Monday, March 26, 2012

Pickups Rock!

I have always owned a car. From my high school hatchback days to today's SUV, I've operated in a certain level of comfort. But it is no secret that I dream of owning a big, old beater truck someday - a vehicle I could wash with a garden hose - inside and out!

These past couple of weeks, I've tooled around in my brother-in-law's retired work truck, hauling mass quantities of mulch for my spring yardwork. It's been a slice of heaven.

I insert the key in the door and unlock this treasure. Climbing in, I'm careful not to disturb the lacy rust on the bottom of the quarter panel.

I love the metal-on-metal screech of joy, followed by the satisfying thud when pulling the driver's door closed. Sitting on the seat covered bench, I roll the window down (with a crank!), fire him up (I've decided the truck is definitely male) and turn up the radio. The radio pulls in three stations - all on the AM dial. All talk radio.

If only the truck had standard transmission. Then it would be perfect.

But before I put him into gear, I reach over, grab the strap and buckle up.

Because at 170,000 miles, this truck is barely into its adulthood. There are many sister-in-law mooch miles ahead ... unless we crash.

In that case, I want to be in the protective embrace of his safety cage rather than tossed about inside - or thrown out to fend for myself against the pavement.

Besides, I like to think that through the hug of the safety belt, the truck returns my love.

Pickups rock. They also roll.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Look Before You Book

There’s more to consider than price and convenience when buying a ticket or hiring a bus company for your group’s travel. A new SaferBus free app from the USDOT lets you check bus companies' safety records before you book a trip.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration developed the app to give consumers easy access to 24 months of safety performance data for companies they might hire. The app provides the carriers’ performance information based on unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, controlled substance/alcohol and vehicle maintenance violations. The higher the percentage in any category, the higher the potential safety risk.

Another indicator, FMCSA safety ratings are also accessible through the app. The top rating is Satisfactory. Bus companies with a Conditional rating may pose a higher safety risk, and companies with an Unsatisfactory rating should NOT be operating.

Keep your field trips, fun runs and vacations safe. Visit before booking a bus.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kindergarten Pain

A post by Kelly Martin, MoDOT Community Relations Specialist

It’s what I’ve called “the kindergarten pain” for over 13 years. You know it, that sharp, gut wrenching pain you experience at many points in your life as a parent. The first one (and I hadn’t properly termed it at the time) happened on the first day I dropped my son off at daycare. It was just his first step toward independence, making decisions on his own. Would he share, would he care? I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out.

The second time, and when I termed the phrase, was of course the day he started kindergarten. He proudly placed his backpack in his cubby and took his seat, ready to take on the world. I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out. One more step toward his independence.

The third time I remember this pain was the day he obtained his driver’s license, and I watched him pull away from the curb by himself. Although this time there was no one there to help him in my absence, no one to tie his shoe or remind him of his manners or help him to keep his place in line. I could only pray that what I had taught him by example would pay off and his safety would be the reward. I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out.

Only 67 percent of Missouri’s teens are wearing their seatbelts. This leaves a third of our most inexperienced drivers in a most vulnerable position. Combine this statistic with the distractions that our teens now have at their disposal (OMG!) and you have a recipe for disaster.

With efforts being made through every avenue available, I can only ask myself as a safety advocate and parent, “Why aren’t they getting the message?” Does this message start at home, in school, by law enforcement, or at their first serious injury or fatality crash? Let’s pray it’s started at home, that lives are saved and the kindergarten pain will continue for generations to come.

I again experienced the kindergarten pain at his high school graduation, and am hoping the next ones will be at his college graduation, marriage, and birth of my first grandchild (hopefully in that order). Regardless, I’m sure I will wave goodbye, walk to the car and bawl my eyes out. Like I did when he drove his girlfriend to prom.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death of people age 15-20. Somewhere today there is a parent experiencing the kindergarten pain as they leave a cemetery after burying their teen from an unbelted fatal car crash. They will wave goodbye, walk to their car and bawl their eyes out.

Parents, love your children. Children, love your parents. Seat belts are your best defense in any automobile accident. Buckle Up and ARRIVE ALIVE.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bridge Building Ballet

Imagine trying to build an overpass above one of central Missouri's busiest highways. You'd have to lift long, heavy steel beams across two lanes of highway and affix them to supports while imposing the least possible impact to traffic.

It takes a lot of choreography among people who can move quickly and easily amid seeming chaos. It's a lot like a large-ensemble ballet. And the professionals who set the first four beams for the U.S. 63/Route H overpass in Boone County are virtuoso.

In dance, timing is everything. In this case, everything was timed. The crews' arrival, the delivery of individual beams, the traffic interruptions. Everything had to happen in the correct order.

The beams arrived individually and each was connected to a crane

which hoisted them into place as a captive audience of travelers watched a few minutes of the performance.

Once the beams were aligned safely on the piers, traffic began to move below as carpenters and welders affixed the steel.

Meanwhile, another beam arrived on-site and the dance repeated until all were in place.

Soon, the completed overpass will be just another piece of the local landscape, but several groups of travelers will be able to say they saw this vital movement in the creation of a bridge. Thanks again, U.S. 63 motorists, for your patience!