Coping: With the “100 Deadliest Days”

One of the simplest concepts of UrbanSurvival is “must be present to win.”  You can’t be dead and be a survivor, huh?

Most people don’t know that there are more traffic accidents, plus deaths, in the 100 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day that the whole rest of the year combined.  Summer is crazy-time.

Makes sense when you think about it:  People are on vacation.  The holiday “spirits” get mixed with cars. Bad things happen.  The screaming kids are distracting.  And there’s impatience to get somewhere.  Are we there, yet?  Add it all up and it’s a statistical region of life to be avoided.

While it’s true that only about 1 percent of all accidents happen more than 50 miles from a driver’s home, the majority of their driving is done there, too.  That’s one stat we put in the interesting but not actionable pile.

The worst time of day for an accident is 3 to 6 PM – school’s out, the Uber-like parents are shuffling the little darlings around at the peak of rush hour, when people are impatient, tired, and sometimes hot. Who wouldn’t be angry?

Likewise, the most likely time to die in an auto accident is between midnight and 3 AM.  This is in spite of the good efforts of Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers, and others groups.  The insurance for the “hospitality industry” continues to go up yet there seems no limit to servers wanting to “help” a high-tipping customer.

There are several ways to reduce your risk exposure.

  • Lights on during the day as well as night.  If you can’t be seen, you can be hit.
  • Helmets on motorcycles are the rational choice.  People who loudly proclaim it’s their right to go lidless and ride accordingly, advertise their inability to comprehend statistics.  No problem, it they’re willing to sign a waiver of government aid programs, eh?
  • Stay off the road, if you can, between about 2 PM and 7 PM.  Anxious, busy, distracted (texting) drivers will get you, sooner or later. And if that SOB in the pickup doesn’t get off my ass…well, you know that one.

There are fine points.

For one, my late father, always handy with statistics, worked it out that making three right-hand turns was safer than a single left (across oncoming traffic) by almost a  2-1/2 to 1 margin.

Of course, that takes more time.  So the critical driving technique is don’t turn your steering wheel to turn left until you are rolling into the turn.  By doing this, a rear-ender won’t shove you into oncoming traffic.  Seems obvious, but people are fair to partly stupid.

Another tip:  While it’s against the law on most state highways to travel on the inside lane (slower traffic move right!) I press that as much as possible, especially when it’s not a stretch of limited access road.  In town, I’m always in the left lane.  Reason?  Idiots, pedestrians, kids, braking times.  I’m an old fart…need to think about whether I hit you.  Distance is time.

These are simple things, and God help you if you offer too much advice like this to a spouse at the wheel.  But, since we need all the readers we can get, its only right to mention that we are now transiting a particularly (statistically) dangerous part of the Universe.

It’s why, given a chance, Elaine and I like to stay home in the summer.  Two drinks before dinner if Ure’s aren’t going anywhere isn’t even a discussion.  No driving, no problem.  Generally, I won’t even have one drink if we go out to eat.  Had a beer with a steak sandwich and fries many years ago, though.

I felt bad about that.  Got in the habit of having O’Doul’s when we were still flying the plane.  Great habit to adopt during the 100-most dangerous days of driving, if you haven’t, already.

Advanced Antenna School

I’ve been meaning since Memorial Day to report on my friend Jeff’s entry in this years K0S Strange Antenna Contest.

This is where ham radio ops try to find the weirdest things they can turn into antennas.

People have used about everything made of metal.  A scissor lift, work lift bucket, a military tank, and a couple of years back, I talked to a woman who (yes, there are lady-hams) who had stacked several aluminum lawn chairs one over the other.  She had a great signal from one of the “in park models” in a senior mobile home community there.  Impressed as hell.

Basically, anything that’s metal works on the receive side.  The transmit side, ideally, would be a quarter wavelength (or so) at the operating frequency.  That means at night, on the 80-meter (3.5 MHz) band, a 66-foot flag pole in front of a school or at a car dealership would work well.  Or, a 33 foot flag pole for the 40 meter (7 MHz band) is dandy.  Lots of them around rural Post Offices.

For serious long distance, the higher the frequency, the better the “skip” except you’ve heard me curse and whine for months about the lack of sun spots.  When there is little solar activity, skip is poor.  But, in five years (if the sun spots return and we’re not in a Junior Maunder Minimum), the bands will be hopping.  Working the world on 3-watts will be in vogue, again.

