By Chuck Mai, AAA
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the most effective and easiest way to save gasoline is just to not drive. Like to and from work. But if mass transit or carpooling aren’t options, you might want to investigate working from home.
If more and more of us telecommute, rush hours could someday be as old-fashioned as carbon paper.
But does productivity suffer when a company lets employees telecommute?
A project undertaken by Pennsylvania State University a few years ago looked at 46 studies on telecommuting and came up with some surprising results. In short, telecommuting works. Specifically, PSU reports that:
• Employees have a greater sense of control over their work environment when telecommuting.
• Telecommuting is good for the family, reducing conflicts between work and family; but if the employee works from home three or more day per week, that tends to have a detrimental effect on workplace relationships.
• Mid-level and top management needs to buy-in to the idea and make adjustments to accommodate telecommuting.
• Managers’ ratings of the efficiency of telecommuting employees rose, based on this study, meaning productivity was enhanced.
• Employees were happier when allowed to work from home.
The PSU study also found that telecommuting employees are less likely to quit.
And it’s likely there are fewer distractions at home than in an office.
There are downsides, such as the need possibly for additional equipment, such a secured laptop and additional phone or fax lines. And employees who telecommute need to possess high levels of self-discipline and be self-motivated.
Plus, you’ll have fewer schmoozing opportunities – chances to engage in hallway or office conversations with superiors that some may feel essential to ultimately obtaining a promotion. Then again, you may be spared office politics and episodes of office drama.
I drive 25 minutes each way to and from work and while it’s not a bad drive, I could just as easily do what I do at home rather than in an office. Plus, on my lunch hour, I could get some work done out in the yard.
Now, I just need to sell my wife on the idea.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
In Oklahoma, the number of motorcyclist deaths has increased each year from 65 in 2006 to 106 in 2009. Oklahoma, however, is bucking the national trend which according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, shows motorcyclist fatalities nationwide decreasing from more than 5,000 in 2007 and 2008 to 4,462 in 2009.
State data shows:
–Of the total of 71,218 traffic crashes reported in 2009 in Oklahoma, 1,406 (2%) were motorcycle-related and involved 1601 individuals that were either drivers (90%) or passengers (10%) on a motorcycle.
–Though only 2% of crashes were motorcycle related, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of persons identified as having an inpatient hospitalization and 14% of persons who died.
–420 motorcyclists were hospitalized or died as a result of the crash as compared to 1.7% hospitalized and 0.4% died among persons in a car or pick-up truck crash.
–There were 649 (46% of the total) single vehicle crashes, 700 (50%) involving multiple vehicles and 57 (4%) involving animals or pedestrians.
–Hospitalization or death is more frequent among motorcyclists not wearing a helmet.
–Based on Oklahoma data for 2009, typical hospital charges are more than $13,000 higher for unhelmeted motorcyclists than for those wearing a helmet.
–Injuries to the head/face/neck are twice as frequent among unhelmeted motorcyclists than those wearing a helmet.
That’s the problem. So, what’s the solution?
First of all, motorists need to pay special attention while driving and watch out for motorcycles. Sometimes they’re hard to see – so always look once and then look again before turning or pulling out onto a roadway.
And there are some things motorcyclists can do:
–Don’t ride if impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.
–Wear a proper fitting DOT-approved helmet; you may want to consider helmets that are also Snell certified.
–Wear clothing or specialized gear that provides protection against road rash and impact injuries to other parts of the body.
–Be extra cautious if riding at night or on narrow rural roads, especially if you are unfamiliar with the road.
This information comes from the Oklahoma Traffic Data Linkage Project, a joint effort of the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Their good work is very much appreciated.
As a columnist who writes about traffic issues, I often get emails, phone calls, or letters from someone criticizing Oklahoma drivers — primarily those in Oklahoma City.
The most common complaint is that our drivers don’t have any regard for safety. They don’t obey the law, they run red lights, they drive too fast, they don’t yield, they never use turn signals and they are just plain rude.
The result of these actions? Oklahomans, again pointing at mostly Oklahoma Citians, are more likely to have an accident.
It’s interesting that many of those complaining moved here from another state, where drivers were more courteous and more careful, the complaining parties say.
There are times, I would have to agree with some of what I read or hear. I’ve seen examples of most everything they gripe about. And now, there’s even more ammunition for them.
