DUIE! Washington State’s New Law

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by A. R. Bunch

If you’ve been living under a rock you may not have heard that Washington State has become the latest in a string of states to tighten or expand their distracted driving law.

What has made this a big news item is Governor Jay Insley’s “partial veto” of an amendment to the bill which would have moved implementation of the new law from 2019 to pretty much NOW (July 23, 2017). His reasoning for this move, as stated in his partial veto is, “Public safety is better served by implementing this bill this year.” Washington State had set aside roughly $19,000 to begin educating people about the law and the reason for the law. By rushing the law, the governor seems to be saying the need and solution to distracted driving are self-evident. It leaves the state rushing to explain the law to its citizens as well as scrambling to hire additional officers to enforce it.

Washington’s new law follows Arkansas, North Dakota, and Colorado in labeling distracted driving as Driving Under the Influence of Electronics or DUIE. The move, which seems like a no brainer is none the less a bit controversial when under a microscope.

No one questions that distracted driving has become a serious threat to road safety, with nearly one-third of state traffic fatalities blamed on some form of distraction. With the proliferation of cell phones and other internet-connected gadgetry the old law, banning texting while driving was inadequate according to proponents of the new law.

Opponents of the law aren’t necessarily fans of distracted driving. However, this new law draws a very serious correlation between driving under the influence of a chemical that impairs judgment and reflexes to a sober use of electronic devices. By making it a primary offense, it now goes on your permanent driving record and will forever impact your insurance rates. You can now be pulled over for it and cited even if you’ve not actually shown signs of being distracted.

Opponents seem less concerned about the doubled fine from $136 to $235 than the message sent through the hypocritical message sent through reclassifying only this one type of distraction to something so close in our minds to driving drunk.

For example, you may now swipe your phone with one finger to accept a ping as a rideshare driver if your phone is in a holder on your dashboard. If you pull to a complete stop at a traffic light then take your phone out of the holder, plug a cord into the bottom, then put it back in the holder, you’re now guilty of DUIE. You can be pulled over, fined, and your insurance rates will go up as they would if you blew 0.08 on a breathalyzer. If the person next to you at that light is reading a book and doesn’t notice the yellow light, slams on their brakes and stops a bit over the line, they can be pulled over and given a $30 fine for distracted driving.

So be careful in Washington State and if you’re in a state that’s considering such a law, perhaps don’t rush it. Learn from the states that have gone before you and write something that’s effective and fair, and take the time to explain to your residents how it will work and why it’s necessary. Perhaps the Governor doesn’t drive himself around so it doesn’t seem that big a deal.

The Number 1 Consumer Complaint

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By A.R. Bunch

We’ve written several times about the American Love Affair with cars and driving. We’ve also written about a growing trend among younger drivers, who see human error as the major cause of commuter risk and who would gladly let autonomous vehicles do the driving.

Now, according to an article in money watch, there are a few more threats to the American love affair with the car. It’s the number one complaint among consumers.

“1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes.”

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According to who? According to a report from the (CFA) Consumer Federation of America and the (NACP) North American Consumer Protection Investigators, who combined to survey 39 state and local agencies in 23 states about last year’s consumer complaints.

To be fair, the biggest complaints were among used car leases. With low to no down payment and shorter commitments, these programs have become more popular lately, but consumers are not fully savvy to these new programs and the lack of consumer protections afforded leasers when compared to purchasers. Still, dishonest salesmen, misrepresentation of performance capabilities like mileage and handling, and cost of repair play a role in people’s recent dissatisfaction with cars.

If it’s such a source of pain could it cause US drivers to finally separate from their beloved cars? It’s likely to depend on age. The answer is likely to depend on age. When the Kicker Staff interviewed drivers at random the majority of drivers believed that automated driving wouldn’t be able to replace an experienced human driver and would therefore only be “safer” if by law all vehicles were driven by a computer.

One driver in particular, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed to have driven for roughly thirty years without an accident. He believed that a computer could likely outdrive his fifteen-year-old son, and his eighty-year-old mother, but would not trust one more than he or his wife.

Another driver interviewed, who worked at a technology company in Portland, Oregon, suggested that drivers could be retested periodically to retain the best human drivers while potentially weeding out commuters who’re better off letting another person or robot drive for them.

The Kicker staff is all for treating a driver’s license as a privilege and not a right. So in the end, the answer to the question of the love affair with driving, no one answer fits all. Some commuters can’t wait for the more economical option to owning their own vehicle that’s also more useful than mass transit. Others will let go of their personal vehicle when you pry their cold dead body from it. Lucky for us all that we’ve got a little time to prepare for a transition.

The 3 C’s of Safe Driving

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by Gregory E. Zschomler

When I was a teen driver I wrecked a few cars. I really wasn’t a good driver. It’s not that I was a speed demon or law breaker; I just wasn’t attentive to my surroundings. My Dad, who had a way with words, said I drove “with my head up my butt.” As I look back I now know, at sixteen, I had no business being on the road. I lacked responsibility and thought little of my vulnerability—or of others.

