Monday, February 20, 2017

If you're a nervous driver, perhaps you shouldn't be driving .....

I understand that there are people who don't like driving, otherwise why would we be rushing towards a soulless future of self-driving cars. But we're not there yet, and we won't be for decades. So my advice to you - if you're a nervous driver - is that maybe you shouldn't be driving.
Let me explain.
I live in Utah. We have mountains here. Lots of them. There are wide mountain passes - like I-80 which is a six-lane motorway. And narrow mountain passes, like Huntington Canyon, which is a single lane in each direction. It's sunny, and it rains, and it snows. These are all known facts around here. This makes it all that much harder to accept when I get on to one of the narrower roads, when I get stuck behind someone doing 20mph in a 50mph zone because they either don't like the curves, don't like how narrow the road is, or don't like the drop-offs either side.
Here's an idea - if you don't like driving on those sorts of roads, then DON'T. People that do this are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road with them.
I'm talking about this today because this weekend I went up one of the narrower canyons to go skiing. The roads were wet but not snowy and I came across a tailback of cars and at the front was someone barely doing 15mph. You know they were going slow because not only were all the cars passing them on a double yellow line, the ski buses were also passing them. Going uphill.
When I finally got to the front, the guy driving was grabbing his steering wheel so hard that he literally had white knuckles. He was pale his eyes were forced wide open. He was absolutely terrified. But he kept going. He didn't do what a logical, sane person would have done which was pull over in any of the many, many, many places that are available to do so. He didn't turn around at any of the parking areas. No - he kept crawling up the road, pissing off everyone behind him so much that we were all passing him at speed on double yellow lines.
I've seen the same in California in the mountains. I've seen the same in England in the narrow hedge-lined roads in Cornwall. I've seen the same (albeit not very often) on the Autobahn in Germany.
Learn to figure out your driving weaknesses and either do something about them (courses, training), or don't drive on roads that expose you to the things you don't like. You'll be safer and everyone else will be safer.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Shared responsibility for accidents

I find the law to be an ass when it comes to vehicle accidents. It seems like it's always one person's fault and not the other, when in truth, every accident is the product of shared blame.
For example if you're driving and you hit a pedestrian who has walked into the road without looking (the most common type of car-pedestrian accident), it should not be solely the driver's fault. The pedestrian should share responsibility because it was their carelessness that created a situation the driver was then forced to deal with. Right now, the driver would always be to blame for this, which means a pedestrian could literally step into the road 5 meters in front of a car doing 120km/h - the driver would of course have zero chance - but it would become the driver's fault in almost every country.
The same would be true for a truck driver who collects a car across the front of his truck. The truck driver would always be to blame but the car driver must typically have done something to get themselves into that situation. The most common of these is drivers who merge on to motorways without properly waiting for an empty spot, and then get themselves picked off by a truck.
Sadly, without a dashcam, most accidents fall into this legal soup and the blame gets apportioned where it always has, irrespective of what actually happened.
Given the amount of crappy driving I see every day, I'm seriously considering a dashcam for no other reason than making an offshoot website or youtube channel that does nothing but show how incapable drivers are around here :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

I've said it before : winter tyres - just do it.

I post on this topic often at this time of year : winter tyres. If you drive in snow or ice or rain, and/or in temperatures that are regularly below 5C / 41F, just get winter tyres. They're not a luxury item. They're not something that is only for "a driver's driver". Everyone should be using them.
If you don't believe me, take a look at Tire Rack's snow and ice tests of all-season versus summer versus winter tyres. All-season tyres are just not up to it. They don't work in snow, they don't work on ice, and they're not especially good in the rain. The rubber compound and tread design just isn't designed for slick or cold road surfaces.
Get summer tyres for warm weather, and winter tyres for cold weather and you'll massively increase your chances of not ending up on youtube in one of those multi-car-pileup videos.
I mean - as long as you're not texting or playing Pokémon go, or eating cereal, or reading or doing your hair or any of the other number of stupid things drivers seem to do now.
All-season vs winter tyres on snow
Summer vs all-season vs winter tyres on ice.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dieselgate continues with Jeep

I'm not sure why this took so long to come out - I wrote about Jeep's diesel cheating problem on October 19th 2015 - 15 months ago. But sure enough, it's finally come to light this week that yes - Jeep have the problem too.
So now we're just waiting for the other ten to be named : Mazda, Honda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes Benz, Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat and Volvo.
I'm honestly not sure why it's taking so long. Emission Analytics proved the diesel vehicles from all those manufacturers emitted way higher NOx levels than stated, which means in order to pass any sort of smog or emissions test, they must have some sort of defeat code or device in them.
I suppose that now Trump is in charge, and now the EPA is going to be run by climate-denier Scott Pruitt, those other ten manufacturers will probably be let off the hook.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Dakar 2017 minus Robby Gordon is a win for everyone.

