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Always Automobiles

Always Automobiles

Teenage Hotrodders #4
October 1963

False Economy

Every time that my mechanic changes the oil in my car and greases it, he also checks my battery and the conditions of my four tires.

"One cell in your battery is about gone," he told me.

"How long will it last?" I asked.

"First cold spell and you might be unable to start your car," was his answer.

"So put in a new battery," was my reply. "I can't afford to get stuck, and I don't believe in false economy."

This is a policy to which I have always consistently adhered and I think it is a sensible one. Take the matter of tires. You will find people who keep on driving until the thread is almost worn out. Then comes the blow-out and anything can happen. If you happen to be on a modern super highway going about 65 miles an hour and your tires blow you'll lose control of that car. Hit another car and that could be a fatal smashup. Or you might go over the side of the road and turn over.

On the other hand you might not be going too fast and you feel the blow-out and you stop the car. Then the "fun" begins. Just where to stop? I use a stretch of highway 10 miles in length that actually has no emergency sides to it on which you can drive your car. Which means if you got the blow-out there then you would just have to stop on the road. If you have a friend or two with you, then one better get out and signal the cars coming up in the back of you that you are stuck.

Then what? You open up the rear of your car for your jack and you want to change that tire. But what about your spare? It might even be as worn as that poor lamented tire. In fact you can have the unpleasant experience of changing that tire and then starting on your journey to more trouble. Suddenly you notice a motorist signalling to you. So you slow down and he yells to you at the top of his voice.

"You are going flat on that left rear tire of yours!"

And why not? It has a slow leak in it. Now you are really stuck. So you wait until a police car comes and you explain the situation to him. You need help with another tire. Or just one tire? How about the spare? So the officer sends in a radio call for help to an emergency truck. Tells them your needs.

Half an hour later the truck arrives. What do you want? Two new tires? or two "good" used tires. So you pay the bill with all the spare cash you and your friends have on you. Of course it makes you mad, and sort of ruins the day of pleasure you had so carefully planned. Now let's get back to my mechanic.

"You better think of changing that right front tire of yours," he told me.

When? The next day I had a new tire on that car. What kind of an infantile game is it to play with your lives or safety just to see "how long the tire will last"? As a matter of fact my state is at present considering a "Tire Inspection Bill." Statistics show that a lot of accidents and trouble and tie-ups are caused by trying to stretch the lives of tires beyond the safety point. So this bill proposes check-stations and spot checks on tire conditions. If your tires are unsafe-off the road you go. Whether or not the final version of the proposed bill will have a penalty clause I do not as yet know, but definitely it is a sound step to reducing accidents. There is an old saying that often you have to protect a motorist not only from others but also from himself. We humans can do a lot of foolish and stupid things and that includes also driving a car.

Let me point out that tires have to operate under a variety of conditions. During the wintry snow months I am on ski patrol. My wife goes with me and those tires on our car take a lot of hard punishment. We use snow tires on our back wheels and find that they have helped us get out of some tight situations. In the summer off they come-into storage-and back go the other two regular tires.

* *


There are people who take the attitude that driving a car is one of our American basic rights. "They should be put in the Constitution and protect you," was the way one of my friends expressed it the other day. We had been talking about the view put forth by some experts that drivers should take periodic check-ups or re-examinations at the Auto License Bureau. If a specific condition is found that would interfere with safe driving two things are then to follow. Should the condition be one that can be remedied, then the driving license would be suspended until that condition is cleared up as shown by the medical report submitted by the person and also by another re-examination by the experts of the Auto License Bureau. However if the condition cannot be cleared up then the license is permanently suspended or in other words "revoked."

If you had the chance or opportunity to look carefully at other drivers then I am certain you will find exactly the same observations I have noted. There are those with such poor vision that you think they must always be blind. You see that face stuck up almost against the windshield. Or you notice that the driver almost smashed into the car at the side.

"He must be blind," screams your wife.

Who known? He may be half blind at that but just wants to continue driving even though he is really Death behind the wheel of his car. The one that scares me a lot is the alcoholic who thinks he is either flying above the ground or playing a game of tag with another car. Now I am well aware that a lot of people drink who drive. And that we have a variety of studies showing the effect that alcohol has on the faculties of the driver. But for the subject of Re-examination I limit it at present to the habitual alcoholic. He is sick in a way and should be kept off the road.

Now we come to those people who have certain diseases or conditions which at any unexpected time can cause them to become unconscious. With such a person driving a car you must face the reality that it can happen while behind the wheel. It is possible that such a person might have sufficient time to drive off the side of the road and stop the car. On the other hand it might just take one second and that person slumps over the wheel-not unconscious but dead, the car goes on its crazy path of destruction. Side swiping two other cars that are trying to get out of its way. And finally going into the opposite lane of traffic. Smashing into another car and killing all of the occupants.

Now what are you going to do with these people? Let them continue driving with the known risk of the accident that can take place?

"My husband must drive because it is his living," insisted one wife.

"Other people have a right to continue to live," I snapped back.

Let me add that after the second attack the husband quit driving for a living and was given another though lower paying position by his company.

Now we come to one of the toughest categories of all of the people who would be re-examined. I call them "Psychological unfits." In the hands of these people, a car is a weapon of destruction and death. There are some of those Teen-Agers who like to play "games" with other drivers. Seeing how close to the back of the car they can get. Or driving up ahead and cutting in front of the car without a signal or even at a safe distance. Or trying to force them off the road. We will say that a patrol car had caught such a driver and he is fined or even imprisoned. How do you check up on the condition of his mind to see if he has improved or learned a lesson?

Then you have the emotional driver who feels he must be "first" with his car. The first one to get away just ahead of the change of traffic light. The first one to get into that other lane, the first one in a driving race that his mind has created. "Nobody is going to beat him in his car." He is a potential dealer of destruction on the highway with his car. Definitely he is psychologically unfit to drive.

There is one type we have all met in this category. He or she is known as the "Worrier." That person takes the worries with him behind the wheel. How can such a person safely concentrate on driving safely when constant worries are foremost in the mind? Like, "I must have that report ready by Tuesday,"; "I can never fill that quota as the boss wants me to do,"; "I wish my mother-in-law would go home,"; or "I know I will be sick over the weekend."

I think it is almost inevitable when we consider the traffic accident and death rate on our highways that some policies of re-examination of drivers at stated periods must take place.

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