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This is why, as the father of eight children (only the last two of which are learning to drive now), I discouraged my offspring from driving when so young. That, and the expense of pre-teen driving schools (literally highway robbery). I know, I know. Some of you feel it’s unfair that I should impose that upon my kids based upon how I drove. You may be right, but, so far, I’ve not steered my children wrong.

At eighteen, they were all more ready, more responsible and more safety-minded. But this isn’t about when or when not to allow adolescents behind the wheel. Some can be quite ready at an early age (especially those who’ve driven tractors for years on a farm), while some people should never be on the road (we all know about those). Rather, this article is about what makes a good driver (regardless of age).

Greg_3c'sThe mechanics of operating a vehicle just take practice—the more practice, the better—but that’s not all there is to it. I believe there are three other important components to driving, and understanding these three keys is what will earn you the keys in our household.

 

I call them Driving’s Three Cs. They are:

Careful

Careful means that you mind your actions while on the road. It’s making sure you drive with care and according to the law and signage. It’s slowing down in inclement weather. It’s keeping the proper distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. It’s taking corners at safe speeds. And it’s using your turn signals; braking, backing and maneuvering with attention.

In other words, it’s minding your Ps and Qs. It’s about you and your responsibility. Like they say in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” And that means being careful with your two-ton vehicle (or four-ounce smart car) while in the driver’s seat.

Cautious

Cautious is something altogether different from careful. While careful is based upon what you do, as a driver; cautious is based upon what other drivers do. In other words, it means “watching out for the other guy.” I don’t have to tell you that there are crazy, stupid, distracted and jerky people out there. I was one of them (maybe I still am). The point is that you must steer clear of them whenever possible. [And please don’t be one of them.]

Never assume other drivers will do the right, logical or even telegraphed thing. People don’t always stop at red lights and stop signs. People don’t always turn as indicated by their signal. People aren’t always aware that they share the road—or a myriad of other things we expect from reasonable people. The fact is not everyone is reasonable, so make allowances for their errors. Use caution.

Courteous

Common courtesy is becoming something we’ve forgotten in society—and not just on the road. Courtesy isn’t so common anymore and that’s a real shame. We could treat each other better and we should. There’s that “golden rule” and all.

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We all hate it when someone tailgates us or cuts us off. We hate it when people fail to use their turn signals or travel slowly in the fast lane (especially big rigs). And who doesn’t hate it when people won’t let you in? Get it?

Being nice is not only right it sets an example for others to learn from and follow. If you want the world to be a better place it needs to start with you.

Careful, Cautious, Courteous. It’s pretty simple.

 

Most Expensive SUV’s

We’re always scanning the web for cool car stuff. Here’s a link to an article we found interesting. If you own one of these vehicles (Porshe Cyanne, Range Rover, BMW x6, Mercedes G65 AMG, or the Dartz Prombron) please contact us so we can interview you. Thanks for all our awesome readers, we know you’ll find us someone willing to show off one of these beauties.

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Will You Own the Car of the Future?

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Tim Higgins wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal (June 20, 2017) entitled, “The End of Car Ownership.” If you recall our article about the coming Apple Car then you’ll recall that we’ve mentioned the theory before. While it’s hard to imagine an end to the American love affair with owning a car, Higgins makes a compelling case.

Everyone, including Higgins, is crediting self-driving cars and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft with the coming shift. It seems more likely that both of these are symptoms of a larger change in how we do things. But since we’ve already written extensively about both ride share and automated cars we’ll include them in our quick look at the end of car ownership. But first…

Andy_End Car Owner6Before discussing a mega shift lets step back from the topic and give it a quick review. Culturally in America, owning a car was a rite of passage for young people. When you reached 15 you started learning how to drive and as soon as you could legally work you started saving for a car of your own. It was independence itself. A driver’s license is the way most Americans prove their identity and having a car meant your schedule didn’t depend on your parents anymore. Want to get a better job across town? Better have a car. Want to date your gal/guy? One of you needs a car. Want to hang with your friends? One of you better have a car. Having a car meant popularity, power, and freedom.

America has 46,876 miles of interstate, which doesn’t include State Routes and surface streets. The tenth amendment governs interstate commerce, which means essentially most of the power of the federal government is derived from the need to regulate what passes from one state to another.

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Most of those people & items don’t go by rail like they do in Europe. Whether it’s Henry Ford’s Assembly Line innovation or the Detroit powerhouse of industry and economy cars are an American thing, synonymous with growth. Nascar is an American phenomenon founded by bootleggers trying to outrun prohibition revenuers. We are a younger nation and our cultural values involve the car. How does all that just go away in one generation?

 

It doesn’t. It’s actually been changing for a while now. As populations crowd into cities, property values explode and providing customer parking becomes a bigger expense for businesses. Mass transit costs can be shared across more wage-earners per mile. More residents live in high-rise apartments and condos without room for a garage. If you have to take a taxi to a separate place you rent so your car can live there, you tend to fall out of love. Or so I’m told.

