By on May 25, 2009

I’ll never forget my first ride in a BMW. I remember the excitement, anticipating a high speed run in an [echt] autobahn-tuned automobile. The driver never broke Nixon’s double nickel. In fact, he stayed in the right lane for the entire trip. Flash forward to two hours ago, G-forcing through the S-curves into Providence. In the middle of the second bend, a Nissan GT-R zipped by my minivan like it was standing still. Hakuna matata. What a wonderful phrase. Hakuna matata. Ain’t no passing craze. The GT-R driver was there. In the moment. In control. Safe?

I know: all things being equal, the higher the differential between vehicle speeds, the greater chance of a collision or loss of control leading to an accident. Well, yes, all things are NEVER equal. Driving safety depends on a huge number of variables: vehicle type and condition; road construction, condition, width, and camber; weather (as it affects grip and visibility); traffic; driver age, experience, sobriety, skill, general psychological makeup and specific mental state. And so on, including dumb luck.

To say that a speeding GT-R is inherently dangerous is both true and relative. Yes, the mustachioed enthusiast caning the über-Nissan would have been less of a danger to himself and those around him if he’d observed the speed limit. But the question must be asked: safer than what? A caffeine-deprived father in his minivan fighting over the radio with his 11-year-old step-daughter while his five-year-old demands that he retrieve her missing crayon? The kid stunting and flossing in a beat-up Buick Century in the Italian astronaut driving position? What?

I’m not trying to defend a Baruthian speeder with moral relativism. The GT-R driver was breaking a law designed by society for society; he has no moral foundation upon which to base his behavior. Besides, blind eye be damned; he was weaving through traffic at warp speed. Guilty as charged. In terms of the whole actions > consequences deal, I’m with Baretta: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” And that’s from someone who’s done the time, and slowed right down.

Although not necessarily to avoid legal sanction (aging, testosterone levels, children . . . connect the dots). Be that as it is, here’s the bottom line: anti-speeding absolutism is feel-good nonsense. It does nothing to make our roads safer.

Anyone who reads this site knows (if not acknowledges) that there are speeders and there are speeders. There is speeding and there is speeding. Once upon a time, police officers made the distinction between “simple” speeding and dangerous driving. These days, radar technology and an ATM-based law enforcement philosophy has removed informed discretion and eliminated simple common sense.

The fact that we’re debating speeding—rather than road safety—shows how far we’ve strayed from cause and effect. Hyper-speeding is rare and therefore relatively unimportant. Inattention due to fatigue accounts for far more accidents than high-speed hooliganism.

Again, I’m not defending adrenalin junkies who use public roads as a private playground. Not cool. Not safe. Not legal. Call me a hypocrite, but I consider balls-out driving four-wheeled cocaine. I tried it. I liked it. I learned the drug’s downside the hard way. I would NEVER do it again. I would NEVER advocate its use. I would NEVER want ANY of my children to even THINK about trying it.

I’m not alone in my hypocrisy. To those who would string up fast drivers in fast cars without a moment’s hesitation, I say mote. Beam. Eye. Remove. Proceed. The vast majority of American drivers routinely break the speed limit. The same majority that considers themselves safe drivers. Well consider this . . .

If drowsy drivers cause or experience more accidents than speeders, who’s a larger menace: the guy blasting along at twenty or thirty or more miles per hour above the speed limit, focusing his mind on the illegal task at hand, or the driver who thinks he’s safe because he’s driving at the speed limit and so fails to engage mentally in his vehicular progress?

Of course, the safest driver is the one who’s driving at the speed limit who IS mentally engaged in the act of driving. I’m guessing that most of the commentators who excoriated Jack Baruth’s guide to street speeding answer to that description.

In an ideal world, everyone would be like you. You’d never share the road with our speed-crazed, morally lax editorialist/reviewer. In the same ideal world, there wouldn’t be any drunk drivers or soccer moms in SUVs yakking on their cell phones as they blow through suburban stop signs.

Here in the real world, there’s a sliding scale of dangerous “others.” Next time you get in your car, ignore the speedo (for a moment) and check your look in the mirror. Forget about “them” and say hello to the most dangerous driver of all.

[NB: This is not an article about TTAC's editorial stance or style. Click here for a post on that topic. All comments that raise meta-points about the site will be deleted.]

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45 Comments on “Editorial: Unsafe at Any Speed?...”


