The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘autos’ Category

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM DETROIT

If you were to compile a list of cities in the old “Rust Belt” that are on death watch, Detroit might well head the pack.  The once great center of commerce and industry has been in steady decline – in large measure because of the now no longer dominance of domestic auto production on the world market.

Detroit is one of the direst examples of what can happen to a once great city when businesses shut down, workers become unemployed and neighborhoods go into decay.  The lack of good jobs brought an exodus from the city.

According to the 1950 census, Detroit topped out in its population with just under 1.9 million people living there.  The 2010 census shows there are now only 717,000 residents – a decline of 25% in the population from the census of 2000 and the lowest recorded number of residents since 1910.

As you would suspect from these numbers, vacant housing is everywhere to be found in the once proud Motor City.  This is one source of Detroit’s cosmetic problems – and, where you have people struggling to make ends meet with little job opportunity or creation, crime is a second one.

The number of murders in Detroit increased from 344 in 2011 to 377 in 2012 – making it the Murder capitol of the U. S. on a per capita basis – if no longer the Motor capitol.  There is plenty of time for people to commit murders as the official rate of unemployment is nearly 30% in Detroit – although the Mayor and City Council members put the real number at nearly 50% of all adult Detroit residents.

But if we were to envision some magical genie who could wave his hand and all of a sudden industry were to return to Detroit – would it make a difference?  The unfortunate answer is – probably not.  Detroit has one of the lowest rates of graduating students from its high schools.  The number of boys who graduate is now at 25% and for girls at 39% – among the lowest numbers of any city in the nation.  So even if jobs returned, there would be few Detroiters who have sufficient education to qualify for them.

The State of Michigan has attempted to address one source of this problem – truancy.  Detroit school children have among the highest absentee rates in the country.  Forgetting for the moment about the quality of education children in Detroit may receive when they do attend, it should be intuitively obvious that if they don’t attend they will receive no education, period.

So the state proposed cutting off welfare and other subsidy payments to households in which a child has been absent for 10 days during the school year, in an effort to get parents more involved in making sure their kids go to school.  Needless to say, this evoked a strong reaction from concerned parents as shown in the following story and video:

http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/19633772/michigan-families-to-lose-welfare-benefits-for-too-much-truancy

Where does lack of education and lack of job opportunity ultimately lead us?  The answer is to dependence, poverty and slavery.  The following video demonstrates how desperate people react when they hear a promise of some new government sop which is being dangled before them.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b66_1254962584

Those in Washington, in our state capitols and in our city halls should all be aware of these issues  and be concerned.  If we continue on our present path, all of our major cities may start to look a lot like Detroit.

THE VACUUM CLEANER

If you think that this post is going to be about keeping your home neat and tidy I am sorry to disappoint you.  This is not about the Hoover or the Mighty Mite or Orecks or Eurekas or Dysons.  This is about the most powerful vacuum cleaner ever invented – your car – guaranteed to suck as much money out of your bank account as possible.

If you’re as mechanically-challenged as I you too will find yourself at the mercy of your local “car repair shop” or garage.  I can add gas to the beast and I now know where the windshield solvent goes (it seldom runs out here in Las Vegas) and I do know how to run it through a car wash.  I even can put air in the tires.  And that’s about it.  For the rest I rely on the “car doctors” to do their thing.  Of course, I should share with you my view on doctors – something which I used to incorporate into my seminars.

THE FOUR KINDS OF DOCTORS

1.  The Internist – Knows Everything and Does Nothing.

2.  The Surgeon – Knows Nothing and Does Everything.

3. The Psychiatrist – Knows Nothing and Does Nothing.

4. The Pathologist – Knows Everything and Does Everything – Too Late.

I have had the misfortune of having various cars treated by each of these kinds of car doctors.

1.  The Internist – You bring your car in because there’s one of those little annoying lights that just went on in your dashboard.  Despite the fact that you’re looking at the Owner’s Manual you can’t seem to figure out which of the little diagrams pertains to your particular service light.  So, thinking that your car is likely to explode you take it in to have the problem corrected.

The internist mechanic sticks his head in the door, sees the offending light and begins poking around under the hood.  After twenty minutes at this he explains that the reason your light is on is that you have a fuse that’s blown.  There’s nothing really wrong with the car at all.  (Sigh of relief).  Unfortunately, he doesn’t happen to have a fuse in stock with the required amperage.  You leave in search of a place where you can buy the correct fuse and install it.

