Distracted Driving

Transportation Nation

DOT Reaffirms "Rampage" Against Distracted Driving "Epidemic"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood reaffirmed that distracted driving will remain front and center in the  DOT's safety campaigns. At a press conference in Washington today, LaHood again referred to distracted driving as an "epidemic" and hinted at further public-private partnerships to combat the phenomenon.

LaHood said, "We've been on a rampage against distracted driving for nearly two years," adding that "we can and must address all three: driver, automobile, and roadway safety."

US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood

The message seemed to be that the DOT will not forget about dangerous driver practices while the agency also pursues more conventional safety initiatives, like improving automobile crash performance and safer roadway planning.

The data support that approach. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be in a crash, and an estimated 1.4 million-- 23 percent of motor vehicle crashes -- involve drivers using cell phones, according to the anti-distracted driving organization FocusDriven. While other behaviors may be more dangerous, the group says, cell phone use contributes to the greatest number of crashes.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: MTA Defends Performance During Blizzard, and Disconnect Over Transit Btw. Candidates and Voters in Chicago Mayoral Race

Monday, January 17, 2011

MTA officials went before the New York City Council to defend their handling of the recent blizzard.  Speaker Quinn: "It really left me not feeling any greater level of confidence that the MTA can handle the next storm." (Wall Street Journal)

The Chicago Tribune says that transit is a sleeper issue in that city's upcoming mayoral race--and highlights a big disconnect between candidates and voters. "Transportation issues are not raised on the candidates' campaign Web pages, and no one has put together a position paper.  But a new public-opinion poll on mass-transit issues found that the Chicago electorate cares greatly about CTA service, extending even to individuals who don't ride the system."

Are drivers just eminently distractible? USA Today looks at federal distracted driving efforts and wonders if the focus on phones and texting is misplaced.  One hospital researcher says that cellphones are "yet another thing that's distracting people," but a "flood of new distractions are being built into vehicles."

Edmonton, the only city in Canada that doesn’t allow alcohol advertisements on its buses and rail, wants to overturn a long-standing ban on transit ads for liquor. (Edmonton Journal)

Top Transportation Nation stories that we're following: The new GOP chief is not a fan of high speed rail.  One study says that biking infrastructures create more jobs than road-based ones. And Governor Cuomo appointed a state DOT commissioner.

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Transportation Nation

More Than Getting from Here to There: Author Tony Hiss on the Passenger Experience

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Many planners, architects, and urbanists keep a copy of The Experience of Place, Tony Hiss's classic meditation on how we react to our surroundings, close at hand. Transportation planners and designers may find themselves equally enthralled by Hiss' latest, In Motion: The Experience of Travel, which similarly describes in enlightening detail what it feels like to be on the move, and why. Transportation Nation's Matt Dellinger recently spoke with Hiss in his Greenwich Village apartment about his observations and the potential for improvement in our lives as passengers and pilots.

Author Tony Hiss (MPR image/Euan Kerr)

Matt Dellinger: Your latest book, In Motion: The Experience of Travel, describes the existence and importance of a mental state you call “deep travel.” What is deep travel, and is it difficult to attain?

Tony Hiss: I think we're all deep travelers, but most of us are a little rusty at it. Deep travel to me means that state when everything around seems fresh and vivid and memorable and ready to be explored. It feels almost like waking up while you're already awake.

I contrast deep travel to the other two principle states of mind that we're endowed with and that we know a great deal about, daydreaming and focused attention. Both of them are highly valuable tools, but both of them operate by excluding the world. With daydreaming, our mind floats free, but we're not paying attention to anything around us. And with focused attention we deliberately shut out the wider world. Deep travel operates by welcoming the world. It's the “un-filter,” if you will. Sensation just floods into us and yet we're able to keep track of multiple variables. No matter how much of a hurry we're in, when we're in this state of deep travel we seem to have enough time to take everything in and not be rushed by it.

