Driving automobiles

Archive for October, 2012

Gas taxes at work.


Texas Department of Transportation Uses Gas Tax Money to Lobby for Toll Roads
Activists urge investigation of Texas Department of Transportation
lobbying on behalf of toll roads.


The San Antonio Express News reported Monday that an internal TxDOT memo
entitled "Keep Texas Moving: Tolling and Trans-Texas Corridor Outreach"
suggested the agency would spend $7-9 million promoting the tolling
concept. In February, the state auditor’s office chided TxDOT for hiding
lobbying expenses behind other, legitimate expenses.


The multi-million dollar public relations campaign began in June with
paid advertisements and a slick website called Keep Texas Moving, which
promotes the 4000-mile Trans-Texas Corridor proposal. Expected to be up
to 1200 feet wide, the toll road will cost between $145 and $183 billion
to construct and require acquisition of 9000 square miles of land.


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LAT: A claims adjuster with no feelings

>From the Los Angeles Times


A claims adjuster with no feelings
David Lazarus
Consumer Confidential

August 22, 2007

If you’ve been banged up in an auto accident, at least you’ll be
dealing with someone in the insurance business capable of feeling your
pain. Or will you?

Most consumers probably don’t know this, but the dollar value of
insurance payouts frequently is determined not by a human being but by
a highly sophisticated computer program bearing a name straight out of
a sci-fi movie: Colossus.

Little is known about how Colossus works.

But some medical practitioners, attorneys and former insurance
industry insiders say the system is designed to allow insurers to
lowball claims and limit the amount of money policyholders receive in
the event of an accident.

"Colossus is a completely unscientific device that’s geared toward
devaluating claims," said Arthur Croft, director of the Spine Research
Institute of San Diego and co-author of a textbook on whiplash

Sci-fi fans likely will recall a 1970 movie called "Colossus: The
Forbin Project," in which an advanced government computer takes over
the world. A remake reportedly is in the works.

The actual Colossus is licensed to insurers by Computer Sciences
Corp., an El Segundo-based company that also does extensive work for
the federal government, including the super-secret National Security

CSC says its clients include at least 12 of the top 20 U.S. property
and casualty insurers, although it won’t say which ones without their
consent. It calls Colossus the general insurance industry’s most
widely used claims-evaluation system.

Claims adjusters input data by answering an extensive series of
questions posed by Colossus. The system "uses the information supplied
by the claims professional to assess the relative severity of the
claimant’s injuries," CSC says.

Jackie VanErp, a CSC spokeswoman, acknowledged that the company has no
control over how insurers use Colossus.

"The actual use of it is determined by the clients, the insurers," she
said. "We don’t believe that insurers are using it to lowball
consumers. But we don’t know."

Attorneys and former insurance industry workers say Colossus is often
modified by individual companies to produce results more to their
liking. They also say that insurers routinely use the lower end of the
system’s recommended settlement range as the final figure.

"Colossus exists for one purpose and one purpose only — to minimize
the amount of money you get," said R. Rex Parris, a personal-injury
lawyer in Lancaster.

Dani Bednar worked as a claims adjuster at Allstate Insurance’s
Palmdale office from 1990 to 1998. She said Colossus was introduced to
her office in the mid-1990s and that Allstate "fine tuned" the program
after it was installed by CSC.

"Colossus streamlines the process," Bednar said. "But it doesn’t take
into account the human factors. A lot of the time, the settlements it
gave people were lower than what I would have given."

She said she and other claims adjusters in her office were
specifically instructed by Allstate not to inform customers that
settlement decisions were being made by a machine.

Bednar also said that her performance evaluations by managers were
based in part on how closely payouts she handled matched Colossus’

"My job was making Allstate’s bottom line better, not putting money in
people’s pockets," she said. "So that’s what I did."

Bednar now works for a wind-power energy company in Mojave.

Rich Halberg, director of corporate relations for Allstate, denied
that Colossus was used to reduce the amount of money paid to accident
victims. He called the system "one tool of many in a comprehensive
evaluation process."

"Our goal is to handle each and every claim in a fair and timely
manner, and to pay the appropriate amount," Halberg said.

A confidential manual Colossus prepared for Allstate claims adjusters
in 1995 — a copy of which has made its way into my hands — specifies
that "there are many factors that Colossus cannot consider" and that
"the Colossus results are to be considered a recommendation only and
not an absolute."

But the manual also indicates that the adjuster is following Colossus’
lead in handling a claim, not the other way around.

"Colossus has a very sophisticated knowledge base and could, in the
most extreme hypothetical case, ask you over 700 questions before
coming to a conclusion about an appropriate sum for general damages,"
it says.

