Toyota Dashboard Safety – Maintenance Icons

Posted in Vehicle Safety at 9:33 am

There is a fix for being fully informed that your car needs maintenance as your child falls out of the car. (& yes my children are always buckled in – that’s not the fix I’m talking about.)

A while ago (3,000 miles or so) I complained that Quick and Cheap Oil Change didn’t reset the maintenance required light on the dashboard – causing me to discover that in Toyota cars it overrides the door open icon. (Quick – what is more important – knowing that your child might fall out or that you’re overdue for an oil change? Who makes these decisions?)

I discussed it with the nice Toyota maintenance people (top to bottom they do seem pleasant, informed and concerned but it’s an uphill battle to keep me as a customer against ‘minor’ design decisions that are just unsafe for the American chauffeur-mother lifestyle. (and with an SUV they were going for the gay single or midlife-crises male client?)

The Toyota staff listened carefully, agreed that they would certainly notify Toyota of the problem and told me that the manual tells how to get rid of the maintenance light. Just make sure the trip odometer is on trip a, hold down the reset for 30 seconds. (Does anyone hold down the key for 29 seconds accidentally? – seems a bit long unless they think people are resetting milage while driving & are loosing track of the time their hand is through the driving wheel and on the reset button?- but I digress.)

I am a nerdly person. As a small child I read encyclopedias cover to cover. I read the car owner manuals cover to cover for my first three cars. I no longer do this. I read about hybrid operation.  I looked up wind shield wiper fluid delivery when I couldn’t figure out how to wash my windows. I would have looked up how to set the clock when the time changed but I managed to figure out the H and M buttons on my own. You look up things in the car manuals that you expect to find there. I do not expect that my husband will be able to overrule a maintenance icon before I’ve had a chance to see it. I expect that this is something that a mechanic takes care of after he fixes the problem (services the car).

Toyota: I am very happy with the motor of my hybid Highland. Could you please spend a little more time on the dashboard/safety programming?


Seeing Red on the Sidewalk

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 7:01 am

Bergen County has some of the best traffic markings in the country. Signs showing directions to other towns are plentiful, lights are intelligent and crosswalks are clearly marked. Several years ago they started painting the sidewalks at corners red.

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This is an eyesore that people gladly accept because it is suppose to draw the motorist’s eye to all four corners of an intersection so they see and avoid the pedestrian about to cross. But does it?

It definitely draws the eye to the corners. Unfortunately, if you are an elderly driver with minor short–term memory loss, it is entirely possible that your eye goes to the pedestrian then is drawn to the next corner, which is redder because it is empty, and YOU FORGET ABOUT THE PEDESTRIAN.

Were these markings based on any kind of study? Did it include elderly drivers?

Maybe we could just go back to teaching that you make eye contact with drivers before crossing and forget about the expensive paint job.


NJ and Your Wallet – Traffic Court Wastes Taxpayer Money?

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 2:07 pm

Yesterday’s minor disaster involved traffic court.

The major disaster started last Valentine’s Day when I hit an 8″ snowbank on an otherwise clear dry highway – a car somewhere in front of me had not cleared the foot & 1/2 of snow off the top of his car before entering the highway & managed to drop most of it in one spot as he accelerated onto the road. My high-top full-sized van was beyond terrible on snow so I fishtailed until I went up the ramp of snow along the side of the rode.  In action worthy of Evel Knieval I did a 360 degree flip, landing softly in the previously mentioned foot and a half of snow. I didn’t puncture the tires but I did touch lightly with my roof on my way over blowing out all back windows.  I was fine but somewhat shaken. (I hate roller coasters. This was worse.)

I walked away

Many Palisades Parkway Police, who were as nice as possibly could be, arrived almost instantly on the scene (It was about 200 yards from the police station & occurred right before shift change so this wasn’t too remarkable.)  I had no idea that the snowbank I’d hit had come from a car in front of me. Instead I babbled to the poor officers about the snowbank in the middle of the road.

Rule No 1 of accidents – Do not be shaken. Think clearly & completely about what happened, recalling everything, or you will be sorry.

