Category Archives: On the road

How to find the best backroads in Wisconsin

For some reason, we could not get a Wisconsin map at any of the tourist offices we visited while there last weekend – and we tried several. Perhaps it’s part of some budget cutback? Anyway, it forced us to rely on partial maps we found at the tourism offices – most notably a multi-county map of good roads for bicyclists.  The one we used was the West-Central Wisconsin State Bike Trails map, which includes “safe roads to ride,” “bike trails” and “Amish community.”  With it, we found a pretty series of mostly letter-named roads that went diagonally from Sparta northwest to Alma on the Mississippi. I suppose cyclists wouldn’t appreciate me sending car drivers on these roads but the fact is, they were great for both.  We took I-90 west to 108 north to Mindon, then VV (not to be confused with W, as I did) to Ettrick, then D, and T to Acadia, then 95 to E to Waumandee, then more E to 88 and my favorite named town – Cream, Wisconsin – and then E again to Alma. You do have to pay attention because these road names/numbers change pretty quickly.

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Deadliest drive times….

So here’s the bottom line on the deadliest times to drive, according to recent AAALiving mag: during a weekend pre-dawn rain shower in August….

who’dah thunk it but here’s the reasoning:

– 10 percent of all fatal crashes happen on Sat.  midnight and Sun. 6 a.m.

– four times as many fatalities happen on rainy days compared to snowy days

– deadliest driving month is august.

One more interesting tidbit: 43 percent of AAA’s roadside rescue calls were for a tow to repair shop; 21 percent to replace batteries; 15 to retrieve keys locked in car; 14 percent to add air or change tires; 3 percent pull car from side of road and snowbanks; 2 percent provide fuel for car.

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Risky driving Pt. 2

As promised here’s more info from AAALiving’s traffic expert on the riskiest times/situations to drive:

– When it’s raining right?  Not necessarily. It depends on how long since it’s last rained. The longer it hasn’t rained, the higher the crash risk.

– Why, you ask? (Or I asked myself). A few reasons. 1) rain releases oil and other slippery stuff from dry pavements (my husband knew this one.) 2) But if it hasn’t rained in a while, drivers tend to forget how dangerous slick wet roads are (vs. if it’s rained a lot, they remember all too well.) This reminds me of my terrifying experience 25 years or so ago when I got caught in a near-monsoon in Los Angeles. The drivers there, used to sunny weather, didn’t appear to have a clue about how to drive on wet roads and sharing the road with them was NOT fun.

– So is rain or snow more dangerous weather for driving? If you guessed snow – like I did – you’re wrong. The are four times as many fatalities on rainy vs. snowy days.

Still more tomorrow because admit it – this is kind of interesting….

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The riskiest time to drive?

What’s the riskiest time to be driving on the road? Not surprisingly, it’s late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, according to Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, who offers wisdom in the May/June 2011 issue of AAALiving (which was surprisingly informative this month.

Other more surprising info:

– Morning rush hour presents the higher crash risk but NOT the highest risk of the most dangerous crashes.

– The evening rush hour, alas, is more dangerous because it includes: people who don’t have to be on the road, more drunk drivers, and, perhaps, faster drivers (as people rush to get home from work.) The morning rush our is twice as safe – in terms of fatal and non-fatal crashes – as the evening rush.

STAY TUNED for more interesting tidbits…

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Finding the safest roads to drive on your next road trip

Word has it that AAA is working with eight states (including Iowa?) on a pilot program to their safest roads – so if you’re planning a road trip, you could plan accordingly even using your in-car gps to find not just the quickest but the safest route. It won’t be available for about three years but sounds like a good idea. (It would also map the unsafe roads.) Other states involved include Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, Utah, Florida, Michigan and New Jersey. More may be added.

One related-service now available, I gather, is an interactive website from the U of Minnesota’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety that enables drivers to plot fatal crashes on a map.  I found it hard to figure out but maybe you won’t. see

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Teen driver crash stats

My 17-year-old is giving me a hard time (big surprise there) about not letting her drive with a 17-year-0ld friend to Iowa City this weekend – a two-hour trip each way. And so I had to dig up statistics to help make my case (although she doesn’t want to look at them.)

In case your teen is giving you a hard time, here’s the word from the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles:

Teenage Driver Crash Statistics

The relationship between age and driving behavior has interested highway safety researchers and administrators for many years. It is generally acknowledged that the greatest risk of traffic crashes is among teenage drivers. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers across the United States.

For both men and women, drivers aged 16 to 19 years of age have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates of any other age group.

  • The crash rate for 16-year-olds is 3.7 times higher than drivers of all ages.
  • The crash rate for 16 to 19-year-olds is 2.7 times higher than drivers of all ages.
Teenage Driver Crash Risk Factors
The traffic accident rates for 16- to 19-year old drivers are higher than those for any other age group. What causes teenage drivers to be such risky drivers? The following is a list of their primary risk factors.

Poor hazard detection
The ability to detect hazards in the driving environment depends upon perceptual and information-gathering skills and involves properly identifying stimuli as potential threats. It takes time for young novice drivers to acquire this ability.

Low risk perception
Risk perception involves subjectively assessing the degree of threat posed by a hazard and one’s ability to deal with the threat. Young novice drivers tend to underestimate the crash risk in hazardous situations and overestimate their ability to avoid the threats they identify.

Risk Taking
Teenagers tend to take more risks while driving partly due to their overconfidence in their driving abilities. Young novice drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding, tailgating, running red lights, violating traffic signs and signals, making illegal turns, passing dangerously, and failure to yield to pedestrians.

Not wearing seat belts
Teenagers tend to wear safety belts less often than older drivers. Why?

Lack of skill
Novice teenage drivers have not yet completely mastered basic vehicle handling skills and safe-driving knowledge they need to drive safely.

Alcohol and drugs
Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a common cause of serious crashes, especially fatal ones, involving teenage drivers. Teenagers who drink and drive are at much greater risk of serious crashes than are older drivers with equal concentrations of alcohol in their blood.

Carrying passengers
For teenagers, the risk of being in a crash increases when they transport passengers-the fatality risk of drivers aged 16-17 years is 3.6 times higher when they are driving with passengers than when they are driving alone, and the relative risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers increases. Passengers who are age peers may distract the teen drivers and encourage them to take more risks, especially for young males riding with young male drivers.

Night driving
The per mile crash rate for teenaged drivers is 3 times higher after 9:00 pm during the day. This is because the task of driving at night is more difficult; they have less experience driving at night than during the day; they are more sleep deprived, and/or because teenage recreational driving, which often involves alcohol, is more likely to occur at night.

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Oregon coast: the downside of comfort

We are so cozy up here in our tree house near the beach in Manzanita that it’s tempting to just stay put.  The bed here is as snug as a nest — a wooden nook built into the rear wall of our room, with a low slanted wood ceiling that has a sky light and windows at eye level that look out onto the main street from top-of-the-tree level. I slept through the night for the first time during our trip.

Manzanita by night – at least last night, a Thursday in March just before the spring tourist season – was very quiet. At sunset, the few people around started migrating towards the beach and we joined the flow. Scattered up and down the beach, people stood quietly watching the fierce yellow sun sink slowly into the ocean, leaving behind bands of orange and pink. A couple of dogs leapt around near the water.

We found lots of people inside the San Dune Pub – most appeared to be locals. Good burger, local beer, fish and chips. Back to our tree house, where I tried out the whirlpool in our room and D caught up with some of his beloved basketball,sitting on a couch near the burning embers (not)  of our electric fireplace (the one goofy touch in this room.) Go Jayhawks!

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