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GIVE ME A “BRAKE”

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Most people (including myself) have very little knowledge of how anti-lock brakes actually work. I say “including myself” here, because most people my age were driving in the days prior to anti-lock brakes in the car. My first car with anti-lock brakes was a 1989 Volvo wagon (I know…yuppie mom…luggage rack and the whole shebang). I remember the first experience I had with the anti-lock brakes. I was backing out of my driveway, which was on a steep incline. My neighbor had parked his truck in front of his house across the street (he never parks there). I was backing down the driveway, just happened to look in my rearview mirror and there was his truck! I slammed on the brakes and just missed his truck by about 3 inches (sigh of relief). Then my brakes started to hammer and vibrate like mad. Next thing you know, bam…bam…I backed right into his truck. I do know that they are a truly an amazing safety feature. But my insurance went up that day. Darned anti-lock brakes! Well, at least now I know how they work.

The anti-lock braking system, although it’s only been in cars since the 70’s, was developed for aircraft use in 1929 by the French.  So there are two great things from the French. Anti-lock brakes and Inspector Clouseau.  Prior to the system being introduced to the automobile industry, in the past, when you’d slam on your brakes, your wheels would lock up and you’d likely skid. People would pump their brakes so they wouldn’t skid. Now, anti-lock brakes do it for you. It’s a safety system that allows the wheels to continue to rotate (rather than locking up like in the past), but they rotate at intervals, so you don’t create a skid. Giving you better traction, stopping distance, and allowing you to steer while braking (i.e. better steering control). If you think about it, having the ABS take care of the brake part, while you’re taking care of the steering part to avoid a collision is almost like having a co-pilot. This way, your mind can be concentrating on one thing, rather than two things at once in a dangerous situation. ABS works with your regular braking system by automatically pumping them. In vehicles not equipped with ABS, the driver has to manually pump the brakes to prevent wheel lockup. In vehicles equipped with ABS, your foot should remain firmly planted on the brake pedal, while ABS pumps the brakes for you so you can concentrate on steering to safety.  This is where some people get into trouble. They don’t realize that you don’t have to pump the brakes!

If you would like to know the effectiveness of ABS systems, in 2003, an Australian study found that ABS reduced the risk of multiple vehicle crashes by 18 percent and reduced the risk of run-off-road crashes by 35 percent. But remember, they only work if you work them properly. Apply steady pressure and hold down the brake. Don’t pump them! With all of the current safety featured in cars, people take for granted that these features will save their life in a crash. Not if you don’t know how they work and use them properly. Some people take more risks than they normally would have prior to ABS brakes and air bags.

Read your manual. Know how your anti-lock brake system works.  Shouldn’t there be a fine for not reading your manual?  Hmm…great idea for next week’s blog.

Until next week…drive safe.
Daun Thompson

RESPECT YOUR ELDERS…THEN PASS THEM

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People love to poke fun at elderly drivers.From their sluggish driving speed to not being able to see over their own dashboard.And, well, both are a bit dangerous if you really think about it.

My parents are now about a decade past their prime retirement age. I was telling my sister how I had noticed that our parents, who have been married for over 50 years, are so terribly co-dependent that they even share reading glasses. Mom’s reading the paper in Dad’s big black framed Mister Magoo-looking glasses.She looks like a shop teacher in drag. My Dad’s reading a manual on spousal abuse.  He’s wearing my Mom’s pink cat-eye glasses. Yes, the ones with the rhinestones.And now, the two of them have become so out-of-control co-dependent that they’re also on the same medications to control their diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol.And not just the same meds.The exact same dosage, too.My sister was like “Duh, Mom has cooked for both of them for 50 years…canned this and fried that…it’s not that surprising.”