Matt: You write that a friend of yours compares it to the feeling we have when we're lost, and looking for a clue in every little thing.

Tony: That's absolutely true. Of course, that's not the most exhilarating part of deep travel but it is the state of mind that we're immediately projected into when we have lost our bearings—because we need to find immediately some thread that leads us back to some kind of grid where we know what's going on.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NJ Transit's "Quiet Car" Program Spurs Not-So-Quiet Debate, and Has London "Misjudged Bike Demand?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bicyclists in Dubai (Danny McL/Flickr)

The Star-Ledger's editorial board is not loving New Jersey Governor Christie's transportation plan, which they describe as a short-sighted "money grab — all to protect his image on the gas tax."

Speaking of the Garden State, NJ Transit's recently expanded "quiet car" program is experiencing some growing pains, like hearty debates over the difference between "silent" and "merely quiet." (New York Times)

Police in Fairfax, Virginia, are cracking down on distracted driving -- and say there's been a 45% decrease in fatal crashes and a 42% decrease in all crashes. (WAMU)

Bike sharing comes to Dubai -- along with a plan to build 900 km of bike tracks (lanes) by the year 2020 (Khaleej Times).

$500 million subway "boondoggle?" The New York Post says that more than a decade after the MTA pledged to transform the subway data network, the equipment is still busted and the multimillion-dollar price tag is growing.

Is London "a rather unpleasant place for cyclists?" That's the assertion made by an article in The Economist, which says London may have "fundamentally misjudged the nature of bike demand." “There has never been a shortage of bikes in London,” says one transport economist. “It’s just that people are afraid to use them.

Florida Governor Rick Scott met with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara at the Capitol to discuss trade -- and high-speed rail. (AP via the Miami Herald)

The New York Times profiled that friend to bicyclists, Denver mayor -- now Colorado's governor-elect -- John Hickenlooper.

California's new drivers' licenses are so complicated to produce that "up to 80% of some batches have had errors, forcing tens of thousands of motorists to wait as long as six weeks, rather than a few days, to get their cards." (Los Angeles Times)

Best Buy will sell 240-volt home charging stations for Ford's 2012 electric Focus. (Fast Company)

Supporters rally to save Toronto's Transit City; city councillor says “Transit City is a lot more than a transit plan, it’s a city-building exercise." (Toronto Star)

Stripping for public transit? Sunday was the 10th annual No Pants Subway Ride, an "international celebration of silliness."  (Good Magazine)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: LA's Westside Subway Gets Federal OK, JSK is Compared to Robin Hood, and New Version of OnStar Is Essentially Omnipotent

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(photo by Dre Batista/Flickr)

Federal officials okay preliminary engineering on LA's Westside subway and light rail line. (Los Angeles Times)

Profiling the grid: Nashville utility planners use research and census data to try to determine who will be buying electric vehicles.  Where should they build substations? In the neighborhoods of female Democrats who live close to work.  (AP via New York Times)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 85% of U.S. adults now wear seat belts. "Only 11 percent wore them in 1982, before the first state law requiring seat belt use."  (NPR)

The Guardian calls NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan "a modern day Robin Hood." And regarding congestion pricing, she says "I do think it's a matter of when, not if."

Two New York City Council members have introduced bills that shrink the no-parking zone on either side of a fire hydrant. (New York Times)

Planned construction on New York's F and G subway lines has been postponed due to the last snowfall. (WNYC)

Brooklyn bicyclists who don't obey the law: the NYPD is coming for you. (Gothamist)

The web war of American Airlines vs. travel sites continues to heat up: now, a company that provides ticket information to travel agents has ended its contract with the airline. (CNN)

A former CEO of Amtrak is the latest addition to the board of DC's Metro. (WAMU)

