Tag Archives: driving

An Agile, Aerodynamic Arachnid

April 18, 2018 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jay Leno…Jerry Seinfeld…Jason Pittack.

These “Js” are three of less than 1,000 people in the world to own a Porsche 918 Spyder—specifically, they are three of 918 owners of this vehicle.

“In the Midwest, there were only two copies of this car that I am aware of,” says Steve Gehring, president of the Great Plains Region of the Porsche Club of America. “Jason drove his around Omaha, so it was spotted here and there and people got to look at one.”

Pittack, the dealer principal for Woodhouse, likens his liquid-silver, 887-hp Spyder to a rocket ship—the car sports a 600-horsepower, eight-cylinder engine and two additional electric motors.

From left: Jason Pittack and his wife, Shelbi, with their Porsche 918 Spyder

That’s because the 918 was developed to have a powerful hybrid drive with the efficiency and ecologic consciousness modern drivers desire. Porsche, Pittack says, comes out with a “supercar” about every 10 years to serve as a showcase for the future of its technology.  The hybrid technology tested on the 918 is today available in the Porsche Panamera Turbo S (which was unveiled last year) and is in production with next year’s Mission E, Porsche’s first fully-electric car.

Besides being the dealer principle for Omaha’s Porsche dealership, he is a car guy.

“It’s been in my blood since day one,” he says, as evidenced by the fact that the first word he ever spoke was “car.” (The second two, for those who are curious, were “here’s” and “Johnny.”)

He owned, and enjoyed owning, the previous Porsche supercar, and knew when Porsche announced the 918 that the hybrid supercar would be a hot item. He put a deposit on the $950,000 car the first day they announced the concept in 2010.

Then, the wait began. Concept to production on this car took three years. The specific car he purchased was the 34th off the line and the fourth to come to the United States from Germany. The vehicle was flown to Atlanta by jet (it had a plane ticket) and was loaded onto a trailer from Reliable Carriers, the company known for delivering cars to the Daytona 500 and Barrett Jackson Auction.

The car was worth the wait, as he saw in October 2014. The acceleration will make a car fan’s hair stand on end, but the stops for fuel are infrequent.

“It’s a zero to 60 in 2.2 seconds, and we average 40 miles per gallon with it.” Pittack says.

Not that he accelerates that fast that often. Pittack and his wife don’t take it on long trips, or even the speedway, but it might be seen at the grocery store or the parking lot outside their favorite restaurant. The top pops off easily to turn into a convertible, making it a good all-seasons car. The fact that it’s built with carbon fiber makes it very lightweight.

And about that engine?

“You can use [the hybrid engines] in any combination. You can drive the vehicle like a true hybrid in all-electric,” he says. “You can drive it in electric to where the gas kicks on when you romp on it a little bit. You can drive it in the electric/gas combination at all times, and you can do it in just a full-out race mode where everything is just going nuts.”

And you do all that with the touch of a button on the steering wheel.

“It’s meant to be very intuitive on the inside. Just everything’s touch-feel,” Pittack says. “Using the inside of this car is like using an iPad or iPod.

Like the rare piece of art that this is, its value has appreciated to about $1.5 million. Given the value, one may be inclined to let it sit and never drive it at all. In fact, the second Porsche 918 in the area was never driven. That was owned by Pittack’s father, Lance, until February. Jason, though, loves using his car. It’s a fact that makes Gehring happy.

“Porsche cars are meant to be driven in our view, all of us who have them love to drive as many different models as possible,” Gehring says. “That one, for the average enthusiast is unattainable. Most of us will never see one, never drive one.”

“I drive all my stuff,” he says, and the Spyder is his current favorite vehicle. “It’s the fastest, but it’s also the most user-friendly.”

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

We Can’t Drive 55

June 8, 2017 by

I have a little pinback button with a red flag emblazoned with the words “Safety First.” It was produced in 1915 by the Nebraska Safety League, which seems to have been one of a number of grassroots efforts to improve public safety.

