So there I was, minding my own business, driving down the road, enjoying the new Isobel Campbell record and relaxing in the right lane, when I saw two Crown Vics from the local sheriff’s department running up hard behind me, lights, sirens, the whole deal. I moved halfway onto the shoulder to let them by, and then, motivated by nothing more than a love of mayhem, decided to follow them for a while.
The two sheriffs were pushing up to as much as ninety miles per hour in-between clumps of stopped traffic. I loafed along behind them at a distance that allowed those drivers to get started again before I went by. I never went as fast as the cops did, but I never went as slow as they did, either. Over the course of about eight miles, I watched them repeatedly come to screeching brake-and-swerve stops before picking their way through the cars, almost always in a manner that indicated they weren’t looking any further ahead than a few car lengths. Twice the second cop nearly, er, buttslammed the first, usually while applying some pretty heavy-duty steering input in concert with full ABS.
By the time the twin Vics screamed off onto a side road, tossing dirt and rocks in their wake, I was of the opinion that these “trained” drivers would have been out of their depths in NASA’s HPDE 1 group. They repeatedly endangered their own lives and the lives of others… and when I say that, you know some serious idiocy is going down, right? They were unable to separate their turn-and-stop motions. They ran too closely, which adversely affected their ability to make intelligent choices in traffic and dramatically increased the likelihood that they would strike either an innocent bystander or each other.
Perhaps the most damning statement I can make about their ability was that I had no trouble keeping up with them, and I never found myself coming close to other cars or experiencing the sky-high closing speeds they were creating. By running without lights and just working steadily through traffic at 70 mph or so, they would have made better time than they did by gas-and-braking their way down the road. Given a day or two at BeaveRun’s Vehicle Dynamics Facility, I could have completely straightened those two cops out… but I’m no more likely to assist the police than my personal hero, Professor Griff, would be. I’m here to fight the power, yo.
I did find myself thinking that it was a good thing these cops didn’t have any more horsepower than they did. Equipped with HEMI Chargers or Caprice PPVs, these cops would have been hitting 110 or 120 between the gaps. Somebody could have been badly injured.
We already accept, as a society, the idea that it’s better to restrict the capability of machines than to properly train their operators. (See: speed limits, gun control, the OSHA.) What if we simply extended this idea to include law enforcement? In other words, what if we slowed down the cops to protect the innocent? What say you?