This could be Ray LaHood's worst nightmare: at the Consumer Electronics Show, General Motors and Verizon unveiled a new version of OnStar. Among its features: Exterior cameras that can detect and record hit-and-runs, and then send the video to the car's owner via a secure server. The ability to watch what's going on in and around the car using a smartphone or home computer. Access to social websites such as YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia using voice commands. Video chatting via Skype through a dashboard-mounted video display. Remote-controlled home appliance and energy use using an application accessible through the car's video console. Live video images from traffic cameras, to view in real-time congestion. (Detroit News)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Ray LaHood Talks High-Speed Rail, Chris Christie Takes To the 60 Minutes Airwaves, and the MTA Tries to Get A Handle on Health Insurance Cost

Monday, December 20, 2010

NJ Governor Chris Christie appeared on 60 Minutes to talk about his state's dire finances --and explain, once again, why he killed the ARC tunnel. (CBS)

The NYC MTA is selling $350 million in Build America Bonds. (Bloomberg)  Meanwhile, the agency is also auditing its health care benefits in an attempt to find out who might be illegally tapping into the system (New York Post). And: NY Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue says that frivolous lawsuits brought by injured straphangers hurt the MTA--and taxpayers.

A dozen livery cab drivers will begin wearing bulletproof vests for protection in high-crime areas. (New York Daily News)

England's transport secretary will unveil the tweaked high speed rail route between London and Birmingham. (UK Daily Mail)

Ray LaHood talked about trying to build a national high speed rail system on NPR's Weekend Edition.  And the DOT wants to ban commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. (AP)

Author/illustrator/humorist Bruce McCall comes up with a shared streets proposal in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. "Under the new system, sidewalk parking for all vehicles becomes not only mandatory but also illegal — a one-two punch expected to fatten the Department of Finance’s coffers by an estimated $13 million per day in added traffic summonses!"

The National Journal's transportation blog asks: "FAA: Could it finally happen?"  The agency, which is operating under its 16th funding extension, "could actually see a multiyear funding blueprint by sometime next summer."

Remember that crisp morning five years ago? When New Yorkers came together and shared cabs, and walked and biked to work...because of the transit strike? Happy anniversary! (CBS New York)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Transportation Funding Woes Dog States, and Looking Ahead to Looking Back: Will Rear View Cameras Become Status Quo?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell wants to redirect $45 million in federal funds to stave off huge Port Authority service cuts, but says it's a short-term fix. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

NJ Spotlight writes about "New Jersey's troubled transportation outlook" and says that "a proposed subway to Secaucus and a depleted Transportation Trust Fund are only the beginning."

And PA and NJ aren't alone: Virginia is considering a host of options to help cover a massive shortfall in state transportation funding, including a small sales tax, tolls and the use of toll credits (Washington Post). And: Rhode Island officials are warning that "basic elements of the state’s transportation system are threatened. Officials responsible for both the highways and the transit system said a lack of money is undermining their efforts." (Providence Journal)

Now Ontario's transportation minister is getting into the transit fray, says it would be wasteful to scrap the $8.15 billion Toronto light rail plan because work has already started. (Toronto Star)

Rear view cameras could become more common in cars, as the Transportation Department proposes new safety rules. "There is no more tragic accident than for a parent or caregiver to back out of a garage or driveway and kill or injure an undetected child playing behind the vehicle," says Secretary Ray LaHood. (AP)

Buffalo Bills safety Bryan Scott bikes to practice. In Buffalo. In the winter. (Well, not when it's really snowing.) (Sports Illustrated)

Honda is ending production of the Element. (Auto Guide)

Outgoing congressman Jim Oberstar may land at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, where he's in talks about a possible role. (AP via Minnesota Public Radio)  But first, he gave an exit interview to TN's Todd Zwillich, which aired on today's The Takeaway. Listen below!

Tweet of the day, from WNYC's Azi Paybarah: "Think Rev. Billy, the eccentric 2009 candidate for #nyc mayor was just on my F train to #brooklyn. And he wasn't yelling about term limits!"

