphs and equations, proving that your apparent violation was simply the result of an optical illusion. But for a physicist in San Diego, it worked.


In his paper, “The Proof of Innocence,” Dmitri Krioukov outlined the mathematical reasons why he was not guilty of running a stop sign.


He premised his argument on three coincidences that he said made the police officer believe that he had seen him run a red light when really he had not:


“(1) The observer measures not the linear but angular speed of the car; (2) the car decelerates and subsequently accelerates relatively fast; and (3) there is a short-time obstruction of the observer’s view of the car by an external object, e.g., another car, at the moment when both cars are near the stop sign.”


Say what? Well as Krioukov was approaching the intersection, he says he sneezed and involuntarily braked suddenly. At exactly the same time, a larger vehicle passed his Toyota Yaris and blocked the officer’s view of Krioukov’s car stopping. Krioukov then accelerated again quickly, and due to the angle and distance that the officer was viewing from, it created the illusion that Krioukov had not stopped at all.


Krioukov added, “This mistake is fully justified. The [officer’s] perception of reality did not properly reflect reality.”


After reviewing Krioukov’s paper, a judge agreed with his arguments and dismissed the fine. Of course, the judge might have just been too embarrassed to admit that he was lost way back at premise No. 2. R&B

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