  • avatar
    MRL325i

    I thought this was going to be a rumination on the Shark pictured. Boo hoo.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Good editorial. I agree with the sentiment.

    The part about speeding vs. driving tired reminded me of something. If I’m making a long nighttime drive and I find myself getting over-tired, nothing wakes me up faster than a quick blast up to 120, 130 or 140+mph. Gets the adrenalin flowing!

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    This is an enthusiasts’ site (masquerading as a domestic hating site?). The reality is most of us have done at least some enthusiastic driving perhaps in the past.

    I think the problem is one of relativity. People slower than me suck. People who drive faster than me are menaces.

    When I do I overtaking manueovre I do it with gusto. But to everyone outside of my car it looks reckless.

    I drive a fast car. When I drive it I don’t care what people think. It’s just me in [fast] cocoon.

    But when I see other people driving the same kind of car it looks like they are blatantly flauting the law.

    So when I do it, it’s ok. When someone else does it (in the same car!) it’s awful.

    I think it’s just human nature combined with some slick advertising on behalf of the government. I know where Jack comes from when he says he’s been assaulted by estrogen filled men who cry this “you are endangering my life and my kids” while they drive their minivans to and from kids soccer practice. It’s rather pathetic actually.

    You will always see people (invariably men) in high powered V8 sedans or sports cars or Japanese turbos going full speed in an overtaking lane or some such behaviour that looks for all the world like it’s dangerous. I’m in two minds. I love to see fast cars driven like the driver means it. Who doesn’t like a Porsche or BMW given its head?

    You will also hear about guys street racing and killing a innocent family.

    This is what the motorcar has given to us. People should stop tut-tutting about the world outside of their control and mind their own business.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t disagree with this editorial. However, it wasn’t the breaking of the speed limit that bothered me about Jack’s articles. I think most limits are too low.

    What bothered me was the passing on the shoulder, passing on the right, running from the cops, hiding from the cops, flashing your lights to imitate a police cruiser, using the turn lane to run up on traffic, burning out to get out of a traffic jam, cutting people off, pretending that you are on the phone as an excuse for cutting people off, squealing your tires to get people around you to do a panic stop, and responding to critics with things along the lines of “I hope you don’t get your menstrual blood on the seats of your Prius”

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    OK, I’ll provide my own breakdown on all this.

    If speed limits were set to reflect a safe, reasonable rate of speed, this conversation wouldn’t even be taking place. End of story.

    Speed limits today are usually anywhere between 10 mph and 20 mph below the safe driving speed. The reason for this current state of affairs is, dare I say it, revenue. Revenue for insurance companies (higher premiums for ‘speeders’ and lower accident claims) and for the government.

    The interesting thing is that today’s speed limits actually encourage lawbreaking because they are intentionally too slow. American speed limits to me are like the yellow lane lines at the auctions that are designed to keep people away from the cars. Nearly everyone breaks the rules when it’s sale time and nearly everyone doesn’t get caught.

    To me this sets a very bad precedent for the way our society behaves. It makes citizens more willing to take on risky behaviors, like repo-ing cars, and makes our government seem dumb and untrustworthy.

    Hmmmm….. perhaps this is not really a bad thing.

  • avatar
    Joey8360

    I’d like to hear from someone out there whose job it is to determine and set speed limits for public roads. What is the process, and how much of it is engineering versus politics? It’s been my observation as a driver that speed limits are usually set FAR lower that what I would consider a maximum “safe” speed. If drivers routinely notice this pattern, how much respect for speed limits should we expect them to have? Knowing that the posted speed limit is often ridiculously low, we tend to set our own (higher) personal speed limits for the roads we drive.

    For example, when more than half of the vehicles on a given road are exceeding the posted speed limit, trying to obey the posted limit can be unsafe, since you could be travelling much slower than the flow of traffic. Why not base speed limits on the flow of traffic. If it were truly unsafe to drive a given stretch of road at 80 instead of 65, would over half the drivers be purposefully driving unsafely? I’d rather see enforcement based on speeds that deviate too far from the flow of traffic, high or low. If everyone is doing 80, then tickets ought to start at 90, and maybe less than 70 if you’re not in the far right lane. It’s been my uninformed, amateur opinion that the safest speed is the flow of traffic or slightly faster. (emphasis on “slightly”)

    But I would be willing to consider changing my opinion if a state traffic engineer were to show me the error of my thinking. I’d also be willing to bet that state traffic engineers often have their speed limits adjusted downwards by supervisors based on political pressure (either nanny-state or revenue, possibly both).