2.  The  Surgeon – You bring your car in because there’s a subtle but strange noise that occurs intermittently while you drive.  You really can’t identify the noise much more specifically than that.

Your surgeon mechanic listens attentively to your description of the problem.  He hooks you up to one of those fantastic automatic diagnostic machines which will surely identify the cause of this noise.  After a few minutes of being on this EEG for cars machine, a magic code appears.  This will tell him what is causing the noise.  So he looks the code up in his book but doesn’t think that this is actually the reason for the problem (so why does he have this machine?) and says that based on his years of experience he is sure he can get rid of your noise.

As you listen to him he raises your car up on the hydraulic rack.  You go back to the waiting room.  After an hour you go to the service bay and find that the car surgeon has called in a few assistants.  You also notice that your car’s engine, catalytic converter and muffler are lying on the ground.  You call to reserve a rental car for the three days it will take them to reassemble most of the parts that they have removed from your vehicle.

3. The Psychiatrist – You bring your car in because you’ve noticed that your car isn’t accelerating as well as it used to.  You’re wondering if there’s something clogging the fuel line or perhaps it needs a tune-up. 

The psychiatrist car mechanic requests a little additional information.  He asks, how long has your car been unhappy?  Have any great life changes occurred in your garage – perhaps the addition of a newer model?  Did this happen all at once or have you noticed that your car has been suffering a slow encroachment of this malaise?

You leave thinking that you will try using premium gas to see if that fixes the problem.

4.  The Pathologist –  Your car has stopped while you were driving.  Nothing you can do will get it started so you call the car repair service and they dispatch a tow truck to bring you and your vehicle into the shop.

The pathologist mechanic looks at your vehicle, verifies that it will not start and hands you a business card for a used car dealer, pronouncing your vehicle to be officially dead.  It’s time to get out there and get a newer model – and do your part to help support the economy.

I don’t know why but every time I go in to have something done to my vehicle, the phrase “like lambs to the slaughter” runs through my head.  If I ever got filthy rich I know how I would handle this problem.  I would wait until the ashtray was filled (since I don’t smoke I would have to take up the habit) and that would be my clue to trade my cigarette-clogged vehicle in for a new one.  The way I figure it – the cost would be about the same as trying to get the old one fixed.

GAS IS FIVE DOLLARS A GALLON

Once again the price of gasoline is on the rise.  Part of that is the tension developing in the Middle East – Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz – their saber rattling regarding Israel – and that state’s reciprocating with its own.

Although the price of light sweet crude has remained in a trading range, the price of gasoline has risen regularly.  (Today I saw an eight cent increase over the price I paid for it the other day).

The “experts” predict that when we hit the peak driving season this summer, we should expect to pay an average of about four dollars a gallon.  Personally, I did some analysis and think that number could be closer to five dollars.  There are two reasons for my conclusion.

By this summer I believe that the Federal Reserve will again engage in what it calls “Quantitative Easing” – a polite way of saying we’re going to further devalue the dollar.  Since the oil that we consume is denominated in dollars the effect is to raise the price of that oil.  That increase will naturally translate to increases in the price of “derivatives” – that is products that are made from that oil – one of which is gasoline.

Second, the refineries are not making any money based on the price of oil and the current price of gasoline.  As a result they are limiting the production of gasoline and will only increase the amount of their output if they are able to get higher prices for it.  Combine that with the increased demand from drivers and that’s how I arrived at my five dollar guestimate.  I sincerely hope that I’m wrong.

We know that when gas prices increase it drains money from consumers’ pockets and has a negative impact on the economy.  Since consumer spending constitutes two-thirds of the economy you can see the effect that increasing gas prices will have on what is only a poor recovery.

Those are the economic facts as I see them.  Having said that I would like to offer my readers a few common-sense ways to combat the vacuum cleaner that is preparing to suck the money out of your wallet and put it in your gas tanks.

First and foremost, slow down when you drive.  We know for a fact that combustion engines operate less efficiently at higher speeds (burning more gasoline) than they do at slower speeds.  At a time where we should be doing everything to encourage conservation – the Congress currently has a bill pending that would increase the speed limit on national highways from the present 65 to 75.  (That I am on the other side of Congressional thinking is like receiving the Good Housekeeping “Seal of Approval”).

