Slow-Thinking Drivers To Get More Time With Longer Yellow Lights

driversA careful driver approaches an intersection and the green light turns yellow. Red is next. What does the driver do? Hit the brakes, or floor it and hope for the best? It’s a split-second call. Soon, Florida drivers will have more time to make that decision as the sunshine state lengthens the time before yellow turns red.

Research indicates that we make up our minds in about a second and that lengthening yellow light time will prevent more drivers from running red lights. Called the perception/reaction time, the state hopes to make that an easier decision with more yellow light time.

But let’s think about this. You are driving along, approaching an intersection and the light turns yellow. If you know the light will remain yellow longer, will you stop?

You probably should, at least in Florida. While aimed to address the concerns of red light fine critics, each citation brings a fine of $158 and adds up to big money for local cities who split the fine with the state.”We don’t play around with the times,” said Jay Davoll, city engineer for Apopka, Florida, in an Orlando Sentinel report. “But people say we do.” A suburb of Orlando, the city of Apopka alone has collected about $2 million in red-light fines so far this year.

The 10 countries with the world’s worst drivers

Traffic is an inevitable part of travel. Angry motor scooters in Rome, pileups in Los Angeles and snarls in Cairo conspire to throw our best-laid plans into chaos. Doug Lansky feels your pain. In his upcoming book The Titanic Awards, a compendium of the world’s worst travel mishaps, he’s compiled the following writeup and list of the top ten worst countries for driving.

When I rented a car in Napoli, the manager at the Hertz office told me “Driving here is like a video game. You just have to relax, stop thinking, and feel it in your stomach.” The traffic signals were especially tricky as the red, yellow and green colored lights were obeyed no more than Christmas decorations. Red lights were run as a matter of decent driving.

It’s not just Naples — travelers across the planet have griped about the quality of driving abroad. According to a survey of over 2000 people from 80 different countries, I wasn’t the only one who found it challenging. The percentages below are the voting results of our survey of the worst drivers in the world. Disagree with these results? Take the new survey at TitanicAwards.com. For more fun survey results and other “Worsts of Travel” tales, check out the book, The Titanic Awards (Perigee, May 4, 2010).

Italy 12.7%


India 9%

China 8.6%

Egypt 6.8%

France 4.2%

Vietnam – 3.7%

Thailand 3.5%

United States 3.4%


Indonesia 2.9%

Mexico 2.2%

Eight rules for renting a car in a foreign country

Renting a car can be a great way to see a foreign country. Having your own wheels allows you the freedom to take your time, to stop for long lunches in the countryside, to turn down that little lane that looks interesting, and to go where public transportation won’t take you. But, renting a car comes with its own set of challenges and dangers. Here are eight road rules to remember when renting a car on your travels.

If you can’t drive a manual, now is not the time to learn.

Outside of the US, many, if not most, cars have manual transmissions. Finding an automatic rental can be difficult, and the cost will be significantly higher. You may be tempted to save money by taking the manual and if you’re fairly comfortable driving one, that’s fine. But if you’ve never driven one before, took a crash course just before your trip, or haven’t had to step on a clutch in over a decade, get the automatic. You’ll be concentrating hard enough on trying to figure out where to go, decipher all the crazy foreign road sides, and possibly drive on the “wrong” side of the road, that you really don’t want to add learning how to shift into the mix. And if you screw up the car’s transmission while you try to learn how to drive a manual, you could be held liable for the damage.



Always spring for the insurance.
$10-$20 a day for insurance can add up, and it’s easy to figure that, hey, nothing will go wrong, so why not skimp a little on the full coverage. Don’t do it (unless your credit card offers some coverage). On the off chance that something does happen, even if it isn’t your fault, you’ll be kicking yourself when you are stuck with a hefty bill. In some countries it is common to be offered an additional coverage on your tires and windshield. If you’ll be driving on gravel roads, definitely take this option. It’s usually just a few bucks more over the course of your rental and well worth the cost.

Let your hosts know when to expect you.
When you head out for the day with your car, always let your hosts know where you expect to go and when you’ll most likely be back. If you are going from place to place, let the proprietors of your next accommodation know when you’ll be arriving and what route you will be taking. If you do get horribly lost or get stranded along the road, at least you’ll know that one person has noticed that you’ve gone missing and they will have somewhat of an idea of where to start looking for you.

Make sure you have a spare.
In the US, it’s easier to get help if you get a flat tire. Chances are you’ve got your cell phone on you and you may even be a AAA member, making it easy to arrange a tow. At the very least, you can call the rental company and ask for assistance. If you are traveling in another country without a cell, getting help is a bit more difficult. Always check to make sure your rental car has a spare tire, and before you set out on your trip, make sure you know how to change it.

Don’t forget a map.
If you’ve got the cash and the option is available, get the GPS, but also bring a hard copy map with you as well. As we’ve seen, sometimes there’s no substitute for an actual old-fashioned paper map. If GPS isn’t an option, don’t rely on vague directions, be sure to pick up a comprehensive map in case you decide to wander a bit or in the event that the directions you were given turn out to be less than accurate.

Know the rules of the road.
Stop at stop signs, don’t speed, watch out for children and livestock. These are rules we know and which tend to be consistent across continents. Other rules of the road are more localized and often unwritten. Not following them may not get you a ticket, but they may not earn you any friends along the way either. Always research the road culture in a place you will be driving and learn customs that are followed there. For instance, when I was driving in South Africa, I was glad my friends had told me that on two-lane roads I should move over to the far left so that faster drivers could pass me. Had I not known, I probably would have made some other drivers very angry as they tried to pass me while I drove in the middle of my lane.

Don’t make yourself a target.
If you are driving from place to place, you’ll be traveling with your luggage and you may have a GPS unit mounted on your window or a map spread across the backseat. All of this screams “I’m a tourist, come pillage the car!” Always put your luggage in the trunk and stow the GPS and maps in the glovebox. Lock your doors when you aren’t in the car and don’t give anyone a reason to break in.

Read the fine print.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your rental company’s rules. Some don’t allow rentals with debit cards, and a few countries require than the driver have not just a driver’s license from their home country, but an international driving permit as well. If you’re told something different in person than what you’ve read, be sure to ask for clarification. A couple I talked to in South Africa thought they needed to sign a special form to take their rental out of the country, but the rental agent said it wasn’t necessary. When they hit a cow and totaled the car in Botswana, they were told that because they didn’t sign the form before crossing the border, they could be liable for the cost of the car – about $7000US! Always read the fine print and know the rental rules.