I violated rule no. 1. Instead of figuring out where a snowbank could have come from on a 40 degree, dry road day I just reported what I saw. The officers:

  • made sure I was fine,
  • got my cell phone & wallet from the car (the entire contents of the car- I was carrying boxes of papers for a community project & my  purse open – looked like I’d decided to make a tossed salad of paper – lots of colors & textures everywhere.),
  • took statements from all the witnesses that had kindly stopped to help and
  • listened to my statement about the snowbank . . .
  • then the police officer escorted me back to the road where I’d claimed there was a snow bank.

It was 20 minutes and 5 million cars later & the road was just wet with a little slush. No snowbank.

If a little slush made me go off the road I must have been driving badly, so of course he gave me an unsafe driving ticket.  At least he mailed it to me so I didn’t have to fret about it on top of the car.

The disaster came trying to get my temporary lack of clear thought corrected. I was given a court date in June, just 4 months after my accident. Court cancels so it’s rescheduled to November.  Terrible storm, so I cancel. Rescheduled for February 13th, the eve of another terrible storm.  Just lucky I guess.

Roll call 3 pm.  You plead guilty or not guilty. Five plead guilty, 60 plead not guilty. Five no-shows - $200-$1,000 fine to the court. Policeman – go find them. Judge deals with guilty pleas.  4:30 pm  Prosecutor deals with those who have lawyers. 5:20 pm Bad drivers from the local hoosegaw are prosecuted.  5:30 pm Prosecutor explains that everyone gets benefit of doubt once; he will reduce your fine if you don’t have a prior traffic history. No one should question his judgment since it will hold up everyone else & he’ll increase the fines/suspend your license if you try to bargain down your ticket with a prior conviction. I go to back of line since I’m stubborn & I don’t want to hold everyone else up. 6:45 pm My turn with Prosecutor. He determines no witnesses in my car. Other witnesses unavailable (officer misplaced cards of witnesses). Decides to dismiss because he can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I was driving badly. 7:30 pm Appear before judge. Prosecutor recommends dismissal. Case dismissed. He warns me to drive safely on snow in future. What snow? The roads were dry. Does he have a clue what kind of driver he just released onto the road?

New Jersey is throwing money away on this process.

First time offenders, guilty

They did not need the space & 3-4 highly paid court staff (Judge, Prosecutor, court clerk, & cashier, at least) processing the 50 people with no issues. People with a first-time conviction in 5 years could log on to a website, enter a ticket number, select a no point penalty or low immediate payment penalty & pay the fine.  The state would have received their money 8 months earlier. If the state is counting on the court fees, roll the cost into the fine structure & be done with it.

Stagger Appearance Times

All 70 people were instructed to arrive at 3 pm even though most didn’t have prayer of something happening until 5 pm.  The appointments were made with a pleasant, helpful woman who seemed more than capable of asking if you were bringing an attorney. Schedule those with attorneys at 3 or 4 pm, everyone else at 5 or 6 pm. Should all the attorneys move to adjourn & no one comes early, fill in with those waiting in the jail in back. 

Schedule Expected Dismissals Last

Have all the people who were not imperiling their neighbors because they’d forgotten their license when they went to the grocery store scheduled last. The cashier can finish up the payments while the dismissals are being processed and they’ll not tie up the system. Better yet, have them take the documents to their local precinct where they can prove they have them and let the officers enter the dismissal in the computer system. Since licenses, registrations, insurance and inspections are all a matter of computer record I don’t think police officers would be in any danger of being tempted to enter fraudulent waivers.

Spend More Time on the Chronic Bad Drivers and Other Exception Cases

I am an extremely conservative driver (friends who have had the misfortune of driving behind me in school caravan events thought it extremely funny that I got a summons for bad driving.) I could have just as easily been an older driver starting to lose control of my car. Watching other cases, I get the feeling that spending a minute or two with someone in danger of loosing his license just didn’t seem adequate.

We live in an information processing age. Could we try and use it’s tools to save the state money and not pile a time penalty on top of legally sanctioned penalties for traffic violations?


Old Joke – What Would Jesus Drive?