Group your trips to minimize your gas consumption.  A little bit of planning can result in your driving fewer miles, getting your chores done more productively and save you some time.  I have gotten in the habit of asking a few neighbors if they need anything from the store or would like to drive with me when I shop.  One less car covering the same route is one less car burning gas.

While none of us can control the price that retail gasoline stations post for their product, we can control how much of it we consume.  And the added benefit is that we can not only save ourselves money but reduce the carbon footprint we are leaving on planet earth.  That  is reason enough for becoming thoughtful conservationists.

THE PICKLE BARREL

 Three or four times a year my family would get in our De Soto (a two-toned beauty painted in yellow and gray with big fins) and head to Chinatown for a late Sunday lunch. Afterward our plan was to go to a nearby neighborhood and buy some dill pickles to take home.

To my mind as a little kid, this car was really “cool” – although I think the term at the time was “groovy.” Unlike other cars which had the gear shift attached to the steering column, the De Soto had a little push button transmission at the far left of the dashboard. How modern could you get?

Grandma and I sat in the back seat. Between us was the empty half gallon jar, nestled in its shopping bag which we would fill up from the pickle barrel.

When we got to Mott and Pell Streets for lunch, dad would always take a few minutes to look in on two of his clients who had stores on the busy street. There was always a lot of activity in the area which was filled with Chinese residents and tourists who had come to shop and perhaps dine.

It was a treat when Mr. Chen or Mrs. Liang, (dad’s two customers) could join us for lunch. On those occasions, instead of going to one of the restaurants which had menus written in both Chinese and English, we would go to one of their favorite eateries and they would do the ordering from the all Chinese menu. To this day, I have no idea what some of the menu items that we consumed were. But I do know that we always enjoyed our meal.

After lunch we would get back in the car and head over to the old Jewish district on the lower east side. This was far more serene than the hustle and bustle we experienced in Chinatown. Moshe’s Kosher Delicatessen was our destination and we were more easily able to find a parking space here than in Chinatown.

Grandma and I would set to work, retrieving dill pickles from the barrel which was set outside the entrace to the deli and place them in our jar. I would hold the jar and grandma would do the fishing. Moshe’s had a long set of tongs and a ladle hanging from the side of the wooden barrel for retrieving the pickles and adding some brine to our jar. Well – at least they hung there most of the time.

Every so often either one or both of these implements had sunk into the barrel and had to be retrieved. There was only one way to do that – by plunging your hand (and sometimes a fair portion of your arm) into the barrel. I guess that exposed everyone who purchased the dill pickles from Moshe’s to other people’s germs.

I thought about this the other day as I was walking through the cleaning supply aisle of my local supermarket. I needed to get some steel wool – but as I headed over to find my SOS pads, I started looking at the proliferation of products on the shelves. I was amazed at the variety and quantity of different cleaning products that were now on the market.

There were disinfecting wipes with and without scent – wipes which were for wood, wipes which for were marble and granite, wipes for children under the age of six, wipes for children over the age of six, wipes for young adults, wipes for the elderly, wipes for pets, wipes for the oven, wipes for the kitchen sink, wipes for the bathroom, wipes that were guaranteed to kill 99% of all germs that have existed since the world began. By the time I finished looking at them all – I was wiped out.

That there are people who buy into this hooey about needing a specific wipe for a specific job is unarguable – or these products wouldn’t continue to exist on supermarket shelves. I can only imagine the horror on the face of someone who uses these products had they seen us retrieving pickles from Moshe’s dill pickle barrel.

They would have had to go to the OTC pharmaceutical aisle and purchase a preparation to relieve stomach upset caused by pickle barrel diving and, just for good measure, shopped for a prophylaxis in the event that pickle barrel divers had breathed too close to them – thus spreading their germs to the unwary.

I’m pleased to report that my family survived our multiple experiences with the pickle barrel without succumbing to any sort of disease or illness. And the dill pickles from Moshe’s were the best that I have ever eaten.