"Colossus has been programmed to simulate the thought processes
involved in assessing general damages for accident victims," the
manual says, adding that even if an adjuster can’t answer a particular
question, "the system is capable of arriving at a conclusion for you."

It says Colossus measures all injuries relative to what it considers
to be the most catastrophic thing that could happen to anyone —
ending up as a quadriplegic on life support.

"In Colossus’ view, this is the worst injury that can be suffered,"
the manual says, adding that this is also "the injury that has
historically attracted the highest awards for general damages."

Gail Hillebrand, a staff attorney at Consumers Union, said there may
be nothing inherently unethical about Colossus — it all depends on
how the system is used by insurers.

But she said consumers have a right to know that a machine, which has
no concept of human pain and suffering, is making decisions that place
a value on people’s lives.

"It should not only be disclosed to consumers but at the very least
there should be regulatory oversight," Hillebrand said.

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for state Insurance Commissioner Steve
Poizner, said current regulations "provide extensive rules governing
how an insurer determines the appropriate value" of accident-related

"If an insurer uses a computer program which doesn’t satisfy our
regulations, whether it’s Colossus or any other program, they are
already in violation of the law, and if we become aware of it we will
take action against the insurer that is in violation," Kerns said.

CSC’s VanErp said much of the criticism of Colossus comes from
personal-injury lawyers and their paid experts.

"Plaintiffs attorneys are personally incented to seek excessive,
inequitable claim awards for their particular clients, and thus do not
share the public’s interest in obtaining consistent settlements for
all claimants," she said.

The Colossus user manual from Allstate acknowledges that man and
machine may face challenges in learning to coexist.

"Initially, you will experience some difficulties consulting Colossus,
mainly in capturing and entering the data it requires," it says. "But
with usage you will come to respect and have confidence in the
integrity and complexity of Colossus."

In the movie version, Colossus puts it like this: "In time, you will
come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love."


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Re: Revenge on a MFFY

On Aug 22, 10:11 pm, Scott in SoCal <scottenazt…@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Stumbled across this while browsing through some photos on Flickr.
> What a great way to fuck with some MFFY asshole’s head! LOL!!

> http://www.flickr.com/photos/lanbui/120102102/
> —
> "It’s little sh*ts like you that take my time away from my fiancee and
> loved ones.  F*CK YOU."
>  - Carl Rogers, 12/30/2006
> Message-ID: <1167515577.811497.149…@v33g2000cwv.googlegroups.com>

Too bad the guy who shared the photo didn’t set up something like the
MFFY Cam to record the jerk’s reaction.  YouTube could have made a

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Re: Brilliant Road Engineering

On Aug 22, 11:15 pm, Scott in SoCal <scottenazt…@yahoo.com> wrote:

- — -

> WTF kind of logic is this? Are these painted stripes going to work
> only on drivers who are exceeding the speed limit? Or are the Sloths
> going to become even slothier?

> http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/197622

> Highway engineers’ tricks fool drivers to cut speed
> The Associated Press
> Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.22.2007

> LAKE HAVASU CITY – Highway engineers in Mohave County are trying to
> fool drivers into slowing down by using specially designed road
> markings that send subliminal messages to motorists.
> The county has painted a so-called optical speed zone on a two-mile
> stretch of southbound Stockton Hill Road about 20 miles north of
> Kingman. Sets of white markings are painted perpendicular to the
> yellow centerline 150 feet apart for the first five intervals,
> reducing by 10 feet until they are 100 feet apart.
> Drivers see the markings going by faster and faster, subliminally
> convincing them their speed has increased, causing them to either
> brake or take their foot off the accelerator, said Steve Latoski, the
> county’s design engineering manager.
> "The idea is to achieve speed control," Latoski said. "Speed limits
> don’t necessarily do that. Enforcement does that but can only occur
> over a finite period of time. Or there can be physical controls. This
> is a low-cost mechanism for us just to call people’s attention to
> their speed."
> The stretch of highway chosen for the experiment is at the end of a
> long, rural stretch and right before it enters developed areas.
> Although posted at 55 mph, the averages speeds are at least 10 mph
> higher, Latoski said.
> Since the striping was painted on July 11, average daytime speeds have
> decreased by 2 mph, and nighttime speeds dropped by nearly 5 mph.
> "If we can demonstrate consistent, significant decrease, we will
> likely look at other, similar applications in the county," Latoski
> said.

Did you know Supermarkets, supercenters, and department stores use
this technique as well? In more expensive areas, such as near exotic
produce, jewlery, electronics, etc., the tiles are much smaller or
have a different texture? The more clicks the shopping cart makes as
it traverses the tiles, the more likely you are so slow down as you
perceive yourself to be going too fast. Slowing down means that you
browse around more, which generates more sales for the retailer.

I’m curious to see what the results would be for AZDOT.

