Category Archives: blog

What’s the safest car color?

Oh boy, when I am wrong I am REALLY, REALLY wrong. Well just this once anyway. You may recall my uncomplimentary comments about vehicles of a certain color, as in these excerpts from Riders on the Road: How to Laugh More and Rage Less with The Rider Method:

Are you as alarmed as I am about the disturbing frequency with which we’re seeing those horrid bright yellow cars on the road lately? At least so far there’s none of the equally hideous green that went along with the yellows last time, I think it was during our Vega period.

Or there was the time when I made fun of the cars in this photo (I think it was something along the lines of double ugly):

Well, I’m sorry! I take it all back. Because you folks in the yellow vehicles are driving around in the safest color there is, or close to it. According to a White Paper called Car Color and Safety that I found on the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website:

Optometrists note that, for its high visibility, lime yellow should be used by fire and rescue teams, as well as favored by trucks and car buyers.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, and for more on this multi-faceted topic you can check out the full white paper (Car Color and Safety) or one of the sources cited (Color Matters), where you’ll find that this isn’t exactly a recent discovery, since the paper was written in 2004. If only Mother Rider’s crack research staff were paying attention she might have been prevented from making this little oops.

She might also have been clued in a few paragraphs ago that there are several studies out there that come to different conclusions. Silver is a popular choice, for example, which makes very little sense given its ability to blend into rainy, snowy or foggy conditions. And white or pink have been the winners in other studies. Seriously? I think I’d better stop looking.

Oh well, as tempting as it is to pretend that this changes everything and I wasn’t wrong after all, I will own up to this one anyway. Because it never hurts to have an excuse to share one more excerpt from Riders, this time to pass on some smart advice from the father of salubrious driving about learning from our mistakes, so here you go:

Dad was always a proponent of using mistakes as valuable learning experiences. Of course to reap the benefits, first we need to admit to them. This can be the trickiest part. Do the best you can.

Thanks, Dad! And thanks, AAAFTS, for all your great research on this and many other safe driving topics.

Not so Smart Car

Don’t you just love it when your friends send you those incredible email photos? Me too! Oh sure, some of them are photoshop fakes, but who cares? Here’s one from my friend Tom that’s both amazing and legit (you know I always check Snopes) …

See the mangled clump of gray metal squished between the green dump truck and the red dump truck? Yup, that’s a car. Or was a car. It’s a little tough to see, isn’t it? How about a closer look…

I know it was fun to pretend it was one of those Smart Cars, so we could say hahahaha, not so smart, huh? (and feel all smarty pants ourselves about hanging on to our trucks and SUVs) But actually it was a Ford. So once again, reality interferes with a good story. Drat!

It was a small Ford though (an Escape), if that’s any consolation. Still, the guy on Snopes was very definite that any other vehicle (short of another dump truck) would have been just as smashed. So you can go on ahead and get yourself one of those tiny cars if that’s what you want. Don’t be scared. And honestly, I’m still good with hanging on to my truck, smarty pants excuse or not.

But whatever you drive, do try to stay away from dump trucks.
And Toyotas.

Thanks, Tom!

PS In case you were worried, the driver is NOT dead. Phew!

Mother Says: when to honk at other drivers

Here it is practically February already, and still I haven’t shared the good news from from my terrific New Years visit to NYC with the family, so here we go: I am happy and astonished to report that it was oddly quiet and peaceful, for New York. Would you like to know why? Look …

Yes, signs that threaten a $350 fine for honking are posted prominently all over the city. Great idea, New York! Horns do have a purpose, but annoying everyone within earshot because another driver is annoying you is not it! To quote Mother Rider (by way of an excerpt from Riders on the Road: How to Laugh More and Rage Less with The Rider Method):

Save your horn to alert your fellow motorists to danger,
not that you’re mad. They really don’t care and it’s annoying to the others around you.

And to quote a genuine New Yorker, Irwin Arieff (in an excerpt from Congestion Honking, The New York Sun, April 11, 2008):

Horns were invented to help prevent accidents, not to give people migraines.

Mind you the law doesn’t prohibit honking ever, only in a non-emergency situation, which in my view is just right. Lord knows, who among us doesn’t need the occasional helpful reminder that we’re about to smear someone in our blind spot while making a theoretically innocent lane change? Or backing up into one of those invisible posts or short little cars or worse yet, people? By all means there are times when we need those horns and need them immediately! Which is why I hate that they’re in different spots in different vehicles, but that’s a subject for another post.

