Saturday, February 27, 2010

Firecrackers, Toyotas, and Traffic

Q: What do those things all have in common?

A1: They're all in this blog post!
A2: Toyotas & traffic & firecrackers - what a fun game! Just see the picture to the left for inspiration.*
A3: ... ok, I can't think of another one, so let's just get on with the blog post.

Apparently "firecracker" in Chinese means "dynamite." 19 people were KILLED by a firecracker explosion while celebrating the Chinese lunar new year. Now, I've heard my share of fireworks horror stories over the years, and even been witness to a few (my brother was awesome with fireworks as a kid: stepping, barefoot, on a spent sparkler & burning his foot - now they make them with wood sticks so you don't have hot metal lying around afterward; grabbing an entire pack of sparklers, six in each hand, and spinning in circles - enveloping himself in sparkler smoke - until he started gagging and puking; you're welcome, bro, for the shout out!), but while I've heard plenty of bad ones (teeth blown out, burns that had material burned into the flesh), none involved death. Those must be some serious "firecrackers" they have in China... and apparently it's legal to own and use them. Or, maybe, it went like this (conversation is subtitled in English for those of us who don't speak Chinese):

"Choi ni dong ho wah." ("Dad, we ran out of firecrackers.")
"Bing tau do xi qua." ("That's OK, since I work at a blasting company, I have some free fireworks from work down in the basement; they're in the box marked 'DANGER!' Go get those, they'll do.")

(OK, please don't hate - this is intended as humor; I fully understand the gravity of this situation, even being "upside down" on the other side of the earth, and the horrific loss of life and the tragedy involved. Another reason to make sure you're making the most of every moment, 'cause you don't know how many you have left; and you'd better be prepared when the time comes!)

Speaking of loss of life, how many lawsuits is Toyota going to face these days? This guy may get a reprieve from an eight year prison sentence - of which he's already served three years - after news of the "unintended acceleration" issues with Toyotas. He'd immigrated to the US (from "Hmong"?) in 2004 and was working on his GED, and he'd never driven before coming to the US. "Unintended acceleration" caused his car - with his family on board - to rear end another stopped vehicle coming off an interstate exit ramp. Three died in the accident. Now, however, they're taking another look at the case. And the victims are planning to sue Toyota (hey, big money corporation could be at fault? let's sue them!). The man's wife and children have been on welfare while he's been in jail (still trying to get his GED). This is just one example, though; the article cites that the attorney involved knows of at least 16 class-action suits being prepared against the automaker.

I still wonder why no one seems to be pushing this advice: if your car suddenly starts accelerating, SHIFT INTO NEUTRAL and HIT THE BRAKES. Yes, it's going to be a sudden, startling thing, and you're probably going to panic. But this is why you must BE PREPARED when you get into a steel missile of which you are the pilot - no texting (saw a cool thing the other day: "Honk if you love Jesus; text and drive if you want to meet Him!"), pay attention to what's going on ALL AROUND you - that little boy playing with his ball beside the sloping down toward the road hill, the car that's not paying attention in your direction while eyeing a forthcoming break in the traffic on the other way while impatiently waiting to pull out, the brakelights you can see through the glass of the vehicle in front of you, while the guy in front of you is paying little attention and hasn't started slowing yet - those sorts of things. Be prepared and you will have that little extra reaction time (in those scenarios, your foot should probably be already on the brake, if not already pushing it). And a note about neighborhoods: PLEASE observe speed limits there. Those are the most dangerous places for children, I would think: where else are larger numbers of (likely inattentive) children going to be playing in or near the road? Take it easy in neighborhoods. Slow down, pay attention. Save your speeding for non-neighborhood roads, where there is much less of a chance of pedestrian traffic.

Anyway... back to the concept: if your car starts to accelerate on its on, shift into neutral, turn it off (warning: if you turn it off, you'll likely lose your power brake assist, power steering, and - if you manage to somehow actually get the key to the "off" position - you'll lock your steering wheel, so be careful with that - only turn it off, WHILE IN NEUTRAL, once you've slowed quite a bit), SOMETHING so that you don't have to use brakes to overcome the engine's power with just your brakes. Neutral is likely the best option. Your engine probably has a rev limiter, so it's going to scream and be running really fast, but you're not likely to actually do any damage to it - and better that (which, if damaged, you can probably get the manufacturer to replace) than to run into something.

I wonder how badly this is going to ruin both Toyota, the motor vehicle industry, and further "help" our economy.

Wow, this has gotten long... sorry for that. Last topic: traffic. People, the "slower traffic keep right" sign doesn't mean, "Go 1 mph faster than the guy in front of you and you're entitled to the left lane" - it means, "If there's someone approaching you from behind, and you're in the left lane, MOVE OVER TO THE RIGHT and LET THEM GO BY!" And, for those of you in Alabama, that's actually a law; witness, from section 32-5A-80 (b) of the Code of Alabama:

"Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway."

I'm sure this law exists in similar form in other states (anywhere the "slower traffic keep right" signs are posted, for instance), but I'm specifically talking about Alabama right now as that's where I (mostly) drive.

OK, 'sall for now!

* Note: do NOT attempt to play such a game! This is HUMOR ONLY! Author is NOT endorsing or encouraging such activity!
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1 comment:

Marie said...

That's a whole lot going on in that one post! Good advice on paying attention but raising hand top say I'm guilty of texting while driving. I am so type A!!!