My longtime colleague Don Mecoy wrote a story for The Oklahoman today that says, “The average Oklahoma City driver will be involved in an auto collision every 10 years, which ranks the metro behind 79 other U.S. cities in Allstate Insurance Co.’s annual ‘Best Drivers Report.’ ”
In his story, Don notes that Allstate, using claims data for the basis of its report, says Oklahoma City “ranks as one of the least safe driving cities.”
There’s a lot of good information in Don’s story — good from the point of things that can help us do better; bad if you’re keeping score on which cities need the most work.
So I encourage you to read it and take it to heart. We can all benefit if we do better. It might even cut down on the complaining.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
You gotta envy those motorcyclists tooling down the highway – wind in their hair, the open road unfolding in front of them, a quick and powerful engine between their legs – ah, that’s the life. Well, on second thought, scratch that part about the wind in the hair. I’m too fond of living to go without a helmet. It’s not a law in Oklahoma that you have to wear a helmet, except for those under age 18, but it makes sense.
Seventy-two motorcyclists lost their lives in crashes in Oklahoma during the first nine months of 2011 – up from 62 during that same time in 2010. Thirty-five percent of those 72 had been drinking.
Motorcycle helmet opponents will tell you helmets limit riders’ vision and hearing but the simple fact is that helmets saved the lives of 1,550 motorcyclists across the U.S. in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 706 lives could have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 37-percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
According to NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey, a nationally representative observational survey of motorcycle helmet, seat belt, and child safety seat use, use of DOT-compliant helmets in 2010 stood at 54 percent, a decrease from 67 percent in 2009. That’s not a good trend.
Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico require helmet use by all motorcyclists, while 28 states only require helmet use by a subset of motorcyclists (typically motorcyclists under age 18, like Oklahoma) and 3 states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) do not require helmet use by motorcyclists of any age. If you’re about to travel out of Oklahoma, you should know that among nearby states, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Louisiana all have helmets laws for riders of all ages.
Here’s one more set of stats: Sixty-six percent of motorcyclists killed in 2010 were not wearing helmets in states without all-age helmet laws, as compared to ten percent in states with such laws.
Feel like rolling the dice? Go helmet-less. The odds aren’t with you but maybe you’ll get lucky.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
The stop-start system, that shuts off the engine when your car is stopped in traffic, is now making its way to the U.S. from overseas where such systems are already in common use. Other names for this technology include idle elimination, idle-stop-go, and micro-hybrid. Lux Research predicts that more than eight million vehicles in North America will be equipped with engine stop-start systems by 2017. What does this mean for American motorists?
Early versions of stop-start technology, which shuts down the vehicle’s engine when you’re stopped in traffic such as at a red light, date back to the 1980s. Today, more than 40 percent of the new cars sold in Europe and Japan use this gas-saving technology. Engine stop-start isn’t brand new, but the latest systems benefit from significant advances made in the last few years. This technology is only going to gain momentum as vehicle manufactures work to meet the more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set for 2016.
What’s the big deal about stop-start? The system can improve fuel economy by up to 12 percent and contribute to a reduction in vehicle exhaust emissions.
How does it work? With an automatic transmission, engine shutdown occurs when the vehicle is stopped for several seconds with the brake pedal applied. With a manual transmission, shutdown takes place with the transmission in neutral and the clutch released. As soon as the brake pedal is released, or the clutch pedal is depressed, the engine restarts automatically.
How much does it cost? On some models, the stop-start system is standard equipment and its cost is included in the vehicle price. Where stop-start is offered as option it generally costs around $300.
How much can it save? If gasoline costs $3.40 per gallon, the owner of a car that normally gets 20 mpg and is driven 12,000 miles per year would save an estimated $152 per year in fuel costs if the vehicle were equipped with an engine stop-start system. In this case, the system would pay for itself in less than two years and offer ongoing savings thereafter.
Are there any downsides to stop-start? A major challenge in developing stop-start systems has been engineering the systems to meet consumer expectations. The engine stop-start transitions must be smooth and seamless, and drivers new to the technology will need to learn that engine shutdown at idle is a normal thing and not a sign of a problem. In some vehicles, heating and air conditioning performance could suffer if the engine remains shut down for an extended time. Finally, the larger and more powerful batteries that are required for stop-start systems will be more expensive to replace when the time comes.