So, with health issues looming, when is it time to persuade someone to turn in their keys?Since I am the adult child of an elderly driver, I realize that having a drivers license and being independent is a vital part of an elderly person’s life.Once that independence is taken away, it’s a sad existence for most elderly folks.To most, it’s a sensitive subject.But one’s major concern should be the safety of their elderly parent as well as the safety of others driving around them.My Mother confided in me that lately, my Father’s driving scares the crap out of her. That’s where the incontinent diapers comes in handy (too mean?).The latest incident, they were in a rental mini van in Florida, coming back from the dog track with two other couples from their retirement community.My Dad was following someone too close (that was her main gripe) and they hit a black bear. He didn’t see it and it totally messed up that mini van. But as he said “It’s a rental…who cares.” I’m sure all three couples had to go to Walgreens to get their blood pressure checked (too mean again??).

To help with the decision making, most states have added restrictions on elderly license renewals.And, while some seniors cause more accidents than others due to deteriorating physical and mental abilities, teenage drivers, who are less experienced cause just as many, if not more accidents. Inexperienced drivers have restrictions on them when they first start driving. In Texas, the restrictions lift after 6 months.So, some argue that restrictions based solely on age are discriminatory.

Some states require that a senior cannot renew their license by mail or internet.And most states require a more frequent renewal period for seniors. Texas requires renewal every two years for drivers age 85 or older, where regular renewal for all other drivers is six years.Some states are every 3 years for seniors.Generally, the renewal process requires a written test, road test, eye test, etc.Noting how many moving violations and/or crashes in a certain period of time would also come into play. AARP and other organizations offer driver safety programs for mature drivers, so there are programs out there.  Good to know. And some insurance companies allow discounts after defensive driving courses, so it’s a good idea to take one even if you don’t have a ticket…

Too bad you can’t use that senior citizen discount for a moving violation…that’d really come in handy.

Until next week…be sweet to old people…they’ve been driving longer than you have.

Daun Thompson

( Daun Thompson is a comedienne, writer and artist residing in Dallas )

Practicing Safe-Pet

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In addition to pet safety in this summer heat, how about securing your pet for safety’s sake?A very nice Veterinary Technician and I were having a conversation about putting dogs in the back of pickup trucks.I asked her which was more acceptable?Loose or collared.Neither, she said.Loose, the dog could fall out or jump out and then you have a mess of cars trying to avoid running over the dog.Collared, it could hang itself if it slipped over the bed of the truck.This opened into a discussion about a recent incident at her animal clinic.A client of the clinic had taken her large family dog, along with her two small children on an errand.Her two children were both secured in the back seat of the car in their booster seats.The family dog, sitting between them, was not secured.There was an accident on the freeway, where the car she was driving rear-ended another car…doing about 60mph.The family dog, which was not secured in the backseat, critically wounded both of her children during the accident.The dog did not survive the crash.

How very shocking.That story shook me like a bad dream.Time to make some changes in my life.Before she told me that story, I used to take my dog everywhere with me.Not secured.Riding on the console between the seats…of all places!I recall, many times, throwing my arm in front of him to keep him from becoming a hood ornament when someone would pull out in front of me.Like my mom used to do back in the 60’s.Heck!She still does it and she’s 74.I attribute that to my flat chest.My Dad used to call her “The Seatbelt”.Now he calls her “The Airbag” (they have an interesting relationship).Looking back, how stupid was that?Only one hand on the wheel, while trying to avoid an accident.What’s even whackier than that, I used to let him sit on my lap while I was driving the car.Sometimes I’d even let him pretend to drive.And, I gotta tell you, he’s a much better driver than I am. There’s no argument there.But how dumb was that?Looking back, if someone would have pulled out in front of me and I hit them, my airbag which comes out at 300 p.s.i., would have killed that little dog between the steering wheel and my chest. And, at 300 lbs of pressure, that little dog’s body likely would have crushed my chest and killed me.