Still, 20 meters can still get through worldwide today, it just takes more time and patience.

Those are the civilian basics of the Strange Antenna Challenge.  Load up a clothes line and talk to Japan?  Barbed wire fence into Eastern Europe?  No sweat.

Here’s what Jeff used this year:  Two ladders:

No “ladder line” jokes.

Seems simple enough:  Take two metal ladders from the work truck, lean one into high branches,, tie off with paracord and mount on a small low-boy table.  Then use the step ladder as the counterpoise (Ground system).  To attach the antenna tuner output, a couple of pairs of (what else?) ViseGrips.

Now a few unsolicited comments on this design.  It will no doubt work OK.  BUT when I was an HF radio guru (how many people get to make $60K while working at their hobby, right?) one secret I learned was that if you want to have the best possible signal, always use a larger counterpoint (ground system) than radiating antenna element.

This was a real problem on sailboats which typically used an insulated backstay antenna.  (Wire rigging from top of mast down to the back end of the boat, lubber.)  The insulators used were super expensive.  I saw an 8 MM wire Norseman insulator on eBay the other day:  $434.85.  People really do pay this much because of the risk of having the main mast come toppling down halfway to wherever you’re going.

Back to point:  When I wrote the tech manual for a certain “smart tuner” outfit in Bellevue, WA. it was made very clear that when you look down from the top of the mast that the RF ground should be significantly larger than the backstay antenna.  Five or six runs of 3″ wide copper foil, laid up and glassed to the hull worked great, bonding the engine, water, and fuel tanks, with a connection to the keel bolts, as well.  Amazing how good that worked.  Litz wire (low inductance) to bond any brass through-hulls into the system, too.

Here’s the secret sauce part (should reader Hank out on the Big Island need to implement), I ran out comparison radiation patterns for the same ladders, just inverting their lengths and using 20-meters as an example.

The first way modeled was as Jeff showed:  Big ladder up, small ladder as the counterpoise (ground).

Notice the gain of this antenna. Yuk.  Even though (intuitively) you would think that a roughly quarter wave tall antenna would work dandy, when paired with the short ladder counterpoise, 0.48 db isotropic is all we get radiated.

On the other handr, when we reverse things (making the short ladder the radiator and the long ladder the ground) we get a lot more for our effort:

In the azimuth plot (points on the compass) the maximum radiation lobe would be in the direction where the base of the counterpoise runs.  Point the ladder legs where you want to talk.

This is the kind of “occult radio knowledge” that makes a real difference in emergency comms (EMCOMMS) work.  It’s counter-intuitive, but what happens is when there is a small counterpoise, everything else connected to ground tries to radiate.  The system is easily visualized as “operating upside down.”

That’s where “RF bites” off metal cabinets and metal microphones comes from:  Ground radiating instead of the antenna.

Jeff, of course knows all this….but since reader Hank on the Big Island may have trouble getting down through the lava for a good ground system (!!!) laying out a series of ground radials, always much bigger than the antenna, ensures the total system will operate “right-side up.”

Even in hot lava, we believe…That gets us to wondering if maybe next year, hank could lay out some copper into the lava flows and have a super-doper radio ground system?  Something for next year’s Strange Antenna Contest?

(Yes, we used a Smart tuner and loaded up some salt-water-soaked string.  Worked for only a few minutes, though, due to evaporation.  As soon as the string dries, it’s time to squeeze-bottle more salt water on…)

Got a note from Jeff overnight:

“I am in Irving at EF Johnson headquarters for two weeks of training. Really neat to go through their museum.  Kw matchbox, anyone? Avengers, Vikings, etc etc…”

OMG! I have been looking for a mint “Pacemaker” which was a 90-watt class SSB exciter.   EF Johnson is big in the government/land mobile/commercial space which is Jeff IRL.  But when I think about all that phenomenal USA-made (great) ham gear (like my Thunderbolt amplifier) makes me envious as hell.  Well done, Jeff!

Write when you get rich,   ac7x/

22 thoughts on “Coping: With the “100 Deadliest Days””

  1. Re automobile: “Lights on during the day as well as night” should be the law in my opinion.

    • It’s a terrible idea unless your lights are wired to the “key on” position, and even then there needs to be another switch to disable them. I disabled my DRL’s after I got pulled over by a cop and nobody else did. We had a conversation and all was good, but I really don’t like daylights. The other problem is that I have to set the mirror to the night position to stop glare from high powered lights behind.

