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Florida Department of Transportation via Youtube
Florida Department of Transportation via Youtube

Diamond-Shaped Intersections Prevent Crashes by Cutting Out Left Turns

Florida Department of Transportation via Youtube
Florida Department of Transportation via Youtube

Left turns are notoriously hated by drivers, and for good reason. According to a 2007 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [PDF], nearly a third of all crashes at intersections with traffic lights involved cars turning left. Waiting for the opportunity to turn is also time-consuming (just ask any UPS driver). But as WIRED reports, some highway architects have figured out a way to do without them.

The "diverging diamond interchange" (or DDI) replaces the traditional layout of an intersection with a clever design that's more efficient and less likely to lead to accidents. It works like this: At the intersection, two roadways carrying opposing traffic temporarily swap sides, creating a diamond shape. At the points where the roads intersect, traffic lights regulate who crosses when. (For a better idea of how they function in real life, you can check out the video below from the Florida Department of Transportation.)

The biggest difference with the design is that drivers turning left no longer have to pull out in front of oncoming traffic to do so. They can easily turn onto the diverging left lane when driving on the opposite side of the road.

The concept gained popularity in the U.S. after a grad student named Gilbert Chlewicki wrote a term paper detailing it. Even after discovering that the French had been using his idea since the 1970s, he continued to promote it here in the States. Today there are 62 DDIs in 22 states, and their effectiveness indicates that they're here to stay.

Last year, researchers found that diverging diamonds cut accidents by 33 percent and fatal accidents on terminal ramps by more than 60 percent. The drivers who use it were also found to rarely make mistakes. According to a survey conducted at America's first DDI in Springfield, Missouri, 97 percent of drivers said they felt safer on it. More of these intersections are being planned for highways across the country.

[h/t WIRED]

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Design
This Is How Kids Envision the Cars of the Future
Charlotte, 12
Charlotte, 12
GoCompare

You don’t need a driver's license to have big ideas about how cars can be improved. Take it from these kids: When they were asked by the car insurance comparison website GoCompare to draw their visions for the cars of the future, they didn’t hold back. The sketches, first spotted by Co.Design, suggest there are cupcake boosters, rainbow headlights, and shark fin rooftops on the horizon for the auto industry.

GoCompare’s gallery features the original doodles alongside their professionally illustrated counterparts. Some designs take cues from science fiction, as is the case with 11-year-old Paula’s double-decker hover car. The magnetic bottom pushes against the magnetic roads beneath it to glide above the ground. Then, there's 12-year-old Charlotte’s Rainbow Convertible 3000, which uses giant wings to float over traffic.

Power sources include chocolate fuel and rocket boosters. On the practical side, some kids worked electric generators and solar panels into their designs, anticipating the real-world need for alternative energy.

Kids drawing of car of the future.
Zach, 11

Kids drawing of car.
Isla, 6

Kids drawing of car.
Kyre, 11

Kids drawing of car.
Paula, 11

Kids drawing of car.
Joel, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Boban, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Danelle, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Charlie, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Harnitha, 11

Kids' dreams for the future extend far beyond cars. Here are some examples of what kids came up with when asked to draw the house of tomorrow.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of GoCompare.

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Live Smarter
5 Questions to Ask Your Auto Mechanic
iStock
iStock

Own a car long enough and you will eventually find yourself standing in an auto repair shop trying to decipher what the technician is trying to tell you. The only common language? How much it’s going to cost.

Even though you might not understand all the nuts and bolts of a repair job, it’s still important you have enough information to make an informed decision. We asked mechanic Charles Sanville of The Humble Mechanic blog to pass along five simple questions that should elicit some helpful information from a repairman before (and after) you commit to getting the work done.

1. “CAN YOU SHOW ME THE PROBLEM?”

Most mechanics are not out to rip you off. But if they are, they can often be tripped up by a simple request to see which part is in need of attention. “You always want to ask this,” Sanville says. “Tell them you want to see the part that’s failing.” While some issues might be with a car’s electronics and therefore won’t have a physical spot to point to, it’s still a good idea to try. Having a visual aid will also make a tech’s explanation easier to understand.

2. “WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T FIX THIS?”

Be sure to ask the shop what the consequences might be of not taking care of an issue right away. “You should ask what happens in the long term if something doesn’t get fixed,” Sanville says. While a timing belt might need replacement, it’s possible it might be good for another few thousand miles; a brake issue probably can’t wait.

3. “CAN YOU PRIORITIZE THESE REPAIRS?”

Some technicians make repairs seem like urgent matters, but not everything needs to be addressed immediately. “Having five issues isn’t uncommon, but a couple of them might not be a big deal and can wait,” Sanville says. “Have them prioritize what’s wrong with the car.”

4. “CAN I SEE THE DEFECTIVE PART?”

Before the repair has been made, request that the shop save the faulty part so you can take a look. “Sometimes they’ll let you keep it,” Sanville says, depending on disposal requirements. It’s tangible proof they did the work promised.

5. “CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOU FIXED IT?”

Don’t worry about understanding much—or any—detail about the repair work. What you really want, Sanville says, is to build a relationship with the technician and not just the service advisor behind the counter. “Ask them to explain in a technical way what the problem was, how they caught it, and how it was fixed. It’ll help build a relationship and then you’ll have your own tech. You can bring it to ‘Bill’ instead of just ‘ABC Auto.’ That’s a guy who will know you and know your car and do what he can to keep you on the road.”

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