For now, let me just be clear that Mother R approves of the honking ordinance in New York, and others in cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Antonio and many more (check the article link above for the complete list). Because while she still believes that they ought to be unnecessary because we ought to be smart enough to know better anyway, she must admit that at least in New York they have made a big difference. So despite Mr. Arieff’s contention that the city can and should become even quieter with increased enforcement, she is grateful to the many New Yorkers who comply for a more pleasant visit as compared to the constant deafening noise she remembers from the last time she was there many years ago.

Thank you, New York!

And for you honkers (especially the ones who are doing it to urge the car in front of you to block the intersection) and you honkees who are intimidated by the bullies behind you into blocking the box although you know better, stop it right now, both of you! To quote once again from Riders on the Road: How to Laugh More and Rage Less with The Rider Method:

Don’t ever block the intersection. I’m sorry you’re stuck in traffic, but it’s not their fault and you’re not allowed to punish them for it.

And from Mr. Arieff, the New Yorker (quoting from Congestion Honking again):

honking creates congestion by pressuring drivers to
“block the box” – to zip into an intersection, rather than wait.

But once again, New York comes to the rescue with helpful signs everywhere that threaten a fine and points on your license for bad box blocking behavior. Like this…

Don't Block the BoxCombined with actual boxes painted on the street to define the intersection, these signs and the penalties that go along with them are supposed to reduce traffic congestion. Do they work? Sadly, no, at least so far as I was able to observe. Come on, New Yorkers, you can do better than that! And don’t think you folks who live elsewhere are exempt from Mother’s orders just because you don’t have signs and boxes painted on your streets. You know better.

Let’s recap, shall we? These are the two simple rules for today, rules we will observe every day:
  • No unnecessary honking!
  • No intersection blocking!
Isn’t it lovely to be nagged about something other than distracted driving for a change?
You’re welcome!

Distracted driving: STILL texting & chatting on the road?

I know, I know, I’ve been harping on this for quite some time now. Does mother need to tell you how to make me stop? That’s right! I will stop nagging you as soon as you do what I say, and I say that you must STOP texting or chatting on the phone as you drive. So have you stopped? Yes? Good for you!

What? Some of you haven’t?

OK, you’ve asked for it; I’m calling in the big guns. If you won’t listen to me, then maybe you’ll pay more attention when you hear it from Oprah. That’s right, Oprah herself has turned her attention to this critical issue, bless her heart. In fact, she devoted an entire show to America’s New Deadly Obsession, complete with custom t-shirts and a very catchy slogan (Don’t tempt f8, that txt can w8). But it’s more than just a show. Oprah is starting a movement, the No Phone Zone movement. Thank you so much, dear Oprah!

If you have time, mother recommends the entire episode. It is powerful, and true. Or you can select from various segments, or check out interesting related stories. And if you do nothing else, at the very least PLEASE go to the No Phone Zone to take the pledge.

But I know you’re busy, so in case you don’t have time to head over to Oprah’s place and watch a video, why don’t I just recap mother’s complete series of posts on the topic. The graphics and real life examples are vastly superior on Oprah, but you can find the basic message here…

Have I issued a commandment lately?
Why you should NEVER text while driving
Good news!
Texting is not the only thing teens should NOT do while driving
And driving is not the only thing we should NOT do while texting

Oprah and I are not kidding. This is every bit as dangerous as driving drunk. It is life and death. So just don’t do it, OK? OK! Enough said.

Well, except that mother is SO proud of all of you who are already doing the right thing. Thank you, darlings. Over and out.

And driving: not the only thing to NOT do while texting

Walking and texting together are also causing plenty of trouble out there. Yes, I know we’ve covered this topic before (Have I issued a commandment lately?) but in case you’ve forgotten this pearl of wisdom from
Riders on the Road, I’ll repeat it here:

Remember, just because your mother nags you doesn’t mean she isn’t right.

The New York Times gets it, and considers it front page news today (Forget Gum. Walking and Using a Phone is Risky). Matt Richtel describes some entertaining examples, like the poor woman who walked into a truck, a guy who walked into a telephone pole and a young lady who walked into a store window, along with alarming ER data from 2008 and fascinating studies on multitasking that examine “inattention blindness” and the conditions that cause it. It’s a very interesting article; check it out.

Or if you prefer, just do as I say because I said so. Either way, we’ll all be safer out there, and mother will be very proud. Thanks!

Texting: not the only thing teens should NOT do while driving

Horseplay is also out. Many of us may think that goes without saying, and with good reason, but a recent story from my favorite news magazine, The Week, about a tragic accident in Arizona, reminds us that it never hurts to be crystal clear on this point. In fact, I believe this rises to the level of a commandment:

There shall be NO horseplay in and around a moving vehicle.

