Christmas, a holiday full of laughter, gift giving and good tidings with family and friends. And parties – who could forget the parties?? But with all that merriment, it can be easy to get carried away with the cocktails.
The Texas Department of Transportation wants to wish everyone a fun holiday, but also to be smart about it. Their campaign, Holiday P.A.S.S. (Person Appointed to Stay Sober) reminds everyone about how important it is to designate a person to stay sober during all those wonderful parties so that everyone can get home safely.
The great news is that designated drivers don’t have to feel left out from all the fun. TxDot has shared four great non-alcoholic recipes that are sure to keep everyone in the festive mood – and most importantly, to keep everyone alive to enjoy the new year.
photo by Melissa Skorpil - skorpilphotography.com
photo by Melissa Skorpil - skorpilphotography.com
photo by Melissa Skorpil – skorpilphotography.com
photo by Melissa Skorpil - skorpilphotography.com
Route 66 – America’s Highway
December 16, 2012
Ever since the birth of the automobile, Americans have always loved their cars. And with that love came a passion for the great American road trip. Yet there is only one road that truly holds a special place in American culture, one that has been the backdrop for many movies, characterized in novels and immortalized in song. This famous road is Route 66.
Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, the Main Street of America and the Will Rogers Highway, was established in November of 1926. This two-lane highway met the growing need of an east to west route across the United States and extended from Chicago to Los Angeles, traveling through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It covered 2, 448 miles and soon captured the hearts and imagination of Americans everywhere.
The paving of Route 66 was an incredible undertaking. At this time, most of the roads were made of gravel or graded dirt. Route 66 became the first highway to be completely paved. Thousands of young males, from almost every state, were put to work paving this stretch of road, all 2,448 miles of it. The job was finally completed in 1938.
For many during the 1930s, Route 66 represented a road to a better life. Approximately 210,000 people, trying to escape the horrid living conditions brought on by the Dust Bowl, migrated to California along Route 66 with the hope of finding work in agriculture. The highway also helped create new businesses and much needed jobs during The Great Depression by bringing road traffic through communities, paving the way for various small businesses such as service stations, motels and restaurants – amenities needed by the passing motorists. During World War II, Route 66 played another important role in the migration west by becoming one of the main routes for moving military equipment. Military training bases were established in California due to its isolation and dry climate, which made for a good location for field and air maneuvers.
In the 1950s, Route 66 represented glamour, freedom and adventure as Americans took to the road for fun, exploring the wide-open spaces of the Great American West. This increase in tourism led to the development of quirky roadside attractions and drive-thru fast food restaurants. More of America was accessible to more Americans than ever before.
President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act into law in 1956. This authorized the use of 25 billion dollars towards the construction of 41,000 miles of new highways throughout the US. This act also marked the beginning of the decline of Route 66, as more direct routes and wider roads between cities were established. Over time, the two-lane highway became obsolete as segments of Route 66 were bypassed by modern four-lane highways. The road was officially removed from the US Highway System in June of 1985.
However, many people have refused to let the iconic Route 66 be forgotten. Beginning in 1987, many Route 66 associations have been founded to help preserve the road and the part of American history it holds. Historical markers and signs are scattered along the entire length of the road. Some sections have been placed on the National Register of Historical Places or turned into National Scenic Byways. Work has also been done to preserve the old motels, gas stations and neon signs along the route.
Though it’s no longer possible to drive the entire 2, 448 mile stretch of road, about 85% of it is still navigable. Even today, the sights along Route 66 are numerous and memorable, from the wonderful, natural wonders of the Grand Canyon, a petrified forest and a meteor crater, to the weird and quirky, such as Cadillac Ranch, the Wigwam Motel and vintage gas pumps. With a little research and proper planning, you can still take a ride down memory lane and get your kicks on Route 66.
The Smarts of the Crash Test Dummy
November 5, 2012
The crash test dummy is no dummy. He (or she) is a brilliant work of innovation that helps save countless human lives. These dummies are put through the ringer to collect vital data that is used to make sure the vehicles manufactured today are as safe as they can be.
These dummies are built to mimic the basic anatomy of an actual human being. They come in various heights and weights to represent an adult male, adult female, a child, toddler and even an infant. On the outside, the crash test dummy looks very simple – a human mannequin covered in a flesh-like rubber. But on the inside is a complicated system of indicators and instrumentation to measure the effects that various types of car impacts have on the human body.
There are three types of sensors used within the crash test dummy:
Motion sensors are located in the chest, more specifically in the rib cage that is made of steel. These sensors are responsible for measuring how much the chest compresses during a crash. This measurement is stated as the rib cage deflection and is indicated in millimeters.
Load sensors measure the amount of force placed on the body during a collision. These sensors located in the neck detect the strain caused from the person’s head being thrown in all directions during an impact. Sensors in the femur measure injuries placed on the pelvis, hip, thigh and knee. Sensors are also placed in the lower legs to measure the force of impact on the tibia and fibula.
