Friday, June 13, 2008

Better car designs needed


While there have been advancements in automobile designs over the years, they remain in many ways very primitive machines. Sure, you can have an in-car theater system installed or get a GPS thingy to tell you where to turn, but the modern motorist still faces the same old problems as his or her ancestors back in the caveman days.

For instance, facing forward is good for seeing what's in front of the car and all, but there are certain situations in which it is a major hassle. Imagine that you are trying to steer your car while simultaneously screaming obscenities at a bicyclist who is following in your starboard wake. There are really no good options. The only practical way to handle this is to stick your head out of the window, turn to your right and try to yell over the top of the car with your chin hovering above the roof.

Detroit, can you help with this, please?

I discovered recently how this serious limitation in car design impacts motorists. I watched a woman endure great difficulty as she offered a lengthy critique of how I was operating my vehicle, while at the same time trying to drive her own. Some of the only bits of her lecture I was able to make out were, "get your dumb ass out of the road," and what a presume was a threat. At least I think that she was insinuating with, "I'll run your ass over."

Truth be told, I invited the chain of events that led to her impromptu, but impassioned speech. There's a squeeze point on my homeward bound commute just south of Anderson Street. Because there are almost always cars parked on the street around the intersection, my habit is to take the lane, communicating to motorists that it is not safe to pass. In almost every case motorists recognize what I'm doing and wait until I clear the row of parked cars and move right before passing me.

I guess I didn't move far enough left in the lane, because the motorist I've described above decided to pass me with just inches between her right fender and my left elbow. Displeased, I sounded my horn. This startled her front seat passenger, who — since he was not wearing a seat belt — nearly jumped into her lap. It took her a couple seconds to take stock of the situation, but once she had a read on it, her head and torso were outside the car. Luckily, she was not wearing a seat belt either, so she was able to quickly assume screaming position.

She kept it up for about a block, periodically swerving into the other lane. I pedaled along watching her grapple with her car's obvious design flaw. She'd launch a burst of profanity, then pop back into the car to check her rear view mirror for my reaction. Employing a strategy I'd read about on the Internet, each time she emerged to deliver her missives, I smiled and waved. This spurred her to on to several encores. Until she eventually turned onto a side street.

Meanwhile, the hit and run driver who injured two cyclists on Tybee Road is still at large.

2 comments:

jett said...

Great story and a great perspective.

It really would be so much safer if the motorist could manage their side of the orderly discussion without the distraction of keeping one and a half tons of steel, rubber and glass out of everyone's way.

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