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Don't Look Down

Donít Look Down


Before we get down to business, two items. First, a motorist in Britain had his nose broken by a flying frozen sausage. Said item was supposedly thrown from a passing car, which implies either incredible luck, lack of respect for food, or impressive sports skills.


Item two has more to do with lack of skill. I managed to delete my entire e-mail history. There were quite a few reader letters for which I had not yet found an answer, including some requests for information on advanced driving schools. Please write again. Okay, back to work.


A buddyís girlfriend was telling about a crash she and her mate barely avoided. She was driving, and had turned to look at him while making a conversational point. Many people do this out of some ingrained need for eye contact, perpetuated perhaps by etiquette advice from Miss Manners and Dear Abby. Iíll take their advice when it comes to table settings, but in a car, common sense has to prevail. My job is to keep my eyes on the road, side roads, and traffic.


A variant of this conversational faux pas is the mindless grope for heating controls, radio settings and such. Figure this: Any moment when you are not totally involved in driving you are a passenger, waiting for the big hit.


Picture yourself in a racing school, strapped in to a high tech little single seater. We, your instructors, will make sure you know a number of things that have a lot to do with living longer. One is the exact number on the tachometer on corner approach and exit. There are no speedometers in real racing cars, so if the driver, in a moment of delusion, comes up to a turn five hundred revs up on the previous lap, that racer should be the first to know. Big trouble is likely to ensue. Then there is the kill switch. In a crash, it turns off all the electrics and reduces the chance of a racing car becoming an impromptu barbecue. I only really needed it once, and it was my first race in England. The throttle jammed open at the fastest part of the track, and I got to the kill switch so fast it broke, but only after doing its job.


There is a message here. We should all be so totally aware of the position of the switchgear or stereo controls that operating them does not require looking away from the road. In a borrowed or rented car, the few seconds it takes to figure this out, in the parking lot, could save some expensive noises. Donít look down as a theory has some applications beyond being an action hero on a tightrope.

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