Like everyone else, I take my dog with me in the car because he’s like a member of the family.Not for one moment did I think that, without securing my little cute-head-fred, I could have killed him or one of us could have been killed by his little missile of a body because he wasn’t secured in the car.So I did what any responsible pet owner would do.I went right down to the pet store and bought him a harness.To describe it, I would say it looks like something Madonna would wear on stage.Well, everything but the “cones”.The cones would just drag on the ground anyway.And, the only color they had in his size was neon pink.I thought maybe he’d be humiliated by the color since he’s a boy.But then I remembered, oh yea.He’s color blind.No biggie.Too bad my neighbor Vernon isn’t color blind as well…he chuckles every time he sees us now…me and my pink collared boy dog.By the way, I read somewhere that of all color blind people, 66% of them are men.Hmmm…and all dogs are color blind.Does that mean 2/3 of all men are dogs???You already know the answer to that.

And another tidbit…don’t leave your dog in the car when you slip into 7-11. Temperatures are way too hot.Dogs can’t handle it.You think you’re doing to slip in there for 2 minutes to grab a gallon of milk.And someone invariably writes a check…you know they will…then you’re in there for 45 minutes.Who the hell writes checks anymore???And, if you think you’ll just leave the car running with the a/c on…think again.It’s a $325 fine for leaving your car running while unattended.Even if it’s locked.

Until next week…practice Safe-Pet (did that come out sounding very wrong??).

Daun Thompson

(Daun Thompson is a comedienne, writer, artist and pet lover… Just not in that way)

You Drink, You Drive, You Dumb

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When I moved to Texas in the late 70’s, everybody in the car could have an open container…even the driver.I thought you’d get a ticket if you didn’t drink and drive in Texas.Or, at the very least, you’d be called a pussy (by the cops).Being from out of state, I had the impression that Texas was all hippy-dippy and liberal…like California.Total misconception!I had moved to the Bible Belt (they call it that because it’s located just below the distended belly of Oklahoma).At the time, there were Blue Laws.You couldn’t buy certain things on Sundays.Like alcohol and paper products.You could buy all of the baby food you wanted, but not diapers (that’s a recipe for disaster, right there).And no beer??Sundays are made for Michelob (wasn’t that the ad?).

Open Container means anything with the seal cracked. The Open Container Law has evolved quite a bit since the late 70’s.For a while there, you could have an open container in the vehicle with you, as long as it wasn’t within reach of the driver. But they had to change it again.There were too many soccer moms who would chuck the bottle into the back of the mini van when they were being pulled over by the cops.Which would be fine if you didn’t konk the kids in the head who are sitting back there.Soccer moms just ruin it for everybody…thanks a lot soccer moms!The new Open Container Law?The open container must be kept in the trunk of the car.Or, in a locked glove compartment or a locked console.Perhaps a small bottle of booze will fit in there.And it must be locked in there…you can’t trust yourself.Anything that won’t fit…just put it in the trunk…and get yourself a really long straw (just kidding).I stole that from my boyfriend.Who also says the open container fine is $500…Littering fine, about $250.“That’s a no brainer…I’m chucking it out the window of the car and saving myself about $250” (he’s a math genius).If your vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, you must put the container behind the last seat.And be sure to secure it.You don’t want to be the crying drunk.

I still see a few good ole boys out there on the freeway in rush hour traffic, putting one down.Long day, hard work (maybe weekends and week days are made for Michelob??)Having a cold one on the way home.What harm can one beer do…? Just ask that cop…he’s right behind you (psych). As I said before, we’ve come a long way.Texas now has a three strikes and you’re out policy.Although the first and second convictions for DWI carry stiff penalties, community service, some jail time, and mandatory AA meeting attendance (I hear they don’t serve drinks at those meetings… it’s b.y.o.b.).This does not include your attorney fees, which are astronomical.Your third conviction for DWI is a felony and comes with a nice black and white jumpsuit.The cruel part is…the stripes go the wrong way…not slimming whatsover.