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Transportation Nation

New York City's 10,000 Designated Drivers

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  The New York City Department of Transportation announced today that it will be handing out thousands of pre-paid debit cards this holiday season as part of its anti-drunk driving efforts.

You the Man -- as the campaign is known -- offers a find-a-ride search engine, sobriety tests, and a general reminder that the city has 10,000 designated drivers--also known as cabbies.

There's also an iPhone app that has a designated driver picker, as well as a blood alcohol level calculator (although as one reviewer put it:  "if you're buzzed you prob shouldn't base a decision to drive on an iPhone app.")

Beginning next week, the NYC DOT will begin distributing 2,000 free rides home in the form of pre-paid $25 debit cards, programmed for use in taxis and livery vehicles--as well as MTA, PATH and NJ Transit ticketing machines.  To find out where to get a card, follow You the Man on Twitter or Facebook.

As we reported earlier, presumably you can avail yourself of the You the Man services even if you don’t have a car--but just happen to be out and about, needing a ride home. Even if you're sober.

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Transportation Nation

Survey: Texas Drivers Feeling Less Safe on the Roads, Want Ban on Cell Phones

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Texans feel less safe on the roads than they did five years ago, according to a study released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). Researchers asked drivers how they feel about traffic safety, and most say too much technology behind the wheel is getting in the way.
TTI Safety Culture

Despite the falling rate of traffic fatalities across the state, more than a third of Texans who participated in the  survey say they don’t feel any safer. Just twenty percent of respondents reported feeling more safe then they did five years ago. Quinn Brackett, a senior research scientist with TTI, says more than half of the people surveyed believe aggressive driving is on the rise. But even more — over eighty percent — say talking or texting on cell phones is worse than it was five years ago. The results didn't surprise Brackett. He says people know that cell phone use "interferes with safety while driving."

The participants’ concern with distracted driving is reflected in their answers to another question: "Are you in favor of or opposed to a law against any type of cell phone use while driving?" Supporters of a ban outnumbered opponents by a margin of two to one. Texas of course has no state-wide ban, but lawmakers are expected to file several bills seeking to prohibit or limit cell phone use while driving when the 2011 Texas Legislative session starts in January.

The ban is just one of many initiatives the majority of  respondents  say they would back. They also favor of sobriety check-points, ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders, requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, and red light cameras -- which are still a hot button issue here in Houston.

Listen to the story over at KUHF News.

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Transportation Nation

A Third of Highway Deaths Involve Drugs--Yes, 33 Percent!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) As many as a third of all U.S. traffic fatalities involve drug users.

That’s the conclusion of a new analysis out today from the White House Office of Drug Control Policy and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The alarming statistic comes from an analysis of 2009 NHTSA crash data. It shows a full 33% of all post-mortem tests on people who perished in traffic accidents had drugs in their systems. That includes illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, but also includes legal prescription and non-prescription drugs like antidepressants and pain killers. The report does not state what percentage of Americans are on drugs, including legal ones, at any given time.

Alcohol and nicotine were excluded from the analysis, suggesting that “drugged driving” is a much larger safety problem on American roadways than previously thought.

“Unfortunately, it may be getting worse,” said ONDCP director Gil Kerlikowske, also known as the ‘drug czar’.

The report concludes that the incidence of positive drug tests in fatal crashes is up five percent over the last five years, even while overall traffic deaths are down.

Federal drug and auto safety officials want drugged driving to become a bigger part of efforts to cut impaired driving. They’re using the numbers to tout a White House pledge to cut drugged driving by 10% by 2015.

But now, some caveats: The NHTSA data only apply to traffic fatalities in which drug tests are performed and then later available. That is not all crashes, so the actual presence of drugs in fatal crashes could be much higher than 33%. On the other hand, the analysis doesn’t separate high levels of drugs—levels that lead to significant impairment—with lower levels that may not.