Posted in Vehicle Safety at 7:29 am

My daughter started her first day at a Catholic School for girls today. In surfing the web I realize that there are parts of the Bible my husband (a Jewish, motorcycle-riding, Philosophy major) & I may have neglected to explain. To help with this:

Most people assume WWJD is for “What would Jesus do?” But the initials really stand for “What would Jesus drive?”
 One theory is that Jesus would tool around in an old   Plymouth because “the Bible says God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden in a Fury.”
 But in Psalm 83, the Almighty clearly owns a Pontiac and a Geo. The passage urges the Lord to “pursue your enemies with    your Tempest and terrify them with your Storm.”
 Perhaps God favors Dodge pickup trucks, because   Moses’ followers are warned not to go up a mountain “until the Ram’s horn sounds a long  blast.”
 Some scholars insist that Jesus drove a Honda but didn’t like to talk about it. As proof, they cite a verse in St. John’s gospel where Christ tells the crowd, “For I did not speak of my own Accord
 Meanwhile, Moses rode an old British motorcycle, as    evidenced by a Bible passage declaring that “the roar of Moses’ Triumph is heard in the hills.”
 Joshua drove a Triumph sports car with a hole in its muffler: “Joshua’s Triumph was heard throughout the land.” 
 and following the Master’s lead, the Apostles carpooled in a Honda ..”The Apostles were in one Accord.”!!!!    


I saw this on a website that appears to have taken it down but I found it on an earlier site Church of Todays Resource Listing check the 11/14/04 listing. Don’t read if you go to church & like the pastor’s jokes. (There must be every old religious joke ever told here.)


Toyota Highlander Hybrid – Safety Not in the Details – Dashboard icons

Posted in Vehicle Safety at 10:10 am

I love the idea of my hybrid – gas station visits no longer require trips to the bank with a wheelbarrow (just small knapsacks) and if I’m sitting waiting for teenagers the electric motor means I’m not generating smog.

 But is it really more important to know that maintenance is required than my daughter left her door open?  The Maintenance Required icon is deemed much more important than open doors or low gas. It stays on continuously with an occasional short burst of the real warning. 

Why would anyone ignore a Maintenance Required light on a new car? I wouldn’t have considered my husband’s romantic impulse to get the car serviced cause to turn the car into a dysfunctional disaster.

 My husband, in said romantic mood, decided to save me time by getting the car serviced. He consulted the manual (must be a male thing – I just take it to a mechanic and let them do what is needed.) Reading that the car needed an oil change for the 15,000 service, he took it to the rapid-and-cheap-oil-change place.

Again, I would have taken it to the dealer who does it for free, but I’m a girl & I like romantic impulses.  Rapid-and-Cheap tells my husband that he also needs a fuel oil injector cleaning. Hubby immediately dismisses this as a money-grubbing, unnecessary, bait & switch type claim by Rapid-and-Cheap. (My husband is brilliant – top ivy-league school, writes programs others claim are impossible, scout leader, and handyman-extraordinaire. No one is going to cheat him out of $39.) Off he drives with Maintenance Required still showing but happy knowing that the car has been serviced.

I resolve to do the next service a little early so romantic impulses get channeled in other directions (fixing the light in the laundry perhaps?) and stop looking at the unchanging dashboard. I eventually figure out that real warning messages are flashing for a second or 2 every minute – fortunately before the door flew open and my daughter flew out. (Note to Toyota – in other words she didn’t – I’m not suing you but I wouldn’t mind a little more critical thinking about your safety system.)   


More on Dangerous Municipal Truck Flashers

Posted in Vehicle Safety at 7:43 pm

 Not that I have the least idea if truck flashers that were painful to look at were the root of this accident but it’s what I dread.

Closer to home, the son of one of my church’s members used to earn his paycheck collecting trash until one foggy morning a driver pinned him against the garbage truck, severing his leg.

Revrick, in commentary in Slate’s Fraywatch, on income inequality


DPW Truck Flashers – Hazardous to Worker Health?

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 3:19 pm

When new ‘safety equipment’ for municipal workers is required in NJ how extensively is it tested?

The strobe lights that are showing up on trash trucks and police cars make me wonder.  If you are over a certain age, bright lights can be problematic when driving.  I’m just arriving at this age and have noticed that where I once looked carefully at a trash truck to watch for feet that might back out unexpectedly, I now tend to look away because the flashers are so bright they hurt on a foggy day.  The trucks are bright yellow.  Do they really need flashers to make them more visible?

I really don’t want the disaster of hurting or killing someone. I’m sure the workers don’t want the disaster of being hurt or killed.  Were these flashers really tested?