 

MORE ON DRIVING AND TEXTING

A gentleman commented on yesterday’s post which was entitled “Text While You Drive”.  He thought that my suggestion that we ought to encourage people to text while they drive, allowing the laws of natural selection to wipe them out through their foolish behavior was “terrible … but funny.”  (I truly do have the bumper sticker pictured on my car).  I think of it as “dark humor” or irony.

Those who know me think of me as one of the gentlest people they have ever met.  None of my neighbors has ever heard me raise my voice in anger – because I am virtually never angry at anyone or anything.  One friend likes to describe me as “an old soul” – sometimes with a bit more emphasis on the “old” part than I would prefer.  I know she means it as a compliment.

I believe that reason, common sense and civility are far more effective in persuading people to a point of view than are anger and invective.  That is my modus operandi and has been for many years.

If you read either my profile or some earlier entries on this blog (including yesterday’s) you understand that I believe that we must take personal responsibility for our actions and not rely on “big brother government” to enact regulations intended for our “benefit”.  So it will probably surprise you that I am advocating yet another government regulation – but one that I think would actually be beneficial.

The statistics are very clear.  Distracted driving is by far the major cause of traffic accidents and fatalities – exceeding even drunk driving.  Logic would suggest that if we were to reduce the amount of distracted driving (texting and holding a cell phone to your ear while operating a vehicle) we would see a reduction in the number of vehicular accidents and deaths on our streets and highways.  Bravo!  Good idea.

However, the problem with passing a law making it illegal to engage in those activities, while it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and feel that we are addressing the problem, is that it is unenforceable – making the law worthless.

Fortunately, I have a simple solution.  This should appeal to everyone with the exception of three groups:  1) People who feel above the law and want to continue making calls or send texts while driving; 2) Owners and employees of auto repair body shops and; 3) Personal Injury lawyers.  Yes, even our politicians can endorse this idea without fear of voter backlash.

Thanks to Steve Jobs and others, most of us are now equipped with “smart phones”.  These little devices can tell us where we are and how to get home … well you’re probably more conversant than I as to their capabilities since I only acquired my first smart phone last month.  So far I have figured out how to accidentally end a phone call but have yet to explore much of its potential.  (Unfortunately, I do not have any 10 year olds at home who could explain its more advanced features to me).

So here’s the proposal.  Congress passes a law called the “Pay As You Go Surcharge”. (PAYGOS).

Since cell phones know where you are they should also be able to tell the rate of speed at which you are moving (or if not, that modification should be easy to make by the engineers who designed them).

If you attempt to text someone and are moving at 10 miles an hour or more, a warning would show up on your phone’s screen, “There will be a $2.50 surcharge for completing this message.”  The recipient would also be advised, “There will be a $2.50 surcharge for accepting this message.”  On the theory that texting is 10 times as dangerous as completing a voice call – the surcharge for completing voice calls would be $.25 to both parties.

The revenues collected from those who continued to text and call while driving would be required to be used to pay down the national debt and for no other purpose.  (As I said, even the politicos could get behind this).

Washington has spent so much time talking about deficit reduction without doing anything about it.  This proposal is a way to turn talk into real debt reduction.  Perhaps this is far too simple to get the attention of our lawmakers.  I hope not.

CommSenseBmprStck5596

ON LAWS AND COURTESY

 When I started college in the mid-60’s, I moved from New York City to Chicago. Frankly, it felt to me as though I had moved 900 miles and two centuries. In many ways, Chicago was still the pioneer prairie town – though at that time it still held sway as America’s second largest city as measured by population.

 It was in Chicago that I discovered the existence of “blue laws”. These were legislative enactments that probably had some value when they were first passed – but the tradition of keeping them on the books had far outweighed their usefulness.

 Allow me to cite a few examples:

 You couldn’t get a haircut on Mondays. That was something that the barber’s union had accomplished. How this benefited the barbers wasn’t then and isn’t now clear to me – but if it was Monday, you couldn’t get your locks shorn.

 You couldn’t buy meat after 7:00 p.m. Yes, there it was, sitting in the case (which was covered with heavy plastic wrap) but it was illegal for the store to let you pick it up and check out with it. This was something that the butcher’s union had achieved. How this benefited the butchers was a mystery to me then and is still today.