For example, marijuana stays in the body for 4-6 weeks after its smoked. So the simple presence of marijuana in a driver’s system doesn’t mean he or she used the drug immediately before driving. Also, drugs like antidepressants, while they can be impairing in large doses or if they cause drowsiness, are not necessarily intoxicating when taken day after day. Again, a positive test is a long way from proving the drug caused, or even played a role in, a crash.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: LaHood Toys With Scrambling Technology, LA Mayor Says Homes Can Be EV Ready in 7 Days, and Good Week for American Auto Manufacturers

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Star Ledger is intrigued by the 7 train proposal. "Can this really work? At this stage, who knows? But let’s kick the tires and find out." Meanwhile, the New York Times looks at Flushing and Secaucus: "These two very different places might one day be knitted together by a single rumbling artery: the No. 7 subway line."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promises to make Los Angeles homes electric car-ready in under seven days (Los Angeles Times). And he also wants to make public transit free for kids on field trips. (Daily Breeze)

The Albany Times-Union devotes an editorial to Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch's depressing transportation analysis. "What his report doesn’t clearly say is that the state must stop playing the game of using money meant for construction to pay for operating expenses."

Is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood looking at scrambling calls in cars? "There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we're looking at that," he told MSNBC. (Fast Company)

Charlotte scales back light rail expansion plans, looks at public-private partnerships. (Charlotte Observer)

What a week for the auto industry: the Chevy Volt wins "Car of the Year."  And General Motors stock is on a joyride. (Detroit Free Press)

The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing for a busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week by working with the Department of Defense to clear the way for commercial aircraft to fly in airspace normally reserved for the military. (FAA)

BMX whiz Danny MacAskill goes "Way Back Home" from Edinburgh, Scotland, to his hometown of Dunvegan, on the Isle of Skye.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: What's the Likelihood of the 7-Subway-to-Secaucus, Exxon Mobil to Clean Up Greenpoint Oil Spill, and Happy Anniversary, 150-year-old Bike Sho

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New York's current lieutenant governor, Richard Ravitch, will release a report today that lays out the transportation challenges facing incoming governor Andrew Cuomo. Such as: failing to come up with a long-term plan to fund transportation infrastructure "means surrendering any plausible chance for a prosperous future for New York." (Wall Street Journal)

Bus Rapid Transit debuts in Atlanta. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Exxon Mobil agrees to clean-up a multimillion gallon, underground oil spill that has vexed Greenpoint (Brooklyn) residents for decades. (WNYC)

Fiat returns to the U.S. auto market (NPR).  The base model costs $15,500.

You may want to temper your #7 subway-to-Secaucus hopes. According to the New York Daily News: "The chances of a subway line running to New Jersey anytime soon hover between slim and none, a top transportation official said Wednesday."

Besides: MTA head Jay Walder says they can't afford a fourth "megaproject." (AM New York)

NJ Transit may privatize parking at some locations. "Under the SPACES (System Parking Amenity and Capacity Enhancement Strategy) initiative, firms would vie for the exclusive right to collect parking revenues at the sites throughout the decades-long agreement." (The Times of Trenton)

Faces of Distracted Driving launches -- an online video series featuring people who have been killed or lost loved ones. (New York Times)

The world's oldest bicycle shop, located in Surrey, England, is marking its 150th anniversary. (Your Local Guardian)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Unintended Consequences of the Tarmac Rule, NJ Transit Not Eager to Repay $271 Million, and Cabbies Help Tweak GPS

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wisconsin gov-elect Scott Walker's response to Ray LaHood: fix roads before you build rail. Also, some friendly advice: "All across the country, in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, the voters chose new governors who are opposed to diverting transportation funding to passenger rail. I believe it would be unwise for the Obama administration to ignore the will of the voters." (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

New Jersey is not exactly whipping out its checkbook to repay $271 million to the Federal Transit Administration for the canceled ARC tunnel project, because "NJ Transit does not agree that the issues are as clear cut as portrayed in the FTA letter." (Asbury Park Press)

US airlines are stranding less passengers--but canceling more flights. Unintended consequences of the tarmac rule? (Bloomberg via MPR)

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 41% of drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point. (Los Angeles Times)

How can you improve GPS directions? Ask a cabbie. (Good)

Lansing wants to dip its toes into bus rapid transit. (Lansing State Journal)

Czech transport minister loses his license for 6 months for driving without valid license plates. (Czech Happenings)

Good Magazine wants to know: What is the best bus route in America?