    As for revenue, I’d be willing to pay more for my license, plates, and insurance for the privilege of having the legal right to drive at a higher speed, with the left lane of freeways reserved for use by those with the enhanced license and special plates. Multi-tier driver licensing, with higher privileges for those willing to pay for it and pass more rigourous driving tests and vehicle inspections.

    P.S. I just took four paragraphs to say what could be condensed to: “Yeah, what Steve said!” (But his comment wasn’t there when I started writing mine.)

    P.P.S. There’s also lane discipline, which is another topic. In too many places in the US, cars bunch up and occupy every lane going roughly the same speed. Nobody wants to move to the right to let you pass. I got the chance to drive on the autostrada in rural Italy a few years ago, and there would be farm equipment in the right lane doing 40 or 50, and Mercedes and Lancias closing in on your ass in the left lane doing god knows how fast. There WAS no “flow of traffic”, but there were also few left lane hogs who wouldn’t MOVE THE FUCK OVER! Maybe European drivers have to be more alert, because if they weren’t, they’d be dead. Curious, is this a particularly American problem or are there inattentive nitwit drivers over there too? I was only there a month and didn’t see any, I see them every day here. Just though I’d ask.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    nah it’s crap

    look at the amount of articles on TTAC alone on red light cameras

    where i am it’s long been acknowledged that speed limts are set to provide maximum revenue

    the public is cynical of police and public officials and so called ‘traffic management experts’

    on the flip side of course you always get the gullible fools (invariably at dinner parties) who take the guff hook line and sinker and beleive that speed cameras should be on ‘every corner’ and that all cars should be limited via big brother GPS systems… look at the UK for a nation of that kind of person

    jack represents the antithesis of this kind of person

    i also believe in amendment issues but there are those that will take it to the n’th degree

    there is no difference but i don’t particularly care to berate jack simply because that’s between him and the law and i’m not his local law enforcement agency

  • avatar
    KixStart

    As that GTR zips by, how can you tell the difference between “In control” and “Lucky?” Or just, “Not overtaxed… quite yet.”

    We have almost infinite capacity for self-delusion. Plenty of us suck at driving (hell, I probably do) but we think we’re God’s gift (hell, I certainly do). Overconfidence and undercompetence are a bad combo.

    I’ll take my overconfident and undercompetent drivers at the speed limit or below, thank you very much.

    If there’s one takeaway I’ve got from the recent batch of Baruth articles and spinoffs, it’s a determination to call 911 to report excessively dangerous infractions.

  • avatar
    DearS

    What S curves into Providence, from Pawtucket? I feel a little scared when trying to drive fast on those, especially considering the cops often around the place.

    The safest drivers are the ones obeying the speed limit and paying attention? These are the folks that drive Prius and Camrys, or baby muscle cars. Those people almost always in another world by default. Who in the F-ing world wants to drive a Camry attentively? These are the people that hate life to some degree and want to bring everyone else down to their speed out of passive aggressiveness.

    I drove in the Dom. Republic for a few weeks and boy was it different. No double yellow lines or even lines signifying lanes. A bunch of cars overtaking each other left and right and driving barely inches apart. Running reds lights is ok as long as no one is coming. Forget about anyone yielding or letting some through an intersection without a light. And its normal to take a turn on the wrong side of the road, oh and no stop signs, just a ditch in the middle of the road. Speeding, I dare anyone to go too fast down there. Even though most people do speed and its important to sometimes (in regular roads), its common sense to know just how fast is too fast. Oh and its atleast twice as fun when your in a moped with a reworked engine.

    When I got back to the U.S I felt afraid, hurt, sad, angry and even ashamed to be on a Fucking lane driving like a fucking robot. I missed traffic going in every which way and the freedom and welcoming I had to do the same.

  • avatar

    “Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary… that’s what gets you.”
    -Clarkson

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Rules are for wimps. This is how real men drive!

    :-)

    At any rate:

    http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/enforce/Speed_Forum_Presentations/Ferguson.pdf

    As will be seen, accidents happen when traffic elements are out of synch with traffic flow, by either going too slow or too fast. Lots of studies supporting this. Serious accidents occur with greater frequency at higher speeds – duh – but it seems it has to be pointed out.

