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Who taught YOU to drive?

Who taught YOU to drive? Spring cleaning

There’s no surer sign that spring is here than Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox. And with this being Fenway Park’s 100th season, the team’s doing all kinds of special things to celebrate.

Alas, painting Yawkey Way in the team’s colors does not appear to be one of them.

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Last summer, after discovering that there aren’t any laws requiring public streets to be asphalt gray, I raised the idea that the Sox should partner with Boston to paint Fenway’s famous boulevard either red or Monster green to welcome fans this anniversary season.

I even found a contractor, McNulty Construction Corp. in Framingham, that specializes in adding color to pavement by way of a heavy-duty epoxy.

Opening Day at Fenway is Friday, but at last check Yawkey Way was still the same dull color.

“Nobody has called me,’’ said contractor John McNulty. “Everyone I know thought it was a very cool idea.’’

For kicks, I asked McNulty how quickly he could do the job - just in case the Red Sox owners have a change of heart.

“I can remember they had us paving down on Lansdowne Street the morning of one Opening Day,’’ McNulty said. “I said to my guys, ’We got to get out of here, there’s going to be too many people!’ So yeah, I’d be ready if they wanted it.’’

The theme today: spring cleaning. Time to cross some other lingering items off my list.

UVA protection

I got a sunburn last summer while driving, which led to a column about how car windows typically don’t block cancer-causing ultraviolet A rays.

Steve Fine, founder of the Peabody-based Melanoma Education Foundation, had this suggestion: For added protection, apply a clear, plastic UVA-absorbing film to the inside of your vehicle’s windows.

“Many common plastics absorb both UVA and UVB rays, including the plastic used as an antishattering laminate in car windshields,’’ Fine wrote me. “Side and rear windows absorb UVB, but only partially absorb UVA radiation because they typically do not contain laminate.’’ So those are the windows that need protection.

Fine and his wife, Gail, who lost their son, Daniel, to melanoma, have created a skin-cancer awareness curriculum taught in schools across the country, and an informative website, www.skincheck.org.

Exhaust warnings

I roll up my car windows in the Thomas P. “Tip’’ O’Neill Jr. Tunnel to avoid sucking in exhaust fumes, but I’ve always wondered: Am I being smart, or just a hypochondriac?

To find out, I called Dr. Christine Oliver, a Massachusetts General Hospital physician and associate clinical professor at Harvard Medical School.

Oliver’s primary specialty is occupational and environmental medicine, so she’s a wealth of knowledge about the harmful effects, if any, of everyday gasoline and diesel fumes. “There are certain exposures when you’re driving and there are other exposures when you’re filling up your gas tank,’’ she began.

When pumping gas, the main concern is your exposure to the chemical benzene, which can damage bone marrow, Oliver said, but it is so low for the few minutes it takes to fill up that the average person isn’t at any risk.

However, if you suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity or a hematological condition such as leukemia, it’s a good idea to have someone else pump your gas, and to roll your window down as briefly as possible, Oliver said.

People with asthma should likewise avoid pumping their own gas if diesel cars or trucks are idling at the station.

“Diesel exhaust, as opposed to gasoline exhaust, has been shown to cause asthma, to aggravate asthma, and has also been associated with lung cancer,’’ Oliver said. “I’ve had patients who have asthma who have to pull over after they find themselves behind a bus.’’

People with asthma and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis or emphysema also need to be mindful of air pollution when they pass through construction zones, as both road paving and jackhammering can release irritating particulates, including cement dust, into the air.

I don’t have any of the conditions I’ve listed, so my risk when driving through a tunnel with my windows down is pretty minimal, Oliver said. But anyone who does have a preexisting condition should roll up windows and switch the vehicle’s vents to internally circulated, cool air.

Turkey on a plate

Jim, my friendly UPS driver, had something to say about my last column on charity vehicle-registration plates.

“Check out what Indiana does,’’ he said.

Whereas Massachusetts has 18 charity plates to choose from, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles produces more than 80, with the beneficiaries ranging from regional tourism bureaus to to the University of Notre Dame.

But where Massachusetts requires nonprofits to sell 1,500 plates in advance and post a bond of $100,000 to cover production costs, Indiana requires just 500 nonbinding signatures from residents who say they want the plate.

About two years ago Indiana switched from the time-consuming process of physically stamping letters and numerals on metal plates, which Massachusetts still does, to digitally printing them on flat vinyl plates via computers.

“When you order a plate today we print it tonight,’’ bureau spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said. “Not only are we saving millions of dollars in unused inventory,’’ he said, the agency no longer has to worry about managing the “arduous’’ production process.

Maybe Massachusetts will take a similar leap forward.

Peter DeMarco can be reached at demarco@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @whotaughtU2driv.
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