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: The End of a Transportation Era, Bangladesh Pities Transit Fools, and: Is High-Speed Rail Imperiled?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Oberstar's defeat ends era of transportation policy influence (Minnesota Public Radio).

Not to mention the probable death of the president's proposed $500 billion transportation bill, which insiders say will be "a lower number and probably a shorter [duration] bill." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

General Motors goes public...again. (The Takeaway)

As Bangladesh prepares to open up its ports to its neighbor countries--as well as join the UN's trans-Asian road and rail network--that country's finance minister takes some flack for reportedly saying that "Bangladesh is geographically a transit country and those who deny it are fools." (Bangladesh News24)

The dilemma of the Baby Boomers: when should Mom and Dad stop driving? (USA Today)

Derailed? Many, many stories today are talking about the impact that newly empowered House Republicans will have upon high-speed rail grants. Especially representatives like John Mica, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who said: "We'll revisit all of those projects."

Qantas grounds its A-380 super jumbo jets after today's mid-air engine failure (Wall Street Journal).  The near-disaster is wrapped up in these two tweets.

The NY Daily News says: For the first time since the World Trade Center attacks, the MTA did not increase security at bridges and tunnels during last week's terror scare. Reason: cuts in overtime pay.
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Transportation Nation

A Giant Moving Violation

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Barry Bonds in 2007 (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Not even home run kings are above the law.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that former San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds was issued a ticket for talking on his cell phone while driving  -- "just as his former team was celebrating its first World Series title since moving to San Francisco."

But not even the prospect of a $125 fine could curb his enthusiasm. Bonds issued a statement last night that said "I am ecstatic for the team, the city and all the fans – you truly deserve it."

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Transportation Nation

Bad Directions: A Cautionary Tale of GPS Misbehavior

Monday, November 01, 2010

Car navigator in action

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – When the New York Times reported last month that Google was developing a car that could drive itself through traffic, Jon Kelly at the BBC wondered whether we could ever learn to love driverless cars. Kelly quoted “motoring journalist” Quentin Willson, who doubted the level of trust people would have in robot drivers. “The human brain can react quickly to the blizzard of information we're confronted with on the roads,” Willson told the BBC. “By contrast, we know what sat nav is like—it takes you on all sorts of circuitous routes.”

Indeed. The pair of articles brought to mind a harrowing tale I’d heard about a rogue GPS that had led a friend’s car astray. The vehicle in question was not piloting itself, but was being driven by Liesl Schillinger, a writer and literary critic who happens to write frequently for the Times.

A few years ago, Schillinger was on her way to an interview in rural New Hampshire. It was a humid August day in the White Mountains, and she was driving her rented Hyundai with its windows down, enjoying the “gorgeous and enveloping” smell of pine and trusting fully in her GPS device to guide her.

“At first it was idyllic,” she remembered in an email to me. “I passed a quaint red barn and farmyard, where picturesque Holsteins grazed, then entered a kind of woods.  At first I marveled at how lovely and rugged it was to be driving in such refreshingly unblemished wilderness, but as the road through the trees got steeper, to the point of being nearly vertical (like skiing uphill), I grew doubtful.”

But the fuchsia line on the screen was unmistakably clear, she told me. “The voice kept blandly ordering me onward. It was just a mile and a half to the house, "she" (the voice) said, so I decided to persevere.”

