Archive for Driver’s Seat

A scene I wish I’d seen

LeeAnn mourns the loss — well, the totaling — of her hardy Mopar, by telling us about its acquisition:

The car, my baby, the first car I ever walked into a dealership and performed a TKO on an eager beaver of a sales vulture (that is a hybrid you never want to see in nature) by letting him go on and on and on and ON about financing and low terms and extra packages, by making him write down IN BIG LETTERS that the price he just announced was the final, all-inclusive, out the door and on the road price … and then plunking down that EXACT AMOUNT in cash on his desk.

The guy never knew what hit him.


Loud, uninformed consumer

I don’t really blame this yutz for insisting on anonymity:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Sue a car dealership on false information?

I helped buy my oldest son buy a new car from the dealer. When he finally decided on a car he really like I told him I would help me buy it since he earned it (which is the case here) anyways, he picked a 2010 Lexus LS which was over 30k. When we went to see the car and bought the car the dealership assured us that there was NO OPEN RECALLS on the car and was in perfect conditions and had no previous accident. So we ended up getting the car. After 2 weeks of purchasing the car my son was at school driving home. Before exiting the school campus his car stopped! Luckly no car was behind him. The whole Gasoline started to leak and the campus security had to put my son to safety since his car was causing a hazardous situation. After looking up apparently there IS AN OPEN RECALL! While all the papers were sign by or part and the dealership I have proof the dealership signed that there was no OPEN recalls. I’m so angry since it put my son in a risky situation. My question is would I be able to sue the dealership?

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when this suit is thrown out. And it will be. A trip to reveals that there have been no recalls on the 2010 LS. Nor are the complaints (all two of them) at all related to this phenomenon. So the dealer was correct, and Aggrieved Parent can go stuff it up her single exhaust. (Good thing it isn’t dual.)

I posted exactly that paragraph, minus some formatting, to the actual question, hoping more than usual that the perpetrator will be embarrassed. Probably not going to happen: some people are beyond any level of shame.

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Puddin ‘n octane

I’m sure this has been asked before, but we’ll still tell you the same:

Do you put premium gasoline in your car? You’re probably wasting your money. A new study by AAA found that 16.5 million Americans had filled up their cars with premium gas unnecessarily in the past year. That’s $2.1 billion, completely wasted.

Roughly 70 percent of Americans own cars that have no practical need for premium gas and only need regular. AAA conducted tests using 87-octane (regular) and 93-octane (premium) gas in those kinds of cars and found that the premium gas gave absolutely no benefits above the regular gas.

Oh, how I wish the price of premium out here on the Plains brought 93 octane. Instead, we get 91. Then again, we’re a quarter-mile, more or less, above sea level, and the need for higher octane diminishes at higher altitudes. (When I was wandering around the edge of the Rockies in ’04, “regular” was 85, maybe.)

Just 16 percent of Americans own a car that requires premium fuel. And if you’re in that 16 percent you probably know who you are.

Yep. After a decade, I’m used to it. And so is the car.


And you thought there would be no math

Vi Hart has come up with something timely called “Lookin’ At Slopes: The Calculus of Bad Driving.”

Because, you know, bad driving is at least as much at the mercy of mathematics as is good driving.

Which is not to say that you need to have completed Algebra II and first-semester physics to negotiate the highways and byways; but it helps to know what forces are acting upon you while you ease on down the road.

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A truly World Tour

I’ve done a few road trips in my day, often designated by the phrase “World Tour,” though none of them ever left the States (there were some close approaches) and the longest one was a commute short of 5,000 miles.

Proposed road trip from London to New York

Still, this gets me thinking:

Vladimir Yakunin is the head of Russian Railways and he’s got a big dream.

According to CNN, he is proposing a superhighway that will allow transportation from Nome, Alaska to Russia by crossing the Bering Strait. The highway will then take travelers to Moscow and ultimately end in London.

Dubbed the Trans-Eurasian Belt Development (TEPR), “a theoretical drive from London to Alaska via Moscow might cover about 12,978 kilometers (8,064 miles),” reports CNN. In total, if you traveled from New York to London, you would cover approximately 12,910 miles.

