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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Today On A Side Street ...

I’m a nervous driver. In the past, I have been in a few minor fender-benders, two accidents where significant automotive damage occurred, and one incident where I myself was badly injured. So when I drive, I try to be very focused. No crazy music. Mirrors in their proper positions. Continual checking to make sure lights and blinkers are only “on” when they are supposed to be. And NO eating while driving … people that fly down the highways fighting with messy tacos or greasy burgers amaze me in their stupidity.

So, of course, the whole idea of cute and clever bumper stickers makes no sense to me. I’m glad that the people who share the roadways with me have political opinions and “Honor Students” as offspring, but I don’t need to read about it while traveling at 65+!

Typically, bumper stickers are labels or stickers … approximately 12 inches by 3 or 4 inches … printed on PVC with a heavy adhesive backing. As the name implies, bumper stickers are affixed to the bumpers of vehicles … primarily automobiles, but the trend has grown to include motorcycles and scooters, golf carts, recreational vehicles, bicycles, and more.

Bumper stickers cover the topics of the day in both serious and humorous ways. Nothing is spared … religion, politics, sports teams, philosophical beliefs, sexual mores, etc.

By their very nature, bumper stickers couldn’t exist without bumpers … first introduced on the Ford Model A in 1927 … but the history of these iconic message-carriers starts shortly before World War II. Forest Gill, a Kansas City printer, started dispersing patriotic flag-like banners that were wired to auto bumpers. This trend spread quickly. Around the same time, a tourist attraction atop Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, started applying similar temporary promotional stickers to all visitors’ vehicles as a promotional gimmick.

The first real use of adhesive to make stickers more permanent was on “country tags,” a program supervised by the United Nations to mark vehicles that frequently crossed national borders. In the 1950s, advertisers began to encourage loyal consumers to display simple messages and logo images in the form of bumper stickers to show their support. Soon schools, churches, and social organizations were initiating similar campaigns. In the 1970s, some vehicle owners joined a fad where bumper stickers became a game of sorts … people collected and displayed stickers to demonstrate the number of places they had visited and other types of accomplishments. Some individuals were actually issued citations for vehicles adorned with more than 500 bumper stickers.

Currently, most drivers with a desire to display their “feelings” on their vehicles have switched to either low-tack bumper stickers (which can be cleanly removed with common household products) or removable vinyl decals that adhere to automotive window glass. But even with a more practical design, the sentiment of the bumper sticker is still as annoying and distracting as hell to me!

And this blogger isn’t the only one who recognizes the “dangers” of bumper stickers. Some psychological studies have discovered tendencies for road rage in subjects in direct proportion with high levels of automotive customizations, including bumper stickers. These social scientists believe that people who “mark” their cars and trucks may feel more entitled and territorial on our streets and highways … like they literally “own the road.”


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