This was in response to the nationwide development of a group called the National Council for Industrial Safety, which initially focused on workplace safety, but expanded its scope in the next few years to include traffic and home concerns (changing its name to the National Safety Council).

About that time, Omaha’s city commissioner, John J. Ryder, visited New York and discovered something called the “American Museum of Safety,” which functioned, in part, to instruct school children about street safety. He was enamored with this idea and advocated for a local version.

Both recommendations came at the end of an era of almost unbridled carnage in the streets. To read the newspapers of the era, crossing the street sometimes sounded like a game of Frogger, with pedestrians dodging carriages, streetcars, automobiles, and runaway horses. Auto fatalities had skyrocketed—a total of 54 people had died in crashes in 1900, but by 1915 nearly 7,000 Americans had been killed on the roads.

The first talk of speed limits in Omaha seems to have occurred as far back as 1903, when an automobile ordinance was proposed. There weren’t many car owners in town, and they tended to be wealthy, and tended to get their way as a result. When the ordinance suggested a low speed limit of six-to-eight miles per hour, the car owners rebelled. Included among them was Gurdon Wattles, who made his fortune in transportation. He complained that cars only went two speeds, slow and fast, and slow was too slow to be much good, and fast was too fast for the speed limit. He suggested 12 miles per hour would be satisfactory.

They got their way, but almost immediately advances in auto technology rendered this limit moot. By 1905, cars were speeding around Omaha at 40 miles per hour, and police were complaining it was nearly impossible to enforce the limit—to tell a car’s speed, police had to watch a car travel from one area to the next and count seconds, and then do some quick math. In 1909, there was even a proposal to reduce the speed limit again, back down to six miles per hour, to discourage cars driving at dangerous speeds.

Instead, the speed limit crept upward. By 1911, it was 15 miles per hour. By the 1920s, with the advent of highways built specifically for automobiles, the maximum speed jumped to 25 miles per hour. By 1935, it was 35. And in 1969, speeds on the highways leapt to 60 miles per hour.

So it has been ever since, but for a brief period in the 1970s when, in response to spiking oil prices, there was a national maximum speed limit off 55 miles per hour, which proved unpopular enough for Sammy Hagar to enjoy chart success with a song titled “I Can’t Drive 55.”

The federal limits were repealed in 1995. Currently, the maximum speed limit in Nebraska is 75 miles per hour, a speed that Gurdon Wattles probably would have enjoyed.

This article was printed in the May/June edition of 60 Plus.


June 26, 2015 by

This article appears in June 2015 edition of Her Family.

Perhaps there is no age that can appreciate the joys of summer more than the teens. Swimsuit weather, no homework, driving privileges…finally. Even those older teenagers with jobs have time and freedom unlike during the school year. It is a glorious time in which lifelong memories are made.

But getting there safely takes a little planning and, perhaps, good ideas and a little encouragement from mom or dad.

Left to their own devices, it would be easy for many teens to quickly fall into negative patterns once the last bell sounds on the school year. While there’s certainly a place for sleeping in, lazy days, and video game marathons, no one, including your teen, is going to feel good about a summer in which nothing else is accomplished. Or, as they might say the week before school starts, “I feel like I wasted my whole vacation.”

Or, even worse, they have too much freedom, leading to trouble or tragedy.

In the Omaha area, there are many options for teens to get involved. If you haven’t already talked with your student about creating a plan for how they will spend their break, you still can.

Many of the big-three choices are already determined by this time: summer employment, summer school, or other school-related activities like athletics or band camp. It may not be too late for your teen to still find a job, but the longer they wait, the harder it may be for them to find something they like that will be flexible enough for their other summer activities.

If a job is not an option, there are other ways to encourage your teen to stay somewhat productive and busy. Look for volunteer opportunities. Even if they are not ongoing, having established projects will keep kids active and learning. Check with your place of worship, your school—even your own workplace might provide opportunities for teens to volunteer.

Teen driving fatalities start going up in June and peak in August.