  • avatar
    George B

    Sometimes speed limits are set low for reasons other than either safety concerns or revenue generation. The EPA basically forced Texas to reduce the number on the highway speed limit signs in the Dallas/Fort Worth Ozone Nonattainment Area by 5 mph.
    http://www.epa.gov/EPA-AIR/2005/October/Day-11/a20337.htm
    Almost nobody obeys the reduced speed limits.

    I know a guy who was a traffic cop who patrolled I-635 in the Dallas suburb of Farmer’s Branch, TX. When asked privately how much tolerance he gave speeders, his somewhat suprising answer was 15 mph. His justification was he had more than enough customers exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph or more and his lights slowed down the lesser offenders.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Speed limits appear slow to at least half the drivers out there, the half that has or thinks it has driving skills in excess of the limit.

    You’ve got newbies who just got their license, or who’ve been out on the roads for decades and never developed beyond L for Learner.
    You’ve got the aged, with slowed reflexes and a life’s worth of shouldered chip.
    You’ve got the drugged, drunk, demented and deranged.
    And you’ve got factors worth of inattention to what’s happening, assisted by DVDs, mobile phones, music players and “where did I put the shopping list?”
    You’ve got pristine, perfectly maintained vehicles – and you’ve got dangerous wrecks, all on the same roads.

    The limits try to take these and a world of other uncertainties into account, and do so in a manner that suits no one yet serves all.

    Speed is just one of the limits – another is whether one is fit to drive, for a variety of reasons.
    I have to agree with ajla:

    What bothered me was the passing on the shoulder, passing on the right, running from the cops, hiding from the cops, flashing your lights to imitate a police cruiser, using the turn lane to run up on traffic, burning out to get out of a traffic jam, cutting people off, pretending that you are on the phone as an excuse for cutting people off, squealing your tires to get people around you to do a panic stop, and responding to critics with things along the lines of “I hope you don’t get your menstrual blood on the seats of your Prius.”

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    But RF, what is “anti-speeding absolutism”? Has anybody posted anything that amounts to this?

    In other words, does anybody say you have to adhere to the speed limits all the time?

    I think this editorial is adressing a phenomenon that does not exist.

    What does exist, is the obviously irresponsible “flow is unimportant but speeding is sexy” propaganda that Jack penned.

  • avatar

    DearS:

    You actually want to go back to driving in the third-world? I do it every day, and it sucks to high heaven. Nothing ruins a brand-new paint job better than having a moped driver in a cap and sandals (helmets are for wusses) go end-over-end into your windshield.

    I know the lack of actual traffic light and lane discipline, of radars and traffic light cameras, is quite liberating, but sharing the roads with a whole bunch of brainless ass-shats who got their licenses with a little grease money isn’t. (this is not racist. this is how I got my local license)

    A relatively free system would be terrific if combined with Scandinavian levels of driver education. Out here? You’re hoping the guy barrelling towards you in the wrong lane in a four ton bus with dodgy brakes at least has the brains to realize that he’s left you no place to go… and that he’s sober and un-stoned enough to care whether or not he flattens you into a pancake.

    But then, I don’t really know how bad drivers in the Dominican Republic are compared to those here in Asia. I live right beside a hospital, and I see moped-riders DOA almost every week.

  • avatar

    Hey Niky!

    Where do you live? I live in the country with the world’s highest accident rate and despite having a Chinese driver’s license, the only place I drive here is in the backseat. Compared to what I see here every day, JB is Mother Theresa.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I have only one standard. When someone else’s behavior puts my life (or by extension that of those I love) at risk, I become extremely angry. In a perfect world, those who blatantly do so would become eligible for immediate removal from the gene pool.

    Of course, this is somewhat subjective. But, in general, it makes for a good standard. Coming up to pass me in the left lane at twice the speed limit on a multi-lane road where I can clearly see you and prepare? Not so dangerous, have a good day. Passing me on the right at twice the speed limit in your Integra (and weaving in and out of fast, dense traffic) while I’m on my motorcycle? If I had a gun, I’d be tempted to run you down and shoot you.

    I am a good driver. I make that judgement because I Have survived riding my motorcycle for decades. I pay attention to what is the single most dangerous thing I do on a regular basis. I never forget that my life and those of the people who trust me depend on not making mistakes.

