safety


On my road trip this week, I noticed that I-95 and the interstates in Norfolk have sprouted a large crop of traffic alert signs.  They’re all along the I-95 corridor south of Springfield, for example.  The signs are supposed to alert drivers to upcoming traffic problems.

Unfortunately, it seems that the signs themselves cause traffic issues.  Nearly every time I passed a sign, it was at slow speed.  At first, I couldn’t figure out why drivers kept slowing down when there were no traffic problems.  Finally, I linked the slowdowns to the traffic alert signs.  More than once, I watched drivers slam on their brakes to avoid rear-ending the (slow) vehicle in front of them.  Maybe I’m a faster reader than most, but I couldn’t see the need to slow down for each and every sign.

Then, as I mentioned in my last post, I discovered that “tunnel blocked” messages were left up on signs pertaining to the Hampton Roads and Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnels in Norfolk.  I don’t know quite what the problem was, but I noticed this issue on two signs, each pertaining to a different tunnel.  I changed my driving plan based on the first sign.  Imagine if I’d done that a second time and dragged my family all the way west to the James River Bridge…for nothing.

I’m sure the signs were designed to be helpful tools, but they need to be well-spaced and properly maintained to help instead of hinder drivers.

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Now that we’ve had a tragic accident in Minnesota, officials are finally starting to seriously look at our aging bridges.  It’s about time.  I grew up in a state where bridge safety became an issue several years ago; after the highway bridge in San Francisco collapsed during an earthquake, every single interstate bridge support was reinforced.  Why do we wait until tragedy strikes before we do the right thing?

I’m thankful that local governments are double-checking our bridges.  I hope they are willing to repair them, too.

For the second time in a week, I spent a chunk of time at our local military base’s automotive repair shop.  This time, I got new tires for our van.  Yee-ha!  I don’t feel like I’m driving the Clampett-mobile any more!  No bumpy ride, no nervous stomach.  I’m a new woman.

My husband is a gifted mechanic; he has been badgering me for a while now to get all the tire problems fixed.  (He’d do it, but he’s currently Serving Our Country, which turns out to be way more time-consuming than you might imagine.)  I know from experience that proper tire maintenance and regular replacement are key to keeping your car in good working order.  You get better gas mileage.  You travel more safely, especially in bad weather.  You don’t worry about sudden thunderstorms (see “travel more safely” in the previous sentence).

The hard part is finding decent tires at decent prices, especially if you’re like us and drive older vehicles.  Do you need 70,000-mile tires for a van with over 100,000 miles on it?  (Probably not.)  Do you need cool-looking tires if you only drive to Wal-Mart and the school parking lot?  (You decide.)

What you do need is safe, functional tires.

How to tell?  Grab a penny.  Head out to your car.  Stick the penny into the grooves in the tread in a few places, holding it so Abraham Lincoln’s face is upside-down (head-first into the groove).  If you can see the top of Abe’s head, it’s probably time for new tires. 

Your car will thank you.