Downside: this glosses over the fact that the Bering Strait, at its narrowest point, is more than 50 miles across. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to build a single 50-mile span; the Diomede Islands sit in the middle of the strait. And while icebergs as such aren’t a threat, a six-foot-thick ice floe can play hell with a bridge.

Also downside:

Right now, the plans haven’t been approved, and with Yakinin estimating the cost to be trillions of dollars, no one has generously stepped up to foot the bill.

Quelle surprise.

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Voluntary malparkage

Of late, I am becoming more irritated by this class of losers:

[T]he person taking up 2-3 parking spaces if it’s close to a store or business: that’s being an a-hole. Someone doing it at the tag-end of the lot where it doesn’t affect others’ ability to find a spot? I don’t care. Do what you will. I figure even with a new car eventually it’s going to get dinged so I have never worried about it, but I know some people do. Just, if you’re gonna straddle the line of a spot, do it somewhere far away so the poor guy trying to stop off on his way home to get the makings of mac and cheese for his three kids are home sick, or the woman who is trying to get her weekly shopping done before her evening meeting, doesn’t have to walk halfway to the moon and back because you took the only three close spots.

The stereotype holds that people occupying three spaces must be driving Big Freaking Trucks, but it’s possible to do this with a mid-sized sedan if you’re sufficiently dysmotivated.

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And it will stay broken

I haven’t yet encountered anything quite this drastic yet, but I suppose it’s just a matter of time:

Paul Rubner thinks what’s happened to his Ford F-150 is criminal — and he should know, he’s a detective with the Calgary Police Service.

The heating system on his 2009 truck suddenly failed, blowing only extremely hot air on the passenger side — so hot, no one could sit in the passenger seat.

But the biggest problem? It can’t be fixed.

“It’s crazy,” says Rubner. “My truck is only seven years old.”

But there are no parts:

The part in question is the Dash Control Unit (9L3Z19980Y), which Ford Parts Canada lists as discontinued and unavailable. It was installed in V8-powered 2009 F-150s of various trim levels, equipped with dual-zone climate control, heated rear window, mirrors and seats, but with a seat cooler delete. That makes it a relatively low-volume item.

TTAC’s Bozi Tatarevic describes Rubner’s problem: “The issue that he is having is that the passenger side blend door actuator is shorting out. This causes the blend door to get stuck open when it should be closing. Since it is stuck open, the passenger side gets air that is flowing over the heater core. The shorting of the blend door actuator is caused by the HVAC module.”

Ford eventually saw a PR problem a-brewing:

The automaker has since agreed to have a supplier build a one-off module specially for Rubner’s truck. With stereotypical Canadian politeness, Rubner thanks the company for making his truck driveable during winter, though he wishes it hadn’t cast him aside the first time he appealed for help.

We have to wonder if this is the only time Ford builds a bespoke replacement part for an F-150 owner, or just the first.

I can’t imagine Nissan knocking out a part for me after 16 years. Regular visits to the dealer parts counter tell me that there are no more OEM wiper blades or rear brake rotors to be had. The aftermarket, in these cases, fills the bill adequately. But if my HVAC module ever craps out, I can probably safely assume I’m screwed — maybe. Then again, apart from those two exceptions, everything I’ve had to have ordered from Nissan USA actually showed up in a day or three.

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A reprehensible little twerp

Cue Phil Collins intoning “You’re no son of mine”:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How to temporarily freeze the odometer on a 2000 dodge dakota

Odometer tampering is of course illegal. Is this nimrod trying to sell the truck? Nothing so normal:

I got into a bit of trouble (I’m 17), and my parents are taking my truck away for two weeks. My dad knows the exact mileage on the truck. I drive a 2000 dodge dakota sport, 2.2 liter engine, single cab, 5 speed transmission. The odometer is digital. How can I rig the truck so it shows the same amount of miles on the odometer, rather than just pulling the fuse to the cluster and it not showing anything. It needs to look like I haven’t driven it, if I decide to drive it. All help is appreciated!

And don’t try to talk him out of this scheme, either:

Ps: Please don’t tell me not to drive the truck against my parent’s will. It won’t stop me.

Little shit has a future as a political consultant, if he’s not beaten to death first.