    Speed is not the issue. Inappropriate use of speed is. I have absolutely no problem with going eighty or even ninety on a public road where it is appropriate (passing on a two-lane road in a clear passing zone being one of them). But when you blatantly put other people at risk, I feel that there isn’t a hell hot enough or a jail dark enough for you to spend some time contemplating your misdeeds.

  • avatar
    rcolayco

    Simple-minded question — what’s wrong with the German system in which speed is limited to 80 kph in congested lengths of autobahn, mainly in the vicinity of exits, 120 kph on (regrettably) more and more of the autobahn, and unlimited (the circle with 3 diagonals across it) where traffic is usually light?

    PLUS the essential other rule that you don’t hog the inside lane (strictly for overtaking) and, if you should be overtaking a bunch of cars there, to be alert for others running faster still behind you and to get out of their way as soon as possible. Specially if you’re in an unrestricted speed area.

    The corollary is, you NEVER overtake on the right side even if the idiot ahead is hogging the inside lane.

    Finally, that you NEVER move into the fast lane without checking that there isn’t another car coming on it a a much higher speed than you’re driving.

    Is that so difficult to understand and adopt in America? Wouldn’t it work?

    PS — Oh yes, almost forgot to say, nice photo of the old BMW 6 coupe!

  • avatar
    shaker

    Many “performance car” adverts highlight the unsafe and irresponsible maneuvers that their cars are capable of – usually in closed-off, familiar settings (like the latest Lexus ads, showing widemouthed knuckleheads driving through empty city streets like they’re running the GP @ Monaco).

    Then, the obligatory: “Professional Driver on Closed Course” (Nod nod, wink wink).

    Basically, you can drive any way you want, as long as you have expensive car, and the coin to pay fines and lawyers to keep you out of the slam.

    I exceed the speed limit myself, routinely, as even my Hyundai Elantra can take a “30MPH” Pennsylvania curve @ 40-45MPH.

    But God forbid if I plow into the wanna-be Tour de France riders who’ve taken residence of half of my lane on the other side of that corner.

    YMMV… drive with your head OUT of yer ass.

  • avatar

    # Bertel Schmitt :
    May 26th, 2009 at 5:06 am

    Hey Niky!

    Where do you live? I live in the country with the world’s highest accident rate and despite having a Chinese driver’s license, the only place I drive here is in the backseat. Compared to what I see here every day, JB is Mother Theresa.

    The Philippines. One of the best places to drive in the world. City traffic is absolute chaos, but the countryside is a fine place to go motoring. Gas is cheap. There’re only two places they’ll give you speeding tickets, and they don’t bring out the radar till lunchtime… the rest of the time, you can have your foot to the floor for hours or you can cruise your way to an easy 5 l/100km… there are some glorious mountain passes where you’re dicing with old Land Rover Defenders and Willys Jeeps going 85 mph downhill, and buses going the same speed up… and just oodles and oodles of moped, tractor, jeep, bus and truck drivers weaving back and forth, merging and crossing without signalling or looking and running into each other at inopportune moments.

    Safe to say, a bit like China, with less death. Sixty years of Darwinian selection, and all that, see. Formula One drivers have commented that the taxi drivers here have better reflexes than they do.

    -

    Oh, and I used to be JB. Got my first license with a dollar bill and a 1×1 photograph. Had some fine times. Outgrew it… or was it got married? I forget. Now I guess I’m more like Mother Theresa. I only bounce off the rev limiter in 5th when there’s no one else around… I don’t pass on the shoulder (passing on the right is legal), I don’t counterflow and I don’t blast by people at twice the limit.

    Ahhh… the effects of the marital speed limiter.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    It’s the kids, Niky. My average speed dropped significantly when my daughter cried hello to life.

  • avatar

    anti-speeding absolutism is feel-good nonsense. It does nothing to make our roads safer.

    Robert, how true. The slogan “Speed Kills” is bullshit. That’s propagated by people who can’t think clearly. “Irresponsible Driving Kills” is 100% accurate.

    An expert driver might be able to drive very safely at 120 mph while another driver might be unsafe at 30 mph on the same road, at the same time.

    What is irresponsible driving? I would characterize it as not knowing your limits, which includes poor situational awareness, not understanding your tool (the car), the environment (road, weather, light, etc), not understanding possible consequences.

