Tagautomobile

New Honda commercial tells people it’s okay to drive their car while sleepy

Eff you, Honda.

Partial transcript:

We know you.

[Shows guy yawning.]

We know you have to rise early and work late.

[Shows someone drinking coffee. Shows "Lane Departure Warning" signal and an obscured person driving on a rural road driving their Honda Accord in the opposite direction lane, then swerving back into the correct lane.]

With not enough sleep in between.

[Shows hands of driver moving the steering wheel to maneuver the car back into the correct lane with driver's shoulders moving dramatically to either show that the steering wheel had to be yanked or that he's shrugging off the moment.]

The rest of the commercial shows different features and makes stupid comments about your needs and desires.

It’s not okay to drive in that condition.

Carnage culture dispatch #1

I’ve been a “fan” of carnage culture news and discussion for several years, mainly since I started reading Streetsblog (probably in 2007) and their Weekly Carnage series. I write about “carnage culture” here and a little bit on Grid Chicago. But on Grid Chicago I tend to keep the coverage about crash data plus more “reasonable” (a euphemism for less angry, maybe) and objective.

Carnage culture to me is a description of the level of life and property damage Americans are willing to accept as a cost of doing business, and a cost of living. And I think that level of acceptability is much too high. Is the person responsible for these crashes paying for the damage they caused? Did the City bill the driver for the trees, curbs, landscaping, and guardrail he ran into?

I present here the first Chicago Crash Diary. From the photos and background information I received from a reader, combined with the Illinois Department of Transportation crash data, I was able to “reconstruct” a particular damaging crash in 2010. I made a color flyer from this information to quickly distill the details.

It seems continuing our system of having extremely high health care costs (without an equivalent return in quality or faster care when compared to countries with lower health care costs) is an acceptable cost of perpetuating backward ideas about society’s responsibility to take care of its members and refusing to allow a system that shares health care costs for those not already covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or child health insurance programs.

This is like carnage culture: we accept the damage to property, to human lives, and to society, to continue a culture (including our built environment) that depends on and glorifies automobile ownership and driving to places where other modes suffice. Our culture that allows unlicensed drivers, uninsured drivers, drivers with limited education (driver’s education is not needed for those 18 and older), being distracted by cellphones, and lax enforcement,* is the same one that allows $300 billion to be spent on “picking up the pieces” after crashes (study from AAA by Cambridge Systematics). But ours is the same culture that builds its cities and neighborhoods and places of employment to only be accessible by those who can drive.

The cost of crashes are based on the Federal Highway Administration’s comprehensive costs for traffic fatalities and injuries that assign a dollar value to a variety of components, including medical and emergency services, lost earnings and household production, property damage, and lost quality of life, among other things. [This story is interesting because the press release's angle was that crash costs are three times higher than congestion costs, which is constantly in the news; congestion is apparently something we care more about.]

I don’t think $35 per month liability insurance, or the police, district attorneys, and courts, are protecting us from this damage.

*I could go on. Just search for “top causes of car crashes”.

Carnage culture: Extrapolating blood alcohol content levels

A breathalyzer test, to measure an automobile driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), is not always administered at the time and scene of a crash. I don’t know why it took four hours for Drew Forquer to have his BAC measured, but it registered at 0.045 percent, slightly more than half the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Drew was convicted on Friday, June 17, 2011, of reckless homicide and aggravated drunken driving, but not “aggravated DUI charges that specified he was over the legal limit.”

…but the judge said it was clear to him simply from the results of field-sobriety tests, eyewitness testimony and Forquer’s “bizarre” turn — which was caught on surveillance video — that he was impaired.

The prosecution hired an expert witness to extrapolate Drew’s BAC at the time of the crash, “estimated…to be from 0.084 to 0.123 percent.”

What extrapolation means

Using evidence, prosecution and defense argue about the estimated BAC based on a variety of factors, including:

  • witness statements about driving behaviors (prosecution)
  • evidence of drinking before or during crash (prosecution)
  • field sobriety test (prosecution)
  • individual’s metabolism (defense)
  • “what the driver ate or drank that day” (defense)
  • other health issues (defense)

(The parentheses indicate which side used the factor in Drew Forquer’s case.)

In Drew’s case, his defense attorney argued that the BAC was lower because him having liver disease and chronic alcoholism would have slowed his metabolism (meaning alcohol would enter the blood stream more slowly).

Drew awaits sentencing, which can be from probation to 15 years in prison. They must be joking about probation – he’s gone to court for four previous DUI arrests!

More carnage culture articles

Story sources

Chicago Tribune – Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chicago Tribune – Friday, June 17, 2011

A taxi driver exited Lake Shore Drive and drove across the grass separating it from the Lakefront Trail. This photo, taken on July 4, 2010, is not related to the story above. Photo by Andrew Ciscel.

Humboldt Park “do over”

Read the story below and the final paragraph to fully understand this drawing.

If you, like Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward), received complaints about speeding traffic and difficulty crossing Humboldt Drive, how would you respond?

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) responded by temporarily changing “the four-lane street into two travel lanes with a center lane used as a combination left-turn lane and pedestrian refuge area, using orange traffic barrels to keep moving cars out of the center lane.” (All quotes from Vote With Your Feet / Time Out Chicago, by John Greenfield.)

