My promise to be a better driver

Driver PledgeFirst of all let me say – I’m a good driver (yeah, we all think that.) I’m alert. I drive the speed limit (which sometimes drives my wife crazy.) I’ve only gotten 2 tickets in my life and the last one was over 7 years ago (it’s amazing what having kids does to you.)
I started riding a motorcycle this year and it has been a real eye opener to how many bad drivers there are out there. I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you.
On a motorcycle, you don’t have a big metal frame to protect you in case of an accident. In an accident you always lose. As a result, I’m much more alert and aware of what other drivers are doing. I try to be ready for worst case scenarios as I’m driving and give myself plenty of space between me and other vehicles.

As I’m paying closer attention to driver behavior, I have found that about 85% of the time someone was driving like an idiot poorly, they were distracted by talking on their mobile phone. I have decided to reduce my cell phone usage while driving even further. I already don’t use my phone much when I’m driving so it won’t be too big of a stretch. An officer in traffic school (over 10 years ago) reminded me that when you’re driving a car your primary responsibility is driving, everything else is secondary. Pull over if you need to yell at your child pick up that toy for your child. Don’t think you can turn around and do it while you’re driving because you’re a good driver.

Drunk drivers have always angered me. I’d think to myself, “How can they think it’s a good idea to get behind the wheel while they’re drunk?” But I’ve come to better understand one of their justifications. It goes something like this, “I’m such a good driver that I can handle it.” The same justification goes for those who talk on cell phones while driving. Many studies have shown that talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as drunk driving (here’s one.) By the way, 80% of drivers think they’re above average – hmmm, you do the math on that.

Here is my pledge to drive with fewer distractions:

  1. I will not talk on my phone while driving unless I’m doing it hands-free and even then I’ll use discretion.
  2. I will never compose or send text messages while driving.
  3. I will not even look at my phone unless the driving situation is low risk (i.e. no nearby cars, not residential area, not approaching intersections, …)

Obviously, I will take exception to these rules in case of an emergency. Me running late for an appointment is not an emergency.

What this means to me:

  • I’m going to be a safer driver on the road.
  • I might be yelling/gesturing/honking at you if you’re driving like an idiot and have a phone up to your ear.
  • My chances of making it home alive have increased dramatically.

What this means to you:

  • If you call me and I’m driving, I may not answer. Leave a message or send me a text message, it’s nothing personal.
  • One more driver out there is more aware of what’s going on and less likey to be in an accident with you.
  • I challenge you to do the same and remove or reduce any distractions you have while driving.

Thanks for letting me rant a little and I hope you take a moment to think about how you can be a safer driver.

“Hey, do you wanna sell your bike?”

Late last night, I was asked to go pick up a gallon of milk at grocery store on my way home. I was on my very old (20+ year) mountain bike and didn’t have a lock with me. Since the store was mostly empty, I decided to just take it in with me. I walked into the store, got my milk and went to checkout.
As I’m standing in the checkout line, the guy in front of me bent down to take a close look at my bike (which made me a little uneasy.) He stood up mumbling, “…1 inch tubing…” and asked if I wanted to sell my bike. Curious about why anyone would want an old junker I asked him why. He said to checkout kingsmotorbikes.com. In looking at their site, it looks like it could be a fun project and would be handy (if I didn’t already have my beloved motorcycle.)
I probably won’t do it anytime soon, but if you or someone you know does, I’m curious to know how well it works!

Yes, yes, size does matter

In hearing peoples’ responses to the post about my new motorcycle, I feel the need to make a clarifying post to show that this new machine is so much more than a little toy. Here’s a picture of my 227 pound self sitting atop the 788 pound monster.
Size matters
Yes, it’s big.
You can’t tell from the picture, but I have an ear-to-ear grin (like I always do when I’m riding it.)

