As the new century continued to unfold, national trends in the public sphere were readily apparent in Virginia. Citizens were seeking more involvement in transportation issues as well as a role in planning future initiatives. They also were demanding more accountability from government and more transparency with the public’s business. Further, they thought government should do more with fewer resources.
Consequently, VDOT took some bold steps. One was an accountability system developed by employees in 2003 called the “Dashboard.” The Web-based tool became an early warning system for construction project managers, showing them in an instant which projects were on track and which were falling behind or going over budget. Citizens were invited to view the Dashboard online and to communicate with managers about projects important to them. In 2005, “Dashboard II” was launched with additional information on highway operations, engineering, safety, finance and the environment.
Employees also designed a new system to estimate costs of future transportation projects. One of the first in the nation, the system addressed the department’s tendency to underestimate project costs by an average of 187 percent—a margin reduced to 30 percent the first year of the system’s use. In addition, the agency began running a cash flow analysis to ensure that money would be on hand for approved projects.
Project managers, with authority and accountability, were assigned to all projects, not just the larger ones. VDOT also increased its contingent of engineers with professional licensure from 182 to 270 between 2003 and 2005. Further, in a major cost-savings initiative, the number of employees was reduced by 1,400 between 2002 and 2004; as vacant positions went unfilled, employees picked up added duties and work was outsourced.
4 things to assess when buying a used car
Used cars are more affordable than new ones, but you still need to do your due diligence as a buyer. Here are four things to assess if you’re purchasing a second-hand car.
1. How it looks
Do a thorough inspection. Evaluate the wear on the tires, check the fluid levels and keep an eye out for rust, dents, and scratches. The costs of new tires, fluid changes, repairs and so on should be deducted from the asking price. Inspect the condition of the inside of the car too, from the upholstery to the multimedia system.
2. How it runs
Check the dash lights. All of them should come on when you turn the key to the on/run position and turn off when you start the engine. During the test drive, listen closely for noises that may indicate problems, such as rumbling, rattling or whining in the engine.
3. How it feels
Does the car handle well and does the steering feel easy and natural? Is the interior comfortable and are the controls user-friendly? Ensure that you feel comfortable with the way the car feels and drives. Also, make certain that the brakes are responsive without being too touchy.
4. What you’ve heard
Research any car that you’re considering buying. Find out what past owners say about the model and determine whether or not it commonly has parts that fail, premature rusting or safety defects.
Finally, before purchasing any vehicle, be sure to get it inspected by a trusted mechanic and to ask the owner for all maintenance records. Taking these steps will guarantee that you get a vehicle that’s as reliable as it seems.
Distracted driving by the numbers
Distracted driving remains a serious issue. While fatalities caused by inattention at the wheel are down, there’s more to do in order to ensure America’s roads are safe. Here are some numbers about distracted driving.
3: the number of seconds within which 80 percent of accidents occur.
9: the estimated number of people who die every day because of a crash caused by distracted driving.
20: the percentage of teens who admit to having long, multi-message text conversations while driving. Ten percent of parents report that they do the same.
27: the number of seconds you’re still distracted after using a hands-free device. Switching between tasks is demanding and increases your risk of crashing.
43: the number of states that have enacted a ban on texting and driving for all drivers, along with the District of Columbia.
55: the percentage of teens who think they can manage texting while driving. Only one out of five teens believe using a phone behind the wheel impacts their driving performance.
90: The percentage of road accidents that could have been prevented.
94: the percentage of teens who recognize that texting while driving is dangerous. Thirty-five percent of them admit to doing it regardless.
2,841: the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving in 2018.
21,000: the approximate number of accidents caused by cellphone use in 2018.
4 things to maintain on your EV
While electric vehicles (EVs) don’t require as much maintenance as their gas-guzzling counterparts, there are a few components that need regular attention. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
1. Rotate the tires
Every car needs to get its tires rotated, but it’s particularly important for some EVs. This is because the battery pack can be very heavy and consequently exert a lot of pressure on the tires. This can cause them to wear prematurely.
2. Flush the brake fluid
Most EVs rely on regenerative braking, meaning they don’t actually use the mechanical brakes all that often. That said, EVs still have traditional brakes and therefore require hydraulic fluid. If you don’t flush it regularly, it might corrode the brake system’s components.
3. Service the brakes
Brake pads and discs need to be inspected, although the frequency will depend on your driving habits and the conditions in which you usually drive. If you tend to ride the brake, get the pads and discs checked when¬ever you get the fluid flushed.
4. Check the coolant
The battery cooling system is a crucial component that prevents your battery from overheating and potentially catching fire. It’s therefore important that the cooling system is regularly inspected.
Finally, remember to familiarize yourself with the owner’s manual as it’ll tell you when each of these tasks should be carried out. It’ll also provide crucial battery care tips.
3 signs your car needs a wheel alignment
A suspension alignment, more commonly known as wheel alignment, keeps your tires pointed in the right direction and ensures a smooth ride. However, any type of impact, such as driving over a pothole or into a curb, can affect your car’s alignment. Here are three signs you should have yours checked.
1. Uneven tire wear
Tread that’s worn on just one part of the tire or that’s dissimilar on the different tires can indicate a problem with your car’s alignment.
2. A vibrating or loose steering wheel
When you’re driving on an even stretch of road, your steering wheel should be perfectly still and straight. In addition, your car should be responsive when you turn the wheel. An alignment problem can make your steering wheel vibrate or feel loose.
3. The car pulls in one direction
If your car swerves or drifts to one side when you relax your grip on the steering wheel, there’s an issue. You shouldn’t have to steer to keep the car pointed in the right direction when driving in a straight line.
Don’t ignore the signs that something’s wrong with your suspension. Alignment issues can decrease your car’s fuel efficiency, increase wear and tear on the vehicle and make it more difficult to steer or to brake.
Tire maintenance: 3 steps to take in spring
In many parts of the country, winter can take a toll on your car’s tires. Here are three tire maintenance tasks you should perform every spring
1. Change your tires
Winter tires perform poorly on hot, dry roads. If you used them over the last few months, now’s the time to switch back to all-season or summer tires.
2. Check the pressure
Cold air causes the pressure in your tires to decrease, deflating them and making them unsafe to drive on when the weather is warmer. Check the owner’s manual to verify the exact pressure range that’s best for your tires and inflate them accordingly.
3. Inspect the tread
No matter what type of tires you use, it’s their tread that provides the necessary traction to stop your car from slipping and sliding in wet and icy conditions. Many tires have tread wear indicators inside the grooves. If your indicators are flush with the grooves, the tires are no longer safe to drive on.
Finally, visually inspect your tires. If you notice uneven wear, cuts, bulges or other irregularities, it may be time to replace them.
A history of roads in Virginia: In retrospect
Virginia began the 20th century with no highway network, but rather with only a disjointed assortment of deeply rutted county roads. In 2006, a century after the State Highway Commission was established, the commonwealth could recount epic steps of progress in building transportation facilities to move millions of people and products every day. Well-engineered highways, smooth pavements, strong bridges and sophisticated traffic management systems were positioned on 57,866 miles of state-maintained roadways.
That expanding transportation infrastructure has contributed to the commonwealth’s economic development and continuing prosperity throughout the decades, as well as to the safety and convenience of its citizens. To preserve that prosperous condition in the new century, continual diligence, innovation and foresight will be required.