Archive for the ‘DRIVING’ Category

Don’t drive over snappers!


Did you know ? It’s a bad idea to straddle snapping turtles with your vehicle (drive over with the turtle between the tires). Instead of tucking into their shells to hide, they jump and bite to protect themselves from the oncoming car. Their shell is too small to hide inside! The turtle in the photo is recovering from jaw surgery and is on the mend. Please driver carefully and lookout for these big dinosaurs, and don’t forget to vote today !

Thanks to MJS

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Modern plastic vehicle parts cracking under winter's cold temperatures

Some auto repair workers say plastic parts on many newer vehicles aren’t holding up under the winter’s consistently cold temperatures this year in Ottawa.

Modern bumpers have a reinforcing bar covered by a flexible bit of plastic called “thermoplastic olefin,” and auto body workers such as Mathew Sukhoo said this plastic easily “shatters” when temperatures dip below -20 C.

“When it’s icy people slide a little bit, they tap a bumper, they crack and you have to change it,” he said.

“If it has a small crack you can’t really repair it, you have to change the part.”

Mathew’s father Keith said he’s worked on more than 20 cracked bumpers in the last two weeks, including a red Subaru at the time of the interview, which he said would cost the owner about $1,000 to repair.

Ottawa body shop manager Aleks Koundakjian said mirrors, headlights and tail lights are other examples of modern vehicle parts that aren’t built for this record-setting winter with temperatures consistently dropping below -20 C.

“It’s just the nature of the plastic itself,” he said. “There’s really nothing you can do about it.”

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volunteer firefighterYou never see this in the city but its important u know.
If your in cottage country and you see a vehicle with a flashing green light. PLEASE PULL OVER AND LET IT PASS. It is a volunteer firefighter on a call to save lives. – NOTE: PLEASE SHARE. This can save lives.

Thanks to MjS

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Dr. Chris Carlsten says short-term exposure to diesel exhaust can affect the coating on DNA

Just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust is enough to cause significant damage to the human body, a new UBC study concludes.

The study, led by Dr. Chris Carlsten, looked at how pollution particles affect the way genes are expressed in the body.

Sixteen non-smoking adult volunteers with asthma were put in an enclosed booth about the size of a standard bathroom, and made to breathe diluted and aged exhaust fumes equal to the air quality along a Beijing highway, or a busy port in British Columbia.

Carlsten says the impact of the pollution “exceeded our expectations.”

“Quite rapidly, it turns out, we’re showing in hours, you observe changes in the blood that may have long-term implications,” said Carlsten.

It’s believed exposure to the particles affects the chemical “coating” that can attach to parts of a person’s DNA.

“That carbon-hydrogen coating, called methylation, can silence or dampen a gene, preventing it from producing a protein – sometimes to a person’s benefit, sometimes not. Methylation is one of several mechanisms for controlling gene expression, which is the focus of a rapidly growing field of study called epigenetics,” said a statement issued by UBC.

“The study,published this month in Particle and Fibre Toxicology, found that diesel exhaust caused changes in methylation at about 2,800 different points on DNA, affecting about 400 genes.

“In some places, it led to more methylation; in more cases, it decreased methylation.”

Carlsten says the next step is to figure out how to reverse the damage.

“Any time you can show something happens that quickly, it means you can probably reverse it – either through a therapy, a change in environment or even diet.”

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Expert advice about how to drive safely among North America’s most dangerous animals.

Whitetail deer jumping a fence into a roadway.

Sooner or later, a deer will appear. You will have no warning and only milliseconds to react.

White-tailed deer are the deadliest animals in North America. Every year an estimated 1.25 million deer-vehicle crashes result in about 150 human fatalities, more than 10,000 injuries, and insurance payouts approaching $4 billion.

We now have about 30 million deer in the United States—100 times more than a century ago. Having all those deer has consequences—for us, the landscape, and the deer themselves. The one time Americans are most likely to experience a close encounter with deer is when they get behind the wheel. And even if we’re apathetic about ecological impacts, front-bumper, hood, and windshield impacts still have a way of getting our attention.