    Also, I’m sure that it is possible to have a knack for correctly judging the developing events and choosing the right course of action – kinda a sixth sense. Such a driver intuitively knows what the other drivers are going to do, and thus he/she can avoid accidents.

    Of course, an otherwise-expert driver without this knack can get into trouble when a “normal” driver does something unpredictable, something stupid which a well educated driver wouldn’t do (which I’ve seen so many times…). When that otherwise-expert driver gets into a trouble, other people can get hurt unnecessarily.

    I’d rather be sharing the road with expert drivers like JB than with many of the yahoos that jam our roads, even though they drive below the speed limit.

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger :
    May 26th, 2009 at 7:53 am

    It’s the kids, Niky. My average speed dropped significantly when my daughter cried hello to life.

    Must be so. Mine dropped a whole 10 mph from 110 to 100.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Robert: nice editorial.

    But please, please, please, don’t use the term “meta”. It’s already overused and I have heard meta-game, meta-leaders, and all sort of meta-silliness. Please spare us!

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Speaking of speed limits, I have to take a picture of a sign next to my buddies house.

    There is a sweeping turn & the speed limit is 5mph. Not joking — 5mph!

    I have seen SUV’s taking it comfortable at 25.

    I would wager I could take it at 50-60 comfortably on my sportbike, but I stay at about car/suv speed.

    You’d figure they’d do that if there were police around. Or I don’t know, maybe houses with kids, or shrubbery/woods where animals may pop out and it has none of that. I’m surprised nobody has spray painted a “2″ next to the “5″ yet.

  • avatar

    At the risk of bringing Phil out of retirement, I submit TopGear’s rendition of Finnish driving instruction:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy8LJx71_9o

    If we would insist that drivers are trained to take advantage of the potential of their vehicles (and this includes those of us who ride motorcycles), we could make a reduction in our annual death toll which far exceeds any limit on speed. Instead, we watch numbly as persons “trained” to drive 3000 pound sedans jump into three-ton trucks and pretend they know what they’re doing, or that any idiot capable of riding a bicycle can deal with a 160 mph sportbike. We care not that granny can no longer see more than 30 feet in front of her, so long as she gets to the store. And we pretend that applying makeup or dialing a cell phone does not impair driving.

    Robert – you’re absolutely correct that it is the component behind the wheel which is the most dangerous part of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    rcolayco,

    I’m not sure if you’re German or not but the 100′s of thousands of km on German highways taught me that a good fraction of drivers simply will not use the rearview mirrors even on unlimited sections and will pull into the overtaking lane after a brief 2 second indicating maneuvre, without paying any attention whatsoever to how fast you’re actually going.

    I do find the highway situation still better in Germany than the UK, where one passes the driving test without EVER seeing or being allowed onto a highway. This produces some shocking behaviour. Add to that some very poorly designed, and amongst the most poorly maintained roads in Europe and one really wonders where the relatively low fatality rate comes from (lower traffic and cars per inhabitant rations than many other countries help).

    Finally – the joys of third world driving. Never tried it in Asia (my only experience of that is Japan, which is not exactly third world) but have plenty of experiences from the poorer regions in Europe and North Africa. It’s excellent – even at relatively low speeds it usually demands fairly high concentration, because so many unexpected things can, and do happen. Rush hour traffic in London? Boring and frustrating. Rush hour traffic in Casablanca? Invigorating, still moving fast, an experience to look forward to. Another thing I also often encountered in the poorer parts of Europe is a much higher co-operation level of other road participants. Almost everyone will flash their lights to warn you of radar traps, people use rear view mirrors, if not indicators, and I’ve often encountered situations, where they would use the hard houlder to let you pass (rather than the other way around), when they saw that you have a faster car and the desire to travel at a higher speed.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I’ve driven in The Third World. What a mess. I’ll take rules and a civilized regard for them, thank you.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Martin Schwoerer: But RF, what is “anti-speeding absolutism”? Has anybody posted anything that amounts to this?

    In other words, does anybody say you have to adhere to the speed limits all the time?

    I’ve debated other posters on this site who have taken that exact position. So, yes, these people do exist. There are people who get upset over people driving 75-85 mph in the 65 mph zone. That represents “anti-speeding absolutism” in all its (misguided) glory.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    geeber,

    thanks for pointing that out. I couldn’t remember a single case.