A DWI is both financially and emotionally devastating.A real set-back.And that mistake remains on your driving record for many, many years.Not worth it.Call a friend, call a cab or, heck, call your Lawyer…you may need him.

Until next week.Be safe.Drive smart.

Daun Thompson

( Daun Thompson is a comedienne, artist and writer residing in the Big D )

PARENT TO PARENT Step 1: The Learners License a.k.a. Instruction Permit

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Have a new driver in the house?I feel your pain.

Where to start???Don’t panic…here’s some help.As promised in my March 21 blog, I will be giving a play-by-play, of my own experience…a how-to, for other parents in the same predicament.

I decided to take my 15-1/2 year old daughter to our local DPS office (Department of Public Safety).There, she would have her first adult experience of waiting in line…for eternity. A good time to gauge how well she’s going to cope with road rage in rush hour traffic…but that’ll come later. I took her to the same DPS office where I had gone to renew my Texas Drivers License.For years, I had renewed my license through the mail.That youthful picture had apparently reached it’s limit. Therefore, I was now required to appear and wait in a long line for a new one.I think they make you wait in line a long time so your picture will look more like you when you actually get pulled over by the police. Kind of put-out and cranky. They’re not as dumb as they look… (well, maybe some are)…

Just as expected.We waited forever.This is a place where you can arrive, clean shaven….and leave with a full beard(truth is, a woman my age, you can grow a full beard….disturbing, isn’t it?).

I was informed that there are two options here for new drivers under 18.Your teen driver can either attend an independent drivers education course (most range around $350.00). The DPS will have a list of state approved ones.Or, you can choose to do a parent taught driver education course.

We left the office with a Form DL-92 Request For A Parent Taught Driver Education Packet.We were told to complete it, enclose the $20 packet fee and mail it off to Austin.Program requirements are listed on the form.Among them, they insist that the parent teacher must have no prior convictions, including DWI or homicide, nor mental illness…..Check! (I think).Student must be at least 14 to begin the classroom portion, but cannot test for an instruction permit until their 15th birthday and must complete the entire program prior to their 18th birthday.

We also asked for a Drivers Handbook that she could study while waiting for the packet to be shipped to us.She read that while we waited in line …the entire thing.

Here’s a little checklist of what you’ll be needing to continue on.Your teen’s Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, Your Texas Drivers License, Proof of Insurance on the car you’ll be teaching in(yes, the same one they’ll be asking to borrow and eventually destroy).Put your teen on your policy prior to putting them behind the wheel.

Oh yes, and one adult diaper (check!).

To Be Continued…Look for Step 2:“We’ve Received the Parent-Taught Drivers Education Packet. What Now?”

Hang in there!Chin (and wallet) up.

Daun Thompson

( Daun Thompson is a Comedienne, Writer, Artist and soon-to-be Diaper-Wearing Driver Training Mom )

APRIL SHOWERS

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April showers bring May flowers. But, for Texans, they bring hydroplaning mayhem as well as vehicle drownings. In fact, Texas leads the Nation in vehicle drownings. Kind of sad, isn’t it? That they talk about the vehicle drowning and not the people in it??….Cold. Apparently, it’s mostly pick-up trucks. Really??In Texas??Go figure.

If you live in Texas, you may have noticed that, when it rains, they change those electronic signs on the freeway. You know, the ones they use for traffic updates as well as for Amber Alerts for missing children or missing elderly (there was one last week that read “Missing Elderly from New York City”…I thought, “Damn! Those old people can really hitchhike … if they think they’ve made it all the way down here to Texas”).

So now, when it’s raining, they change those signs to read TURN AROUND AND DON’T DROWN.It’s a catchy little jingle to make it easy to remember when it’s raining and you see water covering the road. Don’t just plow through it. “Turn Around and Don’t Drown”. They come out with these poetic little catch-phrases, like “Click It Or Ticket” for seat belt laws. And, “Don’t Mess With Texas” for littering laws. You know, somewhere, there’s a guy sitting in a little room with a bottle of Jack Daniels and he’s paid to write all this poetic stuff. And the job probably comes with dental and a 401k…..I want that job!