Local nonprofits have their own rules about their volunteer workforce. Special rules apply when working directly with clients, but in Omaha especially, non-profit organizations hold events nearly every weekend and can always use willing workers to help. Fundraising events like golf tournaments, 5K runs, or auctions generally rely on volunteer power to be successful. Projects like these are terrific ways for older teens to strengthen their resumes for college or future employment.

Just setting a minimum standard or goal for the summer is a step forward for many kids. For example, one goal might be that your child will be responsible for getting dinner on the table twice each week, plus keeping the yard mowed and trimmed—whatever makes sense in your home. The idea is that your teen is not left with endless and empty days to fill with no direction or support.

Parents should also be aware that summer—not winter—is by far the most dangerous time for teen drivers. Teen driving fatalities start going up in June and peak in August. You may want to have a conversation that revisits basic safe driving rules about having additional teens in the vehicle, drinking and driving, texting and driving, and frankly, unnecessary driving.

Above all, cherish the time you still have with your children at home. Enjoy the adults they are becoming, and do what you can to help them get there—happily and safely.



Building (and Affording)

January 16, 2015 by and

Many of the financial aspects of parenting can be scary. Diapers, day care, tuition, sports, clubs, lessons, field trips… the list of expenses involved in raising a child from crib to college can be daunting. Recent estimates have middle-income parents spending $245,000 from birth to graduation on babies born last year. And that’s before college expenses begin.

Since my oldest is a son, I’ve heard years of horror stories about how one day adding him to our auto insurance policy will cause our rates to skyrocket. “Whatever you once spent on daycare, will now go to pay car insurance,” I was once told. The factors that insurance companies consider: age, gender, marital and/or student status—all work against new 16-year-old male drivers.

Well, frankly? It’s all true. But be assured, there are many, many things that you, as the parent of a pre-teen driver, can be doing right now to significantly reduce the sticker shock the day your oldest gets his license. I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan for this. Otherwise, you will be like the families who walk out of their insurance agent’s office absolutely stunned with an annual auto insurance bill that just vaulted well over $2,000. That’s not a one-time payment, friends. That’s every single year until their son turns 25 or otherwise leaves their policy.

Here are a few things that you can do that will not only help you reduce your insurance costs, but also, hopefully, hand the keys to the safest, most responsible driver you can.

  1. Contact your car insurance agent when your oldest is approaching time to get a driving permit (usually at age 15 in Nebraska). Find out what kind of discounts your insurer offers for safe teen drivers. Most major insurers have a number of incentives to give new drivers a great start.
  2. Monitor your child’s grades. Boys with good grades can have their rates cut as much as 25%, simply for showing that their last report card was solid, generally a B-average. The reduction isn’t as high for girls.
  3. Look into teen driving courses. The National Safety Council of Nebraska offers an excellent training program with requirements both in the classroom and behind the wheel. Classes are offered all over Omaha, all during the year. There is a one-time fee. You can learn more at www.safenebraska.org. Earning that certificate can slice another 20 percent off your child’s insurance.
  4. Meet your insurer’s teen driver requirements. Most major insurers have their own teen driver programs, and once completed, those can shave yet another 15 percent off your rates. In our case, the program reinforced what our son was learning in his driving training, plus instilled defensive 
  5. awareness skills I don’t think he would have picked up as quickly elsewhere.
  6. Consider combining policies. Insurers give credit to those customers who have multiple lines of insurance with them. Not just multiple vehicles, but other lines as well, like home insurance. If the current drivers in the home have good driving histories, that will also bode well for new drivers coming onto the policy.
  7. Choose your child’s vehicle carefully. There’s a huge, huge difference between insuring a new sports car with your teenager as the principle driver and insuring an older, less flashy vehicle for him to drive. Check with your agent before you buy something new. I promise you will be glad you did. We did, and it changed our buying decision.

By doing all of these things, we were able to reduce our insurance costs significantly. Rather than paying thousands extra each year, we pay about $100 more per month to insure our son as a driver. As I’ve stressed to him, it really is up to him now to maintain that “safe driver” status. While he might not appreciate it much now, he will when he is one day making those payments.