    As per Stein’s linked file, statistics indicate that you get in accidents when you go too fast or when you drive too slow. Go with the flow is the TTAC consensus too, I would say. Luckily, the slowness absolutists are a minority, as are the speed maniacs.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    geeber,

    Maybe I should mention that I’m not going to go all Puritanical on this.

    On good roads, no traffic, good visibility, I can understand why the speed limit might get bent. I’m perfectly happy driving across Nebraska at the speed limit but I can see situations where another driver adding 10, 15 or even more wouldn’t be unreasonable.

  • avatar
    rcolayco

    Kristjan Ambroz:

    As you’ve surmised, I am not German but rather Asian. I travelled regularly to Europe & the US during he 80s & 90s. Not as extensively since my semi-retirement in the last 10 years.

    I have noted, particularly during my more recent visits that traffic has become steadily heavier on the autobahns; the unrestricted sections seem shorter & fewer.

    And yes, observance of basic safety as well as courtesy has diminished. Indeed, I have experienced downright hostile (completely without provocation) behavior from drivers of older & slower cars.

    However, as you have noted, these matters are to be seen in relative terms. I do believe that in general, the standards of highway driving skills & practices in Germany compare rather well with those of other places, including those in the US.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Martin and Kixstart,

    This past weekend I travelled for a significant amount of time on both the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-81. The posted speed limit on both roads is 65 mph.

    The flow of traffic was about 75-80 mph (including the second-generation Prius driven by a young lady that passed me while she was travelling at 80 mph – so, yes, Prius drivers do like to move, too).

    But, I don’t recall one person travelling faster than 80 mph.

    Even someone travelling at 90 mph really does stick out like a sore thumb in those conditions.

    On the other hand, I noted very few people driving at 65 mph. The tractor trailers did stay at that speed (which is a good thing).

    I’ll bet that even the people driving at 80 mph would have been furious at anyone who was travelling at 100+ mph or passing on the shoulder, and would have called the State Police on their cell phones to report them.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    As I have mentioned before, I do speed within reason on the highway only. Never in the city. And on the highways I far too often see people who are simply unaware that, by law, they have to yield to people passing them on a 2 lane highway. I have had to egregiously break the speed limits because I have been stuck in the left lane, with cars approaching in the distance, and some guy in the in the right lane who won’t let me in. Either they are just oblivious or got a case of the “I’ll show you” because they hate people speeding past them. I had to choose between slamming my brakes on a 100km/h highway to get back into the right lane (and risk cutting in front of someone going 30km/h slower than them) or speeding up to get in front of the people who won’t yield and let me in (they, in fact, speed up sometimes to prevent me from getting in…also against the law). I feel the latter is safer.

    There have been times where my Bi-Turbo A6 has saved me on the highway where my previous Ford Focus would have lacked the power and forced me to choose option 1, thus risking cutting someone off at the speed I had to brake to. Its easy to say “well you should not pass if its not safe” but if the left lane is clear, and there are openings ahead in the right lane when I begin to pass, then the fault lies with the self rightchous minivan in the right lane who takes it upon themselves to close openings I can get into thus stranding me in the left lane. In that instance, speeding is the safest thing for me to do.

    We also have to realize that the highway police themselves acknowledge the difference between 30km/h over the limit and 50km/h over the limit. One is called speeding, the other is called reckless driving. In almost all reports I read about accidents where “speed was a factor”, the offending driver, according to the law, was commiting wreckless driving. Not speeding. But the police will always call it speeding to justify ticketing anyone going more than 10km/h over the limit.

    The biggest problem I see on the highways is impatience and driver aggression. People need to be more aware of whats going on, check their rear-view/side-view mirrors every 30 seconds or so, not just when they change lanes. And learn to yield to other drivers if it will help them out of a precarious position.

  • avatar
    gzuckier

    Speed kills. Even 30 mph head on can be fatal. That’s why I never exceed 20 mph. Even on the interstate. Also, when coming up to a green traffic light I slow down, so that when it turns red I can drive through it at a safe 10 mph.

  • avatar

    Speed doesn’t kill.

    Speed differentials do.

    Do 20 mph on the interstate, and you might as well be laying bricks in the middle of the road. It’s anti-social behavior even worse than going 75 in a 65 zone… because doing 20 in a 65 zone gives you a speed differential of 45 mph… and will likely get you pulled over by the cops as a traffic hazard…

    And by the way… if you’re hypermiling… 50 mph is where it’s at. 20 mph is just a waste of gasoline.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    # KixStart :
    May 26th, 2009 at 10:58 am

    geeber,

    Maybe I should mention that I’m not going to go all Puritanical on this.

