Since summer is the time of the vacation rush, this seems to be a good time to discuss the effect poor driver behavior has on tire performance. More often than not, a vacation means a long journey under hot sunshine with a car filled to overflowing-and the possibility of the tires being underinflated for the load being carried.
Tire mileage, comfort and road-holding have reached levels well above the dynamic requirements of the average vehicle. So much so, it seems as though every problem has been solved.
Unfortunately, that is not quite true because along with the technical perfection of the modern radial and its performance in service, a third element must be considered, one whose inconsistency has been proven over and over again-the human element.
The human factor is said to cause 85 percent of highway accidents, whereas tires account for only about 4 percent. More attention should therefore be paid to driver behavior if maximum performance is to be achieved.
When you drive your car these days, do you get the feeling that there are people out there who are trying to kill you?
So do I.
It's not because highway etiquette is almost non-existent-that's an old story. It's because of the increase in brazen vehicular law-breaking by people in a hurry or people who don't bother to obey the law because they know the chances of getting caught are remote. Without batting an eye, they place our lives in danger every day.
Few among us think of our-selves as lousy drivers. But despite the best of intentions, many drivers gradually forget some basic rules of the road or get into the habit of ignoring them.
Rushing to get where they are going, many people who think of themselves as good drivers will habitually speed, tailgate, change lanes without signaling, coast slowly through stop signs or engage in discourteous and even dangerous behavior.
I used to think it was because I'm getting older and more careful that I've become more aware of the increase in hostile, illegal behavior. Or maybe it's because I've gotten more touchy about it since a grandson, who recently began to drive, was in an accident. The other vehicle ran a stop sign.
This increasing ``butt-head'' behavior is not something I'm imagining. A number of writers and speakers have commented on the problem, and drivers all over the country have noticed it.
Signaling for turns or lane changes is becoming a lost practice. More and more drivers change lanes at will on our highways, doing their own thing as though they were the only vehicles on the road-often without signaling.
And then there's the speeding. Have you tried driving on any highway without exceeding the legal speed limit? You'll feel like a rock in a rampaging river.
In many instances, it's safer to exceed the speed limit and go with the flow of traffic. Many motorists have the attitude toward speed limits that if they can drive 100 mph without endangering themselves or other people, then there should be no law against it.
I'd like to briefly mention the national 55-mph speed limit. It's unrealistic for most highways, especially those designed for much higher speeds where, as many of us prove each day, 65 mph can be maintained quite safely.
As this column is being written, it looks like an increase in speed limits will be initiated on many highways in the near future. Maybe a more realistic speed limit would be easier to enforce.
Traffic congestion is another reason for the increased disregard for the law. With more and more vehicles jamming our highways, it's getting worse almost everywhere. The frustration it causes is compounded by road construction that seems to be going on everywhere at once.
Who among us hasn't seethed while observing the orange cones blocking off lanes for long distances with no sign of any work being done? If workers are present, they're often just standing around.
If you have to drive in that purgatory known as the rush-hour commute, you have something else to worry about. Bumper-to-bumper traffic delays put all sorts of semi-private activities on display: shaving or putting on makeup; talking into a cellular phone; using a lap top computer; reading a newspaper; changing a shirt; having a meal or drinking coffee.
I've seen them all, and what this says about today's driving habits only the scientists and Miss Manners know for sure. More and more, it seems that those activities once left at home or the workplace are now filling the time between here and there.
Tailgating increases as conges-tion increases. People tailgate because they are in a hurry. Even though many drivers occasionally find themselves in a rush, for many other drivers that seems to be a perpetual state. Drivers get mad at others simply for being on the road. They are all in the way.
A recent study by the American Automobile Association of 2,000 motorists showed that two out of three drivers on metropolitan-area highways follow too close to the car ahead of them, and 15 percent just plain tailgate.
Tom Culpepper, AAA's director of traffic safety engineering, thinks more people are breaking more traffic laws because enforcement is lax. On the other hand, some traffic laws are broken because they're just plain dumb.
For example, in a nearby residential area, stop signs are used improperly to slow traffic at every intersection on a through street, even though some are less than 50 feet apart. The intent was to slow university student traffic. The result is that cars routinely coast through the stop signs, since there is practically no enforcement. This leads to drivers ignoring other traffic control devices with an increase in crashes.
And while I'm discussing ``dumb,'' let's not forget another reason it's so frustrating to get from here to there: the left-lane and other incompetent road hogs who dawdle along in a perpetual fog and make bad conditions worse.
Maybe driver education should place greater emphasis on defensive driving techniques instead of stressing parallel parking, which is used so rarely these days.
Technology is even playing a role. Surveys have shown that most drivers whose cars have anti-lock brakes think the brakes will stop them faster. Not so. Anti-lock brakes do prevent skidding on wet or slick roads, but they don't decrease stopping distance.
Most drivers don't understand this and cut down on their lead time to the next car. You should leave at least two seconds between you and the next car.
With more than 3 million collisions each year, it's war out there. Most accidents occur on crowded, urban freeways where congestion, speed and tension run high.
If we look at driving as a social activity, we are more apt to realize the rules of the road are really rules of etiquette. A solution to the problem rests on attitude.
People have lost the tendency to drive courteously and instead have become very selfish on the road. Maybe it's time the authorities cracked down.