Wonder what the favorite magazine is of drivers involved in fatal crashes at railroad crossings? The answer: Outdoor Life and Field & Stream, thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration technical report DOT HS 808 196. We can only guess how the agency compiled its data.
Some say it's a little silly, but Sen. Dick Springer is serious about pushing a bill to stop drivers from using hand-held mobile phones. Under the Portland, Ore., Democrat's bill, drivers caught with one hand on the wheel and the other pressing a phone to their ear could face a $95 fine.
``It does divert people's attention from driving,'' he said. ``I intend to pursue it.''
Few would probably dispute the distraction factor. But is it unsafe?
The proposal ``kind of makes me laugh,'' said Lt. C.W. Jensen, public information officer for the Portland Police Bureau. ``Are you going to get rid of CDs? Are you going to get rid of tape players? The whole point is, as things get more complex, there are more and more distractions to the simple job of driving a car,'' he said.
Oregon has had at least one death attributed to a cellular phone. A woman died last year when her attention was diverted by her ringing phone and her car crashed into a utility pole.
The state has an estimated 150,000 mobile phones in operation, about half in cars.
Mr. Springer cited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures showing that ``inattentive driving'' caused 3,607 fatal crashes in 1992, the fourth most common factor. No figures on deaths from mobile phone use, however. Phone companies encourage use of ``hands-free'' options such as speaker phones and voice-activated dialing.
``We've managed to put a man on the moon and transplant hearts without the cell phone,'' Mr. Springer said. ``It's not the end of civilization as we know it.''
People who answer tech lines could probably curl your hair with tales of callers with bizarre questions.
During dinner at a recent technology seminar in Asheville, N.C., sponsored by Michelin Americas Small Tires, Jim Knowles, a MAST product engineer, mentioned a call he fielded to a consumer help line the tire maker operates at its Greenville, S.C., headquarters.
Some guy wanted to know if it was OK to drive indefinitely on not one but four temporary spares. He thought he could save some money that way.
And the answer is. . .
April showers birng . . .
A follow-up to that great mystery, ``Where does rubber go after being worn away from tires?'':
Mr. Knowles explained that when a tire's microfilm layer of rubber is heated as it contacts the road, it vaporizes-``that's why you don't see big piles of rubber along the roadside.''
As for the enigma-``Where do pot holes come from?''-he said that as tires ride on a wet road, the water is moved at such a high pressure that it blows the aggregate right out of the road.
Now, for that other age-old question: How many road crew members does it take to fill a pothole? Let's see, three to lean on shovels and. . .
Perfect is as perfect does
Heard on WKSU-FM, the radio station of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio: An announcer said the April 12 weather report called for ``partly cloudy, with a chance of flowers-uh, showers. The flowers will eventually follow.''
Perfect is as perfect does Yeah, ol' Forrest Gump might have said that, had he been at the recent Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. national dealer conference in Phoenix.
Rich Gibbons, vice president of Kelly brand sales, told dealers he didn't think there was anything wrong with being called a ``perfectionist.'' And that ``99.9 percent perfect'' isn't, well, good enough.
He gave several examples why:
315 entries in Webster's Dictionary would turn out to be misspelled;
18,322 pieces of mail would be mishandled in the next hour;
12 babies would be given to the wrong parents during the course of one day;
some 5.5 million cases of soft drinks produced in the next year ``will be flatter than an old tire'';
268,500 defective tires-``we can assume none of them will be Kellys''-will be shipped during the next 12 months.
Mr. Gibbons' point: ``There's always room for improvement.''