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Cut ’em off at the C-pillar

Maybe even the B-pillar:

2017 SOLO by Electra Meccanica

The wee beastie apparently emerging from another dimension is SOLO by Vancouver-based Electrica Meccanica; it’s a single-seat electric runabout with a 100-mile range and three wheels. TTAC reports thereupon:

Electra Meccanica spent years working on the diminutive EV, which it says can accelerate to 62 miles per hour in about eight seconds. Charging takes three hours from a 220-volt outlet, or six hours from a 110-volt household wall socket.

The SOLO’s main purpose is to shuttle people to and from their workplace, while being easy to own and operate. With a length 19 inches shorter than a Fiat 500, parking shouldn’t be an issue. Weighing about 1,000 pounds (thanks to a composite body and aluminum drivetrain), the vehicle sports a 0.24 drag coefficient and draws power from a 16.1 kWh lithium-ion battery.

Available only in Canada for now at around twenty thousand loonies, this little darb tops out at around 80 mph. I wouldn’t want to speculate as to what it’s like in crosswinds.

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Spicy sphincter

Of course, I could just be reading this wrong:

I mean, it’s only been half a century since I was twelve.

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Machiavelli as traffic engineer

The ring of truth sounds something like this:

I heard a depressing reason for all the empty shops downtown: the “bypass” of Route 70 draws too much traffic away and people don’t stop any more. The bypass was supposed to funnel off the big trucks so (a) they didn’t cause more congestion and localized pollution and (b) so they didn’t have problems with some of the narrow streets/tight turns in the downtown area. But apparently most people don’t “destination shop” any more? Pretty much the only reason I ever went downtown was for shopping … I tended to avoid those few blocks otherwise BECAUSE of the congestion.

Traffic engineers, it’s always seemed to me, were obsessed with speed through a given area, at the expense of, well, everything else.

But then there’s this:

I’ve also heard that the reason the lights on main street aren’t synchronized — you can count on catching AT LEAST half of them on red any given trip — is that businesses have begged the city NOT to synchronize them, so people are slowed down and more likely to stop. Which feels to me a lot like Walmart’s strategy of “let’s randomly move stuff around because when people can’t find what they want, they spend more time in the store and will buy more” which just reminds me how I’m weird, because that kind of thing annoys me and I actually buy LESS than I would otherwise … I have left without completing my shopping list before because I got so tired of hunting for stuff.

My response to not being able to find what I want generally involves a Web browser.


The Prince of Darkness has affiliates

I have long since given up trying to diagnose automotive problems other than the most obvious. The Colonel, bless him, persists:

I’ve been hunting gremlins in the electrical system of the Magnificent Honda. A loose hot wire to the backup light switch was grounding on the transmission housing which I discovered after meticulously examining and cleaning the instrument cluster whose gauges had ceased to function. A clever diversionary tactic on the part of Satan.

About the only time I can find a ground is when I’m too close to a live wire.

Then again, Lucifer does not give up:

Whether I have fixed a speed sensor problem remains to be seen and the mysteries of cruise control await further investigation.

Still, “keeping a homespun Honda going for 27 years and 420,000 miles is no small accomplishment,” and the guy with the 16-year-old Nissan with 163k on the clock agreed.

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Collateral damage, you are

@SwiftOnSecurity is quite blunt about this issue:

In the future, when a self-driving car is about to crash, it will go into a high-frequency bidding war to decide which driver gets to live.

Sample scenario:

2 cars are about to crash. If you’re chosen to die, your grandchildren will be given free college tuition. Does your car accept the contract?

Or try this one:

Self-driving car is hit, sending it inevitably towards another self-driving car. However, the cars can decide which suffers more. Both cars have the same insurance co. To reduce premium costs, drivers opted-in to a car algorithm that biases all injury into one driver. Driver 2 is selected as most vulnerable, and dies. No long-term medical care, just a lump payment. Driver 1 walks away. Premiums stay low. Welcome to human mortality decided in an electronic, time-dilated decision space.

Some people, I am told, actually want this. They have far more faith in things than I (or Swift) do.

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Honestly, I hadn’t heard

A St. Louis-area dealer group knows the word, or at least the syllable:

I caught a fragment of this between innings in a Cardinals game, and had to track it down. Of course I did.

