Auto World on the Infobahn : Motorists Can Get Information, Vent Feelings About Bad Drivers and More on the Web

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Who are the worst drivers? What are the top 10 things that people do in their cars? What shape are road signs in Washington?

Everything you ever wanted to know about driving--serious and silly--is available on the information superhighway.

Check out the Highway 17 Page of Shame, where a Northern California worker posts pictures of annoying drivers he encounters during his commute. Or the Ask Mr. Traffic page, which currently features a discussion of the third leading cause of accidents--driving while drowsy.

You can get your kicks on the Route 66 page, which includes stories and photos about the historic "Mother Road." There is even a Web page offering tips on parking your car to avoid dings. (One obvious tip: park next to an expensive car.)

These are in addition to Web sites--reported in an earlier Street Smart--where you can check up-to-the-minute road conditions in Southern California, pose a question to Caltrans and find local speed traps. A graphic Web browser is recommended.

You can debate whether BMW owners are the worst drivers on the Highway 17 Page of Shame. Author Emil Gallant explained why he also posts pictures of offensive motorists he sees on Highway 17.

"Hopefully, one of those bad drivers will surf on over to this page, see a picture of their car and a description of their awful driving, then change their wicked ways," he says.

He also singles out vehicles he dislikes; he calls the BMW "the ultimate rudeness machine."

And e-mail is posted. "Lighten up on the BMW drivers," reads one posting. "We're not all rude marketing dweebs."

Gallant doesn't like Volvos either. "Turbo or normally aspirated, wagon or sedan, it doesn't matter. Usually loaded down with 2.3 kids and a pooch, these dinosaurs lumber along in the fast lane, regardless of traffic conditions."

The National Motorists Assn. page deals with more serious issues, such as speeding, how to fight a traffic ticket and lane courtesy.

The group, best known for successfully lobbying to repeal the 55 mph national speed limit, advises: "Do not drive at the speed limit if the rest of the traffic is not moving at that speed. If your preferred speed is 65 mph but the slower traffic is moving 62 mph and the faster is approaching 70 mph, either slow down or speed up, but don't fight or obstruct the flow in either lane."

The Web page for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety features information about traffic safety, including a new effort--soon to be implemented in Los Angeles--to use cameras to catch motorists who run red lights.

There are also tips for beginning drivers and for parents of teen-age drivers. "Prohibit late night driving that's unsupervised," is one suggestion. "Teen outings late at night pose more risk."

For another point of view, consult the Teen New Drivers' home page, put together by a Maryland high school student.

Among his advice: "Watch out for pigs, chickens, cows and skunks."

The California Office of Traffic Safety page also offers tips on safety. And the Woman Motorist page offers car and driving information for women.

Someone also has set up a list of the top 10 things people do in their cars.

No. 9 is watching TV. ("You think I'm kidding," said the author. "A Santa Ana consulting firm recently surveyed 62 million Gen-Xers, and 15% of them want a TV in their car.")

No. 3 was applying makeup. (Men are just as bad as women, the author says. "They shave. The really daring ones use a straight blade.")

By the way, the highway signs in Washington are shaped like George Washington's head, of course.

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Wheels on the Web

Here are some Web site addresses on the Internet that offer information for drivers:

* Route 66: http://route66.netvision.be/

* Page of Shame: http://www.got.net/egallant/the road.html

* Road Markers: http//:www.ugcs.caltech.edu/jlin/signs/why.html

* Ask Mr. Traffic: http://www.usbusiness.com/mr traffic.html

* National Motorists Assn.: http://www.motorists.com/

* California Office of Traffic Safety: http://www.sna.com/ots/

* Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.hwysafety.org/

* Woman Motorist: http://www.west.net/webpages/wmindex.shtml

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