And while we can thank a grieving Arizona teen who ran over and killed her own brother by accident (while playing chicken) for this reminder, there is no reason to limit this rule to teens. All drivers would do well to remember that screwing around with cars is dangerous and inappropriate. Always.

Listen to Sgt. Ed Wessing, the officer from Arizona, who is quoted in the story, “Driving is not the time to horseplay, whether it’s hood surfing or doing this type of thing.” Mother Rider doesn’t even know what hood surfing is, and doesn’t want to. She feels quite comfortable forbidding it sight unseen, and thanks Sgt. Wessing for the heads up.

Finally, in case you’re still hazy on the DON’T text and drive commandment, you can find extra clarity at these previous posts: Have I issued a commandment lately? and Why you should NEVER text while driving. And while we’re being perfectly clear, let me repeat: this commandment is NOT limited to teens. Nobody is allowed to text and drive. Period.

Remember to stay salubrious out there, would you please? Because you know mother worries. OK? OK!

Mother R’s belated but sincere wishes for a Salubrious 2010

Could you use an extra resolution? How about one that will make your hours on the road happier and less stressful? Say, something like this nice happy, safe and healthy driving pledge:

I swear (but not solemnly!) that I will lighten up, laugh more, drive with care and courtesy, lay off the whining and cursing, avoid rude gestures of all kinds and generally leave the other drivers alone, except for the occasional Cheery Rider Wave. I will be salubrious always, and share the way of safe and healthy driving with all my friends (and they are my friends!) on the road. And I mean it!

You can resolve quietly to yourself, or head on over to The Club page to take the pledge and join the movement. There’s a stylish official Rider Method bumper sticker in it for you! And plenty of support and encouragement from your extended Rider family and friends.

Finally, since I couldn’t say it better myself, why don’t we ring in the new year with Dad’s favorite commandment:

“Let there be peace on the road, and let the drivers thereon be salubrious, even happy, and their passengers too. And hey, why not the bike riders and the pedestrians while we’re at it. Let’s all get salubrious. Now! This means you!

And here’s a word from Mom: “Bless your little pointed heads.”

Remember, life is short; the road is long. Let’s all lighten up and have a cheery, salubrious 2010!

Happy Trails!

Mother Says: When to call 911, especially on the road…

…and other things I said I’d get back to but didn’t At least not yet. Did I say later this week? I meant later this month. Or maybe this year. I forget. And that’s the trouble, isn’t it? OK, it’s time to catch up, so here goes…

Have you been enjoying the goofy 911 call stories lately, for things like misbehavior in pets, children or fast food employees? In case you’ve missed any, here’s an LA Times piece that has a pretty extensive list: L.A. Unleashed(but it’s only fair to warn you that the video shows some other cute kitty playing with string, not the actual emergency cat). These nutty folks may be hilarious, and we’re all about a good laugh, but we also can see how victims of actual emergencies who are waiting on hold or getting busy signals might not be so amused. In fact, they could end up dead. Not funny.

Seriously, the official Vermont 9-1-1 website has instructions for what to do if you get a busy signal: You should contact your emergency service provider using their 7-digit telephone number. That is pathetic. So let’s review our 911 guidelines, shall we? Here’s the scoop from the same State of Vermont website FAQs:

When should a caller use 9-1-1?

A person should only call 9-1-1 when there is an emergency that requires immediate action to save a life, to report a fire, or to stop a crime. For non-emergencies the public should call the telephone number for police, fire and EMS in the white pages of their local phone book.

That’s pretty clear, but leaves us in a bit of a dilemma when we need help that doesn’t meet 911 standards. How many of us always have a phone book handy, especially in the car? I suppose there’s a way to get directory assistance but am not sure what it is any more, are you? Should we program our local and maybe state police non-emergency numbers into our cell phones? Couldn’t hurt. Should we join AAA (my personal favorite) or some other fine auto club, or buy a car with OnStar or Sync? Those are all good ideas. And many of us have friends and family standing by, as we are for them. So I want you to go ahead and think about alternatives for situations that can better be handled without 911, like minor accidents or breakdowns on the road. Because we absolutely do not want to distract emergency personnel from meeting more critical needs, now do we? Of course not!

That said, however, I have it on good authority that the police would rather have you call 911 for these kinds of non-emergency crises when you really don’t have a better option. They don’t want you to create an emergency where there wasn’t one, say by freezing to death at the side of the road or hitching a ride with a psycho. And by the way, I’d say that road rage definitely qualifies under saving a life.

