Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Median crossover crashes a problem in Kansas

I noticed a small news story in USA Today about a recent spate of deadly crossover crashes in Kansas. Highway engineers were quoted as saying they designed the medians of divided highways to be wide enough to enable drivers to regain control if they strayed off the left side of the road. There was speculation that rising traffic volume may have something to do with the increase in these crashes and also talk of the need for some kind of barrier down the center of the medians.

I've noticed that even on many Interstate highways that the typical grass median is not wide enough, in my view. For example, West Virginia allows 70 mph travel on I-64 west of Charleston, but the median is only about 2 lanes wide (if even that much). Worse, it is V-shaped in cross section, with the center of the median well below pavement level. This means that almost any vehicle angling into the median at legal speeds would be likely to flip over. Imagine being rammed head-on by an upside-down car!

Some states including the Carolinas have taken steps to alleviate the problem. Even on highways with wide medians, cable-type guardrails are installed in the center to prevent cars at least from crashing through. I doubt that tractor-trailers would be stopped by these, however. Data from South Carolina show that deadly crossover crashes have been reduced.

Locally, there is one older freeway that raises eyebrows for me. It has a rather narrow level grassy median for most of its length, but on one half-mile segment that passes beneath a highway bridge and a railroad bridge, the median narrows down to a cement curb only about two feet wide. In this day of Jersey barriers (the ubiquitous curved concrete dividers where there is no space for a proper median), I am surprised that the state of Virginia has done nothing about this roadway segment. I even more surprised that apparently very few deadly crashes have occurred at this spot during the 15 years I have lived in the area.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

They don't build them like this anymore! #3

This 1950 Dodge Coronet sedan was found behind a restaurant in the small town of Nellysford, Virginia. The Coronet was the top-of-the-line model, and this particular car had a "Gyro-Matic" automatic transmission. There is a badge on the front fender with this name. Most early automatic transmissions had catchy names like this, and they took America by storm in the 1950s. This car looks decent on the outside, but the interior was in very rough condition. Still, it's nice to look at with all the real chrome-plated metal adorning the exterior, quite unlike the "plastichrome" today's cars use.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Car dealer slang...not always nice!

These are some of the terms used by car salesmen (and maybe a few intrepid saleswomen), according to both a longtime poster and a newbie in the forums on (Thanks, "mackabee" and "greenpea68" for the list.) A lot of these words are not very complimentary to the putative customer; that's for sure.

in the box = finance office or business office

the tower = sales manager’s office

squirrels = customers with no loyalty to one salesperson

bumblebees = customers that can't decide between three or more cars

Disneyland shoppers = same as bumblebees

strokes = time-wasting shoppers

bogues = same as strokes

ghost = customer with no credit score

roach = customer with bad credit

a player = customer with strong credit

fairy = pipe smoking, folder carrying, internet customer

mooch = customer that wants floor mats, alloy wheels, satellite radio, etc, "thrown in," usually on a mini-deal

laydown = customer that walks in and pays sticker for a car

grape = same as laydown, as in "I stepped on a grape"

mini-deal = salespeople eating cheese sandwiches with no cheese (low-commission sale)

cherry = a very nice trade-in

rough = the opposite of cherry

sled = a beat-up trade-in (same as rough)

clam = same as a sled

skate = salesmen or women who steal customers from fellow salespeople; commonly known as thieves

snake = same as a skate

hand shaker = manual transmission

get me done = customer with terrible credit but can be financed, usually at very high interest rates

mop and glo = paint sealant and fabric protection

rust and dust = rust proofing and undercoating

delivery coordinator = woman with a big smile that sells mop and glo, rust and dust

"club them like a baby seal" = selling a car for full sticker!

grinder = “negotiates” for hours down to the last penny

pack = just another way for dealers to take money away from salespeople

front end gross = gross profit over invoice price less pack and shop fees

back end gross = gross profit in the box (finance or business office)

spiffs = daily or weekly bonuses for salespeople

stuff holders = storage bins

CSI = customer satisfaction index, inversely proportional to the amount of gross profit on the deal (that is, happy-go-lucky emotional buyers pay more; miserable analytical people pay less)

double nickels = $5500

pounder = $1000 front end gross: How many pounds was that? = a deal that has 2 or 3 thousand front end gross

home run = 4 pounder or $4000 or more front end gross

third base coach = someone at the negotiating table who is telling the buyer they don't have a good deal

spoon = a salesperson who gets a done deal from a manager

hook = same as a spoon but you might have to do some work

house mouse = a salesperson who gets all the spoons or hooks

veteran = a salesperson with more than 6 months at a store

greenpea = novice salesperson

rat = a trade that is a clam or a sled

$1 car = any trade that is worth $1000 or less; usually in real money only worth a dollar

team player = the only person who goes and gets coffee and lunch every day

"RUNNER !!!" = what is yelled when a customer gets up from the negotiating table and proceeds to walk out the door. The customer gets up and the salesperson says, "We got a RUNNER," one of my favorites...

Actually, I have found through reading Edmunds and the other car-buying sites that you ought to plan to be a RUNNER. That is, there is a plethora of information on the Internet (including detailed online dealer inventories) that should enable you to confidently walk into a dealership and offer YOUR price. Then if the salesperson comes back with a rejection from the sales manager, you head for the door. If you're not emotionally tied to the idea of buying a particular car from that dealership on that day, you are likely to have someone run out to intercept you accepting your offer!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Joe Sherlock quotes Ann Coulter

I've stated before that I like Joe Sherlock's views on cars in his blog The View Through the Windshield, but I definitely don't agree with his politics. My respect for him has just dropped a couple of notches though with his recent salutory words for that hate-mongering self-absorbed far right-winger Ann Coulter.

As he puts it in his August 3 blog, "A Priceless Paragraph ... from Ann Coulter: 'CNN commentators keep telling us how young and hip the audience was for last week's YouTube Democratic debate, apparently unaware that the camera occasionally panned across the audience, which was the same oddball collection of teachers' union shills and welfare recipients you see at all Democratic gatherings. Noticeably, Gov. Bill Richardson got the first "woo" of the debate - the mating call of rotund liberal women - for demanding a federal mandate that would guarantee public schoolteachers a minimum salary of $40,000.' "

I'd never think of quoting Michael Moore or Al Sharpton for example, and I don't think either of these men has anywhere near the amount of venom to spew as the infamous Coulter. Responsible conservatives should have nothing to do with her. Shame on you Joe!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Race car drivers: More skilled, fewer crashes on public roads?

The enthusiasts' call is unceasing, "If only we made driver licensing more stringent or trained drivers more thoroughly, we'd have fewer crashes." Well, I dug into some "archives" and unearthed an interesting study that relates directly to this issue. In the early 1970s the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) sought to compare the driving records of the general public with “national competition license” race drivers certified by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). The SCCA consented to participate because it was sure of the outcome: the “trained” drivers would certainly have superior records.

Surprise! Not only did the SCCA members have more traffic violations (well, not really a surprise), they had proportionately more crashes than the control group of drivers. This was true even when mileage driven by each group was taken into account.

Needless to say, the SCCA never again agreed to participate in further such studies. I’ll say it again: in driving, attitude trumps knowledge (that is, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force him to drink). And of course, you have the overconfidence factor — the SUVs in the ditch scenario in that first winter snowstorm — but this too is part of attitude.