TADD is a National Weather Service campaign to warn people of the hazards of walking or driving a vehicle through flood waters. Where does the false sense that “my heavy vehicle will keep me safe” come from? Perhaps from the false trust of the weight of the vehicle you drive.Your 3,000 lb or more vehicle will remain in contact with the road surface…that it is too heavy to float??Think about that for a moment. Aircraft carriers weighing 97,000 tons float.Vehicles (and ships) float because of buoyancy. In fact, most cars can be swept away in 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUV’s do not fare much better with an additional 6-12 inches of clearance.

As for hydroplaning, it can occur at speeds as low as 30mph. Not even very fast. In fact, if you were driving any slower, you’d be in reverse. But it could be frightening if you’re doing, say, freeway speed. That’s why it’s important to remember to not use your cruise control when it’s raining.My sister, Bobbie Sue (I know, right??) has a new Mercedes with safety features you wouldn’t believe. It actually has a sensor that will not allow you to engage your cruise control when there’s precipitation. It also has a feature that will pull the car back into your lane if you start to drift off the road. I think they call that the DWI Designated Driver feature. By the way….you don’t really believe we actually call my sister Bobbie Sue, do you?She’s 13 years younger than me. We’ve always called her “Oops.”

Hydroplaning occurs when water gets trapped between the grooves in your tires and road. And then you find yourself waterskiing in your car (I hear if you can get it up on two wheels, you can slalom ski…they probably do that in JackAss The Movie 3D…I haven’t seen it yet).Some people panic and slam on the brakes when they begin to hydroplane. Not cool. The best thing to do…take your foot off the gas. Let the car naturally slow down on its own (and then change your pants). The trapped water will then dissipate out from between the tires and the road.So now, your tires are connecting with the pavement. Instead of riding up on top of the water…like Jesus.

Here’s a good mental checklist during rainy season…

  • Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. A foot of water will float many vehicles. And two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not use your cruise control feature when driving in rainy conditions.
  • Keep reading this blog every week…(I just threw that in)

Until next week…be safe…don’t take any bone-headed chances when driving (or dating)….try to preserve your life, so you remain on this Earth about as long as the styro cup you just threw out the window of your car.

Daun Thompson

( Daun Thompson is a comedienne, writer, artist and lightning rod of reality )

Use the Lowest Price Traffic School

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When you attend a physical traffic school which entails one-on-one lessons with an instructor, you pay fees accordingly and it is not the most affordable option available. The lowest price traffic school is one which is conducted online, via instructional videos. One of the advantages of using an online school is that you can complete your lessons in time slots that suit you, so that you can work around other existing commitments.

Choose the Lowest Price Traffic School Providing Certificates

Even if budget is your main concern, it is best to use a reputable service that also provides certificates, as a certificate may be required if you are ordered to complete traffic school. When you have a traffic school that provides the lowest price, traffic school sessions can be repeated every so often to keep your driving good and to remind you of the little things that are easy to forget when you have been a licensed driver for some time.

Driving in the Bible belt or another reason for traffic school

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As I drive around Dallas, I can’t help but notice there are a lot of churches, no big surprise, right? Dallas is part of the Bible belt and in Texas we love our football, guns and Jesus! Not necessarily in that order and according to a recent survey by Auto Vantage, Dallas is number 2 in the nation when it comes to road rage. I’m not trying to be cynical about religion and I believe in a higher power. I think it is great that some people have a spiritual foundation but what happens to that “Golden Rule” and “love thy neighbor” thing when we get behind the wheel of our car? I now a Bible beater’s rebuttal would go something like this;

“We are only human and we are not perfect and you’re going to burn in a lake of fire!!!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing religion, either. All I’m suggesting is that we need that little light that shines to carry it with us in our cars. That way the next time some asshole cuts us off, we won’t shoot him the finger or just plain shoot him!