What American market vehicles offer stop-start today? All hybrid cars have stop-start capability, although they use a different technology than the systems on conventional powertrains. The first non-hybrid stop-start systems in the U.S. market are on 2012 highline vehicles from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. For the 2013 model year, Jaguar will join that select group, but stop-start systems will also become available on popularly priced models from Ford, Kia, and possibly others. Even trucks will start to see some systems with Dodge adding stop-start to its V6-powered Ram 1500 pickup for a one mile per gallon fuel economy improvement.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Do you know the best practices for traveling with children in your car? This quiz will test your knowledge.
1. Children should begin using adult seat belts in cars:
a. When they stop feeding with a bottle
b. When they can walk
c. By first grade
d. When they’re at least 4’9” tall, so seat belts can fit properly
2. The leading cause of death among U.S. children under 14 is:
a. Chicken pox
d. Car crashes
3. The safest place to position a rear-facing child safety seat is:
a. In the front passenger seat, so the driver can attend to the baby
b. In the back passenger-side seat, so the driver can reach the baby, if necessary
c. Directly behind the driver, so the child doesn’t distract him or her
d. In the back middle seat, which is the safest spot in the car
4. What percentage of child safety seats are NOT installed correctly?
5. The first child safety seat came out in 1962. What year did Tennessee become the first state to enact regulations regarding child safety seat use?
6. TRUE or FALSE: Children do not need to use booster seats if they’re riding to school in car pools.
How did you do? For questions 1-5, if you got “D” for each answer, you’re on the road to keeping all the kids in your car safe. For question 6, the answer is FALSE. Whether they’re in carpools or not, children must meet Oklahoma’s restraint requirements, which state:
• All children under age 6 must be properly restrained in a child passenger seat;
• All children age 6 through age 12 must be properly restrained in either a child passenger seat or the vehicle’s seat belt system;
• Plus, although it is not yet a state law in Oklahoma, AAA recommends children age 4 up to 4’ 9” tall ride in booster seats and not be restrained by the car’s seat belts. Your car’s seat belts are designed for adults and can actually do more harm than good to a child in the event of a crash.
Place children from birth to 2 years of age in rear-facing child car seats. For children 2-to 4-years-old, use front-facing child seats. Check the height and weight limits on child safety and booster seats before moving your child to the next level. Safety experts recommend all children under 13 sit in the back seat and away from airbags. Learn more at www.aaafoundation.org.
In addition to the above, Oklahoma law also states that seat belts are required for the driver and all front seat passengers age 13 and older. Enforcement of this law is primary, which means officers can stop violators for just that one offense alone.
Excellent news for motorists that should make their morning commutes a whole lot easier. Efforts to reduce congestion and improve the Interstate 235 and I-44 interchange will take a big step forward early Friday as the project to reconstruct the southbound I-235 ramp to westbound I-44 opens to traffic prior to morning rush hour.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials said the new NW 63 ramps to I-235 and I-44 “will remain closed until early August in order to tie it into the new roadway.”
The ODOT project was the next phase in the overall Broadway Extension U.S. 77/I-235 and I-44 corridor reconstruction and the first major project on the I-235 and I-44 interchange itself.
Motorists need to be aware of changes to traffic patterns after the I-235 and I-44 ramp opening, however.
The entrance to the new southbound I-235 ramp to westbound I-44 begins further north than the previous ramp. The newly redesigned interchange features a longer ramp which will allow for safer, more efficient travel between the two interstates.
I call it “being curious.” Some call it “being snoopy.” But I’ve always been interested in what’s on everyone’s mind. After all, that’s what people in my business are supposed to do: find out what people want to know about and give them as much information as you possibly can.
Sometimes, it’s easy. You can start with weather. Especially in Oklahoma, the weather plays a big part in most everything, from business to pleasure, from life to death. Weather is a factor.
You always can talk politics. This is an election year and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape hearing or seeing someone voice an opinion on who is and who is not doing the right thing, who will or who will not win in the November general election, who ought to stay, who ought to go.
One of the most significant freedoms we have it the right to state our opinion, and the right to agree or disagree, whether you do or don’t want to hear it.
Now that the Thunder’s season has ended, there’s a break. Right? To a degree. There are still the Thunder players participating in the Olympics, which, by the way, is another topic that will be even bigger soon.
We’re just a few weeks away from the start of the new football season. The predictions and expectations already are there.
