Calming the Road Rage

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The phrase, “road rage,” originated when it was used to describe a pattern of tragic shootings between 1987 and 1988 in LA by local news station KTLA. In the time since the phrase has meaning has both grown and diluted to the point that it is now used for every piece of driving that seems out of order, such as tailgating, swerving and long horn-honks. However, it is still used for more violent acts.

But why did incidents of “road rage” come to light during 1987 and 1988? At least part of the reason people took notice is the use of guns, which seemed exotic compared to simply running someone off the road. Probably the big reason these instances caught our national attention would have something to do with dashcam footage which found its way on T.V.

A similar phrase – highway hostility – which was also used at the time didn’t catch on.

Likely factors which may have led to the problems in LA include:

  • The general sprawl of the city’s highways
  • The congestion
  • The hot weather

Many would credit the hysteria and paranoia of the media for heightening the situation, but there was genuine fear by some.

Ironically the year when road rage became a thing may also have statistically had the most cautious and polite drivers. The phrase didn’t really catch on at the time. Maybe the media were worried about starting at an epidemic.

angry-man-274175_1920However, the phrase was reborn when the streets of Paris began to show similar rage activity in the 1990s.

There are 1,200 incidents a year of what might be described as “road rage”, the average age of offenders is 33 and 96.6% of all cases are by males.

Your typical road rager is a 19-year-old male with bumper stickers on his car. (No we’re not kidding.)

To counter the stereotype though, go to YouTube and search for “road rage females.” There are plenty of incidences of road rage caused by Moms on the school run.

66% of all fatalities involving any sort of traffic is caused by aggression and 33% of all cases involve a firearm. More concerning is that 2% of road rage victims will try to drive an aggressive driver off the road. This is not recommended!

According to the DSM5, road ragers may be suffering from IED or Intermittent Explosive Disorder which symptoms include both angry and violent outbursts as well as twitching and palpitations. Treatment may be possible through cognitive behavior therapy as well as antidepressants and an inhibitor drug, though presumably care should be taken when taking prescribed drugs while driving.

Other ways to counter road rage is listening to soothing music, not staring at other drivers and not using what might be described as obscene gestures at them. Simply put, staying out of a negative headspace.

So calm down, and be aware of your fellow drivers. Nothing is worth getting too overstressed over.

 

The Odd World of Stock Cars

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A stock car, as in stock car racing, is a vehicle upgraded for racing, as opposed to a “formula car,” which is designed and built to race. (Think Formula One and so on). So why take a new car and modify it? Well price for one thing. While you can spend tens of thousands of dollars modifying a car to race it’s nowhere near the cost of a formula car. This makes stock cars more accessible to the semi-pro, or weekend, racer and fan.

Even the sports origin is more “common man.” The activity seems to come from the prohibition era. In those days cars were adapted for speed, including lightening the chassis or main body to let moonshiners outrun the police.

Obviously, stock car racing exists on two basic levels—that of the weekend racer and that of the professional league racer. The former use cars with very few adaptions called “street stock” or “pure stock.” The only concession to racing is the addition of safety features.

The next grade up is super stock which allows some changes to be made, such as getting the power up to 373 kilowatts (maximum of 410 kilowatts). Other modifications might include adding front and rear spoilers for aerodynamics and removing seats.

Another term you’ll hear near these racers is a late model, which as the name suggests, refers to cars that have only just been manufactured.

When it comes to the racing late models it usually occurs on asphalt, such as the CRA Super Series and the Pro All Stars Series, however, there are a few dirt track races such as the Lucas Oil Late Model Series.

Obviously, you make significantly different modifications when rigging a car to race asphalt than for dirt.

race-car-1031767_1920A big point of contention among drivers of the two disciplines whether dirt driving or asphalt driving is the purest way to race. Some fans prefer dirt racing because the track is more a part of the race. It can be more exciting, seeing a car deal with a much tougher course. There are more dirt race tracks in the world and as a result more dirt racers.

On the other hand, asphalt racing reaches higher speeds and the focus becomes more head-to-head between drivers as they handle the speeds with inches between bumpers.

Types of Modification:

One way of describing the process might be getting rid of anything superfluous. There are so many different areas you have to bear in mind when modifying a car such as the aerodynamics of the vehicle, the weight distribution, the overall suspension, ergonomics (in other words is the equipment suitable for the user) as well as looking at the efficiency of the engine.