Addendum: They also have a Chevy dealership in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

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Failure to plan

I am having a whole lot of trouble coming up with any sympathy for this guy:

The protagonist in this story, Todd Anderson, wants to help the environment, so he bought a 2016 Chevrolet Volt. Not a bad choice — decent electric range for around-town jaunts and a gas generator for out-of-town trips. Another bonus: $12,500 provided by Ontario taxpayers to help him foot the bill. The problem is, he has nowhere to charge it, and this is the city’s fault.

Anderson says he has to run an extension cord to his outdoor parking spot (kitty corner to his home) in order to juice up the Volt. He has installed a recharging station on his front lawn, but the street in front of his house is a no parking zone. If he parks there (and he does), Anderson has to run a cord across the sidewalk, potentially tripping people, while parking tickets collect under his wiper blades.

Some might say that he could have avoided the situation by not purchasing a vehicle that requires a driveway. Or, he could wait until his living accommodations allow him to easily use such a vehicle. Anderson doesn’t see it that way. The city, he says, should make it possible for residents to charge their cars on the street.

“I don’t think someone who drives a gas car would put up with not being able to use a gas station on a daily basis,” he told the Toronto Star.

You’d think he might have been aware of these things before he bought the vehicle.

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The dreaded E30

Ten percent ethanol is on the ragged edge of acceptable for motor fuels. The jerks who push this stuff for a living want fifteen. But thirty simply will not do [warning: autostart video]:

State regulators say about 450,000 gallons of gasoline containing three times the acceptable level of ethanol was delivered to retailers across the Oklahoma City metropolitan area over the last week.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reported Tuesday that they were notified by Magellan Midstream Partners that the problem resulted from an equipment failure at its Oklahoma City fuel distribution terminal.

Magellan says it is still working to determine the retail locations where the gas with up to 30 percent ethanol was delivered.

The Corp Comm’s position is that Magellan will have to locate all these stores and replenish their stock with proper fuels; Magellan, to their credit, is okay with that. They do, after all, have a reputation to protect.

As for me, I haven’t had to gas up since late June, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any of this adulterated stuff.

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This guy can’t understand how such a thing could possibly happen:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I don't know if parts were replaced with worse ones while it sat in parking lot at a service center

Makes no sense? Neither will this:

good parts could have been taken off the car while it sat outside at a service center because it’s hard to believe it when they weren’t bad before they are bad now when the car was just towed to have the transmission work done. It’s registration time in one day and it won’t run to put the millage on the car to pass emissions.

Well, “Alan,” if that is your real name, why in the world would a service center work on parts without getting paid for that work? The markup on parts isn’t anywhere near enough to justify spending all that time to swipe them. And how do you know they weren’t bad before? The transmission failure would have drawn far more attention at the time.

Shut up and pay the man. Then go back to Walgreen’s — there’s one near you — and get your anti-paranoia meds refilled.


Toward the Generic Car

Used to be, the enterprising automaker spent some effort on homologation. Today, it’s more like homogenization:

Five decades ago, nearly ever car on the market was designed and built soup-to-nuts by the company with its name on the hood. Ford wasn’t going to go through the trouble of redesigning its seatbelt latches just because people liked the GM one a little better. Nor was Saab going to abandon the turbo four-cylinder engine just because everybody was going to the V6; they had too much invested in the tooling and the design.

In 2016, computer cycles are all but free and the various tiers of suppliers are cheap and as a result there is a constant pressure to hand the design of automotive components over to external parties. We’ve seen this with CTS accelerator pedals and Takata airbags and AmCast wheels. In addition, today’s consumer is a querulous little feeb of a human being who agonizes endlessly about even the slightest deviation from average in any product that he buys. Gone is the man who bought a Bristol or a Studebaker because it was different. Today’s buyer wants exactly what everybody else has, only with a slightly more prestigious badge attached.

I was going to say something about Consumer Reports, advocates of quiet competence, as one of the forces pushing us toward standardization — but it’s not like Fiat Chrysler, for example, goes to a whole lot of trouble to earn their imprimatur.

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Tugs on the wheel

Dave Schuler is skeptical about self-driving cars, and he has plenty of good reasons why. I’ll just cite the last two:

  • Big, rich companies with deep pockets will be irresistible targets for liability suits.
  • The first liability suit could deep-six the move to autonomous vehicles for the foreseeable future.