Money always is an important topic, from how to make it to how to spend it, or how to save it. Add to that the cost of anything, which always seems to being heading upward. Who has money, who needs money and how to help those who don’t have enough to adequately survive also get attention.
Vehicles have been popular topics since the first ones were invented. You can expect that to continue until we don’t use them anymore.
Health matters — yours or those of someone else, how to avoid them and how to treat them — are important and often discussed.
Items relating to the military, particularly in a state like Oklahoma where it has such a presence, affect many people.
You also will read, see, or hear about such topics as children, pets, religion, travel, recreation and cultural events.
Plenty, huh? And there are many more.
Each of the topics mentioned above is in at least one of our “know it” topics. It may be a story, it could be a photo, or it might be in a topic’s resource material. Then again, it might be in more than one, sometimes several.
That’s why they are there: To give you information. And you can contribute as well by sending news releases, notes of praise, or other tidbits to the online communities.
Visit HTTP://KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/ and look them over.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Motorists: time to get it together…the outrageous heat of summer is here! Time to prepare your vehicles for days and days of soaring temperatures. (Remember last year in Oklahoma?) Without preventive maintenance, summer’s heat increases the likelihood of vehicle failure, leaving you and your passengers unexpectedly, and dangerously, stranded on the side of the road.
Here are my best summer vehicle maintenance tips:
Before hitting the road:
• Make sure your vehicle is in top operating condition before leaving home.
• Most drivers think battery problems occur primarily in winter, but summer heat can negatively impact your car’s battery even more than the bitter cold of winter. Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. Rule of thumb: if your vehicle’s battery is more than two years old, have it checked.
• Check all fluids including the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze/coolant and water. If the engine is cool, check the level in the radiator as well. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot, you can be seriously scalded.
• Have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is typically necessary every two to five years.
• Inspect your filters, belts and hoses.
• Keep tires at normal pressure. Soft tires generate heat, which can lead to a blowout. Inflate them to the pressure indicated on the sticker inside your glove compartment or on the door jamb. Do not go by the pressure molded into the sidewall of the tire – that is a maximum pressure. And don’t forget the spare.
• Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur, so carry a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, duct tape and a first aid kit.
Once on the road:
• Keep an eye on your gas, oil and engine temperature gauges.
• Should you overheat, pull off the road, shut the engine off immediately and allow the vehicle to cool.
• Make sure you keep a supply of replacement fluids in your vehicle to top off levels that may drop from the extreme use of your engine. Most important is having coolant and engine oil on hand, because those are the ones you are likely to run low on in the middle of nowhere, 100 miles from the nearest service station.
• If your vehicle does break down, stay with it and wait for help to arrive. This is a great time to have a cell phone with you along with a power cable you can plug into the car’s electrical system.
One of the most popular ways to commute for Norman residents is to drive on Interstate 35 to Oklahoma City and Edmond.
Having commuted from the northern part of Norman to The Oklahoman office at Britton Road and Broadway Extension three times a week for nearly the last month, I found this route to take an hour each way. This includes constant trains crossing Robinson Street in the morning, construction and rush hour traffic along I-35.
Recently, I found a quicker route by taking 12th Avenue NE until it becomes Sooner Road on E I-240 or E I-40, depending on the day. You’re not stuck for what seems like an endless amount of time due to people gawking at accidents on the side of the road or the craziness of rush hour traffic.
I managed to shave a good 20 minutes off my commute each way. Other than filling the gas tank $100 every week, the commute has become slightly more bearable.
Norman resident Jamie Powers emailed her daily commuting routine. Powers said she takes public transportation every day to work because it’s more affordable and to save time.
“I get a public transportation subsidy through work, which pays for my monthly bus passes, which cost $50 per month,” Powers said. “The route I ride, the Sooner Express, costs $2.25 each way, if you don’t have a pass.
“Parking at the Homeland bus stop at 24 NW Ave and W Robinson in Norman is free. The only real problem with the bus is I’m stuck with the 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. schedule, when sometimes I’d prefer to come in earlier so I can leave earlier.”
I’m curious to find what other Oklahoma City metro residents have to say about their daily commuting routine. Email to email@example.com, or share your daily experiences on this blog.
You can also read more about traveling Oklahoma streets and highways in Don Gammill’s Traffic Talk column each Monday in The Oklahoman and every day on NewsOK.com