As a kid, I held my breath when passing an old graveyard on my way to school. With all those spirits in the ground, you didn’t dare breathe normally — or else! At some point, I stopped believing in such tall tales. But with Halloween still on the mind, urban legends are part of the fun. Our subject, driving, happens to be loaded with them.
Today we search for the truth in some popular driving myths. These can’t be real — or can they?—Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent Next
When I was 16 I lived in fear of forgetting those almighty nine digits. If you flubbed them up while reciting them to a police officer, he might — well, I wasn’t sure what he might do. Give you a ticket? Haul you in? Bottom line: I never wanted to find out.
As things stand, I don’t know my license number, at all. But what if I get pulled over for speeding and am asked my license number?
“You do not need to memorize your driver’s license number,” said David Procopio, spokesman for the State Police. “Obviously, it was easier for a driver to remember when the license number was the same as his or her Social Security number.” Next
Most accidents happen close to home — you’ve heard this one, right? It belies the idea that the more familiar the road, the more easily distracted we tend to be. But what’s the definition of “close?” And do the numbers back it up?
The saying, insurance industry experts say, can be traced to a survey by Progressive Insurance, one of the country’s biggest auto insurance providers. “The survey found that 52 percent of reported crashes occurred 5 miles or less from home, and a whopping 77 percent occurred 15 miles or less from home,” reads Progressive’s website. Next
The study also showed that 23 percent of accidents happened within a mile of home — that’s pretty close — while only 1 percent occurred beyond a 50-mile radius. So the saying is true, or is it?
To be clear, I think Progressive did a fine job with its study. But I find it very odd that no one else has corroborated the findings. From what I gather, no other major insurance company has replicated Progressive’s study. Though 11 years have passed, Progressive officials told me they’ve yet to do a follow-up. Next
Our last urban myth made me chuckle. When the reflective coating wears off your license plate, it supposedly can’t be read by toll-booth cameras. That means you could evade a toll, and they’d never know! For the truth, I called Mark LaFrance, project manager for vehicle safety and compliance services for the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Oh, did he surprise me.
“If all the reflective [component] is gone from the license plate, it just looks like gray metal to the camera,” he said. “You can’t make out the number at all. It’s pretty amazing.” Next
“By and large, 99 percent of the plates out there will reflect just fine,” LaFrance said. You’d imagine that older, green-and-white plates would account for the remaining 1 percent. But not necessarily, LaFrance said.
“It kind of depends how much salt and how much sun and how old the plate is,’’ he said. “Some older folks put the car with a green plate in a garage and it never comes out, so it still reflects.”
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