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Raindrops on a car window reflect a stop sign in Lowell, Mass., Thursday morning March 20, 2008. Heavy storms have dumped as much as a foot of rain in the Midwest and left behind more than a dozen deaths. (AP Photo/Lowell Sun/Tory Germann) ORG XMIT: MALOW101 ORG XMIT: MIN2013062816431260

Associated Press,

City drivers: You've been surveilled

  • June 29, 2013 - 9:00 PM

City drivers

You’ve been … surveilled

Dining alone at a sidewalk table on a recent warm evening in Minneapolis, I decided that instead of eavesdropping on the four people at the table next to me, which was nearly impossible not to do, it would be better to unobtrusively mine data about the drivers passing by. This is what I found:

• In the absence of an obvious impediment, such as a pedestrian in the crosswalk, nine of every 10 drivers failed to fully honor a four-way stop. Ten of 10 appeared to use only peripheral vision, or possibly telepathy, to determine if more aggressive action was needed. This suggests that we may be more suited to free-flowing roundabouts than many of us think.

• Perhaps one in 15 drivers had a mobile phone pressed to an ear. Just one driver during the entire period of observation was texting. None of these individuals negotiated the intersection more poorly than any other, suggesting that it’s possible to drive proficiently while otherwise engaged, until it’s not.

• One of these chatty drivers, however, was holding his phone with the hand in the cast.

• Just one driver I saw blew through the stop sign completely. He was not on a phone.

• Perhaps one in 30 were smoking, suggesting that a) public information campaigns work, to a point, and that b) we’re going to need a yet more lucrative source of stadium funding. However …

• Perhaps one in 20 was aggressively tattooed, raising the prospect of a restoration tax on those who have discovered that they are aging less gracefully than 19 of their peers.

• Not one driver needed to turn down his or her radio, but several could have used mufflers.

• Only one driver the entire time looked back at me in ostensible offense at my close attention. But what a memorable look it was.

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