Break the Chain Cruising Out Of Control

Created 12/10/2002 (2/6/2003) Nothing moves advice around the 'net faster than anecdotal evidence of what could actually happen to you if you don't heed it. Even in cases where the advice stands up, the story illustrating it rarely does. This one may be an exception, but there are still reasons to be skeptical.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Be Careful Out There ! ! ! !

Subject: Important

Below, is a story about a man who was using Cruise Control during a rain storm and experience a potential fatal accident. I thought this was a well known fact but I guess I was wrong. Please take a few minutes and review this article with your friends and love ones, it may save someone(s) life.

Bill Norris ' story

I had a wreck a couple of weeks ago and totaled our Lincoln Town Car. I hydroplaned on Hwy 135 between Gladewater & Kilgore, Texas. I was not hurt, just emotionally rattled! I know the Lord was with me. I learned a lesson I'd like to pass on to you. You may know this already--but the highway patrolman told me that you should NEVER drive in the rain with your cruise control on. He said if you did and hydroplaned (which I did) that when your tires were off the road your car would accelerate to a high rate of speed (which it did). You don't have much, if any control when you hydroplane, but you are totally in the hands of God when the car accelerates. I took off like I was in an airplane. I'm so thankful I made it through that ordeal. Please pass the word around about not using cruise control when the pavement is wet or icy. The highway patrolman said this should be on the sun-visor with the warning about air-bags.

The only person I've found out who knew this (besides the patrolman) was a man who had a similar accident and totaled his car. This has made me wonder if this is not why so many of our young people are dying in accidents. Be careful out there!

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

I have been unable to locate the Bill Norris who supposedly authored this tale (His is a surprisingly common name). That said, there's little reason to doubt its authenticity. The area described in the letter is real and the advice sound. It's likely that Norris only intended the note for his friends and family and didn't expect it to be widely circulated, that's why he didn't do more to identify himself.

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Unfortunately, that shortsightedness positions this "Real, But..." chain to become a harbinger of misinformation. As expected, later versions of the chain move the tale into the realm of urban legend. In the example below, the narrative shifts from first person to third, Norris' name is removed and he becomes a woman - not surprising, since legends often identify women as potential victims, since society generally sees them as more vulnerable:

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

An individual had a wreck a couple of weeks ago and totaled their Lincoln Town Car. She hydroplaned on Hwy 135 between Gladewater & Kilgore Texas. She was not hurt, just emotionally rattled! She learned a lesson I'd like to pass on to you. You may know this already--but the highway patrolman told her that you should NEVER drive in the rain with your cruise control on. He said if you did and hydroplaned (which she did) that when your tires were off the road your car would accelerate to a high rate of speed (which it did) You don't have much, if any control when you hydroplane, but you are totally in the hands of God when the car accelerates. She took off like she was in an airplane. She is so thankful she made it through that ordeal. Please pass the word around about not using cruise control when the pavement is wet or icy. The highway patrolman said this should be on the sun-visor with the warning about airbags. The only person she found out who knew this (besides the patrolman) was a man who had a similar accident and totaled his car.

This has made her wonder if this is not why so many of our young people are dying in accidents. Be careful out there!

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Like most urban legends, this tale offers a "true story" of an extreme example of a rare, but real, risk - illustrated by a story that happened to some unidentified (or poorly identified) person other than the author. It lacks crucial validating information and what "facts" it does contain are already being altered.

Automotive experts, manufacturers and highway patrolmen advise against using a vehicle's cruise control on wet or icy pavement. Doing so can delay your reaction to situations that often offer only fractions of a second to maintain or regain control. To do so, you must reduce power and slow the wheels so that the tires can once again grip the pavement.

But not all cars will "accelerate to a high rate of speed" when they hydroplane. Rather, your vehicle's wheels will maintain the speed set by the cruise control. If set at 50 mph, the tires will continue to rotate at that rate - they will not suddenly accelerate out of control just because they aren't in contact with the road. The lone exception is vehicles whose speed is metered on the non-drive axles.

Another reason not to forward this chain is the risk of "False Attribution Syndrome" - someone may receive and forward it in the future, adding their name and title, and by extension, undue credibility to the tale. Would you want to start receiving calls and e-mails wanting more information about this danger? If not, break this chain.

What Do You Think?

Category: Real, But...
References: Snopes.com

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