automobile-safety

Basic Driving Safety Tips

1. Use your high beams only at night and when there’s no car approaching you from the opposite way. These lights are bright as Hell and in many accounts, completely blinding for the driver approaching you.

2. DO NOT ride the car’s ass in front of you. DO FUCKING NOT. For starters this can give you a reckless driving citation from the cops (which can be an expensive ticket). Two, if the car in front of you slam on their brakes for whatever reason YOUR ASS IS TOAST and if your car slams into theirs? You and them are likely going to need some medical bills paid for (possibly physical therapy, possibly surgery). You’re also possibly blinding the driver’s in front of you if your lights are reflecting in their roads.

3. If you live near the road, keep a god damn eye on your pets. You have no idea how many pets I’ve almost seen hit on my regular commute to school because negligent owners let their pets wander too close to the road (or god forbid, on the road), especially on roads where the speed limit is 50+ mph (80+ km/h). Keep them on a god damn leash or tie them to something. I don’t care if you’re only going inside for “1 minute”, a LOT can happen on those high speed roads in a matter of seconds.

4. If you witness an accident, your state might have a law that requires you to make a statement on what happened. This depends on the state, but double check to see if you need to stick around to wait until the cops show up to give a statement.

5. If a cop is going down the road in the opposite direction you are going and you’re speeding, they can stop can go after you and give you a ticket for speeding. This is NOT unheard of for cops to do this. 

6. Using cruise control when it’s raining puts you more at risk for hydroplaning. There’s numerous horror stories of people who use cruise control when it’s raining and there’s a layer of water on the road and they lose control of the car. If it’s really pouring, SLOW YOUR ASS DOWN. It’s better to arrive safely then to go to the hospital (or worse, the morgue).

7. IF YOU HYDROPLANE, take your foot off the petal and try to guide the car with your steering wheel. If you try to slam on your brakes, this can make it worse. It can be scary to feel your car lose contact with the road with this happens (it’s bound to happen to everyone eventually). When this happens to me, I take my foot off the petal and just try to guide my car with the steering wheel.

8. Don’t regularly drive your car to the point of the low gas light popping up. This can damage your car in the long run if you do this chronically.

9. Actually get regular oil changes. For most cars now-a-days this is between every 5-7500 miles. Again, this is so you don’t damage your car in the long run.

10. If you live in a cold climate, buy a bottle of de-icer and keep it in your car and/or garage for when you gotta drive and there’s ice on your car. Personally I always kept a bottle in my trunk so when the cold months did roll around, I could just spray the ice with this stuff.

11. If you’re starting your car, make sure you’re in an “open” area. Aka don’t start the car in a garage (or anything similar) where the area is closed in (like starting the car in a garage with the garage door closed).This means carbon monoxide poisoning and is VERY dangerous. 

12. Feeling sleepy or very fatigued? Pull over. If you can’t drink energy drinks or handle caffeine well, really the best solution is to pull over and take a mini nap, even if it’s only 5-15 minutes. These mini naps can help recharge you. It is SO DANGEROUS to drive when you’re very drowsy (when you feel like you’re falling asleep at the wheel). I normally keep a blanket in the car too just in case I need to do this (or if I’m feeling cold for whatever reason).

13. Have a basic first aid kit in the car. Some newer versions of car “naturally” come with a first aid kit. If you can’t afford to buy a pre-made first aid kit, you can buy MOST supplies for a first-aid kit at the dollar store/99 cents store (or cheaply at a pharmacy store like CVS or Walgreens). 

14. Be super careful when backing out of a parking space. There’s morons everywhere, especially in parking lots. 

15. Actually check your blind spots when moving into different lanes. Turn your god damn head/body to look in your mirror’s blind spots. Be mindful of shadows and lights of other cars (you might not see the physical car, but you might see their shadow and/or lights on the road). 

16. Use your god damn turn signals. I don’t think I need to go further on this.

17. Always double check at 4-way intersections. So many bad accidents have happened because a person runs a stop light/sign at 4-way intersections. If they’re approaching a light/sign quickly DO NOT assume they will stop, even if it looks like there’s plenty of time for them to stop.

18. BE SUPER careful about speeding in populated areas. Don’t speed in general as a rule of thumb, but be VERY careful about speeding in very populated areas (college towns, cities, neighborhoods, wherever). 

19. YOU DO NOT have more of a “right” to the road then any other drivers. Don’t have the attitude of “just pull the fuck over”, especially if you’re the one speeding. There might be cars besides the person where they can’t just “pull over” because you’re hauling ass to somewhere. 

20. Driving with a passenger? Have them handle your phone for you. If you don’t have a passenger, a lot of phones and/or modern cars have voice commands to send texts, call phone numbers, change the music track, etc. 