    On good roads, no traffic, good visibility, I can understand why the speed limit might get bent. I’m perfectly happy driving across Nebraska at the speed limit but I can see situations where another driver adding 10, 15 or even more wouldn’t be unreasonable.

    Absolutely – and there are a variety of situations where we give in to temptation, the only risk being either that we don’t manage to keep the car on the road – or that we get caught by a speed trap set for precisely the reason why we got tempted.
    In such circumstances, we are endangering ourselves, a bit of our own property and our wallet/personal liberty.

    Mr. Baruth’s four-part lessons in how to be a screw the world traffic hazard sought to justify high-speed driving where you had to game other users of the road, by bending rules and breaking laws designed to protect others. That’s something else entirely.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    In the 55 days, and currently in places where the speed limit bureaucrats and highway robbery local governments have set obviously unnecessarily slower speed limits, I will speed deliberately for the extra mental stimulation all the different factors that are needed to defend against getting pulled over, just to satisfy my hyper attentive driving mindset. 55 mph on i-80 in the American west be would just insanely trivial, boring, and numbing to the attentive driving mind.

  • avatar

    H. sapiens. Big brains. Ideal for sensitivity to nuance. Most H. sapiens don’t know how to use ‘em, are too lazy, or too biased to use ‘em. (referring here especially to those in the business of setting and enforcing speed limits.)

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I think there are plenty of ways to speed safely on public roads. I do it all the time ;-). Jack’s speeding tips are certainly not safe, nor should they ever be done by anyone.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Great pic, RF. I spent the weekend with a bunch of old BMWs in Mt Airy, NC. Southeast Sharkfest and VoV, a 2002 event, combined. Lotsa fine cars. We were driving an ’83 533i. Our return trip to Hartford took 10 1/2 hrs including gas and food stops.

  • avatar
    Pete_S4

    I have to agree with a number of the comments about what a free-for-all on the road looks like based on my travels and living overseas.

    If you ever think North American or European drivers are bad, just spend some time in a developing nation on the road. Bribes, lack of driving standards and traffic control, poor license standards make for breath taking road stupidity every minute.

    Living in Dubai I got to live with lots of drivers from developing nations who would think nothing of backing up an experssway enterance ramp, going down a road the wrong way because it was shorter, or backing out from a freeway breakdown lane on you. Then there were the local arabs (usually 20 something males) who drive much like Mr. Jack recently advocated.

    I speed a bit on the freeway, but virually always with the flow of traffic. On surface streets I’m usually 0-5 mph above the speed limit. I’ll take a pass on Mr. Jack’s suggestions and agree with the main point of this article that if you think you are always “safe” because you don’t speed, you probably aren’t.

  • avatar
    Wolven

    “breaking a law designed by society for society”

    That’s a B.S. statement. The “law” is made by assinine politicians for econmomic gain. Police are hired simply for their ability to generate more revenue than they cost.

    There is no voting on speed limits or any other rule of the road. Let’s modify the law so that all the revenue from traffic tickets goes to something politicians have no interest in, and then lets see what happens to both the “laws” and the enforcement of them.

  • avatar
    DearS

    NIKY TAMAYO….

    I don’t always want to drive in poorer nations with loose traffic rules. Sometimes its hard to know what to expect, and sometimes its surprising how others have better common sense in some situations than I taught was well common sense. I don’t think poorer nations have it all figured out, far from it, but they also do have somethings figured out, and that is that freedom makes for happy people. And happy people wanna live to drive another day.

  • avatar
    James2

    Speed kills. Even 30 mph head on can be fatal. That’s why I never exceed 20 mph. Even on the interstate. Also, when coming up to a green traffic light I slow down, so that when it turns red I can drive through it at a safe 10 mph.

    Where’s the sarcasm alert? If, however, you are serious, the bus was meant for people like you. Seriously. I’ll even buy the monthly pass for you.

    Speed limits are totally arbitrary. The freeways in HNL used to have a 70-mph limit, but then the EPIC FAIL known as the double-nickel was applied and ever since the Hawaii DOT has kept its head in the sand. Some years back the governor even tried to get the DOT to wake up and smell the coffee, but failed.


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