Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Some facts about SB 6345

Chief of the Federal Way Police Department, was checking his e-mail with his cell phone while behind the wheel of a police cruiser when he rear-ended the motorist in front of him.
Imagine his embarrassment. No injuries. No damage, but a lesson for all of us.

Chief Wilson called Sen. Tracy Eide, D-Federal Way, a long-time champion of legislation to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The chief confessed his mistake and promised to come to Olympia to testify in support of Eide’s legislation — Senate Bill 6345.

With the support of Wilson, State Patrol Chief John Batiste and a slew of other people, the Legislature has passed Eide’s bill to ban texting while driving and ban the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers. The bill goes one step further and says drivers under the age of 18 may not use a cell phone at all — even a hands-free device.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed SB 6345 into law on Friday. Law enforcement officers should start writing tickets June 11. Under the bill, police could immediately pull over someone for texting or talking without a headset and give them a $124 ticket.

A ticket will not become part of a driver’s record and dialing a phone is not considered text messaging. The measure exempts emergency vehicle personnel, as well as anyone who is text messaging or calling and not using a headset to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.

People who are using a hearing aid or operating a tow truck also are exempt.

Passage of the cell phone bill has been a long-standing goal of Eide who introduced her first cell phone bill in 2000. It took until 2007 to get a bill through the Legislature.

That made use of a hand-held cellular phone while driving a secondary offense. In other words, a police officer had to observe a driver breaking another traffic law before the officer could cite the driver for breaking the cell phone law.

Washington was the only state in the union to make its cell-phone ban a secondary offense. As a result, you see people everywhere driving while holding a phone to their ear.

Now, with the new legislation making texting or use of a hand-held phone a primary offense. “Patience is a virtue, but I was close to running out of patience,” Eide admits.

Her bill passed the House on a vote of 60-37 and the Senate 33-15.

“The time has finally come,” Eide said. “People finally recognize it’s a safety issue, and people finally recognize that lives will be saved.”

Eide said a driver traveling on the freeway at 60 miles per hour who glances down at a text message for five seconds will travel one and a half football fields without looking at the road. “People know when they pick up a phone and they’re going 60 miles an hour on the freeway, it’s not a good idea,” Eide said. “Banning this practice is simply common sense.”

Eide is right.

Those who testified in the House and Senate hearings, made some excellent points:

• Driving while using a cell phone is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

• Distracted drivers miss up to 50 percent of their visual cues.

• Drivers who text have a 23 percent higher risk of being involved in an accident.

• Bicyclists are at risk of being hit by drivers who are not paying attention to the road.

• There are many examples of people who have lost loved ones because of distracted drivers on cell phones and many more of near misses.

• Seventy-six percent of drivers in Washington support a ban on texting and cell phone use while driving.

• Distracted driving needs to be made as socially unacceptable as drunken driving is today.

Eide said that it took her three years to convince her legislative colleagues to pass the graduated driver license law that requires teens to get more driving experience before they can have unrestricted driving privileges.

In the first year the graduated license law was in place, teen traffic fatalities were down 48 percent, Eide said.

Now that the governor has signed SB 6345 into law, let’s hope banning texting and hand-held cell phones while driving will have a similar effect on public safety in the state of Washington.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prius Fixed Under Recall Still Speeds Out of Control

James Sikes was driving his 2008 Toyota Prius last week when unintended acceleration hit. Before calling 911, he reached down to pull up his stuck accelerator pedal, but it didn't move.

"My car can't slow down," he began when a California Highway Patrol dispatcher answered his call.

Dispatcher Leighann Parks, repeatedly told him to throw the car into neutral but got no answers, later found out he had to set the phone on the seat next to him in order to apply both hands to the wheel.

Finally, Todd Neibert, the CHP officer caught up with him and gave instructions to Sikes over a loudspeaker as they went east on mountainous Interstate 8 in San Diego County Monday afternoon, stating he smelled burning brakes when he caught up with the Prius.

Neibert told Sikes to shift into neutral but the driver shook his head no, later telling reporters he was afraid his car would flip. Sikes did, however apply his brake; straightening his body and lifting off the seat in order to press it down fully and applied the emergency brake.

Both cars maneuvered around two trucks going uphill to a clear, open road giving Neibert about 15 miles to stop the Prius before a steep downgrade and even considered spike strips to puncture the tires as a last resort.

The wild ride lasted 23 minutes, and finally, the Prius rolled to a stop.

Ironically, James Sikes' Prius was one of the vehicles serviced in the recall for floor mats.

Toyota has recalled around 8.5 million vehicles worldwide (over 6 million in the U.S. alone) due to acceleration problems in multiple models and for braking issues in the Prius. Regulators link 52 deaths to crashes caused by accelerator problems. And there are over 60 more reports of sudden acceleration in cars "fixed" under the recall.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Alternative Tires Made of Orange Oil

Yokohama has created a sustainable tire made with 80% petroleum alternatives-- a majority of it being oil from orange peels.