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Re: Why Bev Needs 400 Horsepower

Scott in SoCal wrote:
> On my way home from driving the Angeles Crest Highway last weekend, I
> took the Arroyo Seco Parkway for a few miles. As one of the first
> freeways in the country, designed for speeds of around 45 MPH and very
> little traffic, the on-ramps are ridiculously short and have stop
> signs at the beginning.

The off-ramps are just as bad but don’t have stop signs.

> Now, this isn’t a problem when your car can do
> 0-60 in 4 seconds, but how does someone like Bev, who drives an old
> 4-cylinder pickup truck, manage to merge onto the 110 without getting
> rammed?

Wuss!  I’ve driven that thing for decades in all sorts of vehicles.  You
just have to keep your eyes open.  4-cylinder?  HAH!  It’s an 8-cylinder
Dodge 318 for Chrissake, and they still make them!

> The Arroyo Seco must be an absolute *nightmare* during the morning
> rush hour…

Probably not — people it scares probably don’t drive it.  For extra points,
where is the collapsing-radius curve?  I honestly can’t remember, but I
think it’s near the high railroad bridge.

This is Usenet. We *are* the trained body for dealing
with psychotics.                        – A. Dingley

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MFFY Sloth and stop sign

I saw a driver in a small Honda be a Stop Sign Runner and an MFFY Sloth.
  I was going 75 when I noticed this Honda driver approaching the
roadway from a side street on my right.  I was about 150 m away from the
Honda when the driver rolled through the stop sign and into the lane in
front of me.  The Sloth did have enough time to speed up before the
collision, assuming that it was in a hurry and couldn’t wait the few
seconds for me to pass.  I was surprised to notice that the Honda driver
was still going about 60 when I entered the collision zone.  I ended up
swerving around the Honda because the Sloth then stepped on the brakes
and tried to stop.  Since there was no traffic behind me, why didn’t the
Sloth wait for me to pass instead of running the stop sign?  MFFY!

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Found at Fault in Car Crash That Kills a Kid under 16 – Should that mean automatic DEATH PENALTY??

All we ever hear  is SAVE THE CHILDREN and how child-abusers should be
executed. So how about it, you goddam hypocrites?  Reckless drivers kill
kids every day!!!

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Drunk Driver Murders Good Samaritan

As the DUI epidemic continues. Having both a pres and vp with DUI
convictions has convinced everyone that drunk driving is ok.


Cops: Drunk driver kills Good Samaritan

On the day he planned to go house-hunting with his family, an immigrant
livery driver from Azerbaijan was killed in Brooklyn while trying to
assist a colleague with a stalled car — mowed down by a vehicle whose
driver was drunk, police said.

Rafael Rafailov, 50, a man known for his eagerness to help friends in
need, died at the scene near the intersection of Ocean Parkway and
Church Avenue in the Kensington section at about 1:20 a.m., authorities

Police said Rafailov had been headed south on the Prospect Expressway
and stopped his white Lincoln Town Car to assist another livery driver
when a 2007 Toyota Camry struck him.

The driver of the Toyota, Alexey Bushuyev, 22, of Manhattan Terrace, was
arrested on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and
drunk driving, investigators said.

Bushuyev’s breath-alcohol test showed a blood-alcohol level of .11
percent, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said. A
level above .08 percent is considered evidence of driving while intoxicated.

"Oh my God!" said Rafailov’s anguished daughter Regina Rafailov, 20, a
student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who talked with
reporters outside the family’s home in Sheepshead Bay.

"Who goes 160 miles per hour on Ocean Parkway?"

Late Wednesday, police did not have an estimate on the speed of
Bushuyev’s vehicle. The DA’s spokesman said Bushuyev was charged with
speeding along with the other offenses. He was awaiting arraignment.

"I say it is murder," said Ronald Valachi, chairman of Concord Limousine
Inc. of Brooklyn, where Rafailov worked for more than 12 years. "Instead
of using a loaded gun, he used alcohol and a vehicle."


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Stopping Tailgators

I finally found a way to stop tailgators.  I attached a metal box
under my rear bumper and filled it with about 2 pounds of one inch
roofing nails.  I have a cable that goes to my dashboard. It was a
vent cable that I modified.   When a tailgator climbs on my ass, I tap
the brakes a few times.  If they dont back off, I just pull that cable
and the nails fall on the road and flatten the tires on the tailgators
car.  The way I designed the box, the nails fall out and spread across
the whole lane, that way I can flatten several tires at once.  So far
I’ve gotten rid of every tailgator when I pulled the cable.  It often
takes a minute for their tires to go flat.  After that, they are

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stick shift

I was just wondering what the best way to learn how to drive a stick
shift is.
Are there classes for this?

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