Answer Man: Why don't UPS trucks beep when they back up?

News-DemocratJune 14, 2013 

Can you please tell me why UPS trucks have no backup alarm? Seems strange in this day and age. -- W.S., of Caseyville

UPS not only brings your packages, but they also deliver on safety, a UPS spokesman assured me. While it may seem contradictory, reverse beepers may cause more harm than good for two reasons, Dan McMackin argues.

First, he contends that pedestrians tend to tune out those repetitive noisemakers much as people often ignore car alarms going off in shopping mall parking lots.

"They're just so much noise in a noisy world," he said. "So then you have a situation where a pedestrian walks behind a truck, ignoring the beeper."

Similarly, drivers might assume that the beeper is warning off all pedestrians, so drivers may back up without adequately scrutinizing their surroundings.

"Drivers can become complacent due to a false sense of security and rely on the beeping instead of their training," McMackin said.

Instead, all UPS package cars are equipped with backup cameras. Still, drivers are taught to back up as seldom as possible and rely on more old-fashioned equipment.

"When backing is absolutely necessary, we stress using both side mirrors in addition to the camera/monitor. Even then, the admonition 'when it doubt, get out' applies -- in other words, if you are not sure of what is behind the vehicle, get out and investigate."

In addition, drivers are told to get on the horn.

"We instruct our drivers to physically tap on their horn while backing," he said. "Our horns are louder, more distinctive and less commonplace than beepers. We believe beepers cannot replace or even improve on solid training and methods where a human being takes responsibility for being an active part of the backing process."

Please answer this question because I think Collinsville area police officers are targeting the handicapped. I have been handicapped since 1979. Because I can't walk more than a few feet, my wife takes me to stores. Often she goes in while I wait in the car, but twice the police have stopped me and said she cannot park in a handicapped spot if I stay in the car. I've never heard of this and think it is very unjustified. I am 67 and can't afford these tickets! -- D.C., of Collinsville

I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but what you and your wife are doing is, indeed, in clear violation of the handicapped parking regulations.

If you read your parking placard, it clearly states that the authorized holder (you, not your wife) must enter or exit the vehicle each time you use those parking privileges. Otherwise while you wait in the car, your able-bodied wife has taken a spot from a handicapped person who truly needs the convenient space to make his or her way into a store.

So, while your wife can drop you off at the door and then park in a handicapped spot if you intend to walk back to it, she cannot take advantage of such a space if you remain in the vehicle. Similarly, she cannot drop you off and pick you up at the door on the same trip while using a handicapped spot.

"It's up to law enforcement if they want to issue a citation," says Bill Bogdan, the disability liaison to the Illinois secretary of state -- and who has used a wheelchair himself for more than 40 years.

"Legally, technically, they can. We want to see the placards be used properly so that's why we require the disabled individual to enter or exit the vehicle at the time the parking privileges are being used."

In a recent daily crossword, the clue to a four-letter word was "plankton." The answer was "brit." Explain please? -- C.J., of Cahokia

I say, old chap, the English might be a bit gobsmacked to find that a common term for those living in Great Britain (i.e., Brit) is also used to define a major part of the ocean's seafood buffet.

But that is the case. Derived from the Cornish word "bruit" meaning "speckled," brit are tiny sea creatures eaten by baleen whales and many fish. It also can be used to refer to the young of the herring and some other fish.

Today's trivia

What famous court case apparently led to the expression "sharp as a Philadelphia lawyer"?

Answer to Thursday's trivia: Long before Indian nicknames in sports became a contentious issue, the National Hockey League issued a Chicago franchise in 1926 to coffee tycoon Frederic McLaughlin. McLaughlin had been a commander with the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Infantry Division during World War I. This division was nicknamed the Blackhawk Division after Black Hawk, a Sauk tribal leader and prominent figure in Illinois history. McLaughlin probably named the team after his old war division. Long spelled as two words, the team in 1986 went back to the one-word style as seen in the original documents.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or or call 239-2465.

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