Archive for March, 2012

Speed Traps

March 28th, 2012
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Yesterday in Kailua, I got busted for speeding -- along with dozens of others who were doing over the 25 mph speed limit on Hamakua Drive, a four-lane major street that goes from Kailua Road to Enchanted Lakes. Before I continue, let me say I agree speeding is a serious problem. But nearly all the fatal accidents involving excessive speed I hear about, occur at night and on highways. So why do police set up speed traps during the day or in spots that aren't considered to be dangerous for pedestrians or drivers?

Well, if you believe the people I spoke to, they think it's because the police have a "quota" to make and it's really about generating easy revenue since most people won't challenge the tickets. All I know is the place where the police chose to set up their radar gun was nowhere near any pedestrian crossing, and was on a section of Hamakua Drive that has a slight incline. Even if you were going 25 mph (which no one does on that stretch) you would naturally press down on the gas pedal just to maintain your speed, and as you reach the top of that incline, it's easy to be doing 35 mph before you saw the cop up ahead, holding the radar gun. I was clocked at 37 mph, which is possible for that brief instant when I was going uphill.

I honestly did not realize the speed limit was 25 mph. There are two-lanes traveling in each direction. Between the Safeway intersection and Keolu Drive, there isn't any cross street. So after I was ticketed, about two hours later I returned with my Flip video camera to observe how many other cars were traveling over 25 mph, and how many the police were pulling over. What bothered me most was the police didn't even see how dangerous it was for me to cross the street from the corner of the Safeway parking lot to the side where Firestone, Down to Earth and some restaurants are located. If anything, THAT is where they should have set up their radar guns because speeding in that area is really a threat to pedestrians -- not to mention cars pulling out of Safeway that must cross two lanes if you're going toward Enchanted Lake... which was my case earlier.

But it doesn't seem that was the police's intent. They weren't doing it to make a safety statement about the dangers to pedestrians if you speed in certain areas or at certain times, when drivers should be alert to more foot traffic on busy roads. The Kailua speed trap took a tag team approach. While one cop wrote up the ticket, the other held the radar gun and waved alleged speed violators over to the side. However, since virtually every car I saw was going over 25 mph, there were times when both cops were busy writing tickets while some speeders got a free pass.

As I continued recording their actions on video, it also became apparent that police do NOT ticket every car that is going over the speed limit. I'm not sure if it was because they got hand cramps from writing so many citations, or if they were being more lenient because they saw that I was recording them on video. Even though I didn't have a radar gun, it's fairly obvious when someone is going over the limit -- they immediately hit the brakes and slowed down substantially as soon as they saw the police up ahead or the cars that were pulled over by them. So how much leeway do individual police have, or is it arbitrary who they let slide and who they wave over?

What irks me is if you do drive the posted 25 mph limit on a major thoroughfare like Hamakua Drive, you will have people either tailgating you or passing you left and right, which is even more dangerous if those drivers are weaving in and out of traffic. Going 5 to 10 mph over the limit to maintain a steady traffic flow doesn't seem like it should warrant a traffic ticket, unless it is an area where there are pedestrians or cross streets. Can you imagine what would happen if police decided to strictly enforce the exact speed limit on the Pali Highway, Likelike, H-1, H-2 or H-3? Sheesh.

But the real issue is what good are these daytime speed traps on residential streets, when the most serious traffic accidents almost always happen late at night or in the wee hours of the morning when drunks and younger drivers are most likely to be doing 70 to 80 mph on major highways.

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Speaking of highways, I'm surprised that the media hasn't followed up on the StreetVac road pollution filter story we're currently airing on this month's Career Changers TV show. Jeff Krantz, who owns SeaBreeze Watersports in Hawaii Kai (his wife, Courtney, runs the day-to-day operations) invented a low cost filter that is easily installed in car wheel wells. The filters trap metal particles and other pollutants created by cars that normally wind up in the air or run off into the water system when it rains. He offered to do a test pilot program using State vehicles at NO COST... and the DOT turned him down without showing much interest.

Meanwhile, he and Mark Bell -- an inventor who is helping market StreetVac -- have been able to get support from government leaders in other countries to implement test programs because the patented filters could greatly reduce air and water pollution. You can see the video by clicking here. For daily viewing times of the current Career Changers TV episode, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.

Flight Attendant 'Too Old' at 83?

March 19th, 2012
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There was a nice article in the N.Y. Times over the weekend about a United Airlines flight attendant from Hawaii, who is still working at the age of 83. His name is Ron Akana, and he's been doing that job for 63 years. It's evident he loves what he does. But it raises some questions about when one should retire, and passenger safety on airline flights.

Comments posted on the site where I first saw the article link suggested that Ron might be a liability in an emergency due to his physical condition. An anonymous commenter said he was on a flight that Ron was working, and claims the UAL flight attendant is hard of hearing. I don't know if airlines do regular sight and hearing check-ups, but it would seem reasonable for that type of job.