 But, of course, the grandaddy of all the blue laws was that “on days when members of the General Assembly stood for election, during the time the polls were open, it was illegal to purchase liquor – either at a liquor store, a restaurant or bar.” As I became more familiar with Illinois politics, the absolute absurdity of this law made me laugh. When you considered the old political hacks who were constantly re-elected to the General Assembly, the only way a person of insight and conscience could possibly consider voting for them was if he or she were totally inebriated!

 Well, those were a few of the blue laws which I encountered. I’m sure that throughout the various states, there are many that are equally absurd that are still on the books.

 Nonetheless, there are some laws which have been passed which make a great deal of sense – at least to me. Let’s consider some of those – as they relate to driving.

 Growing up in Manhattan, I wasn’t even eligible to get a driving learner’s permit until I was 17. And at 17 I had moved to Chicago for school. Dad had sold the car years before, tired of spending an hour a night looking for a legal space to park. (Manhattan had alternate side of the street parking – presumably to allow for street cleaning – so moving the car every other night was an evening ritual when my father came home from work).

So I was 20 when I enrolled in a driving school and learned to drive.

 Both my instructor and the official Illinois DMV “Rules of the Road” publication mentioned one thing over and over. “Driving is a privilige – not a right.” As a result, I was constantly reminded to stay within the posted speed limit, to use my mirrors to make sure that it was safe to change lanes and always to indicate that intention by either using hand signals (which were common in those days) or using the vehicle’s turn signal indicators. Those were good rules – or “laws” if you will – which I still observe today.

 The result – I have never been ticketed for speeding and have never been at fault in an accident. To me, staying within the speed limit and signaling lane changes is part of enjoying my “driving privilige”. Would that it were so with other drivers!

 For the last several years I have insured my car with Progressive. (You know Flo). I enrolled in their “My Rate” program – intended to reward drivers who utilize their vehicles in a safe manner. The program is completely voluntary – but I felt confident that I could receive a rate reduction by participating. And I did earn their maximum 25% discount.

 Now consider this. My discount is based on my performance relative only to those other drivers who are participating in the program – not the general population of drivers. In other words, my performance is being compared only to drivers who also feel that they are entitled to a discount based on what they perceive their driving performance to be. The fact is that if the entire population were compelled to have their driving evaluated – I truly believe that I would (and should) be paying less than 25% of my current insurance cost – and drivers who drive in an irresponsible manner would be paying two or three times the amount they are currently being charged.

 If you want to see an encapsulation of bad driving – come to Las Vegas! When I lived in Chicago, everyone knew that that the city derived a significant amount of income from issuing traffic violations. It was a part of Chicago’s annual budget. But enforcement of the traffic laws – though sometimes abused by the police – made us conscious of the fact that those laws were there and a penalty would be paid for violating them. The net result was that we reduced the number of accidents and fatalities and enjoyed fairly low auto insurance premiums.

 In Las Vegas there is very little enforcement of traffic regulations – despite the fact that we have one of the highest paid police forces in the country. (One can only wonder what they do with their time since there are only a handful of Dunkin’ Donuts in the city).

 There seems – perhaps because of the educational system – to be some confusion about the meaning of the term “speed limit”. Most drivers apparently confuse “limit” with “suggested minimum”. If motorists are aware of the fact that their vehicles are equipped with turn signals they respond in one of two manners. First, they ignore the fact and never use them. Second, they turn them on and leave them on with the idea that at some point in the next several days, they may be turning in that direction. And, of course, there are the famous “STOP” signs – which most people seem to interpert as “slow down a bit – if you’re so inclined.” The net result of all this is that Las Vegas has at least 20 vehicular accidents a day – which the local auto repair shops appreciate. By contrast, Chicago with three times the driving population and five times the number of miles traveled by automobile drivers, has about ten accidents a week.

 The point is that most driving regulations and laws do make sense – but no matter how good those laws are, they will not be observed unless they are enforced.

 The other day I was driving with a dear friend (another Illinoisan – though from downstate) and I pointed out that she was going 10 miles over the speed limit. Her response was “there are no police around.” That justified her speeding – at least in her mind. I posed the question, “If there are no police around and you think that it’s unlikely you’ll get caught – is it okay to murder someone?” She looked at me as though I had been smoking an illegal substance. The point is – if you or I choose to ignore laws regarding speed limits, observing stop signs and using turn signals – how then do we have the right to be outraged when someone murders someone else? If we have the right to disregard traffic laws which we find “inconvenient” – then by what right do we have the nerve to fault someone else who considers the interdict against murder to be inconvenient?

