Three ideas for making driving safer and easier

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People feel passionately about cars and about the bad driving habits of other people, judging by the periodic “Gripes” column in the Sunday Sun Journal.

We probably get more mail on driving issues than any other subject.

With that in mind, we have collected three opinions on automotive ideas and innovations for your reading — and griping — pleasure.

* We recently ran across a cheap, simple way to help avoid one of the most deadly forms of automotive accidents: head-on collisions caused by drivers crossing into opposing traffic.

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According to the website stateline.org, Washington State began experimenting with center-line rumble strips seven years ago. The results have been “eye-popping,” according to a state transportation official.

The grooves help keep sleepy and distracted drivers from drifting into the oncoming lane and clobbering other drivers.

The strips generate a loud noise and vibrate the vehicle when crossed, and have been especially effective on high-speed, high-traffic rural roads, decreasing cross-over crashes by 45 percent.

Several years ago, a center-line rumble strip was added to a dangerous section of Route 4, along with strips on the sides to keep drivers from drifting off the edge of the road.

Thousands of speeding vehicles pass within feet of each other each day on this road. Travelers live with the daily fear that someone in the opposite lane, talking on their cell phone or sending a text message, will drift across the double yellow line.

This is a safety feature we should be adding to more of the state’s undivided highways.

* We think a proposal to increase the speed limit on I-95 between Old Town and Houlton is long overdue.

LD 1557, which received the unanimous approval of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee last week, seeks to increase the top speed from 65 to 75 mph, according to the Bangor Daily News.

This must be one of the longest and least traveled interstates in the country. It is largely straight, it is well divided and there are few exits.

What’s more, this would simply confirm what anyone who drives this highway already knows — few pay attention to the 65-mph limit anyway.

The increase has the support of the Department of Transportation and Gov. Paul LePage, so it is almost certain to pass.

Perhaps the stretch of highway between Waterville and Bangor can follow.

* Finally, we are excited by news that Google is testing an auto-pilot car in California.

The New York Times reported last week that the Internet-search company has already put 140,000 miles on its self-guided vehicles —  with a driver behind the wheel, of course.

Google is reportedly lobbying Nevada to become the first state to allow such vehicles on its highways.

The company’s robotic hybrids are equipped with “radar, camera sensors and a trunkful of computer equipment,” according to the NYT.

The company claims its robot vehicles will increase energy efficiency while reducing deaths and injuries.

It might be the perfect solution for those who insist on texting, talking on the phone, applying their makeup or holding pets in their laps.

In 10 years, it may be standard equipment.  Then what will we gripe about?

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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