I don’t see any way around these. If you thought people were litigious before, just wait until one of them gets a fender bent, or worse, by an automaton.


It’s almost a truck

Those of us who have fond memories of such automotive follies as the Chevrolet El Camino or the Ford Ranchero or even the Subaru BRAT will gaze longingly on this up-and-comer:

Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

Hyundai has been showing the Santa Cruz concept for more than a year now, though they’re only just now admitting that they’re going to build it, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, for model year 2019.

I am, shall we say, at least slightly tempted.

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Clear that channel!

Radio, notes Doc Searls, really isn’t “radio” anymore:

It’s just a name for one legacy-labeled stream among countless others on the Net. Radio’s boat-anchor legacy is called “range” and “coverage.” On AM and FM, those are limited to a city or region, and to legacy receiving devices mostly used in cars, where more and more sources of content (Apple, Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, et. al.) are appearing on the dashboard. The quality of legacy radio electronics is also limited to cheap available chipsets and by the fashion of concealing antennas, which makes reception even worse.

This latter, after looking at my car, certainly seems true to me: Bose, or whoever made this auto system for them, might have spent maybe 85 cents on the AM section, and the antenna is more or less hidden among the rear-defroster wires, good for aesthetics, not so good for reception.

But this I did not know, though I shouldn’t have been surprised:

AM won’t even work in all-electric cars, thanks to interference from computing machinery. That’s why it’s not included in Teslas.

Nissan will sell you an AM/FM/CD system for the all-electric Leaf, but then it’s probably got a lot fewer sources of interference than the Tesla.

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To make a few extra bucks

Kevin Durant wanted you to come to dinner, and a lot of people did, while KD himself was still in town. Now his restaurant has closed.

Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, wants to sell you a car:

This summer, Westbrook has opened a car dealership with his name on it in Van Nuys, Calif., a neighborhood of his native Los Angeles. This month, Westbrook posted a video on his Snapchat with a brief glimpse of the showroom at Russell Westbrook Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Van Nuys. The video showed off Westbrook’s trademark RW logo painted on the floor, as well as a NBA-style clear backboard and rim mounted on a wall in the dealership.

They have, at the moment, a fair number of “Aged New Cars”: unsold 2015s going out for well under sticker.


I say, old chap, it’s bitching

General Motors, having failed to establish a beachhead for Chevrolet in Europe, is now thinking smaller: they’ve named a single agent in Britain to sell the Chevrolet Camaro.

Volume is expected to be minimal:

General Motors will ship 15 copies of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro coupe to the United Kingdom for deliveries in September. Another three Camaro convertibles are expected to find homes one month later.

The General might be able to move a few more of them if they converted them to right-hand drive, but apparently that’s not part of the plan.


Please don’t tab away

I was looking up Nissan OEM automatic transmission fluids here, and then tabbed away for a moment. The tab changed, and this was the text under it:

Z1 Motorsports Rickroll via Javascript

Yeah, I laughed. I admit it.


Vaporware condensing

Elio Motors, the company that’s been working on an 84-mpg three-wheeler all these years, has finally announced a price: $7300. And it might even be less than that, but there’s a twist:

Since Elio has yet to deliver a single one of its cars, it needs loans to stay afloat and build its creation. In order to prevent more fenders from falling off, a loan from the Department of Energy would offer them support, if the company can meet its guidelines.

The loan agreement specifies that non-binding (i.e. refundable) customer reservations are usually not sufficient, which means the 56,000 reservations the company currently has is not enough to satisfy the DoE.

To get the ever-important boost, Elio has gone ahead and announced official pricing so its potential customers know what they’ll have to pay: $7300. Additionally, Elio stated a number of just $7000 for anyone willing to lay down a full, non-refundable payment. That’s $200 more than previously stated, but still quite the deal for something resembling an actual car.

I don’t think anyone believed the original $6800 price.

Still, it requires a fair amount of faith to put up seven grand without any guarantee that a vehicle will be forthcoming.

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This has been floating around Facebook with the question “Do you remember when gas prices were this low?”

1960s price stand at a Gulf station

If you’re immediately thinking “1950s,” you’re just a little too early. This sign can’t be from any earlier than 1961, when Gulf decided to drop its super-premium Gulfcrest (from a purple pump!) and replace it with the sub-regular Gulftane.