 What this all boils down to is very simple. It is about taking personal responsibility and setting a standard to which others might aspire. I do not suggest this in the interest of “setting yourself up as a moral standard-bearer.” Rather, there is a simpler and more rational reason to do so. It is something that grandma understood very well. It’s just pure and simple common sense and courtesy.

 We are dealing with the worst economy since the Great Depression. Unless you’re Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or a sports or Hollywood celeb – you’ve proably felt the pinch and strain of it all. Well, speeding while you’re driving wastes gas. And that translates into more money to the big oil companies and less for Christmas presents.

 If you’ve ever been involved in an accident – whether of your fault or the other driver’s – it’s not only a time-consuming event – but it costs you money and has potential physical consequences. Not a fun experience.

  We could cut our accident rate by 80% if we all simply followed the “Rules of the Road”. Well, of course, that is in an ideal world where everyone is rational, uses common sense and is courteous. That Earth probably only exists in an alternate universe. But if each person who reads this entry takes personal responsibility for her own driving, we can start a movement and teach by example. Things aren’t going to change by next Tuesday – but at least we can make a start. And doing so will help the consumer leave more money in his pocket and spend less at the pump – and in that way we can help the economy (both personally and the country’s) start heading in the right direction.

 Your friend, hoping you have a more pleasant and courteous driving experience,

 

Juwanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

On Laws and Courtesy

 

When I started college in the mid-60’s, I moved from New York City to Chicago. Frankly, it felt to me as though I had moved 900 miles and two centuries. In many ways, Chicago was still the pioneer prairie town – though at that time it still held sway as America’s second largest city as measured by population.

 

It was in Chicago that I discovered the existence of “blue laws”. These were legislative enactments that probably had some value when they were first passed – but the tradition of keeping them on the books had far outweighed their usefulness.

 

Allow me to cite a few examples:

 

You couldn’t get a haircut on Mondays. That was something that the barber’s union had accomplished. How this benefited the barbers wasn’t then and isn’t now clear to me – but if it was Monday, you couldn’t get your locks shorn.

 

You couldn’t buy meat after 7:00 p.m. Yes, there it was, sitting in the case (which was covered with heavy plastic wrap) but it was illegal for the store to let you pick it up and check out with it. This was something that the butcher’s union had achieved. How this benefited the butchers was a mystery to me then and is still today.

 

But, of course, the grandaddy of all the blue laws was that “on days when members of the General Assembly stood for election, during the time the polls were open, it was illegal to purchase liquor – either at a liquor store, a restaurant or bar.” As I became more familiar with Illinois politics, the absolute absurdity of this law made me laugh. When you considered the old political hacks who were constantly re-elected to the General Assembly, the only way a person of insight and conscience could possibly consider voting for them was if he or she were totally inebriated!

 

Well, those were a few of the blue laws which I encountered. I’m sure that throughout the various states, there are many that are equally absurd that are still on the books.

 

Nonetheless, there are some laws which have been passed which make a great deal of sense – at least to me. Let’s consider some of those – as they relate to driving.

 

Growing up in Manhattan, I wasn’t even eligible to get a driving learner’s permit until I was 17. And at 17 I had moved to Chicago for school. Dad had sold the car years before, tired of spending an hour a night looking for a legal space to park. (Manhattan had alternate side of the street parking – presumably to allow for street cleaning – so moving the car every other night was an evening ritual when my father came home from work).

So I was 20 when I enrolled in a driving school and learned to drive.

 

Both my instructor and the official Illinois DMV “Rules of the Road” publication mentioned one thing over and over. “Driving is a privilige – not a right.” As a result, I was constantly reminded to stay within the posted speed limit, to use my mirrors to make sure that it was safe to change lanes and always to indicate that intention by either using hand signals (which were common in those days) or using the vehicle’s turn signal indicators. Those were good rules – or “laws” if you will – which I still observe today.

 

The result – I have never been ticketed for speeding and have never been at fault in an accident. To me, staying within the speed limit and signaling lane changes is part of enjoying my “driving privilige”. Would that it were so with other drivers!