“The eco-focused dB Super E-spec mixes sustainable orange oil and natural rubber to drastically cut the use of petroleum, without compromising performance,” Yokohama vice president of sales Dan King said. “It also helps consumers save money at the gas pump by improving fuel efficiency via a 20-percent reduction in rolling resistance.”

However, Yokohama hasn't stated whether the orange oil will biodegrade over time. When burned, the current petroleum based tires smolder for months and can be difficult to extinguish. Will the same be true of the orange oil tires?

Yokohama tires are sustainable (green) and the Yokohama plant in Shinshiro, Japan is zero-emissions. This will expand to other facilities around the world.

"Highlighting our efforts will be tires that exemplify environmental virtues," said Norio Karashima, Yokohama Tire Corporation CEO and president. He added that Yokohama's manufacturing plants around the world will aim for zero-waste output. "We'll work to reuse or otherwise recycle all waste and will introduce cogeneration systems to raise all resource efficiency. We'll work in all our operations to reduce waste and the output of carbon dioxide. Globally, this is our moral obligation."

Many of the ratings and reviews on the web are positive for the Yokohama tires, too. Consumer AND environmentally friendly! Why aren't these getting more press?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cell Phone Use Growing

PEMCO Insurance issued a news release today, March 2, that shows more and more Washingtonian drivers admit to using hand-held devices while driving. The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, conducted by FBK Research, shows that the number of drivers using hand-held cell phones has more than doubled in the past 20 months, from 17% to 41%. Texting while driving also is growing, jumping from 3% of Washington drivers just 20 months ago to 22%.

Thank you to PEMCO Insurance Company

Anti-Theft Devices: What Works, What Doesn't

Did you know a vehicle is stolen every 26 seconds (according to the FBI's 2007 Crime Reports.) There's ways to prevent theft but first, you should decide if you need an anti-theft device, if you should just take steps to reduce the chance of theft through other means, or both! It's also smart to do the research-- find out if you're in a hot theft area or is your vehicle one of the most stolen! The following may help...

Newer cars are more appealing, and they are usually more secure

The Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles
The following cars and trucks were stolen most frequently in 2008, according to the NICB.
  1. 1994 Honda Accord
  2. 1995 Honda Civic
  3. 1989 Toyota Camry
  4. 1997 Ford F-150
  5. 2004 Dodge Ram
  6. 2000 Dodge Caravan
  7. 1996 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
  8. 1994 Acura Integra
  9. 1999 Ford Taurus
  10. 2002 Ford Explorer

Vehicle Theft Hot Spots
The following 10 metropolitan statistical areas had the highest rate of vehicle theft per 100,000 residents in 2008, according to the NICB.
  1. Modesto, Calif. 1
  2. Laredo, Texas 6
  3. Yakima, Wash. 9
  4. San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, Calif. 3
  5. Bakersfield, Calif. 15
  6. Stockton, Calif. 4
  7. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nev. 2
  8. Albuquerque, N.M. 7
  9. San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, Calif. 5
  10. Fresno, Calif. 11

Anti-Theft Options
There's a number of different things you can do to protect your vehicle from theft. Among some of these things are:
  1. Brand parts with your VIN Number

    You have have this etched on the windows, under the hood, trunk, battery, etc. May be especially appropriate with aftermarket parts.

    You can have it done by a professional or get a DIY kit for about $20.

  2. Steering-Wheel Lock

    The Club is probably the most popular and well-known brand. Prices range from $25 to $100, depending on brand.

  3. Kill Switch

    When this gets activated, the device shuts down part or all of the engine's electrical system. Some models have one built in, if not, they're relatively easy to install. But check with your warranty first because installation may make it null and void.

    These range in cost from $10 to $125.

  4. Alarm System

    Alarm systems have a range of features. Make sure it is installed with a back-up battery or invest in a hood lock to deter car thieves from simply unplugging the battery (rendering your alarm useless).

  5. Hood Locks

    Bar thieves access under the hood to your battery or parts. Costs range between $20 to $50.

  6. Tire Locks

    Similar to "the boot", they're quite visible to thieves but aren't easy to install. Probably best for stored vehicles.

    Cost? Between $80-$200.

  7. Vehicle Tracking System

    LoJack, OnStar, etc. LoJack, for example works directly with law-enforcement if your vehicle is stolen. The transmitter is hidden (even from the owner) and is activated when a thief is reported. LoJack is highly successful with a 90% return rate.

    OnStar is similar and comes standard in all GM's new models, as well as some Acura, Audi, Isuzu, and Volkswagen.

    LoJack retails for $695. Depending on the desired features, OnStar starts at $18.95 per month or $199 per year.

Thank you to Cars.com