Reader feedback: Phone in one hand, dog on lap
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Driven's editorial on the police crackdown on cellphone-using drivers and Jack Biddle's Buyer's Guide column asking what features your car really needs, drew comments from readers.
Here are a selection:
As a commercial driver on the road a lot of hours every week, the use of cellphones by drivers is a neverending source of amusement and frustration.
At times I feel that if I could film all the events that I witness every week, I could keep a reality TV programme going.
Some of the biggest offenders are commercial drivers.
The best I have witnessed:
— A fully loaded 50-tonne truck and trailer, driver with no hands on the wheel at open-road speeds. Has a pie in one hand and soft drink in the other, resting the phone on his neck/shoulders while talking, has a small dog on his lap, driver steering the vehicle with his distended stomach.
— The police, while on duty, can talk and txt at will while driving. I understand the law allows them this option with or without lights flashing
It’s reassuring that I am not the only driver who notices this driving style.
■There are a lot of technological features in a car today compared to my apprenticeship days when a heater or a radio were asked for.
I suspect that a lot of the equipment fitted to cars now will become like the features available in the average microwave — all a bit of a five-day wonder when all we want to do is heat a meal or a cold cup of tea.
In one of my jobs as the transport manager of a fleet of trucks associated with a factory, my manager was due for a new car. The CEO was pressing him to take the latest top model of the Mitsubishi Galant. He asked me to check out the car and its features and get back to him. This model had a four-track stereo (remember them?), power windows and power steering. When I reported back the conversation went like this:
Me: It has a four-track stereo.
Him: I listen to the news on the way to work. Why do I need that?
Me: It has power windows.
Him: I can wind my windows up and down.
Me: It has power steering.
Him: I am not old and doddery yet, thank you.
Nowadays none of us would consider a car without all of those features. In fact they are not “features” any more.
And those are only the fluffy bits. Under the bonnet is a whole lot more technology but it all needs to be treated with respect. I have heard people say they can drive faster because they have ABS brakes so they can stop quicker. All very well, but if you are following too close, you may still not be able to stop in time.
One of the things I have done is set a cruise control at say 95-98km/h. I have then expected the car to travel at this speed all the time when I should really have touched the brakes and kicked the cruise control out of action and slowed down. Just plain lazy driving.
The technical bits to do with the car’s operation are great for safety — ABS, ESP, EBS etc. The fancy bits in the cabin are more likely to end up set in a favoured mode and then left that way.
I can remember customers coming in with some issue with a tech bit in their car when I was a service manager, that boiled down to them either not being able to or couldn’t be bothered reading the manual and doing it themselves. I wonder at the value of all this equipment added to a simple motor car. Will it ever get used to its full potential?
■The most useful thing I have ever had in a car is blind spot monitoring.
■Firstly I need lots of storage places and a decent-sized glovebox for spare cash, CDs, drink bottle, sunblock, cleaning rag, etc. I dropped the idea of getting a Mazda CX5 for this reason. If I intend to drive distances, cruise control is important. Then I can keep my eye on the road and not have to worry about speed cameras. And as I am a keen DIY person, the ability to carry hardware such as sheets of plywood and lengths of timber are important, so a station wagon is my vehicle of choice.