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Always Automobile

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Always Automobile

Hot Rods and Racing Cars #70
September 1964


Invention Needed

I was coming home from a visit to the Motor Vehicle Bureau where I had just obtained my plates for the new year ahead of time. I was headed north and then I stopped at an intersection when the light turned red. My destination was home so I wanted to make a left turn when he light turned green. I saw the car in the opposing line of traffic. With his front signal light blinking which informed me he was going to make a left turn. According to the legal pattern of turning he can make his left turn at the same time I make my left turn. Don't let the similar phrase of "left turn" mislead you. Just remember he is going the other way.

But he never made that turn! And I stopped dead about an inch away from his car. Give him the benefit of the doubt and say that what happened to him has happened to many thousands of other motorists. The driver just doesn't know that his turn signal is still in operation. So perhaps the time is ripe for some kind of invention — or perhaps several of them — to take care of this situation which is just an open invitation to disaster and death.

Actually your turn signal has a double "signal" to you as the driver. There is the noise of the clicker which informs your ear that the light is blinking. And there is an informative bulb on the dashboard — generally green or red — which also blinks and informs your eye that the light is blinking. So you get both auditory and visual knowledge that it is operating.

When you complete a turn your signal should go off. But there is a catch in this. It depends upon the arc of your turn. I suggest you try the following simple experiment to convince yourself that your signal will not go off if you made a wide turn: Find a large empty driving area. This may be the parking place at the beach at off-season. Or early in the morning at the parking place in a shopping center. Make right turns at different arc lengths. Some narrow and some wide. You will then find your signal light is still working when you make your wide arc turn. If your car then snaps into a short turn to get into the other road — it will go off. But if it takes a wide curve to get into it — the signal light will still flash.

After you see that this can happen to you, you may be ready for your fertile mind to think up some inventions. Instead of the clicker you might have a small tape recorder with a pre-recorder tape which goes somewhat like this: "I am still blinking. I am still blinking." That should hit the ear better than the noise of the clicker. Instead of that small light blinking on your dashboard you might have a very bright and larger light so you can't escape the fact that your signal light is still operating.

Or, as has been suggested, you might set up a timer. So that after a given interval it will automatically turn off your signal light. But if you have to wait at a traffic light with your signal blinking — just remember that this time doesn't count in the turn interval. Or you may set up a photo-electric cell that will handle the matter for you. Maybe with all those IBM machines we can make a small version of a pre-recorded memory to take care of things. So get busy!

The Shot Rodder

A little more than ten years ago I was asked by a national slick auto magazine to present my views, strictly as an educator, about Hot Rods. In no way have I changed my views since that time. For I am convinced that hot rods do serve a legitimate purpose for the youth of this country. Many boys enjoy the combination of working with their hands and their brains. And fixing up a car so that it turns into a safe hot rod is one which poses a challenge for our youth. Needless to say when they are through they have a sound working knowledge of automotive principles. And let us face a very fundamental fact about human nature: The bored youth will look for trouble to break the monotony of every day existence. He is looking for a "thrill."

We know that there are thrills that are moral and legitimate. And there are thrills that are immoral, illegitimate, and illegal. It is because of this that the hot rod does serve a good purpose in life. Just in case you are a wee bit behind the times, let me make this clear about drag-racing. It has a great appeal for teen-agers and young men. And it is conducted under stringent supervision at about 180 sanctioned drag strips in this country. Now just what is a drag race? In it two cars leave a starting point together and go the limit — often side by side. To a predetermined finish point. The car that accelerates most rapidly wins. And speeds frequently exceed 100 miles an hour.

Unfortunately there are those who, unable to find a legal drag strip in their locality, decide to do drag racing with a friend. Either on a side road; a highway; or a wide street. The legitimate "hot rodder" calls him a "shot rodder". This "shot rodder" usually uses his own car which in no way has been altered so that it could meet the rigid specifications and inspections that take place at an authorized drag strip. He wants speed — for the thrill of it — and does not care a hoot what happens to other people. Recently in my city, three youths were shot rodding. These two cars found a service road off a main express way. The service road was narrow but empty. And so they started their racing. Unfortunately one car collided with the other and this tragedy took place.

One unusual result was that the district attorney of the county where this accident took place made a public appeal. He asked for an authorized drag-racing strip in the locality to keep youths from running dangerous unsupervised races. And a officer was recently injured trying to catch a foreign sport car that had been "hot rodding" in his neighborhood. They have also tried it in my locality. We have a very wide street that is fairly deserted late at night. Except for the cars parked on either side.

It is these "shot rodders" who give a bad name and a black eye to the legitimate hot rodder. But you may be surprised to learn that in some communities there are police — sponsored hot rod organizations dedicated to safety. I have felt that these drivers are much safer than the old "cautious" driver who hugs two lanes on the highway and does twenty five miles and hour when the limit is sixty. He may look down on the hot rodder and think he is a menace. But the fact remains he is creating the danger — not they!

Hold That Habit

We do a lot of things in life because of the factor of Habit. There is nothing mysterious about what a habit is as regards a human being. The simplest explanation is to say you repeat something over and over again in the same situation. You are accustomed to doing a thing in a certain way. In psychological terms we can say that whenever a certain stimulus appear — you get a certain reaction. Now in driving a car this can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Depending upon whether you have acquired good or bad habits. So let us start with the car belts in your car.

Do you always wear them? Or do you say to yourself, "This is such a short trip it would be ridiculous to wear my seat belt?" If you break the habit once, you can do it again. And find yourself driving on the highway without your belt. Why? Because you forgot to put it on. You changed the pattern of doing things. And on that day when you didn't have your seat belt on — your car skidded and turned over. So that gives you three months in the hospital to meditate about the importance of habit in driving a car.

You are making a right turn with your car on a street. The correct habit is to turn the corner and continue in that close lane. But you notice no other car in the vicinity — so you shoot over to your second lane. You may even do that as you turn into a high speed road. You see everything is clear. You get into the second lane instead of into the first lane. And then one day —you have created a contrary habit — and you get into the second lane — and smash into a car.

Ask a man who is a "weaver" why he cuts in and out of lanes and see if you can get a sensible answer out of him. He may try to defend himself on the ground he is "saving time". Yet he repeats an action that is definitely both illegal and dangerous. In fact he may weave and not even know it! He has formed the pattern of just cutting in and out of lanes. And ask a "tailer" why he does the same. No wonder there are a lot of sensible people who feel that the solution to a lot of our driving problems is in the use of a Compulsory Car Clinic. To analyze the bad habits of a driver and then create new good habits.

The fellow who is a "light beater" is just one who has created a bad habit. Actually he can't save very much time. Go next to one of them and you'll find you can go with him up to the next light and you stop when he stops. But — three cheers! He is away from every other car by a fraction of a second. He saves something — I don't know what it is. And when he hits the car of another "light beater" — two drivers with bad habits have left this world. It is s good policy to check up on the why and how you do things and re-examine your driving habits.

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