Accelerometers measure acceleration (change in speed) in a particular direction and are placed all over the dummy’s body. The data collected helps determine the probability of injury. For instance, accelerometers located in the head measure the change of speed that occurs left to right, forward to backward and up to down. A high rate of acceleration in the head can cause serious brain injury and death.
Different types of impacts are simulated using different crash test dummy models. These impacts are categorized as:
During a frontal impact simulation, the Hybrid III dummy model is utilized. These models were originally developed by General Motors in 1978 and are still in use today. The Hybrid III 50th Percentile Male Crash Test Dummy represents a male human of average height and weight. This dummy is the most widely used dummy in the world for frontal crash testing. Other models used for frontal crash testing include the Hybrid III 5th Female, which represents the smallest segment of the adult population, and the Hybrid III 95th Male, which is built to represent the largest segment of the adult population.
Dummies used in side impact testing are built slightly different because the characteristics of the impact are different. In side impacts, there is less car to protect the occupant. Many times side impacts occur when there is an error of judgment, such as failing to check for traffic in both directions and moving out in front of an oncoming car or missing a stop sign. Side impact dummies are responsible for collecting data to help in the development of stronger side doors and side curtain airbags.
Rear impact dummies are involved in prevention of whiplash injuries. These kinds of impacts usually occur at relatively low speeds but can cause serious injury to the neck and surrounding soft tissue. Thanks to the rear impact crash test dummy, car manufacturers can use the data collected to develop more effective headrests.
The information gathered through the use of a crash test dummy during simulated car collisions is the best tool available today to monitor the effects of an automobile crash on the human body. With the help of the crash test dummy, we can develop stronger and safer vehicles and ultimately, save more lives.
Teens Texting and Driving – an epidemic that needs a solution
October 8, 2012
There is no question that texting while driving is a hazardous situation. In 2011, approximately 23% of all auto collisions involved cell phones. Cell phone usage while driving is particularly high among young drivers. A survey was conducted in 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and involved questioning more than 15,000 private and public high school students across the US. This study revealed that 58% of high school seniors and 43% of high school juniors text or email while driving. This is a scary statistic.
Here are some more statistics:
You are 23 times more likely to get into an accident while texting.
5 seconds is the minimum amount of time your attention is taken away from the road while texting. 5 seconds is the amount of time it takes your car, going at 55 mph, to travel the length of a football field.
A driver’s reaction time while texting is delayed as much as a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit.
Young drivers, because of their lack of experience on the road, are already at a higher risk for accidents. Add cell phone usage into the equation and the risk for disaster only increases. Yet over half of the teens surveyed admitted to believing that they can safely text while driving. There is no question that texting while behind the wheel has become a serious problem, but what can be done about it?
Companies and individuals are trying to answer that question. AT&T has started the “It Can Wait” campaign on Facebook and Twitter, as well as on other media outlets, to encourage drivers to curb the habit of texting while driving. AT&T has also developed an app called Drive Mode that detects when the car is moving 25 mph or over and automatically sends a customizable auto-reply message to incoming texts, letting the sender of the text know you are driving and will respond when it is safe to do so. Another app gives parents control over their children’s cell phone, allowing them to remotely cut off the phone’s ability to text, receive or make calls and browse the Internet while driving. This app also features a GPS tracker to identify the location of the phone and an alert system that tells parents if their teens are driving at excessive speeds or driving erratically.
AT&T has also recently awarded an 11-year old girl, Victoria Walker, $20,000 to develop her idea of an anti-texting app called Rode Dog. This app would allow people to be placed in “packs” with the ability to monitor the other people in their pack of any texting while driving behavior. If anyone texts while behind the wheel, barking sounds can be sent remotely to alert them to stop typing.
The reality is that is, although there are many solutions being developed to increase the awareness of the problem of texting while driving, it really comes down to one thing: individual accountability. Each person must be aware of his actions and choose to not text and drive.
With all that is at stake, that text just isn’t worth it.
Improving Traffic Flow in Austin on the MoPac Expressway
October 3, 2012
Anyone who lives in Austin, Texas knows what a frustration driving on MoPac Expressway can be during rush hour. For a road that only extends for 11 miles through the central part of the city, the time it takes to travel that distance can seem like a lifetime. In fact, Austin was recently named the 8th worst city in the US for traffic. The increase in traffic congestion on the expressway has also affected the surrounding neighborhoods by increasing cut-through traffic and noise.
Finally, it looks like help to alleviate this mess is on the way. The Texas Department of Transportation and The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority have just completed an environmental study that was two years in the making. This study for the MoPac Improvement Project centered around the needs of drivers and the surrounding neighbors to help find a solution to improving the flow of traffic on MoPac and easing the burden on the adjacent neighborhoods. This study focused on the 11-mile stretch between Cesar Chavez Street and Parmer Lane.
