Q: A lot of lives could be saved if carmakers devised a system where your car wouldn’t run if your phone was on or vice versa.

A: Good thought, but not an answer. Not only would creating a cellphone interlock system, perhaps using Bluetooth or RF signal recognition, be a significant technical challenge, but what about all the other distractions like eating, daydreaming, looking at scenery, playing with the “driver’s display,” audio system, GPS and the like?

It seems quite apparent, as comedian Ron White says, that “you can’t fix stupid.” At what point do we stop focusing on government or industry solutions to vehicle operators’ stupidity and mistakes and start focusing more on the operator? Obviously, this is a huge issue that originates in childhood as passengers in the family car.

Driver training? May as well leave out the word “training” — it’s just the bureaucratic process of issuing a driver’s license. We’ve made progress with graduated licenses, limited passengers within certain age groups, etc. But we do not — repeat DO NOT — train drivers in the proper operation of motor vehicles. No instruction on the “skills” of safely operating a vehicle, especially in emergency braking to avoid crashes. No training or experience given in avoiding crashes. No emergency lane change maneuvers, no “threshold” braking drills, no turning while braking practice, no slide or skid control practice.

With a “right to drive” attitude and the incredible ease of obtaining a driver’s license, how can we expect drivers, particularly entry-level drivers, to take driving seriously?

Years ago I interviewed Sir Jackie Stewart, a Formula 1 world driving champion. When I asked him about driver training and suggested that every new driver spend time on an autocross track and skid pad to learn about vehicle limits and car control, he suggested a better method — integrate classes on driving, vehicle ownership, maintenance, costs and safety in elementary classrooms. Continue with studying crash rates, insurance and medical costs, social and government costs, revenue loss, etc., in mathematics and social studies classes in middle and high school. All this would focus on preparing young people to understand the serious responsibility of driving and safety when they reach license age. Then, as is the case in some countries, the process of obtaining a license involves months or practice, demonstrating responsible driving, maintenance and roadside emergency repairs.

This level of early involvement, education and exposure to the realities of operating a motor vehicle would help create a far better prepared, more responsible and better qualified young driver.

 

Q: My wife and I are headed to Florida for the winter in our Honda Insight. We would like to leave the car down there over the summer and are worried about the hybrid battery sitting for six months in the humidity and salty conditions. Is this a bad idea, with no way around it deteriorating quickly

A: I found a recommendation for long-term storage on the InsightCentral.net forum. Besides routine vehicle preparation for storage (including a battery maintainer for the 12-volt battery), the forum suggests pulling the 40A EPS Fuse (No. 15) from the underhood fuse box. Then start the engine and run it for 5 to 10 minutes at 3,500 rpm until the IMA (integrated motor assist) battery indicator gauge reads full. The EPS (electric power steering) warning light will illuminate while the fuse is out, but doesn’t indicate a fault.

If the vehicle can’t be started to recharge the IMA battery every three months, you might consider a “grid charger” for this battery pack. Although somewhat expensive — $100 to $300 or more — this might be an answer for true long-term storage. If you choose this route, make sure you get a unit that has a “long term” storage mode.

I have no experience with these, and since they deal with very high voltage — 440 volts that can be fatal — approach this with extreme caution.