Whether dirt or asphalt, safety is the key modification. You might feel like your car contains safety measures, but it wasn’t designed to handle rolling out at 200 MPH or sliding several hundred yards on it’s roof. Why have a glove compartment when you can have a fire suppression system? Successfully adapting a car is a complex operation that can take years to learn.

The creation process begins with what is known as a safety cell or roll cage. This might be described as a second chassis where you are protected if anything goes wrong. It is impossible to remove all elements of danger and some participants may feel they don’t want to but it does help to reduce injury.

In fact, most asphalt racers are sedans, because of the room needed to accommodate safety features. Only certain saloon cars (sedans) are suitable to be turned into stock cars, such as the Ford Mondeo or Sierra and the Vauxhall Vectra.

Some dirt racers might choose a smaller car with beefed up suspension as they aren’t as likely to wreck at top speed. They do need much stronger tires such as those made by Yokohama.

If you’re thinking about buying a car, whether for a weekend track race or a daily commuter, be sure to have it inspected. Check out our sponsor TireKickers for more details.

The Future of Keys and Fobs

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In recent years, the idea of using a mechanical key to open or start your car has changed. You might have a chipped key, for example, which ties that key exactly to your car. Or, you might have a key fob which allows you to open your car at the press of a button, and without which, your car won’t start or drive. Most recently cars have begun using virtual keys, in other words, a way to open or start your car using your mobile phone.

Chipped Keys:

Chipped keys are technically known as “transponder keys”, short for “transmitter and responder”. The difference between a chipped key and a normal key is that if you try to use a chipped key for a car not designed for it (the serial number /code doesn’t fit) the car will become immobilized.

Car thieves often employed hot-wiring techniques which could be tot to teenagers, so if they were caught “booting” a car they could claim they were just joyriding and get off with little punishment. Chipped keys require a more technically savvy thief. While a teenager could still do it, it’s harder to play dumb when you’re bringing equipment with you and using advanced techniques. The drop in car theft may be linked to this–in 1990 when chipped keys became widely used there were roughly 660 car thefts per 100,000 vehicles which has dropped to 239.6 thefts per 100,000 vehicles so it does seem to make a difference.

The problem with chipped keys is the expense of replacing them. Most of us grew up running down the local hardware store and running off a copy of our car keys in case of emergency. Those days are gone. If you do lose your keys, and it’s not hard to do, it means ordering one from the factory or authorized key outlet. A replacement for a chipped key runs about $200 more than a mechanical key.

Key Fobs:

Some cars have a special fob designed, usually with the brand of car on them. The term “fob” dates back to days of pocket watches. First, the fob referred to the pocket, then the watch and then to items hanging from a chain. It now refers to items on key rings such as small toys, devices and so on. The fob is usually individual to special makes of car. Most fobs offer the choice of opening the car door, opening the trunk and raising an alarm.

Key fobs aren’t cheap either but ironically they can be cheaper than a chipped key, and it’s just easier on the brain to pay a bunch of money for an electronic device than what looks like a normal key.

Virtual Keys:

This leads us to virtual keys which allow you to open your car using your mobile phone. The general idea allows someone else to use your vehicle without handing over a physical key-ideal for rental companies.phone-690091_1920

The first drawback here is obvious. Someone has to gain access to your pocket to get your key or fob, whereas a cell phone can get hacked. The latest way to use the technology requires platforms such as Bluetooth technology, WiFi or Cellular Network, using the latest in secure chip technology.

To make it worse, there isn’t one standard phone-based system. One example of the system not quite working at the moment is the Ericcson Digital Car Key. It may unlock the car, but instead of using something like Bluetooth it works on the cloud. Unless you subscribe to the specific cloud you can’t access the key. Rival schemes like “Bosch Perfectly keyless” also have their problems. It is too confusing at the moment with so many different apps and designs.

A group of companies (including technology and car companies) called the Car Connectivity Consortium are attempting to create a universal standard. Though there are a number of businesses involved it still has not spread across all makes of car or mobile networks. Clearly, one issue is proprietary technology at car companies or mobile companies.