This study concluded that constructing an express lane in each direction would be the best way to improve mobility on MoPac. In August of 2012, the Federal Highway Administration gave permission for construction of the project to begin. Finding a company to design and build the project is in the works and construction should begin by the middle of 2013. The project will not only include the express lanes, but also sound walls to dampen the road noise and pedestrian and bicycle improvements.
The proposed improvements for pedestrians and cyclists include a 2-mile section of a shared path on the west side of MoPac from Walnut Creek Trail to the north end of Loop 360 and a 1-mile section that extends through the US 183 interchange and connects Shoal Creek Boulevard to Neils Thompson Drive. These paths will help connect east of MoPac with west of MoPac at several cross streets. Also included are four miles on new sidewalk along the frontage road between Anderson Lane and Parmer Lane, with pedestrian signal lights and curb ramps.
This project certainly doesn’t come cheap. The total cost is projected to be just under $200 million. Drivers using these express lanes will also be tolled at a variable rate, ranging from 25 cents to $4, depending on the amount of usage at that particular time. Construction for the MoPac Improvement Project is expected to be complete by 2016.
Cell Phone Helps Driver OUT of Traffic Ticket
April 25, 2012
In many states and local municipalities, using a mobile device while driving, whether texting or talking, is a ticketable offense. In fact, driving while texting is considered so dangerous that in late 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the independent US government agency responsible for investigating and promoting transportation policies, recommended a nationwide ban on texting while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents,” citing cell phones as a leading cause.
Cell phones do, however, have a place when it comes to traffic citations, as long as they aren’t being used for texting or talking while driving. Recently ticketed for speeding, California resident and student Sahas Katta was surprised to learn that his smartphone could actually help him dismiss a traffic ticket. Excited to download every App he could to his new smartphone, Mr. Katta had installed “My Tracks,” a Google application that among other things tracks your location, direction, and speed. Convinced that the radar used to determine his speed was faulty, and armed with his driving data leading up to the traffic citation, Mr. Katta challenged his ticket in traffic court – and won.
However, for those who plan to use a similar tactic for speeding tickets, here’s a caution : Mobile device data is not widely accepted in traffic court cases. In fact, after Mr. Katta was found not guilty, the judge purportedly added that [his decision was a product of the officer’s lack of evidence more than simply the defendant’s data]. In addition, attending traffic court is a time-consuming and often frustrating endeavor.
Defensive Driving For Dummies online traffic school offers drivers a convenient and cost-effective way to dismiss their traffic tickets and keep their insurance premiums low(er). State-approved and offering live support 24 hours a day, our award-winning driver safety courses are one of the fastest ways to save money while putting unwanted traffic tickets behind you.
Are You Driving a Ticket Magnet?
APRIL 24, 2012
Do certain models of vehicles get pulled over more often than others? Is your defensive driving acumen a product of your personality alone, or does the car you drive also affect your ticket-worthiness. According to a 2010 study by the Quality Planning Group, a research firm focused on the field of traffic interaction and patterns for the insurance industry, your choice in vehicles matters.
Based on the number of moving violations per 100,000 miles driven, drivers in the study were categorized by gender and age. Vehicles, on the other hand, were grouped into either “spirited” or “cautious,” based on their likelihood to be involved in a citation. You can hear drivers now: “But officer, it wasn’t my fault really, my car is just very spirited.”
Most Likely to Get a Traffic Ticket
Topping the list of ”spirited vehicles,” not surprisingly, is the sleek German-made Mercedes Benz SL Class convertible. Those who drive this car received four times the number of violations compared to the average driver. The average age of these speed demons was 53 with the majority, roughly 59%, being women.
The other cars that made it in the top ten include:
Mercedes Benz SL Convertible
Toyota Camry-Solara coupe
Scion TC coupe
Hummer H2/H3 SUV
Scion XB hatchback
Mercedes-Benz CLS-63 AMG sedan
Acura Integra coupe
Pontiac Grand Prix sedan
Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG sedan
Volkswagen GTI hatchback
Least Likely to Get a Traffic Ticket
Of the top ten “cautious vehicles,” those considered to be less likely to receive a moving violation, six are SUVs or minivans. The average age in this group did not drop below 36 years, with a much higher percentage of drivers over the age of 60.
The ten vehicles that received the lowest percentage of violations are as follows:
Buick Rainier SUV
Mazda Tribute SUV
Chevrolet C/K 3500/2500 pickup
Kia Spectra sedan
Buick Lacrosse sedan
Saturn Aura Hybrid sedan
Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan
Chevrolet Uplander minivan
Hyundai Tucson SUV
Pontiac Vibe SUV
For the complete list of the vehicles in this study, go to http://www.qualityplanning.com/news/2010-articles.aspx.
What Does This Study Tell You?
Defensive driving isn’t a product of what car you drive, but how you drive that car. As the study points out, those drivers in the ”cautious” category are statistically more likely to have, and be transporting, children (precious cargo). A minivan, like a Mercedes SLK, is capable of driving in excess of the posted limit, but the driver is likely to share a different sense of purpose behind the wheel.