The other issue raised by the article is money. After he turned 70, Ron was earning over $100K per year through a combination of wages, pension and Social Security -- they call him a "triple dipper." He says it's "vacation money," implying he doesn't really need the job to get by. Which I think is great, since I personally don't like the idea of mandatory or early retirement. For most people, being put out to pasture when you still have skills or experience that can be put to good use, is not a good thing.

However, at a time when so many people are out of work  -- "young" whippersnappers in their 40s and 50s, compared to guys like Ron -- is it really fair that he keeps holding on to a job that does have physical requirements? Have you seen how much stuff people are cramming into "carry on" luggage they try to jam into overhead compartments? I've been on a few planes where the flight attendant had to risk hernias while helping passengers with their heavy bags. On a more serious note, unruly passengers can be a real threat in the air, and you have to wonder whether an 83-year-old person can handle such altercations without suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Here's the link to the NYT piece, which may or may not work for you, since they have a paywall. (If you're registered with them, you can access up to 20 articles per month for free.)

What it does remind me though is flying is not nearly as fun or glamorous as it used to be.

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High school sports have been preempting some of our regular Career Changer TV weekend time slots, but you can DVR or watch the current episode during the day. Visit www.CareerChangers.TV for the schedule (Mondays through Thursdays rarely get preempted). You can also watch video segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo!

Investors Wanted

March 8th, 2012
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Anyone out there watching Shark Tank on Friday nights? That's the ABC reality show in which entrepreneurs and inventors pitch new products or services to actual investors -- successful business people, who have made millions of dollars through their own ventures. The show prefaces each presentation with brief back stories on the entrepreneurs so that we might have a rooting interest in them. But as the series name implies, the investors can be cold, even ruthless in assessing the profit potential of the schemes and dreams laid out before them.

It can be amusing listening to some of the more fanciful ideas that get rejected. It can also be heartbreaking to hear someone tell how they've invested their live savings in something they believe in, only to have the Sharks rip it apart. Their caustic remarks serve as a nasty reminder that there's a fine line between passion and delusion.

As producer of the Career Changers TV show on OC16, I have met local inventors and entrepreneurs who have been candidates for appearing on Shark Tank, but didn't make the cut. One of them is Daniel Ward, creator of Hawaiian Chariot wheelchair motorbikes. We featured him in last month's episode, and recounted how an accident put him in a wheelchair several years ago. Yet his passion for motorcycles, and ability to think outside the box kept him moving forward in pursuit of a dream: making an affordable vehicle for wheelchair users that was practical and could be mass produced. The only real vehicle option for people like him has been adapted vans, which cost around $40,000 each.

Daniel received grant money that enabled him to design a prototype and meet with manufacturers in China. In fact, while he was having dinner with Chinese engineers there, Daniel got the idea from the Lazy Susan on the table for his turntable design so the wheelchair user could enter the vehicle, then easily rotate inside the cab area to face the steering handle. There were a number of things he had to figure out before he could market the Hawaiian Chariot motorbikes... getting financing was part of that.

He would up going in front of the Sharks, and says they were brutal. Despite the research he presented showing there were millions of wheelchair users that could be potential buyers, the Sharks didn't feel it would be a profitable business. According to Daniel, one of the producers called him afterwards and said they would not be airing the segment because they felt the Sharks were too hard on him. Translation: beating up on a guy in a wheelchair made the Sharks look like insensitive you-know-whats. Their rejection did not deter him, however.

When we filmed the segment towards the end of last year, he had just gotten necessary federal approvals that made his vehicle street legal -- one of the last obstacles to selling his product. Then just before we were about to start running the finished piece on Career Changers, Daniel contacted me and said we might have to pull it. Over the holidays, his health took a turn for the worse. People in wheelchairs are susceptible to infections, and his infection was bad enough to require surgery. On top of that, while driving in his adapted van, he was in a car accident that led to other physical problems. He was concerned that he couldn't continue running the Hawaiian Chariots company, and was looking to sell it.

We talked it over and decided to run the segment as is, but added an introduction saying he's looking for a partner or investor to keep his dream alive. The thing is, it's not just about making money for him. He's committed to helping wounded war veterans and is donating vehicles to that cause. And at an estimated retail cost of $16,000 per unit, Daniel believes many wheelchair users' lives would be greatly improved by having more mobility at a price they can afford. I've searched online to see if there are any similar vehicles to his on the marketplace, and could only find high end custom made models or home-made models that haven't met federal or state standards for road safety.

Daniel's health has improved, and he maintains his optimistic outlook. But if anyone can offer suggestions or is interested in partnering with him, please drop me an email < richfigel@gmail.com > or call Daniel at (808) 636-2014. You can watch the video segment we produced by clicking here.

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On a related note, I'm in the process of trying to do a smaller scale local version of the Shark Tank idea as an on-going Career Changers TV segment. I have a couple of local "angel" investors/business consultants who are interested in participating. Now I just need to find some worthy pitch candidates! If you have a new product or service and are looking for investors, send your elevator pitch to me via email. At the very least, you may get some local exposure... as many Shark Tank "rejects" have found, just being on the show has increased sales for many of them.

For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.