 

For the last several years I have insured my car with Progressive. (You know Flo). I enrolled in their “My Rate” program – intended to reward drivers who utilize their vehicles in a safe manner. The program is completely voluntary – but I felt confident that I could receive a rate reduction by participating. And I did earn their maximum 25% discount.

 

Now consider this. My discount is based on my performance relative only to those other drivers who are participating in the program – not the general population of drivers. In other words, my performance is being compared only to drivers who also feel that they are entitled to a discount based on what they perceive their driving performance to be. The fact is that if the entire population were compelled to have their driving evaluated – I truly believe that I would (and should) be paying less than 25% of my current insurance cost – and drivers who drive in an irresponsible manner would be paying two or three times the amount they are currently being charged.

 

If you want to see an encapsulation of bad driving – come to Las Vegas! When I lived in Chicago, everyone knew that that the city derived a significant amount of income from issuing traffic violations. It was a part of Chicago’s annual budget. But enforcement of the traffic laws – though sometimes abused by the police – made us conscious of the fact that those laws were there and a penalty would be paid for violating them. The net result was that we reduced the number of accidents and fatalities and enjoyed fairly low auto insurance premiums.

 

In Las Vegas there is very little enforcement of traffic regulations – despite the fact that we have one of the highest paid police forces in the country. (One can only wonder what they do with their time since there are only a handful of Dunkin Donuts in the city).

 

There seems – perhaps because of the educational system – to be some confusion about the meaning of the term “speed limit”. Most drivers apparently confuse “limit” with “suggested minimum”. If motorists are aware of the fact that their vehicles are equipped with turn signals they respond in one of two manners. First, they ignore the fact and never use them. Second, they turn them on and leave them on with the idea that at some point in the next several days, they may be turning in that direction. And, of course, there are the famous “STOP” signs – which most people seem to interpert as “slow down a bit – if you’re so inclined.” The net result of all this is that Las Vegas has at least 20 vehicular accidents a day – which the local auto repair shops appreciate. By contrast, Chicago with three times the driving population and five times the number of miles traveled by automobile drivers, has about ten accidents a week.

 

The point is that most driving regulations and laws do make sense – but no matter how good those laws are, they will not be observed unless they are enforced.

 

The other day I was driving with a dear friend (another Illinoisan – though from downstate) and I pointed out that she was going 10 miles over the speed limit. Her response was “there are no police around.” That justified her speeding – at least in her mind. I posed the question, “If there are no police around and you think that it’s unlikely you’ll get caught – is it okay to murder someone?” She looked at me as though I had been smoking an illegal substance. The point is – if you or I choose to ignore laws regarding speed limits, observing stop signs and using turn signals – how then do we have the right to be outraged when someone murders someone else? If we have the right to disregard traffic laws which we find “inconvenient” – then by what right do we have the nerve to fault someone else who considers the interdict against murder to be inconvenient?

 

What this all boils down to is very simple. It is about taking personal responsibility and setting a standard to which others might aspire. I do not suggest this in the interest of “setting yourself up as a moral standard-bearer.” Rather, there is a simpler and more rational reason to do so. It is something that grandma understood very well. It’s just pure and simple common sense and courtesy.

 

We are dealing with the worst economy since the Great Depression. Unless you’re Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or a sports or Hollywood celeb – you’ve proably felt the pinch and strain of it all. Well, speeding while you’re driving wastes gas. And that translates into more money to the big oil companies and less for Christmas presents.

 

If you’ve ever been involved in an accident – whether of your fault or the other driver’s – it’s not only a time-consuming event – but it costs you money and has potential physical consequences. Not a fun experience.

 

 

We could cut our accident rate by 80% if we all simply followed the “Rules of the Road”. Well, of course, that is in an ideal world where everyone is rational, uses common sense and is courteous. That Earth probably only exists in an alternate universe. But if each person who reads this entry takes personal responsibility for her own driving, we can start a movement and teach by example. Things aren’t going to change by next Tuesday – but at least we can make a start. And doing so will help the consumer leave more money in his pocket and spend less at the pump – and in that way we can help the economy (both personally and the country’s) start heading in the right direction.

 

Yours friend, hoping you have a more pleasant and courteous driving experience,

 

Juwanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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