The internet has also impacted things. Less business is conducted face to face through telecommuting and video conference but the mobility of internet access has had its biggest impact on young people who gain a sense of connection through social media instead of in person. People have been “cocooning” for over two decades. Pizza delivery nearly made pizza restaurants out of business entirely and now you don’t have to grab a VHS on the way home, the internet streams it to you. Amazon is seen as the great evil by private bookstores because they let you buy books online, but now everything is sold online and all brick-and-mortar stores are suffering. Malls are sitting empty because even when people go there to look at goods, they make their purchase online where it’s cheaper. Goods now move to the customer, not the other way around.

Society has become more litigious as well. Car insurance costs have risen, in part due to the rising cost of repair and in part the rising likelihood that you’ll be in an accident because roads are crowded and infrastructure is long neglected. The push to incorporate more safety features has created a base cost to manufacture of about $7,000. As the price climbs automakers throw in more features to increase the sense of value which makes cars more expensive, more likely to fail in non-catastrophic ways, and more difficult/expensive to fix.

While fuel costs are lower than they’ve traditionally been, our relationship with the Middle East is more tenuous than ever. Generation X was profoundly affected by the attack on 9/11. People are looking for less dependence and technology companies are seeing the writing on the wall.Andy_End Car owner2.jpg

While auto manufacturers are heavily invested in perfecting a product, tech companies understand the need to keep your finger on the pulse of trends. Cars are getting more technical and the need and desire to own a car is waning. That leads companies like Apple to invest heavily in the ability to expand into the car making business. That leads us full circle to rideshare and driving automation.

Traditionally, when you rent a car its because you’re traveling, or because your car is in the shop. Cars are the second most expensive thing a person typically buys. The first is a house and lots of people see renting a house or apartment as a long term option. They may harbor a quiet desire to own a residence, and only see renting as a matter of cost/benefit ratio, but few people thought that way about cars. But cars seldom sold for over $100,000 traditionally. Even in housing folks are turning to a more minimalist approach trying to avoid big debt during turbulent employment times. So finding ways to economize in automotive choices might get as creative as we’ve gotten with housing.

Why pay for a garage or parking space 24/7/365 when you only need the car a few hours a day? And much like someone might choose to rent an apartment when they aren’t sure how long they’ll be living in that location, or they might have to change houses as their family grows and shrinks, what we need a car for changes. A car share service could allow you to have a truck on the weekend to grab a load of bark dust for your yard, then get a mini-van for a trip to the beach, then a small sedan to commute to work. This concept is called a car subscription service and so far one start-up, called Faraday Future, is attempting to provide it.

This is why I held self-driving cars and rideshare until the end. There are several reasons often listed for their impact on car ownership but it’s more likely that car ownership is on it’s way out and these technologies are only hastening the inevitable. Availability of taxi and mass transit is an issue in cities below a certain size. Rideshare has made not owning a car a possibility in a lot smaller city because they’re cheaper than taxis their model works in places too small for mass transit. Self-driving cars drive the cost and complexity of owning a vehicle up. That’s really it.Andy_End Car Owner3

When you combine self-driving cars with ride share you get even cheaper Uber for riders, but that’s really just more of the same impact. The rideshare model is only one type of car sharing anyway. There’s also literally renting your car to another driver.

So will cars become like boats, something most people own for recreation? Well, long before that happens, it’s likely to become like home ownership. More and more people will look at it as a source of expense, responsibility, and opt for the flexibility of a shared situation. But others will see it as an investment. For decades, single-family rental homes were owned by private individuals. Corporations stuck to multifamily type residences. In 2008, the crash created opportunities for banks to go into single family homes en masse. Likewise, while corporations like Tesla and Apple are hinting at fleet ownership with individual buying the product as a service, it’s likely that private investors will see their vehicles as an investment. Once they are able to make one car pay for itself they’ll buy another, and another.

Companies like RVShare have sprung up to combine the idea of Airbnb with the subscription based car sharing of privately owned vehicles. Car sharing service, Turo, is already working with cars and has had millions of people sign up for it already. They aren’t alone.

Lexus, by Toyota, has created Getaround in an attempt to convince young buyers to subsidize their payment by helping them find renters for their vehicle. BMW is experimenting in some markets with Reachnow, a subscriptions-based service where you get a BMW for a time and then drop it wherever when you’re done for a flat monthly fee.

The Economic Vacuum Drawing People toward Car Sharing:

We’ve discussed a number of forces that push Americans toward car sharing, but from a business standpoint, there’s a significant draw. The humble, in-car stereo, could soon step aside to other forms of entertainment, and I’m not talking about Satellite radio. In June, Intel released a study estimating that up to $800 billion could be made (by 2035) on what they call the “Passenger Economy.” When most commuters aren’t driving they’ll need to have something else to do and that could explain companies Apple trying to take the car plunge.Andy_End Car Owner5

One industry sure to boost is alcohol. When driving isn’t a consideration anymore, drinking is likely to go up. So let’s toast to the coming robot taxi industry and all hope that they’re more accurate than the spell check on my cell phone.