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Archive for the 'Safety' Category

has July 1 got your attention yet?

I’m often petitioned by various public relations people anxious to get their firms a little ink, but alas, none of them have revived the old custom of clipping a $50 bill to the press release.

So most of these entreaties go unanswered. Like weeding spam from your e-mail, I can eliminate most of these without even opening them, even though I’m a curious person.

The more clever ones try to entice the reporter with some topical reference, as in, “our company’s products will stop global warming in its tracks,” or, “as Hillary Clinton recently said…” This week I received a true winner from Jennifer Rounds, director of corporate communications for Peter R. Thom & Associates.

The topic was driver distractions, and her Orinda-based company investigates accidents for insurance companies, public defenders and parties to vehicle manufacturer liability lawsuits:

That July 1, 2008, deadline outlawing the use of handheld devices while driving is approaching.  You’ve probably even written about the pluses and minuses of various hands-free models, but is the new legislation all that there is to the story of driver distraction?  No.  Not by a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 27th, 2008
Under: driving, hands-free driving, Safety | 3 Comments »

Spare the Air, we hardly knew ye

It seems fitting that tomorrow, what will probably be the area’s last Spare the Air free transit day, is planned to be a public relations, or, if you prefer, consciousness-raising event.

Like so many others in the Bay Area, I was excited about the expanded 2006 free summer transit program aimed at reducing vehicle emissions that cause smog. In fact, “Spare the Air” became synonymous with free transit that summer to the point where I had to constantly remind people that they weren’t the same thing.

Spare the Air will Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Under: BART, Buses, driving, Environment, ferries, fuel, Funding, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »

unalienable right to drink and drive?

lohan-ad.bmpI was struggling today to think of something to blog about, but thanks to the American Beverage Institute, I’m golden, like the translucent hue of a fine German lager.

I’m so used to receiving notices of the California Highway Patrol’s latest DUI crackdown, interspersed with the odd release on the governor’s highway safety conference or Mothers Against Drunk Driving effort to curb teen drinking that I found today’s e-mail from ABI quite, shall we say, refreshing.

Reading a header that made reference to something being “good for Lindsay Lohan,” I almost sent it to spam-heaven, but then I realized it was about ignition Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2008
Under: driving, Safety, technology | 4 Comments »

violence pays off for Bay Bridge


I can’t bear to see the Golden Gate Bridge steal all the attention, what with Tibet backers unfurling banners in preparation for the Olympic Torch sputtering through town Wednesday, from the really exciting news about the Bay Bridge.

I heard today that on Friday there will be a ribbon-cutting on the West Approach in San Francisco. I already wrote about how the project would be finished seven months early. But my initial report said middle of this month, and now it looks like it’s going to be Saturday, April 12.

Like the conquest of Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2008
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Retrofitting, Safety | 2 Comments »

on and off-track


News item:

OAKLAND _ A Capitol Corridor commuter train struck a car near the Jack London Square Amtrak station Monday evening, prompting an AC Transit bus to illegally pass railroad crossing gates and become jackknifed on the tracks.

Several trains were delayed, the worst an hour and fifteen minutes on the train that hit the car, which made an illegal turn in front of the train, an Amtrak spokeswoman said.

Oakland police said the driver of the car was not seriously injured and refused medical attention. No other injuries were reported.

Trying my level best to maintain my journalistic objectivity, I tried to imagine how this incident could have been the railroad’s fault.

First, there’s the whole Embarcadero issue. Here’s a street that also serves as something like a half-mile of railroad. It’s like the mother of all railroad crossings. Each intersection is gated, but the gates could be open when you enter the street, but close while you’re still driving along it.

I was on an AC Transit bus that came up to that very same intersection where the car was thrown off the tracks. The lights started flashing, and the driver Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, Amtrak, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, rail, Safety, traffic signals, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »

that sleep of death

bayou-canot-amtrak-disaster.jpg When I heard that the sheriff’s deputy who killed two bicyclists on Sunday told people he’d fallen asleep, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being reminded of personal experiences of drowsy driving.

To start with, there’s right now. I’m jet-lagged from last week’s vacation (thus explaining the stale blog) and will probably drive home tonight.

I can think of too many instances of leaning forward, clutching the steering wheel, eyes bugging out, munching on grotesquely spiced snack foods to keep from dozing.

“Stop and get a motel room,” my wife would tell me over the mobile. “Don’t be fatally cheap.” She has special standing on this point, having lost her dad to “that sleep of death,” to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
Under: Bicycling, driving, Environment, Misc. Transportation, Safety | 6 Comments »

burning bridges at Caltrans


Normally, when Caltrans talks about safety, I’m inclined to take what they say at face value. But when they start messing with my compagni di biciclette, I have to wonder.

Thus it was this week when I heard that Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi explained to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that a bike lane across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was, in a word, impossibile.


It’s too dangerous. Cars might run into the moveable concrete barrier separating the bikes and pedestrians from traffic lanes and they might bounce back into the other traffic lane, creating worse accidents.

I can see that. As a matter of fact, this morning on my way down I-80 in Albany, I not only put my anti-lock brakes to the test when traffic suddenly went Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008
Under: Bay Bridge, Bicycling, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Environment, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | 6 Comments »

another view of rail crossing deaths


Sometimes the most interesting things you find out about something is when you’ve finished writing the story.

Today I got an e-mail from someone who had read my story on the Union Pacific Railroad installing cameras in its locomotives to record railroad  crossing and “trespasser” deaths and lesser accidents and near-misses.

If you saw the story, you might have seen the black-and-white images of a train almost plowing into a big hopper truck, then missing it by what appeared to be a couple feet.

The person who e-mailed me, whom I don’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, rail, Safety | 9 Comments »

Van Hooligans

uncool-van-hool.jpgIt was with some pride that I dissected this week’s East Bay Express cover story on the rise of Belgian-made Van Hool buses at AC Transit. I enjoyed seeing that regular Capricious Commuter commentator David Vartanoff was quoted in the story and that another regular voice on this blog, V Smoothe, had a scathing critique of the story on her own blog,

I read Bob Gammon’s story, “The Buses from Hell,” with interest, wanting to know as much as possible about these buses that get some riders and bus drivers so angry they might be provoked to throw something at these vehicles with sleek European styling. He’s won more awards for his work than I’ve submitted entries for, so I knew this would be something good.

I mean, you can’t go wrong when you start a story with, “Pamela Daniels lost her left leg to a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, Buses, Funding, Safety | 14 Comments »

the next big thing in transportation


As I sit here high above the Nimitz Freeway, members of my favorite Caltrans maintenance crew are busy patching a 1-by-1-foot hole in the highway’s bridge over High Street.

How appropriate that I just got off the phone with Steve Heminger, who had just flown in from Washington, D.C.

Heminger, who by day is executive director of the Bay Area’s very own Metropolitan Transportation Commission, was tapped in 2005 by Nancy Pelosi to serve on the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

That hole in the Nimitz is but one of many such holes in freeways around the nation, and the money to fix them — permanently — is Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2008
Under: Freeways, fuel, Funding, Safety, tolls | 22 Comments »