To learn more about the harsh realities behind the statistics, I spent an eight-hour shift riding along with Wisconsin state trooper Dean Luhman for a little first-hand roadkill research. Please understand: I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. I didn’t even want a deer to get hurt. Still, if it were going to happen anyway, I wanted to see for myself how troopers work a deer crash. But as the night wore on, it began to look increasingly unlikely. We saw expired plates, expired licenses, but no expired deer. But that night I did learn a lot more from Luhman about what happens at the scene of deer-car crashes. He told me his first priority is always to ensure that no further crashes occur. When he arrives on the scene, he first looks for vehicles or debris—including, possibly, the deer itself—in the roadway. Then he positions his cruiser with its emergency lights on. He may also put out flares or traffic cones, call in more units, or close the roadway.

Next he talks with the driver to check for injuries and size up the situation. He might need to move the driver and passengers to a safer location, or else call for an ambulance or tow truck.

Assuming everyone’s unharmed, the next question he’ll ask is about the deer. If it’s injured but still alive, it will need to be euthanized—not just to end its suffering, but also to make sure it doesn’t get back up and stumble out into traffic.

Even when a deer is dead and safely off in the ditch, roadkill is the gift that keeps on giving. “More than once,” Luhman told me, “I’ve been to a crash where someone stopped to illegally saw the antlers off a roadkill buck. They’re at a spot where they can’t pull all the way off the road, and then someone else comes along and slams into their pickup from behind. Expensive antlers.”

Other secondary crashes happen when drivers slow to gawk at nonhuman scavengers. “It happens with coyotes,” Luhman told me, “but mostly with eagles perched on deer carcasses. We get people up from the city who have never seen an eagle that close. They hit the brakes to get a better look, someone else is tailgating, and there you go.” On rare occasions, other drivers collide with gluttonous, overloaded eagles struggling to gain altitude as they flap out into the road.

If vehicles at the crash site are badly damaged, Luhman takes plenty of photos. To help drivers prove to their insurance company that a deer was involved, he always tries to get a few shots of evidence visible on the vehicle itself—usually in the form of hair, blood, or “other bodily fluids.” Then it’s time for a little paperwork. If there’s only one vehicle involved and no injuries, troopers can use an abbreviated form. That’s always a relief for everyone concerned. The long form requires Luhman to collect more information, describe the situation in more detail, and even sketch a diagram of the scene.

Here in Wisconsin, there’s also a special roadkill possession form. The law states that when drivers are still on the scene, they have first chance at the deer. Luhman always offers, and he never makes assumptions based on drivers’ age or gender—or, for that matter, the age and type of vehicle. Although some deer do end up splattered, splintered, or smeared by a collision, most are surprisingly intact. And even if the front of the deer is in rough shape, there could be a lot of good meat left on the hindquarters.

“I hate to see a deer go to waste,” Luhman told me, “and they rarely do.” Luhman patrols a county that’s not especially prosperous. While he’s at the scene, it’s common for other drivers to pull over and ask if the deer might still be available. And if the county has dispatched him to the scene, chances are good that someone listening to a police scanner will call the sheriff’s department to ask if the driver wants the deer. The county often receives one or two of these calls before Luhman even arrives.

After the driver, however, Luhman always give first priority to people on the list he carries in his pocket. It’s a list of names and phone numbers that have been given to him by people who are out of work and having a tough time making ends meet. “They usually come up to me when I’m stopped at the gas station,” he told me. “It’s not like they have many other opportunities. They’ll look to make sure no one else is nearby, and then they’ll walk over and hand me a phone number. I visit with them for a minute, but only if they want. Sometimes they’ll tell me about their situation. I put them on my list.”

Assuming there are no injuries, most drivers can leave on their own as soon as they’re done with the paperwork. For everyone else, Luhman has all four of the county’s tow truck operators on speed dial. If he can, he’ll call one directly so he can describe the location and what to expect. If there’s a lot going on, he’ll ask his dispatcher, a deputy, or a firefighter or first responder to make the call. Or, if the damaged vehicle is well off the road and not hidden by a hill or a curve in the road, sometimes it stays there for a while and Luhman gives the driver a ride home or into town.

The more passengers in the vehicle, the more problematic the logistics. “For years,” Luhman says, “I’ve been asking tow operators to order trucks with four doors and a second row of seats. Finally, I’m now seeing more of them. One way or another, we can usually transport everyone in the tow truck and my cruiser. Sometimes I’ll call a deputy to help. And if all else fails, I can make several trips. It happens.”

Despite the really cool hat, the uniform, the regulation haircut, the tie, and the perfectly creased trousers, the job description does includes cleanup. It’s a dirty job. At many crashes, the roadway is littered with a fair amount of broken glass, plastic grille fragments, and ragged bits of deer carcass. The longer debris remains in the roadway, the more likely it is to trigger another accident.