21. Don’t drive under the influence. I don’t care what substance it is, if it’s a mind-altering substance, you CAN NOT drive safely. With alcohol in particular, always have a designated driver. There’s SO MANY driving casualties and/or deaths related to drunk drivers. Call a friend, use an Uber/Lyft (whatever taxi app service) look up companies that will give you a lift (Sobermonkeys, Tipsy Taxi, Be my DD, etc.), use public transportation, or walk to a friend’s house. Calling the cops will potentially get you in trouble if you use their emergency phone number (since there’s no *actual* crime occurring). 

There’s other tips out there but these are the best ones I can think of off the top of my head (and some of these are my own pet peeves while commuting to school. I commute on mostly back roads to get to my college). 

The Curse Of James Dean's “Little Bastard”

Friends told James Dean that the car was trouble when they saw it - a rare Silver Porsche Spyder, one of only 90 in 1955. Nicknamed “The Little Bastard,” the car carried the iconic screen rebel to his grave on September 30, 1955.

After the accident, many fans refused to believe Dean was dead. A story circulated that he was still alive although terribly disfigured, and in true urban legend fashion this tale took on a life of its own.

After the tragedy, master car customizer George Barris bought the wreck for $2,500. When the wreck arrived at Barris’ garage, the Porsche slipped and fell on one of the mechanics unloading it. The accident broke both of the mechanic’s legs.

While Barris had bad feelings about the car when he first saw it, his suspicions were confirmed during a race at the Pomona Fair Grounds on October 24, 1956. Two physicians, Troy McHenry and William Eschrid, were both racing cars that had parts from the “Little Bastard.” McHenry died when his car, which had the Porsche’s engine installed, went out of control and hit a tree. Eschrid’s car flipped over. Eschrid, who survived despite serious injuries, later said that the car suddenly locked up when he went into a curve.

The car’s malevolent influence continued after the race: one kid trying to steal the Porsche’s steering wheel slipped and gashed his arm. Barris reluctantly sold two of the car’s tires to a young man; within a week, the man was nearly involved in a wreck when the two tires blew out simultaneously.

Feeling that the Porsche could be put to good use, Barris loaned the wrecked car to the California Highway Patrol for a touring display to illustrate the importance of automobile safety. Within days, the garage housing the Spyder burnt to the ground. With the exception of the “Little Bastard,” every vehicle parked inside the garage was destroyed. When the car was put on exhibit in Sacramento, it fell from its display and broke a teenager’s hip. George Barkuis, who was hauling the Spyder on a flatbed truck, was killed instantly when the Porsche fell on him after he was thrown from his truck in an accident.

The mishaps surrounding the car continued until 1960, when the Porsche was loaned out for a safety exhibit in Miami, Florida. When the exhibit was over, the wreckage, en route to Los Angeles on a truck, mysteriously vanished. To this day, the “Little Bastard’s” whereabouts are unknown.

Super safety driving tip

DO NOT I repeat DO NOT drive right on the car’s in front of you back end. Especially if your night time car lights have turned on. IT IS NOT SAFE to be riding the car in front of you bum.

The general rule of thumb is at least one car length between you and the car in front of you. Why? If they slammed on their brakes for whatever reason, YOUR ASS IS TOAST if you’re driving too close to them. I’ve witnessed so many almost-accidents in the college town I go to grad school in because of this.

Not to mention some asshole did this to me for about 5 minutes before I finally had the chance to go to the lane right besides me and they sped right on past. I went back in my lane and the person LIFTED THEIR GOD DAMN HAND through their sunroof with waved a “good bye” at me through their god damn sun roof. RUDE AS FUCK. They did this with multiple other vehicles too and I came SO CLOSE to reporting their ass to the cops for reckless driving.

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John Glenn, the World’s First Astronaut!

Yesterday the world received the sad news of the death of the very first astronaut, John Glenn.  Yes, yes, Yuri Gagarin beat us Americans and speakers of English into space, but Gagarin was the world’s first cosmonaut!  A small, nit-picky distinction that only a word nerd would make, but this blog is all about words, so the distinction matters.  Astronaut John Glenn piloted the Friendship 7 spacecraft in February of 1962 as part of the Mercury program, a significant American technological milestone that represents one of the few words in the English language to move from pure theoretical abstraction to concrete reality in a single day. 

While humans have been dreaming of flight since the dawn of time, it wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that the Wright brothers achieved that magical 59 second flight covering 852 feet, skimming over the beach not more than twenty feet off the ground. The new science of flight and aeronautics was born and after thousands of years of dreaming about flight, it only took another two and a half decades to coin the term astronaut and set the bar higher for flight. A combination of two Ancient Greek words aster meaning star and nautes meaning a sailor, an astronaut was a sailor of stars.


On April 9, 1959, the word took on a new meaning when NASA announced the first seven American astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton. These seven men would become known as the Mercury Seven. More than simply a new word though, these early pioneers of both space and technology became heroes of popular imagination. They inspired generations of young boys and girls into science and technology and the technology derived from the space program has enriched our everyday lives from breakfast foods to automobile safety.  