      I always watch for motorcycles and believe they should run lights all the time, but when everyone does, the motorcycles become invisible again. I do believe in helmets, but never helmet laws. One time I forgot a helmet in a helmet law state and totally freaked out about having to ride in it to get to my helmet again. We have too many laws, and the mark of a police state is when they enforce laws “for your own safety”. Their job is to protect adult people from each other, not from themselves.

    • In Norway lights on is the law (or was when I visited 10 years ago.) I used to teach research methods and one of the case studies I used was Norway’s conclusive proof that “lights on” significantly reduced accidents. Despite short days in the winter, I suspect the finding would be replicable in the USA.

      I always use at least the daytime running lights when I drive.

      • I’d like to see a redux of that study. I can’t imagine that Norwegians are significantly less susceptible to “texting disease” than Americans. People who’re texting don’t see anything, including lights…

        I eliminated my DRL circuits. They ran through my headlights and severely diminished bulb life. Around towns they’re a distraction (except for the GM lights which run through the high-beams and the LEDs, which are irritating by day, and dangerous at night) and on the highway I run headlights. I have no issue with city lights, but most who have them, don’t know how to use ’em.

        ‘Passed two girls on bicycles at 0345 this morning. Dark clothes, dark bikes, no lights, riding side by side in my lane on a traveled, unlit road. Stupid causes accidents. DRLs and headlights don’t fix stupid…

  2. Three right hand turns……..

    LOL! I thought I was the only one. My driving annoys the hell out of some of my passengers.

      • Actually I am crap at statistics.

        What I have a natural facility for is risk assessment and consequences awareness. I’m not paranoid risk averse — I just don’t take stupid chances unless there is a valid need.

        If there is a wildfire, tornado or psychotic driver in my rear view mirror (that third one has happened to me), then I will take off driving in my best imitation of a movie stunt driver.

    • I’ve always heard “Two wrongs don’t make a right…..but three rights make a left!” haha

  3. I was visiting one of my Ham buddies one afternoon a couple of years ago. We went outside and he had his HF radio set up on his back porch, his antenna was his chainlink fence and while I was there he made several contacts into Europe and South American running 100W.

  4. I don’t make left hand turns into a busy streets. Usually I’ll shuffle down the parking lot and figure out how to get to a light. Or take a right onto the busy road, then merge left and into some other parking lot where I can circle back out to the right in my intended direction. In some places you can take a right, then make a left u-turn at a light.

    People are insane who will go halfway across, and then sit in the median waiting for traffic from the right to clear.

    But then, people are insane.

    • Me too. I’ll make rights all day long before I make a left without a traffic light if I don’t absolutely have to.

  5. Dangerous:
    i hate black cars, on a bicycle they are the most likely not noticed when looking at everything going on around me. dark grey, other dark colors, if it is similar in color to the asphalt it is not seen.
    the corner posts at the windshield are now so fat as to be unsafe, all because the manufacturer doesn’t want to use a smaller stiffer metal stock in the post to get the gov’t mandated rollover protection, so the average driver cannot see when turning, many don’t even look! plus the extra width of the glue in.
    Do Not Honk at Me, turn off your stupid locking car horn, it is just more noise stress and I will castigate you for the illegal & unnecessary noise. I hate stupid car manufacturers that thought this was a good idea!
    Do not block the Crosswalk, it is illegal to block the intersection, do not enter the intersection if you cannot get all the way through, do not pass me to turn right into me, if you can’t drive correctly, (Uber is the worst when dropping off)
    Park It!

  6. Hey George, did I ever tell you the story about the 50KW FM where I was Program Director that as part of an upgrade actually mounted the antenna UPSIDE DOWN on the tower! This was in the Midwest, so each element had a radome. The one closest to the ground caught on fire from the accumulated RF. Station was non-directional but with the antenna upside down you could hear it 100 miles away but it picket-fenced in our city of license! This wasn’t WKRP in Cincinnati, but it wasn’t too far from there!