I asked Luhman if, back in the trunk along with his rifle and shotgun, he also carried a push broom. He told me he did—and a shovel, too. “Between the tow operator, firefighters, and myself,” he said, “we usually get the roadway cleared pretty quickly. But if there’s something major, we’ll get help.”

Examples? “Well,” he told me, “I remember the time we had one stuck down pretty hard. It was 30 below, and what was left of the deer froze to the highway. We needed a county plow to help scrape that one off.”

To help you avoid getting in scrapes of your own, Luhman offers this advice: “If you see a deer in the roadway, don’t swerve. Hit it. Cars can be fixed or replaced. As long as no one’s tailgating you, hit the brakes. But if you can’t do that, then hit the deer.”

“Here are a couple more things you can do,” he added. “Adjust your headrest so it’s at the right height to prevent whiplash. You’d be surprised how many people just leave them shoved all the way down. Maintain your lights, brakes, and tires so you can see, be seen, and stop. Wear your seat belt, don’t tailgate, and slow down.”

“And when you’re driving,” Luhman said, “drive. At deer crashes, and at a lot of other crashes, too, the number one excuse I hear is ‘I wasn’t paying attention.’ ”

Here in the north woods there’s not much stop-and-go traffic to trip up inattentive drivers; that means a fair percentage of Luhman’s calls involve deer. The same is true for local body shops; George Hertzner, the owner of Awesome Auto Body in Minong, Wisconsin, told me that more than 60 percent of his business comes from deer-car crashes. Most of the rest comes from customers who drink and drive. Hertzner figures he owes his job security to just two things: deer and beer.

Despite those small-town percentages, your risk of being involved in a deer-vehicle crash is actually higher if your daily commute takes you through the suburbs of states like Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Virginia. That’s where deer populations are exploding, and that’s where the risk is—not way out in the woods where deer densities are lower.

Hertzner says it helps to keep vigilant, especially at dawn and dusk. And if you see one deer crossing the road, slow down. Deer often travel in groups. Just when you’ve seen one and avoided it, one or two more could be following it out onto the pavement. During the rut, a lone doe could be followed by a buck in hot pursuit. With their thoughts elsewhere, neither will remember to look both ways before crossing the street.

And those little plastic deer whistles so many drivers stick on their front bumpers? It turns out most of them don’t actually make the sound they’re supposed to make. Even if they did, deer couldn’t hear it. And even if they could, they wouldn’t notice or care.

Sooner or later, a deer will appear. You will have no warning, and you’ll have only milliseconds to react. For times like that, Hertzner has some familiar advice: “Don’t swerve. Hit the damn deer.” This isn’t because Hertzner hates deer, and it isn’t because he wants your business. He has plenty. It’s just that he’d rather not see you become earlier-than-expected business for your local funeral director.

If you swerve, chances are good that you’ll lose control and slam into a tree, veer into oncoming traffic, or hit the ditch and roll your vehicle. “If you have time to stop,” says Hertzner, “then stop. But don’t swerve and risk your neck over a deer—or worse yet, over a dog or a squirrel. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen.”

Hertzner has seen a lot, and he wants you to get your priorities straight: “Don’t worship your car, and don’t get too attached. It’s just a vehicle, a tool to get you from point A to point B. It’s insured. Cars are like socks. Be ready to change them once in a while.

“You’re worth more than a deer or a car. And your car can be fixed. Your neck can’t. Your car? That’s what insurance is for. So don’t swerve. Hit the damn deer.”

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Opération Nez Rouge volunteers helped more than 76,000 people across the country arrive home safely by acting as “designated drivers” during the holiday party season.

Some 52,000 people volunteered their time for the 31st year of the campaign, giving rides to people too tired or who had consumed too much alcohol to drive their cars themselves.

“For us, the goal of keeping the roads safe during the holiday season is once again reached,” said Opération Nez Rouge spokesman David Latouche.

People use the service by calling a hotline where drivers are dispatched to wherever the client is with their car.

The volunteers then drive the client’s car home with them, so they don’t have to get behind the wheel themselves.

Though the program is free, donations are accepted.

Making a difference

The service was available in 99 Canadian regions, in seven provinces.

As usual, the service was most popular in Quebec, with more than 55,000 rides.

“You make a difference in your communities. And you have to continue your work by reminding your fellow citizens to go home safely throughout the year,” Latouche said to volunteers.