John Glenn was the most famous and prominent member of the Mercury program and he would go on to a long career in the Senate and returned to space at the age of 77 with the Shuttle program.  A pioneer from the beginning of his career to the end! 

Image of the John Glenn and the Mercury 7 astronauts courtesy NASA.

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A word from my friend and yours, Taylor Swift

The car crash that killed Gene Erickson caught the attention of federal regulators. Why did the Saturn Ion he was traveling in, along a rural Texas road, suddenly swerve into a tree? Why did the air bags fail? General Motors told federal authorities that it could not provide answers.

But only a month earlier, a G.M. engineer had concluded in an internal evaluation that the Ion had most likely lost power, disabling its air bags, according to a subsequent internal investigation commissioned by G.M.

Now, G.M.’s response, as well as its replies to queries in other crashes obtained by The New York Times from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, casts doubt on how forthright the automaker was with regulators over a defective ignition switch that G.M. has linked to at least 13 deaths over the last decade.

They provide details for the first time on the issue at the heart of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department: whether G.M., in its interaction with safety regulators, obscured a deadly defect that would also injure perhaps hundreds of people.

The company repeatedly found a way not to answer the simple question from regulators of what led to a crash. In at least three cases of fatal crashes, including the accident that killed Mr. Erickson, G.M. said that it had not assessed the cause. In another fatal crash, G.M. said that attorney-client privilege may have prevented it from answering. And in other cases, the automaker was more blunt, writing, “G.M. opts not to respond.” The responses came even though G.M. had for years been aware of sudden power loss in the models involved in the accidents.

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Documents Show General Motors Kept Silent on Fatal Crashes - NYTimes.com

This goes far beyond what GM has already admitted to, and what the government sought in damages. GM willfully lied or concealed evidence, which lead directly to the death or injury of multiple people. A woman was convicted of a crime in the death of Mr. Erickson, when GM knew full well that its own technology was to blame.

Today marks the anniversary of a significant American technological milestone and represents one of the few words in the English language to move from pure theoretical abstraction to concrete reality in a single day. While humans have been dreaming of flight since the dawn of time, it wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that the Wright brothers achieved that magical 59 second flight covering 852 feet, skimming over the beach not more than twenty feet off the ground. The new science of flight and aeronautics was born and after thousands of years of dreaming about flight, it only took another two and a half decades to coin the term astronaut and set the bar higher for flight. A combination of two Ancient Greek words aster meaning star and nautes meaning a sailor, an astronaut was a sailor of stars.


On April 9, 1959, the word took on a new meaning when NASA announced the first seven American astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton. These seven men would become known as the Mercury Seven. More than simply a new word though, these early pioneers of both space and technology became heroes of popular imagination. They inspired generations of young boys and girls into science and technology and the technology derived from the space program has enriched our everyday lives from breakfast foods to automobile safety.

On a personal note, just last week I had the rare honor to shake the hand of Buzz Aldrin as he spoke at his high school alma mater, the Severn School.  

Image of the Mercury 7 astronauts courtesy NASA.

The report, written by Anton R. Valukas, a former United States attorney, details dozens of pivotal moments that ultimately passed with inaction. Some may seem trivial, such as when Rick Wagoner, chief executive at the time, inadvertently “kneed off” the ignition in a test drive of a Chevrolet Cobalt in the spring of 2004, according to one engineer interviewed by investigators. But the lack of information at the highest executive levels, the report concluded, was at the heart of G.M.’s failings on this issue.

Joseph Taylor, a program quality manager for the Cobalt, told the investigators that he did not recall any reports of ignition switch issues, even though he had experienced the problem firsthand. While he “personally experienced moving stalls with the Cobalt,” the report said, “Taylor did not report these instances because he did not consider them significant.”

It wasn’t until six weeks after the December meeting, on Jan. 31, 2014, that the G.M. committee finally agreed to recall the vehicles with the switch, which in 2001 had been discovered to have so little tension, or “torque,” that it could inadvertently shut off if jostled, disabling electrical systems like power steering, power brakes and air bags.

Even then, the company did not have the complete picture. Alicia Boler-Davis, the executive who informed G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, of the recall decision, told investigators she had been unaware of any fatalities and consequently had not conveyed to the chief executive that people had died.

The ignition switch was causing internal headaches as far back as 2002 as the introduction of the Saturn Ion approached, when the engineer responsible for the switch signed an email about the problem with the words “tired of the switch from hell.”

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For a Decade, G.M. Response to a Fatal Flaw Was to Shrug - NYTimes.com

GM knew about this problem for 12 years before issuing a recall. How, exactly, is nobody going to jail over this? $35 million may be an ‘unprecedented’ fine, but it is a drop in the bucket for a multi-billion dollar manufacturing giant.