Narrowing the lane could reduce automobile speed and the refuge island should make it easier to cross the street, even if it has to be done in two movements. “After CDOT analyzes the effects on traffic speed and behavior, [CDOT spokesperson Brian] Steele says, the changes may become permanent next year.”

But bicyclists are not considered in this installation. That seems to be by design.

“He [Alderman Maldonado] told me that he has no intention of adding a bicycle lane or any other accouterments on that stretch because ‘the road is too dangerous for pedestrians,’” she says. Lottes recently posted on the local bike website thechainlink.org, asking members to lobby Maldonado for bike lanes on Humboldt. “To me the road seems too dangerous for pedestrians because there are no sidewalks, crosswalks or bike lanes.”

A local resident, Gin, asked me if I could draw up something for Humboldt Drive and I drew what you saw above. I based it on a bike lane design I saw in New York City: two-way, barrier protected (see photo below). The intersections between the bike lane and the other lanes will need special care – I don’t have any expertise there, but I know some people in Portland and New York City who do.

What else might you propose? Here’s a map of the park (centered on where I drew the bike lane), and a street view of the location.

Witness appeal

In London and Greater London (but not the City of London), when the Metropolitan Police want the public’s help in their investigations of incidents and crimes, including traffic collisions, they erect “Witness Appeal Signs” near the scene.

“We are appealing for witnesses.” Singapore also uses these signs.

It seems in 2009, though, the Metropolitan Police banned the use of the signs except for traffic collisions. Some research indicated that the public perceived that, due to the presence of the signs, crime in the neighborhood was increasing. The Daily Mail article quoted one officer to say:

“They were placed where the crimes actually happened, so were very much targeted at people who might have seen something. Now that source of information has been cut off…”

The signs are placed and designed in such a way to be seen by people walking, biking, and driving near the scene of the incident.

How effective is this small sign posted on a pole compared to a bright Witness Appeal Sign in London?

I suggest that American police departments, Chicago’s included, look into installing similar signs for the most severe traffic collisions, starting with a bilingual “witness appeal sign” for the hit & run crash in Pilsen that killed Martha Gonzalez.

Electric cars on their way

The New York Times is reporting that several California cities and companies are preparing for the coming rise in electric car ownership:

  • San Francisco is updating its building code.
  • Silicon Valley companies are ordering equipment for their employees.
  • Local electric utilities are trying to manage demand, either by predicting where ownership will be highest, in order to prepare for increased electricity use, or by asking customers to use “smart meters.”

The Tesla Motors store on Grand Avenue has since opened.

I hope bicycle advocates, cities, and the electric car manufacturers consider the bicycle rider’s point of view: The noise a car makes is helpful for urban riders to evaluate the street and their surroundings. While nothing trumps the utility of being able to see and having facilities that help make bicycling safer, a bicycle rider uses all of their senses to navigate the urban environment.

More from the article:

Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley company that makes electric cars, says it has already sold 150 of its $109,000 Roadsters in the Bay Area. One customer bought the sleek sports car on the spot after a test drive.

Chicago’s been ready for the “onslaught”

Tesla recently opened a store in Chicago, Illinois, but I haven’t seen one yet. Chicago’s not a stranger to electric car charging ports. The City uses them for its own fleet of electric cars. There are publicly-accessible stations scattered around downtown. A parking garage in River North has plug-in charging ports.

Photo of Greenway Self Park at 60 W Kinzie, featuring a wind-turbine that powers a portion of the night lighting. By Eric Rogers.

Motoring is triple threat to bicycling and the environment: Reader updates

In Motoring is triple threat to bicycling and the environment, I showed pictures of how motorists and their steel boxes destroy street infrastructure, including trees and bike racks. I asked for reader submissions.

Lee of Car Free Chicago sent in these two photos of a traffic collision at Sheffield and Belmont in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois:

Tree cracked and knocked over by motorist.

Richard of Cyclelicious linked me to two photos he took showing the damages motorists cause:

City crews are out to replace a damaged stop sign in Colorado.

The motorist who caused the downed power lines seen in this photo unfortunately suffered a heart attack while driving in California.

Motoring is triple threat to bicycling and the environment

Location: Northwest corner of Clark Street and Congress Parkway.

This photo shows the damage that automobiles inflict on our cities, environment, and, closest to my heart, bikes and bike parking.

An errant motorist jumped the curb and crashed first into the tree, then the bike rack, and finally the bike parked here. The LaSalle Blue Line station entrance is just steps away (in the background). Imagine the fate of a bicyclist who might have been locking their red Schwinn road bike to the bike rack only to find a 2-ton metal box hurtling in their direction. This photo makes clear how driving is a threat to so many aspects of our streets.

The collision had a direct monetary cost. The city will most likely pick up the tab for everything except replacing the bike. Here’s what I surmise from the photographed scene:

  • Tree removal and replacement: >$1,000
  • Bike rack removal and replacement: $450 ($300 for a new one, $150 to remove)
  • Vintage Schwinn: $200
  • Bike removal: $50
  • Cleanup: $150
  • Total: At least $1,850

Please drive carefully. Send me your photos of the automobile imposition – reader updates are here. But wait, I’ve encountered this again and again:

Location: Northwest corner of Elton Avenue and Cicero Avenue.

Location: Northwest corner of Lawrence Avenue and Kostner Avenue in front of Chicago Public Library, Mayfair branch.

UPDATE: Thanks for the mention, BikePortland.

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