Finally, something else to consider. I insisted on a pre-license conversation between my son and our wise insurance agent. It cost nothing but time, but might have had more impact than anything else we did. Jim talked to my son, in a very positive way, about his responsibility as a driver, not only for his own safety, but for everyone else on the road. The great take-away from that meeting was this: “Son, this is the first time in your life that the State of Nebraska can come after you. If you are careless, reckless, or irresponsible, mom and dad will not be able to swoop in and fix it. It will be you, on your own, talking to the police or sheriff. Make sure you understand that.”

That was many months ago, and so far so good. I hope some of these suggestions will help you find great success in creating a safe and affordable teen driver. Let’s keep looking out for each other.


Driving Past Trauma

December 12, 2014 by and

I was driving along Dodge Street on a Friday afternoon. Rush hour traffic.  As I stopped for the red light in front of Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, my mind was on pizza and movie night.
I needed to order the pizza, swing by the video…


My van shook like it had been hit by a bomb. The sound was deafening. I saw a big truck bounce away from me, towards oncoming cars, and then back into traffic—where it hit another van that I later learned was full of children.

My mind went blank. And then I started shaking.

Police came (lots of them), but no ambulances. Incredibly, no one was hurt. The little kids in the other van were weepy, but physically fine. We exchanged information, waited on the police report, and watched the truck driver go away in the back of a police car.  My husband helped me get my damaged van home.

All okay, right?

Well, actually. No. All weekend, I was jumpy and shaky. I kept trying to brush it off. But come Monday morning, I went to climb into my husband’s car to drive to work. It would be the first time I drove alone on the same street as the wreck.

I looked at my beat-up van. I didn’t want to get into the car. I had to force myself into the seat—to turn the key—to open the garage door. Things that were usually just automatic took conscious effort. I realized that the accident had affected me more than I even realized.

I share this because trauma is a sneaky thing. And recognizing it, both in yourself and especially in your children, is extremely important. The sooner someone receives therapy after major trauma, the sooner he or she can recover. My trauma was minor, but it still impacted my emotions and my behavior. Now, imagine a child experiencing or witnessing major trauma. Untreated trauma can negatively impact a child’s behavior and decision-making as a teen and well into adulthood.

Children learn what they live, and those who grow up in homes with violence are repeatedly subjected to traumatic experiences. They are far more likely to continue that pattern into their adult lives.  Short-term, they are likely to demonstrate behavioral, social, and emotional problems, as well as have trouble in school. Long term, little boys who grow up in violent homes are more likely to become abusers, and little girls are more likely to choose partners who abuse them. These children grow up with higher levels of depression and anxiety.

Therapists will tell you that significant trauma experiences can cloud your self-image and all of your decision-making. Getting those traumas into perspective can truly be life-changing.  If you or your child has been affected by violence or other trauma, please contact Lutheran Family Services. Services are provided on a sliding scale so you can get the help you need.  Please do it as soon as you can.


Driver’s Ed—For Both of Us

January 14, 2014 by

My life as a mother is entering a whole new level of scary.

I’ve dealt with the baby turning blue, the disappearing toddler, and the fear of football injuries. But now, I’m getting ready to deal with the really frightening part of being a parent.

My oldest is getting his driver’s license in January.

It’s not that he won’t be a good driver. I truly believe he will be very focused and conscientious behind the wheel. I have to believe that. His father and I have invested in the teen driver training offered through the National Safety Council, so I know he’s getting the very best training possible.

He’ll be in class for twenty hours and behind the wheel with a certified instructor for another five. I take comfort in believing in this highly regarded program. I believe its coaches will remember all of the important things that I might forget to teach about the rules of the road. I mean, I’ve been driving for decades, and sure, I could show him how to operate a vehicle. But I don’t remember all those rules that I could once recite verbatim. So, I trust the experts on this one.