The Dakar Rally is well underway this year, and as usual, the trucks are amazing, the motorcyclists are daredevils and the quad riders are just plain mental. The competition between the Peugeot, Toyota and Mini teams has been interesting to watch as it unfolds with some early failures and some unexpected successes. There have been the usual retirements - broken legs, wrists, arms and in some cases spectacular crashes where veteran drivers were lucky to walk away (I'm looking at you Carlos Sainz)
There is of course one welcome absence : Robby Gordon. After 12 years of utter failure, he's thrown in the towel. Some (like me) would say it's 11 years too late, but like 2016, we can bid him good riddance. Between punching his co-driver, melting down at his team, cheating (and being caught) multiple times, berating every team driver he's had, and a hundred other despicable acts, Gordon did not belong in the Dakar. A reminder of what a child he is (this was never aired on US TV):

It's cute that he thought he could place - he certainly seemed to think a win was somehow his right, but the Dakar is not the Baja 1000. The Baja is a drive in the park by comparison - something Gordon never accepted. Now he's gone, the real drivers are able to get on with the race without having to worry about a boorish American trying to ram them off the track.
The news reports from the bivouac have also suggested that things are a lot more 'back to usual' this year too. The officials and marshals are not having to put up with Gordon's incessant abuse, and the drivers and riders don't have to worry about shattering his fragile ego with the truth. There's no idiotic showboating, no crashing into spectators, no crashing into support vehicles - it's amazing how much more convivial the Dakar is now Gordon is gone. Competitor camaraderie is alive and well with drivers and riders alike stopping to help those in trouble. The Dakar is a dangerous race and it's a given that if you see someone badly in need of help, you stop and offer assistance (like the riders did with Toby Price this year). Gordon never understood that. He drove past injured drivers. He drove past (and in three cases, nearly over) stranded motorcyclists. When Nasser Al Attiyah made the mistake of being a team driver, Gordon abandoned him by the roadside. He doesn't understand team spirit. He doesn't understand camaraderie. He doesn't understand the spirit of cooperation. In Robby Gordon's book there's only one person that matters - himself - and that attitude is neither safe nor welcome in the Dakar Rally.
So long Gordon, and don't ever come back.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Brits want driverless cars when they're drunk, but don't trust them with their kids

A new survey has revealed how much Brits actually trust driverless cars.
Following a BBC report on the government's plans to have driverless cars in operation in the UK by 2020, car dealership Citygate wanted to find out how Brits really feel about autonomous cars.
10,000 UK drivers were asked in which circumstances they would use a driverless car - and the results have revealed that pioneers of this new automotive tech may still have some convincing to do.
Long-distance travel took the top spot, with 34% of Brits saying they’d welcome a break from driving during lengthy journeys - suggesting there’s some support for welcoming self-driving cars onto the UK’s roads.
Designated driver
29% of survey participants admitted they’d be most interested in using a driverless car while under the influence - compared to just 17% of people living in the North East.
38% of men between the ages of 35 and 44 also said they’d like to use a driverless car for trips to the pub.
Almost a third of respondents said they’d happily hand over the morning commute - a feeling that was shared by almost half of female respondents in Scotland.
Driving in the dark
A quarter of all respondents, and 40% of people living in the South West of England, said they’d be most likely to rely on a driverless car after dark.
With 22% of the vote, driving during social outings may be another chore Brits are happy to hand over to the machines.
Over 65s were keen to hand over their keys - as 35% said they’d use self-driving cars for social calls and 30% revealed they’d rather not do the driving at night.
Backseat drivers
Just 15% of Brits said they’d be happy to delegate the school run to a driverless car - suggesting that our trust in these autonomous vehicles may expire when it comes to our children’s safety.
Scottish respondents were even less willing to relinquish control - with just 7% of parents entertaining the idea of using driverless cars for school drop-offs.
6% of all participants revealed they wouldn’t use a driverless car under any circumstances - indicating that further technological developments and research will be needed before Brits agree to let go of the wheel.
Steven Crouch, Marketing Manager at Citygate said: "With the rapid growth in technology supporting us in our day to day lives, making us safer on the roads seems to be a big priority for UK drivers. Whether it’s after a night out or a long journey, drivers want to look after themselves and others around them - but it appears that, when it comes to their kids, Brits would rather stay in the driver’s seat."
Which of the following would you use driverless cars for?
Topline results:
  • Long-distance travel: 34.3%
  • When you’re under the influence: 28.8%
  • Commuting to work: 26.5%
  • Night driving: 24.3%
  • Social driving: 21.8%
  • The school run: 14.8%
  • I wouldn’t use one: 6.0%