It would be a shame if the link between the key and the car totally disappears, but security and convenience should come first.

Stuck? It’s all in the manual.

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For most cars, there is a manual that shows you how to keep them ticking. I’m speaking of a car repair manual, not an owner’s manual. The car repair manual shouldn’t be confused with the manual that comes from the manufacturer which is usually kept in the glove compartment, forgotten until you get a light on your dash. I’m speaking of a book to consult because you own that type of car—even before something has had a chance to go wrong.

The goal is to be thorough:

  • How to take the car apart and put it back right
  • How to figure out what might be wrong
  • Give you the information to decide if you can take it on yourself or should seek a professional

One of the big names in the car manual arena is Haynes, covering 300 different makes of car and 130 makes of motorcycle. While there are technical manuals aimed at professional and semi-pro mechanics, Haines targets the amateur, do it yourself, owner.

Haines manuals began with the humblest of starts—when he bought an Austin 7 for £15, the equivalent of $160 today and wrote his first article about it. In that first article, Haynes wrote more about building special parts for the car rather than maintenance as such. For his first actual guide, Haynes chose not to write about the Austin Healey Sprite; an open top sports car which ceased being made in 1971. Clearly, he was our type of car guy.

John Haynes wrote yet one more car book while doing National Service with the Royal Airforce. National Service was a common occurrence for people in their 20s during the early 1950s. He didn’t launch his publishing house, J. H. Haynes & Co. Limited, until 1960.

The books concerned themselves with covering the whole process of repair step by step. The original work was created using a steel duplicator, also known as a mimeograph, which is similar to what you might find in a teachers resource room at a local grade school. A useful bit of kit, but not created for manufacturing of books. As they became more commercially successful, more conventional means of printing were found.

The Haines manuals have been written in 15 different languages. If this seems quite small, think about trying to translate a technical manual, especially if techniques of service and maintenance differ in the countries involved. Another problem is that some components may be unavailable in specific areas. Haynes is now owned by the Chilton Company, who started their business writing cycling magazines and is now one of the largest publishing companies in the world.

You can find repair manuals on various items of automobile equipment such as battery chargers, GPS and even trailers. There are a number of websites you can search for the right manual, which kinds of begs the question why you shouldn’t just search for what is going wrong with your car. Still, people like manuals and many can be obtained for free, sometimes in the form of PDFs.

Due to the amount of litigation involved, car manuals have become larger and larger. This may be a problem if you want to find the information quickly.

It would be a shame if the manual, whether the manufacturer’s manual or one created by aficionados of the car were suddenly removed. The act of publishing a manual kind of shows that people are taking interest in the “technical feat” of building a car, much more than several pages on the internet.

If it weren’t adding something to the owner’s experience manufacturers would surely give up on producing their owner’s manual just to save the money. As for Haynes, the aficionado’s manual is like a nice set of tools. It says you care about your vehicle enough to be personally involved with it. Hopefully car lovers continue to buy them, and hopefully, guys like Haines keep making them.

Naming Cars

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Op-Ed by Staff

So, imagine you have created a car, what more do you need? Well, the first thing you need is a name. Perhaps the only thing harder to name is a new drug. It’s quite hard to come up something which doesn’t sound rude in a different language and of course, you always want something which sells the car and the brand. It’s a hard slog and it doesn’t always work.

The idea of looking to future might seem a given, but a car called the Futurama bombed terribly. It may not have just been the name, the design was awful too.

nash-835986_1920When it comes to naming your car company it tends to be mostly surnames such as Cadillac and Honda, but having said that it needs to be the right kind of surname. Fortunately, Emil Jellinik didn’t try this, preferring to name a car after his daughter Mercedes. There was a car designer called Benz though; Carl Benz. I hope Mercedes didn’t have to marry one of Benz’s relatives to keep the company; things would become difficult for her.

In some ways it is similar to naming an individual, you want something with a bit of tradition but you want something that suggests that you’ve thought about your decision too. In the end, you might have to see it before you know what you want to call it.

Many cars are named after concepts like Honda Accord, Chevrolet Agile and Caprice and so on. It’s a bit of moot point whether people want to be capricious, but people tend to want to show accord or show agility, at least in their car driving.sunbeam-835969_1920.jpg

An original way to come up with a car is to shorten a word or phrase. The Versa, for example, which apparently is short for versatile space (though there is a river and a pop band too, as well as a Roman word). You could come up with a car called Techni or Revo, couldn’t you?