Schillinger came to a clearing in the trees, and found herself and car “atop a rocky plateau, like in the Jeep Cherokee ads—you know,  where the jeep perches on some  jagged butte where it has been airlifted like a stunned hippopotamus.” She stopped and opened her door to examine the terrain, doubtful that her mid-size could handle the steep, rocky grade. She wanted to call the woman she was visiting, but she had no cell reception. So she pressed on, trusting her robotic navigator.

“I managed to drive the car down the rocks, say, five hundred feet, at which point the scree turned into a damp muddy narrow roadlet through a forest,” Schillinger recalls.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Car Accidents Biggest Threat to Americans Abroad, ARC Decision May Be Delayed, and the Evils of the Subway Door Stander

Friday, October 22, 2010

Biggest threat to Americans abroad isn't terrorism -- it's "a lethal cocktail of killer roads, unsafe vehicles, dangerous driving and disoriented travelers."   (USA Today)

Will Governor Christie hand down his ARC tunnel decision today--or think some more over the weekend? (AP via Star Ledger)

French president Sarkozy forcibly opens one oil refinery--but 2,500 gas stations are still empty. (BBC)

Palo Alto city council doesn't want high-speed rail stop, says "it doesn't make good transit sense." (Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Drum Major Institute report says: invest more in the MTA or face fiscal disaster (via New York Daily News).

The New York Times' Complaint Box takes subway door standers to task...and deputizes their readers to enforce subway etiquette. Plus: they have a beautiful online photo exhibit of historic images of the subway.

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Transportation Nation

Railroad Worker Killed By Train NOT on Cell Phone At Time of His Death

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

(St. Paul, Minnesota - Laura Yuen, MPR News) -- Were authorities too quick to blame cell phones for a fatal rail accident that occurred last month in Minnesota? Perhaps.

Andrew Kim Weaver, 53, a veteran employee of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, was killed September 1, 2010 in the northern Twin Cities suburb of Coon Rapids.

Authorities said the man stepped off a test train and walked onto a nearby track, where he was hit by a Northstar commuter train that he apparently did not see. At the time, authorities said that was because he was talking on his cell phone.

It's a story that been repeated -- with some reason -- after a series of recent high-profile accidents involving trains.

But since then, family members began to question that claim, saying the story didn't jibe with what they knew of the veteran employee of the BNSF Railway.

Under pressure from Weaver's family, the sheriff's department this week said Weaver was not on his cell phone at the time he died, reversing its earlier version of events. Now, the office says Weaver, 53, of Fridley, apparently was using his cell phone shortly before he died -- but not at the exact moment he was hit. (See updated MPR story here.)

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Transportation Nation

A Reminder: Don't Die In A Flash Flood

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) Hurricane season is well underway, and that means a mega-rain storm can strike the East Coast or the Gulf Coast at any time. Just this week, D.C. and New York City were hammered by Tropical Storm Nicole.

Driving in the midst of one of these storms can be perilous to say the least. Earlier this week, I covered the aftermath of a flash flood in Northeast D.C. Several cars had gotten stuck in quickly rising water under an overpass. One woman said the water rose so fast, she couldn't get out of her car. She said the water rose up to her neck before she was rescued.

So, a reminder: take caution when driving during a storm. Never try to drive through standing water. Instead, obey the new highway safety catchphrase: turn around, don't drown.

IMAGE by Flickr user ChefMattRock (not of Washington D.C)

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Transportation Nation

Study Saying Text Bans Don't Reduce Crashes Provokes LaHood Ire

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A week after Ray LaHood’s national Distracted Driving Summit, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute has released a study that says not only do texting bans NOT reduce car crashes, they may in fact increase them.

The study compares claims in four states (California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Louisiana, which were among the first to enact texting bans) with patterns of claims in nearby states. The president of the HLDI and IIHS, Adrian Lund, says the study shows that "neither texting bans nor bans on hand-held phone use have reduced crash risk...(the states are) focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem."

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