They tell me that teens who take driver’s education are less likely to be involved in an accident or get a ticket. So, the mom in me hangs on to that too. Because unlike the courage that it took for me to drop him off at daycare the first time, or to let him ride his bike alone, or later—to allow him to walk to the mall with friends—this is different. This is life or death stuff.

While I have confidence that he will learn how to be a good driver, I’m more concerned about him being a good defensive driver. I want him to know he really needs to watch out for the other guy. Because it could be the other guy that’s the real danger.

There will be other people out there driving who maybe aren’t as focused and conscientious as I hope he will be. They might be daydreaming. Or on the phone fighting with their girlfriend. Or, Lord help me, texting. And all it takes is one fraction of a second for a mistake to take away someone who means more to me than life itself.

The National Safety Council says that in 2012, teenage drivers accounted for almost one out of every four crashes in the state—and over 10 percent of all traffic deaths. Ten percent! And only six percent of Nebraska’s drivers are teens. That’s a lot of moms, dads, and family members with devastated, broken hearts. Every time I hear of another teen killed or hurt, it breaks my heart too. I just can’t grasp the pain that family is experiencing.

But now, it’s my turn to hand over the keys to my child. He’s excited about new freedoms he sees coming his way. And his pattern of being responsible and making good choices makes me feel encouraged about the kind of driver he will become. But still, there’s that nagging concern about statistical odds and life-changing moments. I guess that’s just the next step of parenting worry.

So let’s all be careful out there. I’ll keep an eye out for your kids, if you’ll keep an eye out for mine. Thanks.

What to Do When Your Vehicle Overheats

July 22, 2013 by

The summer heat not only affects us, it also affects our vehicles. Our vehicles are much more likely to overheat during the hot summer months.

It is important to do what you can to prevent your vehicle from overheating in the first place. Making sure to use the proper coolant for your vehicle is extremely important. Not all coolants are safe for all vehicles. Also, making sure that there is enough coolant in your system before driving is going to save you from a possible overheating scenario. If you notice that your vehicle is overheating—steam coming out of the hood and/or your temperature gauge going past the halfway mark and into the red zone—turn off your air conditioning and turn on your heat to full blast. Doing this will transfer some of the heat away from the engine to the inside of the vehicle.

Pull over, especially if there’s not a service station nearby, and turn the engine off. Pop the hood, but let it cool down before completely opening it. NEVER open the radiator cap while the vehicle is still hot; this is very dangerous. The radiator cap should be cool to the touch before opening. Look in the coolant reservoir to see if there is coolant in there. It is always a good idea to carry a bottle of coolant with you. In a pinch, you can use water.

If you have antifreeze with you, fill your reservoir with the coolant once your vehicle has cooled down. Your vehicle manufacturer should have stipulations on which types of antifreeze to use. Some are premixed; others need to be mixed with a 50/50 combo of coolant and water. If your radiator is not properly holding the fluid, there could be a leak somewhere, and it’s important to get it checked immediately.

If the vehicle does not seem to be cooling down, and there is not a service station nearby, it may be necessary to call roadside assistance for a tow.

Family Vacation Tips

June 20, 2013 by

Family vacation is a great opportunity to spend quality time together and create long-lasting memories. Get the most from your family vacation with a couple of quick tips from Boys Town Pediatrics.


Make a list a couple of weeks before your vacation. Add to it as you remember items your family will need. Make sure to include:

  • Essential paperwork—pack plane tickets, health insurance cards, passports, and identification cards in a watertight baggie.
  • First-aid kit—include Ibuprofen, sunscreen, bug spray, prescription medications, band-aids, contact solution, antiseptic, Pepto-Bismol, sewing kit, disposable wipes, etc.
  • Back-up luggage—take precaution in case of lost luggage by packing a set of clothing, toiletries, and essentials in your carry-on.


Discuss the travel arrangements and planned activities with your family. The anticipation of riding in an airplane or stopping to see the waterfall will keep them focused on what is to come instead of long travel times. Other travel tips include:

  • Bringing a reading or activity book or audio book.
  • Playing a game. See who can spot the most license plates from different states or bring cards for the plane ride.
  • Watching a movie. Have each child pick from a pre-selected group of movies.
  • Planning stops along the way. Sightseeing can prevent restlessness and unnecessary stopping.
  • Keeping busy during long layovers. Try to find the children’s play area or watch planes ascend and descend through the windows.