Each make of car creates a specific brand and so the names might be quite similar. Lamborghini uses Spanish terms, many of which are used in bullfighting, such as Aventador (a fighting bull) and Estoque, a matador’s sword. Obviously, terms like matador and toreador are too obvious. Vauxhall, however, have used the Picador, which is a bullfighter on horseback, so Lamborghini can’t take that.

Peugeot has numbers like 3008 and 107. Why do the numbers always have zeros though? I think it’s due to small numbers feeling less stressful, hence too why the number always starts with 1,2 or 3. It’s just a theory though.

renault-1671405_1920A popular theme might be to look at mythology. Clio is the muse of history, there is both a Honda Clio (sold in Japan) and a Renault Clio. The Honda Phateon may be named after the son of the God of fire or an old name for a carriage, it’s difficult to tell. There’s a great deal of mythology about but it might be wise to look at a successful mythological figure, look at Zeus rather than Icarus. And they tend to look at Greek mythology rather than anything too obscure.

Another thing you might want to stay away from is excessively long names. Ford left the minivan market entirely in 2008, then came back with a series of cargo vans called Transit Connect. They doubled down on the chaos by offering a dozen different sizes, packages, and designs without tweaking the name at all. Is this a Transit Connect XT? LT? XLT? No, I want the big one? Oh, the titanium? No the big one…

Yep, try not to confuse your customers. That’s a no-no.

So to sum up:

  1. Give it a human name if it works as a car.
  2. Or try naming it after a concept.
  3. A shorter word hasn’t been tried much.
  4. Come up with a group of names so you came more than one car.
  5. Try plundering mythology.

Now all you need is a new type of car…

 

Why We Hate Parking So Much

 

girl-923101_1920What generates about 29 billion dollars for the US every year?

No, it’s not the manufacturer of a certain car but the habit of needing somewhere to park them. It may be one of the first things you learn on in your driving test, but that doesn’t mean everyone likes to do it, and we feel like the butt of some joke when we can’t do it right.

It is strange to talk about “parking growth areas” but that’s the term used by people who have to study these trends. States like California have noticed an increase in the rate of increased need. That’s a tongue twister.

Most parking lots exist for employees, but not by a large margin. There is also student parking, airport parking, stadium parking, and parking to shop at the mall. Any building which is constantly visited needs somewhere to people to park. But then again, so do various gardens, national parks and so on. The most dreaded of all parking is “ON THE STREET.”

It comes as no surprise that the parking meter was an American invention although it wasn’t created by someone in New York or Los Angeles but for Oklahoma City. The name parking meter is a corruption of the brand name of the first parking meter, the “Park-O-Meter.” Surprisingly, Park-O-Meter didn’t take off as a business model, probably because the metered spots were in a lot, rather than kerbside parking spaces as we tend to see it today. The also charged 5 cents to park for 15 minutes, which seems cheap until you learn that this is the equivalent of a dollar in today’s parking.

The problem of cars being parked in the wrong place is as old as cars themselves. The parking clamp, or Denver Boot, was another American invention. Strangely enough, it was invented by Frank Marugg, a violinist who performed at the Denver Sympathy Orchestra. Exactly what a violinist knows about keeping vehicles secure remains a mystery. The first Boots were made of steel but were later changed to aluminum. There are now various versions of clamps across the world.

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Valet parking is hardly new, but the idea that your car can park itself is gaining traction. Despite the idea that self-driving seems in its infancy a huge amount of money has been invested in self-parking (AKA autonomous parking). Cars parking themselves will somehow mix with cars being parked by humans. Predictably, regardless of how successful self-parking cars are unto themselves, the interaction between them and traditional, driver parked cars could cause issues.

Parking is tricky for some folks. Others hate driving past their destination to an unsavory alley with a faint urine smell, only to walk several blocks in the rain back to your destination. Perhaps the real reason why parking is hated so much is that people own cars to see wide open spaces and beautiful scenery. The parking garage is loathed by most but is a necessary evil if you want to explore a town or a city. So it looks like we’re stuck with it.