By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — July 14, 2016 — This week we look at a traffic jam in Indonesia that lasted for three days, how Canada lost by coming in first and why you shouldn’t play Pokemon Go or close your eyes to pray while driving.
– You knew this was going to happen. A new “immersive” video game, Pokemon Go, took the world by storm over the last week. It was only a couple days before police responded to an incident in which someone smashed their car into a tree while playing the game.
– A 28-year-old Florida woman was taken to the hospital for evaluation after she failed to stop at a stop sign, went through an intersection and into the yard of a home. According to Sheriff’s Office deputies “she was praying at the time and had her eyes closed.” She was cited for reckless driving with property damage.
– According to officials in Indonesia twelve people died during “a massive three-day, 13-mile traffic jam” in the country. The country has modernized over recent decades. Like China, millions of citizens have traded in bikes for cars in recent years. With the end of Ramadan “masses of drivers headed out to villages to celebrate the end of the holy month … a major highway junction at the city of Brebes backed up with tens of thousands of vehicles attempting to cram through the area.”
Transport ministry spokesman Hemi Pramuraharjo was quoted as saying that the deaths “occurred over multiple days and were mostly among elderly travellers; others died from fatigue and other health complications.”
– A report in the Windsor Star notes that Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca will drive a deadly stretch of a highway in southern Ontario while he is in the region next month. Highway 3 connects the town of Essex and Leamington outside of Windsor. The road is notoriously dangerous. Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak has personally invited the minister to take a ride on the busy highway.
– Canada has come out on top, but it’s not for something positive. “Despite years of public messaging about the dangers of drinking and driving, Canada ranks No. 1 among 19 wealthy countries for percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment.” This is according to a new study by the US Center for Disease Control. Stats suggest that “while fewer people were dying from motor vehicle crashes in Canada (the crash death rate in 2013 was 5.4 per 100,000 people, a drop of 43 per cent from 2000), the proportion of deaths linked to alcohol impairment was 34 percent, higher than any of the other countries in the survey. The United States came in next, followed by Australia and France. Countries with the lowest percentage of fatal crashes tied to alcohol were Israel, Japan, and Austria.”
– The same story also mentions that Conservative MP Steven Blaney, the former public safety minister, introduced a private member’s bill earlier this year, Bill C-226, that includes a provision allowing for mandatory roadside screening. The bill has gone through second reading in Ottawa and is scheduled to undergo review by a parliamentary committee in the fall. The story quoted a member of the BC Civil Liberties Association as saying that, “Random breath testing by police, however, is an ‘extraordinary’ measure that would have to pass Charter scrutiny and requires ‘compelling’ justification … Canadians are guaranteed protection from unreasonable search and seizure, so such a measure would require proof that existing strategies to combat impaired driving are not working and that mandatory screenings make a difference.”
– A 50-year-old Ottawa man was “charged with impaired driving after his car ran out of gas on a southern Ontario highway. Ontario Provincial Police said a Ford Explorer pulled over on Ontario Highway 416 in Edwardsburgh Township, about 80 kilometres south of Ottawa, at around 8:30 p.m. Friday. A tow truck driver responded to help the driver, but police said the operator quickly realized the driver appeared to be drunk and contacted authorities.”
– Orders for heavy duty trucks in the US were down 34 percent in June, compared to the same month last year, according to a report on Reuters. Apparently “trucking firms were holding off on buying new 18-wheelers amid a weak freight environment…” A source in the story notes that “The Class 8 market is stuck in a holding pattern…Fleets are cautious as freight demand has cooled off this year.”
– Japan’s Road Transport Bureau last month allowed mirrorless cars, and supplier Ichikoh anticipates the US to do the same in 2018. OEMs have pushed for such a change. The argument for doing away with mirrors is that camera technology has reached the point where lenses and monitors can do a better job than mirrors can. Mirrors have blind spots and the sideview mirrors are less than ideal from an aerodynamics perspective. Cameras can avoid both of those problems.
– More Brexit effects: Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union could see the end of rules on gender-neutral pricing, which prevents insurance firms from offering better deals to women drivers. A 2012 EU directive banned insurers from setting different prices for men and women. Young women are statistically less likely to have a car accident than young men but under the current rules, the gender difference is not allowed to be taken into account. If Britain leaves the EU insurance companies could go back to taking gender into account when calculating auto insurance premiums.
– New paint trend? Some custom shops in the US are beginning to paint vehicles in glow-in-the-dark colours. A new product, LumiLor electroluminescent paint, glows when “electric current flows through six layers of paint, applied painstakingly over two days. The paint connects to a hidden wire, which delivers 18-volt current from a battery to the design … Although they come from a spray gun just like normal auto paint, the LumiLor layers are carefully formulated insulators and conductors. A layer containing phosphorus causes the glow.” According to the owner of TD Customs, a shop licensed to apply the paint, “It’s just such a new product we’re still finding ways we can use it and things we can put it on … We can pretty much paint it on any shape, any surface.”
In addition to cars and motorcycles, the shop “has applied the paint to guitars and helmets, and a local theater asked him to create a glowing skull for a prop.” The paint can also be applied to a whole car. “Lexus Australia shelled out $130,000 to paint stripes on a show car that flashes to the driver’s heartbeat.” The paint costs $4.50 per square inch. A paint job on a Kawasaki cruiser cost about $5,000.
– In Toronto a debate has broken out about speed limits within the city. According to a report in the Toronto Star, a “plan coming before council already includes recommendations to cut speed limits on parts of some Toronto roads, including reductions to 50 and even 40 km/h on particular arterials.” The editorial piece suggested that, “Not only should these proposed speed reductions be implemented in year one (2017) but the plan should go further by eliminating all 60 and 70 km/h limits, except where a convincing case can be made. When the city takes down, at almost no cost, a 60 or 70 km/h road sign, the provincially set default speed of 50 km/h immediately kicks in.”
– A township in the US dealing with expensive road repairs has decided to stop repairing ashphalt. Instead they’re ripping it up and replacing it with gravel. Apparently this is a “growing trend in public works.” Repaving roads is expensive, so “Montpelier instead used its diminishing public works budget to take a step back in time and un-pave the road. Workers hauled out a machine called a ‘reclaimer’ and pulverized the damaged asphalt and smoothed out the road’s exterior. They filled the space between Vermont’s cruddy soil and hardier dirt and gravel up top with a ‘geotextile’, a hardy fabric that helps with erosion, stability and drainage,” according to a report in Wired.