If you are traveling abroad, make sure to check the United States Embassy website for the country you are visiting. On the site, you will find information about required immunizations, travel advisories, and how to register your trip. It is also suggested to leave a copy of your passport back in the United States, so if your passport is lost, the information can be retrieved.

Meal Time

All the activities your family will do will keep everyone busy but also hungry. By pre-planning your family’s meals, you will save money and keep everyone going for the whole vacation. Fuel your family’s hunger by:

  • Carrying along pre-packed, filling snacks.
  • Bringing bottled water or a refillable drink container.
  • Planning a picnic instead of eating out every meal.
  • Picking out a few local treats to prevent too many sweets.

Making Memories

Make the most of your family vacation budget by booking tickets, excursions, and rentals in advance. Choose a few larger activities and leave room for free time, exploring, and relaxation. Consider free activities that include:

  • Hiking a trail or walking the beach.
  • Swimming at the hotel pool.
  • Bringing bikes and pedaling around town.
  • Checking out local events and activities.

Most of all, enjoy your vacation, relax, and make memories that your family will remember for a lifetime.

In Case of An Accident…

January 25, 2013 by

Skidding, sliding, and slipping are all common this time of year. Unfortunately, that can be followed by a bump or even a crash! Auto accidents are a pain for everyone, but knowing what to do in an accident can ease some of the stress.

The first thing to do is report the accident to the police. If there are no injuries, go ahead and begin to exchange information with the other driver. Make sure to get their personal information, along with the type of vehicle, and all insurance information. The next thing to do is to determine if your vehicle is drivable. If not, the police can call a tow truck, and you should have your vehicle towed to the shop of your choice.

After the police have finished at the accident scene, if the vehicle is drivable, you will want to call the insurance company of the driver at fault. Depending upon the insurance company, they may want you to go to their “drive thru” claim place, or they may make arrangements to come to your vehicle to do an estimate. Another option is that they may want you to take it to a body shop for an estimate. The most important thing to know now is that you are the vehicle owner and no one can tell you where to have your vehicle repaired. There is no law that requires you to have your vehicle repaired where your insurance company recommends. It is always your choice.

When determining where you have your repairs done, there are some things that you may want to take into consideration. What type of warranty does the shop offer? (Whether or not your insurance has a warranty, it is the shop that is ultimately responsible for the repairs.) Also, do the technicians at the shop receive ongoing training? Is the shop involved nationally, keeping up with all the newest procedures and technologies? The best thing to do before you are involved in an accident is to do your research and know where you will take your vehicle if the unexpected happens. Making a snap decision doesn’t always lead to the best decision.

Fighting Sun Glare

November 25, 2012 by

It’s that time of year when everyone gets geared up and prepared for the hazards of winter driving, but there’s a forgotten and often dangerous hazard here right now that many are ill prepared for. With the days getting shorter, we face an additional hazard of sun glare to our already not so pleasant commute. Sun glare can cause us to have trouble seeing other vehicles, and even more dangerous, cause us to be unable to see traffic signals.

There are a few things we can do to be better prepared against sun glare:

  • Have a pair of sunglasses specifically dedicated for driving. Keep this pair in the car at all times. This way you won’t have to worry about not having them because you left them at home or work. Polarized sunglasses work best.
  • Having papers on your dash can create a reflection on your windshield, obstructing your view. Keep your dash free and clear.
  • Keep your windshield clean. Dust and any debris on the windshield have the effect of making sun glare more pronounced. Clean your windshield periodically to keep a dangerous hazard from getting worst.
  • If possible, avoid driving during the times when the sun is rising or setting.
  • Finally, like all hazardous conditions, you should slow down and avoid distracted driving.

By doing these simple steps to be more prepared, we can have a safer driving season.