  7. When I moved here onto the ‘Volcano Ranch’, the first radio project was to lay in the ground system. Attached to the copper water pipe feed at the front of the house, it goes around the foundation slab, past the radio room window, and out to the back. It has several ground rods along the way.. one at each corner, one at the gutter downspout (well watered) one at the ham shack wall entrance, and is attached to the chain link fence post at the back corner of the house. The slab is on rock gravel that is only about 3-1/2 ft. thick. If I’m lucky I get 4 ft of ground rod before hitting solid lava rock. I have maybe 75 ft. of ground radial in the system before attaching to the water feed pipe. The present antenna is a 155 ft dogleg longwire up 30 ft. in the back yard with a 9:1 UNUN at the back of the house, grounded below. The longwire works well, and will tune up on 160 thru 6 meters!

    Plans are for a 50 ft tower at the back of the house yet. When excavating the foundation hole, it will get a drill down rod into the lava rock below for a good lightning rod. I plan to lay more ground radials across the lava rock in the back yard also. Always more work to do… but for a first toss-out, the longwire works well.

    Lightning protection is important here as tradewinds blow storms inland onto the mountain slopes and it’s a poor ground, just looking for a place for a ground strike. Hence the grounding before erecting something tall plans.

    Laying a copper ground wire into the lava flow channel would be interesting… but it’s five miles away, and I think the copper melting point is lower than the lava temp. :-)

  8. Ray,

    Turns out there was a lot of research conducted in the USA as well as Scandinavia and that generally declines of 10% to 20% in multiple vehicle daytime accidents were observed in both USA and Scandinavia. There’s a nice synthesis of 80s and 90s research at

    I get to Sweden once or twice a year and I see a lot of driving lights, but by no means universal use. Apparently use was mandatory some years ago. General transferability to the USA is a bit suspect, as the synthesis notes, because lighting conditions are different in the Arctic and in the USA the research was done at a time when roads were generally becoming safer. Interestingly, the greatest effects seem to occur in the summer when the lighting is best.

    Like George, I am an “old fart” and try to take advantage of all of the technological crutches available to make sure I have the best chance of getting even older. I’ve used daytime running lights ever since I became aware of the research. Last year I added a backup sensor and blindspot warning sensors to my 2014 car. Next week my 2004 gets a backup camera and blindspot sensors. I can’t say that the electronics have actually helped me avoid any accidents, but as I aged the “where the hell did he come from?” incidents became more frequent. There have been zero since the blindspot sensors were installed; maybe it was the alert or maybe just the persistent nagging changing my scanning habits–I dunno. Just doing my best to increase my odds!

    • Those technological crutches probably aren’t necessary, but their use just makes sense. I do the cam/sensor thing too, including on my trailers. I can’t see them helping me avoid doing something stupid, but I believe they WILL help me avoid other people, when they do something stupid. I DID add the rear fog light to my VW (inserted bulb in empty socket) when I wired it for fogs…

      DRLs, in the form of an “auxiliary light” were mandated in the U.S. in 1964. I never bothered to hunt up the study, but I’m assuming NHTSA saw no reduction in accidents above noise, because auxiliary light regs haven’t been enforced since about 1970.

      Speaking of lights, I’ve been a proponent of ECE lighting patterns since the 1970s. Although technically illegal here, except for motorcycles and ORVs, they’re incomparably better than DOT (US/Canada) patterns. Driving in Sweden, you’d experience them. Did you notice the enhanced view and sharp cutoff?

      I strongly favor turning running or head lights on for trips. What I don’t favor is being blinded, on a city street or in my mirrors, by high-beams, rows of 3-watt LEDs, or an improperly pointed headlight, in the middle of a sunny afternoon…

      • Hi Ray,

        Most of my driving in Sweden is from my son’s home to schools and various kid activities during the day. I haven’t really noticed headlight patterns. Driving there is generally pleasant although kamikaze bicyclists and speed cameras are added to the usual mix of cars, trucks, pedestrians, kids, and animals. Many Swedish children still actually play outside.

        My perceptions of risk are validated by Wikipedia’s use of 2013 information:

        “The fatality rate in the United States is high relative to most other high-income nations. The 2013 U.S. rate of 7.1 road fatalities per 1 billion vehicle-km is about double the 2013 rate in Sweden, which was 3.5 road fatalities per 1 billion vehicle-km.”

        I’m not sure of the reasons, however an aggressively enforced DWI limit of .02 as opposed to our .08 doubtless contributes. Too, my impression is that driving is seen more as means of transportation than as a competitive sport or a means of demonstrating manhood. Lots of Swedes don’t learn to drive until well after adolescence: they don’t have to because of the excellence of public transportation. And just maybe, daytime running lights have a contribution!

Comments are closed.