When you call, if you do it from your cell phone, be prepared to tell the operator where you are, with specific road signs, mile markers, landmarks or an address if you know it. Cell phones do not transmit precise location information to the 911 center the way your traditional landline does at home. And VoIP is another whole kettle of fish, that doesn’t normally apply on the road so I’m going to pass on that discussion, but if you’re using a VoIP service be sure to check with your provider to make sure you’re set up properly to interact with the 911 system.

OK, let’s review:

  • Have yourself a hearty laugh over those crazy inappropriate 911 callers, and don’t be one of them.
  • Call 911 to save a life, report a fire or stop a crime.
  • If you’re calling from your cell, know and be prepared to describe where you are.
  • Use alternative methods, like the police non-emergency number, an auto service or a helpful friend or family member, for crises that are not emergencies.
  • Go ahead and call 911 when you don’t have any other safe options.

Got it? I know a complete list of possible misadventures with specific instructions would be better, but you’re going to have to use your judgment here. Mother R trusts you completely.

And yes, I know I also promised more on alternatives to sending all our gas money to the grubby folks in OPEC, but we’ve had enough for today, haven’t we? What do you say we postpone that until next week, when we’ve completed and recovered from our New Year celebrations? I am seriously considering a resolution to become more disciplined and less forgetful about blogging on the many happy, safe and healthy driving issues that remain unexplored. So stay tuned.

And Happy New Year!

Crazy in Copenhagen

They have GOT to be kidding! But apparently they are not. Get this. After rolling in our oil dough for lo these many years now, the Saudi Arabians actually have the colossal nerve to suggest, nay insist, that if we and the rest of the world should finally get our act together sufficiently to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, they should be compensated for the lost revenue. Really! Check it out: (Saudis Seek Payments for Any Drop in Oil Revenues)

Stop laughing! These people are serious.

If this were not the cheery family blog that it is, Mother R would have considerably more to say about this lunacy, but as it is, I’ll simply suggest that now might be a good time to finally get rid of that gas guzzler you haven’t quite been able to part with yet. I hear there are plenty of more fuel efficient ways to get around without sacrificing the features you need and want in a vehicle. And many of the new ones have terrific new safety innovations too. Stay tuned for my full report later in the week, but in the meantime, you can start by browsing the latest in fuel efficiency at

Compensation for the poor whiners in OPEC. Yeah, right!

Winter tires: goodbye to Driver Safety Month, but not to driver safety

Oh boy, here it is December already. Hard to believe that National Salubrious Driving Day and Driver Safety Month are both over so soon, isn’t it? Do you feel any safer? Would you like to? Well, I’m feeling safer so let me just share a few tips:

First, now that leftovers are gone, it’s time to start thinking about winter tires. We want to make it to the mall and back in one piece, don’t we? If you’re like me, you may have stopped thinking about winter tires years ago, when some smarty pants invented all weather tires. They certainly were convenient, and I think most of us fell for the notion that they were plenty good enough. I know I did. And honestly, I survived for the most part very nicely with my all weather tires through winters in upstate New York, New England, Michigan and even Colorado (although I admit to cheating by buying AWD vehicles in Colorado). So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived in the Northeast Kingdom and discovered that up here they still use winter tires. And do you know what? It works! Our wussy little front wheel drive that spent most of the winters in Colorado hiding in the garage can drive through just about anything now on its tough new winter tires. So if your all weather tires are scaring you out there on the ice and snow, check out a set of winter tires. I think you’ll like them.

I was also pretty excited to learn that winter tires with studs are still an option. When I was a young driver we always had studded snow tires that got us through the winter even on those old rear wheel drive cars. But that was before the birth of all weather tires, and we were driving on roads that were covered with a layer of snow or ice (or both) more often than not during the winter. And as it turns out, while studs were keeping us on the road, they had a tendency to wreck the pavement. So some states have banned them altogether, and most of those that allow them limit their use to the winter months. As usual, the rules vary from state to state. If you’re interested, you can check this chart compiled by the Rubber Manufacturers Association for the regulations in your state, or any state you plan to visit. But first, I have to say that although studs were terrific back in the day, they have their drawbacks now that the art of clearing snow from the roads leaves them clear and dry for a good part of the winter. And the studs that give you better traction on icy roads, don’t help at all on dry roads, and are worse when the roads are wet. So as fondly as I remember them from the good old days, I can’t say that I’d suggest you bother with studs on your winter tires today. Ah, but the winter tires themselves have my enthusiastic support. They are so worth it!

Finally, the good folks at AARP don’t declare a Driver Safety Month without a bundle of safe driving advice for backup. Check out this article: November is Driver Safety Month on the AARP website for more safe driving tips, and while you’re there, head over to the Driver Safety Program page for information on their excellent driver safety classes for adults.

Who says we can’t extend our salubrious driving habits into December and beyond?