Count those seconds for extra measure of safety

TRAFFIC TALK

July 03, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I ASKED last week for some unwritten rules to live and drive by as we cruise Maryland's highways and byways. I received quite a few, but my favorite is Andy Weaver's "two-second rule."

"When the rear of the car in front of you passes an identifiable spot along the road, count the seconds until the front of your car passes the same spot. An interval of two seconds provides the necessary reaction time for you to stop should the car in front stop unexpectedly," he explained.

He noted that this rule works regardless of your speed.

"It is much easier than keeping so many car lengths of distance between cars," he said. "Who can tell the difference between two and three car lengths?"

If you made it the five-second rule at higher speeds (55 mph or faster), I'd love your rule.

But wait, there's more.

"A corollary rule is the `Sandwich Rule,' " Mr. Weaver said. This rule indicates that if the car in front of you is following the car in front of him too closely, you should allow another two seconds of interval between cars.

That is a very good unwritten rule to live and drive by. More unwritten rules next week.

Find, share a ride

Get the most from your morning commute and help beat high gas prices by being part of a carpool. By rotating the driving chores on your daily commutes, you can spend time kicking back and catching up on the day's headlines, or catching an extra 40 winks. It is almost like hitting the snooze button all the way to the office.

"Ride sharing is an integral part of reducing highway congestion throughout the state," said Neil J. Pedersen, State Highway administrator. "A person who travels 40 miles roundtrip to and from work spends an average of $440 a month or $5,280 annually in fuel cost and vehicle depreciation.

That's enough for a fantastic family vacation."

And if you find you have to stay late or leave early, you can still get home easily.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments guarantees a ride home in the event of an emergency or extended work hours.

Information: www.mwcog.org.

For information about sharing rides: 800-204-4828, or the Maryland Transit Administration Web site, www.mta maryland.com. All SHA park and ride lots offer free parking and many operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A number of park and ride lots in Howard County still have a lot of spaces available.

These include the lots at U.S. 29 at Route 108, U.S. 29 at Route 216 and Route 100 at Long Gate Parkway.

Gassed up

Are rising gas prices getting you down? Here are some tips for saving money at the gas pump, courtesy of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Shop with your steering wheel. Compare, and remember that prices are lower in areas with many competing outlets. Off-brand gas can often be 10 to 15 cents a gallon cheaper.

Keep tires properly inflated. Underinflated tires cut fuel economy by as much as a penny per pound of pressure below the recommended level.

Easy does it. Accelerate gently, brake gradually, and avoid hard stops. (Good advice even if you're not worried about gas prices.)

Check your tank. Do not purchase midgrade or premium gas unless it is specifically recommended in your owner manual or is needed to prevent knocking in an older vehicle. Filling up a 12-gallon tank with regular rather than premium will save between $1.50 and $2 a fill-up. Ignore oil company claims in advertising that premium is better for your car's engine.

Keep it slow. Obeying the speed limit saves gas. As you drive faster, aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance increase. As a result, at speeds above 55 mph, fuel economy decreases rapidly.

Keep it together. Combine errands into one trip or go to one location to take care of as many errands as possible.

And, I would add, trade in your gas-guzzling SUV for one of those cool, fuel-efficient Mini Coopers or hybrid vehicles.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at TrafficTalk@comcast.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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