My wife spoils me

For years, I’ve been telling my wife, “I should get a motorcycle.” Every time, her response has been, “I think you should.” But I never could quite justify it. Current gas prices have changed my mind, I was able to finally convince myself it was worthwhile.
In May, I took the MSF Basic Rider Course. It was worth every penny and I highly recommend it (unless for some reason I don’t like you.)
Monday, I drove this beauty home.

I’m still in the break-in phase, so I haven’t really pushed her too hard, but I am sure having fun riding her around. I now take a long detour (8+ miles) on my way into my office. In reality, I’m taking the long way anywhere. I’m itching to get past the first 500 miles of break-in, so I can see how she does on the freeway.
I’ve also found a great online community of people that ride KLR650s.

Oh, two sensors

Old Temperature SensorRecently, our beloved ’96 Saturn SL1 failed to pass emissions inspection. It turns out that we had two bad sensors, an O2 sensor and the engine coolant temperature sensor. As you can see in the picture, the temperature sensor was in pretty bad shape. Both were easy to replace, it took maybe 30 minutes total. The main problem with the bad temperature sensor was that the car’s computer thought the engine temperature was -15 degrees, even when it was 50 degrees outside.

As of late, the engine had started to run more rough and kind of choking on itself.  I thought it was just due to the car getting old.  Little did I know that it was just a $15 part I needed to replace.

I replaced the sensors and went through a few driving cycles and our little Saturn was able to pass emissions. It runs a lot better now too. With my last tank of gas, I got an extra 7 miles to the gallon (now 37 mpg.) I’m kinda excited that it is only about 2,000 miles short of the 200,000 mile mark.

What to do with an incompetent service department

CansIt’s like some people don’t want our money. If I ran a dealership, one of my main concerns would be making sure customers are happy (so that they come back and buy more cars from me.) This is not the case at the dealership where we bought our 2006 Chevy Uplander (Riverton Chevy.) My wife has been the one to take our Uplander in for the free oil changes we got with our minivan…er…crossover. Every time she has gone in, I get to hear from her about the condescending tone they take with her and how much they suck. It takes them hours to do an oil change and last I checked it’s not fun to entertain two young kids for hours in a waiting room.

Recently, she took it in for some work covered under warranty. There were a few noises in the suspension that really annoyed her. There was also an annoying flicker in all the lights which really annoyed me.

They called her shortly after dropping it off to inform her that they would be able to fix the noises but weren’t able to see a problem that would cause the lights to flicker. They said they wouldn’t be able to fix it. I called them back and quickly asked if they were incapable of fixing the car. They dodged that question and said they’d see what they could do. I went in to pick it up when the “work” was finished to find that they hadn’t done anything about the flicker. The guy said, “Well, if it’s a problem, it will get worse and you can bring it in then.” I was a bit upset and told him that he was welcome to keep it overnight so he could see what it looks like in the dark. He showed no interest in that. I got the impression that he was long gone from the dealership by the time 5:00 rolled around. What an idiot.

I asked him if there were any TSBs (Technical Service Bulletins) that referred to this issue, he said he was unable to find any. Luckily, I had previously done my own research and found one. I asked him if he could look up a number for me. He looked up the one I found and voila! the TSB states “HEADLIGHTS AND INTERIOR LIGHTS FLICKER.” Hmm…looks like a perfect description of the problem to me. What an idiot.

So, it turns out it was a bad voltage regulator on the alternator. They ordered the part and a week later it was fixed. It is so nice to drive around and not have those lights flickering anymore. I find it very disappointing that I had to do the footwork to isolate the problem for someone who is supposedly an expert in their field. What an idiot.

I’m so glad that we’re out of those free oil change coupons too (as is my wife.) I’ll encourage her to post a comment here with her version of the story since it will be much more entertaining than mine. Since the coupons are gone, I’ll be doing the maintenance on our Uplander now (which I really enjoy.)

In short, what do you do with an incompetent service department? Do their work for them and find someone else to help you next time.