It's time for the Doc's annual roundup of last-minute holiday gifts for the drivers in your life. Most of the handy gift suggestions featured this year are stocking-stuffer size and affordable (around the neighborhood of $20) and can be tracked down at local retailers. If you've been procrastinating, get moving, because time's short, but be sure to keep your foot light on the gas pedal and play nice in those mall parking lots.
• The LifeHammer tool, which is used by Florida law enforcement agencies, can come to the rescue in two ways in the event of a crash. First, it's a cutting tool that can free someone from a jammed seat belt or other restraint. Second, it can break a vehicle window with either one of its two hammerlike heads. Although it's not pleasant to think about the possibility of having a vehicle that ends up in a body of water, we know it happens. The LifeHammer comes in a variety of colors and features a luminescent pin to make it easier to find in a dark glove box or console. $20 at Ace Hardware stores.
• The "You Got Your Driver's License!" kit for new drivers includes a travel mug, tire gauge, a "no cell phone" drawstring bag to remind young drivers to stash their phones when going mobile, a flashlight, and a fuzzy dice key chain. $25 at Uncommon Goods; www.uncommongoods.com.
• Belkin's USB dual car charger for iPhones and iPods can charge two devices at the same time. The compact unit is a space-saver that plugs flush into the cigarette lighter and the 3-foot cable that's included allows connection to a laptop. At $23, it's a great deal at Target stores, and Walmart carries a similar single-device Belkin USB charger for about $10. If you can wait until after the holidays and order the product online, the comparable dual USB Power Bullet Charger is available at ThinkGeek.com for $14.99.
• DrivingComfort.com is one of the Doc's favorite online sources for cool and useful items for drivers. A few of the niftier offerings includes their retro heated travel mug ($29.95), which plugs into any 12-volt cigarette lighter and keeps beverages heated to 160 degrees. Another favorite is their blind-spot mirrors, starting at $19.95. The mirrors offer glare-free views up to 2.5 times wider than most factory-installed side mirrors and are sized for standard vehicles and larger SUVs, trucks and vans. Finally, the battery-powered Doze Alert ($39.95) prevents drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. The device hooks over one ear and monitors the position of your head, sounding an alert tone when it detects nodding below an adjustable position.
I'm wondering about the connector between Interstate 4 and the Selmon Expressway in Tampa. From what I can glean, it is not going to be a full-service four-way interchange, but a two-way, similar to how County Road 296 (102nd Avenue N/Bryan Dairy Road/118th Avenue N) was connected to I-275 in Pinellas before they finally finished the job. From the ramp construction I've observed in progress, it appears only eastbound traffic coming off I-4 and only westbound traffic onto I-4 will be served. I haven't looked at the ramps on the Crosstown Expressway side, but I'd speculate the converse would be the case there.
We asked John McShaffrey, a spokesman with the state Department of Transportation, to provide us with some basics on the I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector. McShaffrey said it's designed to provide direct truck access between the Port of Tampa and I-4, as well as provide access between I-4 and the Selmon Expressway in the same direction of travel. The movements that are being created are:
From the Selmon Expressway to I-4 there will be westbound access from the Selmon to westbound I-4 and eastbound Selmon to eastbound I-4.
From I-4 to the Selmon there will be westbound access from I-4 to westbound Selmon and from eastbound I-4 to eastbound Selmon. There will be truck ramps at northbound 20th Street to both eastbound and westbound I-4. Truck ramps will also provide access to both east and westbound I-4 to southbound 20th Street/northbound 19th Street. Check out more details on the project, which is set to be done toward the end of 2013, attinyurl.com/cdykvz4.
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