And with the holiday season upon us and everyone trying to get here and there, be a little friendlier out on the roads. It takes an extra second to let someone in. Turn on your signal before you turn or change lanes. Give a friendly wave when someone lets you into traffic. Don’t cut off an 18-wheeler, it takes truckers over four times the distance to stop than a regular vehicle. And no sex while driving!

Remember, a world without road rage starts with you, if someone is tailgating you, ask yourself, “what would Jesus do?” He would probably get pissed off too and send them to hell!

I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season. Join me again next week and until then…

Take care and be safe-

Danny Keaton

Changing the world of Defensive Driving: It starts with you!

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‘Tis the season to be jolly but you wouldn’t know that driving on the freeways of any major city in the U.S. It seems like some of us lose our humanity once we turn the ignition to our car. We some how forget about the holiday season mantra, “let there be peace on earth and good will toward men”….and that should also include soccer moms and Republicans… Or Democrats. And that peace on earth concept should extend to the freeways as well.

Did you see the videos that were shot on Black Friday when the doors opened at various retail stores? People were being trampled all because of some holiday sales! It looked like the opening of a The Who concert! (OK, bad comparison) That attitude of “Me first, it’s all about me, I’ll beat you to death for that blue ray disc player” is the same kind of thinking we tend to have behind the wheel. People fighting over a parking space, people shooting other drivers over a finger and lame brains who attach “balls” to the hitch of their trucks! And we are supposed to be the most intelligent animals on earth?!?!

I would like to believe that most people are good and decent at their core, like I said, “most” people, unlike Philadelphia Eagle fans. I would also like to believe that most people when separated from the masses would be willing to lend a helping hand when they see others in need or when they see someone wanting to change lanes they would let them over.

You know what else I’ve come to realize? If I want my world of driving and my world as a whole to be peaceful, it has to start with me. I also came to realize that just because I have tinted windows people can still see me if I pick my nose at the intersection. One of my favorite quotes is from the famous author, Leo Tolstoy: Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Have a safe and happy holiday season! Until next week…

Take care and be safe-

Danny Keaton

http://www.DannyKeaton.com

Happy Holidays: the most dangerous time of the year

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OK, so Thanksgiving is over and Christmas/Hanukkah/Ashura/Kwanzaa is just around the corner. If a road trip is in the plans for your holiday make sure you are prepared for the round.

First of all you want to make sure you get plenty of rest before your road trip. Many spur of the moment road trips to Vegas happen after a night of partyin’and that can be fun but a trip to Gram Gram’s house in Oklahoma with no rest can suck. Besides just driving through Oklahoma is enough to put you to sleep behind the wheel.

Many truck drivers have claimed that chewing sunflower seeds are a favorite among the truckers to help keep them awake, well…that and crystal meth. Stay away from energy drinks such as Red Bulls, Monster and Cocaine (yeah there’s a drink sold at convenience stores called cocaine!) What’s next, headache relief tablets called “Blow-job?” Remember, what goes up, must come down and those caffeine crashes can be really bad and taking barbiturates to help level you out is not a solution to that problem.

Once every two hours or hundred miles, pull over somewhere and take a couple of minutes to walk around the car, get your blood circulating again. It goes without saying, be careful where you pull over. Biker Road House parking lots, “No-tell” motels and rest areas in Louisiana on I-10 are probably not a good idea to let Gram Gram wonder around. Switch out drivers and talk to your passengers, if you’re driving by yourself, talk to yourself. And I don’t care what anyone says; there is nothing wrong with answering yourself.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and I wish everyone a safe holiday and happy 2011 and be sure to check underneath that hood, make sure your belts and hoses are in tack. Don’t forget those tires and “Gram Gram’s” medical marijuana stash.

Join me again next week and until then…

Take care and be safe-

Danny Keaton