This year, about $1.5 million in donations were collected.

Latouche says these funds will be donated to local youth organizations.

Nearing 2 million rides

Since the program began in 1984, Operation Nez Rouge has helped over 1,992,000 people get home safe.

Next year, organizers expect the program will reach two million rides.

“By approaching this historic milestone, Opération Nez Rouge is consolidating its position as a major player in road safety in the country, and establish itself as a fixture in raising awareness for responsible driving,” said Nez Rouge founder Jean-Marie de Koninck, in a statement.

Last year, Opération Nez Rouge gave more than 82,000 rides.

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OSLO (Reuters) – Harmful levels of road traffic noise affect one in four people in Europe and raise health risks ranging from sleepless nights to heart disease, the European Environment Agency said on Friday.

In a first EEA assessment of the impact of noise pollution in Europe, it said the din undermines the ability of children to concentrate in some schools and disrupts nature, for instance by drowning out the songs birds use to attract mates.

“Noise pollution is a major environmental health problem in Europe,” the EEA report said, adding that what it called the “European soundscape” is under threat.

The Copenhagen-based EEA, a European Union agency, said traffic was the main source of noise above legal guidelines and affected around 125 million people, a quarter of the EU population. Railways, airports and industrial sites added to the cacophony.

The EEA estimated that environmental noise caused up to 10,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. More than 900,000 cases of hypertension could be traced to noise, which it said raises risks of insomnia and heart disease.

While many people did not report problems, almost 20 million adults felt “annoyance” at noise pollution and another eight million suffered disturbed sleep, the EEA said.

The World Health Organization also says that noise is an under-estimated threat.

The EEA findings indicated that Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belgium had urban areas with the highest percentages of people exposed to high road noise levels while Malta, Iceland and Germany were the quietest.

The report called for better planning ranging from preserving quiet areas in cities to less noisy tyres on cars.

In another report in 2011, the European Commission reckoned that noise from road and rail traffic cost 40 billion euros ($49 billion) a year in terms of depressed prices for property beside noisy roads, medical bills and lower productivity at work.

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Peel Regional Police in southern Ontario have a new way to get people to realize exactly how dangerous drunk driving is. They call it the impairment suit.

The police force let reporters try it out as part of its RIDE program — best known for random roadside stops — which ultimately aims to keep drunk drivers off the road.

CBC Toronto’s Trevor Dunn put on his beer goggles (yes, those really exist) and took a drive to bring you this story.



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Graphene membranes could be used to “sieve” hydrogen gas from the atmosphere to then generate electricity, say researchers.

The Nobel Prize winners for graphene research, Andre Geim of Manchester University and colleagues, have revealed a new application for the ultra-thin, ultra-strong material that could revolutionize fuel cell technology and open new doors for generating clean energy, reports Reuters.
Graphene, which was first isolated in 2004, is the thinnest material on Earth at just one atom thick, and is 200 times stronger than steel. It is impermeable to all gases and liquids, making it extremely useful, and its discovery paved the way for everything from corrosion-proof coating to super-thin condoms.
In their latest research, Geim and his team have also shown that this super-material could potentially be used for “sieving” hydrogen gas from the atmosphere, for the purpose of generating electricity. The finding could make hydrogen fuel cells more viable than ever before, and even make it possible to collect fuel right out of the air.
“We are very excited about this result because it opens a whole new area of promising applications for graphene in clean energy harvesting and hydrogen-based technologies,” said Geim’s co-researcher on the study, Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo.
Though graphene is impermeable to even the smallest of atoms, Geim and his team found that protons, or hydrogen atoms stripped of their electrons, were nevertheless capable of passing through the material. This was especially the case when the graphene was heated and when graphene films were covered with platinum nanoparticles, which act as catalysts.
Basically, this means that graphene could potentially be used in proton-conducting membranes, which are essential components of fuel cell technology. Graphene would be a superior material for these components because it does not leak– a common problem with membranes made of other materials– which would greatly improve efficiency.
Perhaps even more remarkable, however, is that this latest breakthrough means graphene membranes could be used to extract hydrogen straight from the atmosphere. When combined with fuel cells, this technology could make it possible to make mobile electric generators powered just by the tiny amounts of hydrogen in the air.
“Essentially, you pump your fuel from the atmosphere and get electricity out of it,” Geim said. “Our (study) provides proof that this kind of device is possible.”
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