Why would they do a thing like that? Presumably to compete with the cheap gas from that questionable-looking station on the wrong side of the tracks.

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The spirit of Kenosha

A TTAC commenter suggests that it’s time for Fiat Chrysler to bring back American Motors:

The AMC brand name could be revived, for modern takes on archaic models — the Gremlin could be a Kia Soul/Nissan Juke competitor, weird and ugly and all that; the Eagle wagon would now be a mainstream competitor for Subaru; the Matador would be a huge failure, but would make the variations of the [Fiat] 500 look successful by comparison; the [Chrysler] 200 could be restyled and called the Concord or the Hornet — it couldn’t sell any worse than it does at the present.

There is, of course, a limit to this sort of thing:

A modern interpretation of the Pacer will never be seen, though, because window glass has pretty much gone out of style.

I blame side-impact door standards.

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Same pod, different peas

I am reminded of the days when Ford owned 33.4 percent of Mazda, and while Ford was in a position to call at least some of the shots, Mazda happily went its own way when it could. Now, Hyundai Motor Group owns 33.88 percent of Kia Motors, but no more than that, and the same sort of thing is happening:

According to the automaker’s performance development chief, Kia plans to offer a global GT line of its most popular vehicles, boosting the models’ performance and appearance.

“Kia is meant to be more emotional than Hyundai and we have to make cars that reflect that when you drive them,” [Albert] Biermann told Autocar. “Hyundai is the quieter brand, that’s why the N-Division was created, because the brand cannot stretch as far. Kia can stretch much further, and I think we will be able to do more aggressive cars.”

Then again, that N-Division, conceived in 2013, has yet to bear any fruit. And Hyundai is outselling Kia, but not by much: through the end of July, 449,063 Hyundais and 388,296 Kias were sold in the States.

Still, I keep coming back to that “more emotional” description. You wouldn’t have said that of, say, Dodge over Plymouth. And Pontiac, arguably GM’s most emotionally-charged car (no trucks and such) brand — “We Build Excitement,” after all — ultimately could not be saved.

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Worst and worster

I take issue with this particular conclusion:

It’s been confirmed — Floridians are the worst drivers in the U.S.

SmartAsset, a personal finance company, conducted a study looking at the number of drivers in each state, DUI arrests, people killed, percentage of insured drivers, and Google trends for speeding tickets.

So what put Florida at the top of the ranking?

Floridians have the second lowest number of insured drivers in the nation at just 76.2 percent. We also Google about speeding and traffic tickets, a lot. In fact, we conduct more searches than any other state in the U.S.

Here’s where I demur. Number Three Oklahoma’s insured percentage is 74.1, worse than Florida’s. We have a 70-percent higher DUI-arrest rate, and a 60-percent higher death rate on the highways. What keeps us out of the Number One slot is, apparently, fewer Googlers. I suggest that there’s something a tad screwy about this methodology.

(In between Florida and Oklahoma: Mississippi. Well, yeah. Just look at the map.)

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One of these lanes is just like the other

We could probably call this “Pergiel’s Law of Traffic Equalization”:

I have noticed a couple of things while driving on Highway 26 during rush hour. The left hand lane (the “fast” lane) attracts those who will leap ahead at the slightest opportunity and then jam on their brakes when they run into a clog. People in the next to fast lane maintain a more even pace that is much calmer and does not deliver as much wear and tear to the car. Both lanes travel at about the same rate. If two cars start evenly in the two lanes, one will soon pull ahead for a moment, but then will run into a jam and the car in the slower lane will overtake them. Then the jam will evaporate and the fast lane will take off and the car in the left lane will once again retake the lead, momentarily. By the time they get to the end neither one will be more than a few seconds ahead of the other.

There is, of course, a potential Unequalizer:

[J]ams generally seem to be caused by exit ramps filling up. Even if they aren’t full, people start slowing down before they get to them, which causes people behind them to slow down. So it isn’t that the freeway doesn’t have the capacity, it’s the exit ramps that can’t handle [the] traffic that is using them.

Interstate 35 northbound beyond downtown Oklahoma City could be the poster child for either of these descriptions.

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