The Truth About Cars » Speeding The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 13:00:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Speeding The World’s Dumbest Traffic School Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:01:40 +0000 Benz traffic stop courtesy

I drive around 30,000 miles a year and so it is inevitable that I occasionally get stopped for speeding. Thanks to taking “Traffic Safety” schools that allow scofflaws like me to avoid having the infraction appear on my driving record, I have a spotless history: numerous arrests, no convictions.

A few weeks ago I blundered into a small-town speed trap while going 67 mph in a 50 mph zone, ignoring a radar detector signal that I wrongly assumed was false. Throw in the fact that it was at night and that I was in unfamiliar territory meant I absolutely deserved getting pulled over.

Little did I know that the online ticket-beating traffic school I chose to attend had a curriculum written for 10 year olds.

The name of the school and the municipality shall remain anonymous, as my ticket has yet to be officially dismissed. The bizarre course was written at grade-school level, perhaps because I live in California where we give driver’s licenses to anyone who can fog a mirror, a group soon to include undocumented immigrants.

Here are a few of the gems of knowledge I gleaned from this primer:

  • Driving an automobile has been a way of life since the automobile was invented in the early 1900’s.
  • Driving in reverse presents its own risks and dangers. In fact, statistics point out that backing up accounts for almost 25% to 30% of road accidents across the country.
  • All cars in the United States should head towards their destination on the right side of the road.
  • Sidewalks are paved areas on the side of the road reserved ONLY for pedestrians. You must never drive on the sidewalk unless when entering a driveway or a street alley.
  • Passing is any driving maneuver where you pass ahead of the vehicle in front of you. This is a very useful and common technique if you are traveling at a faster speed than the car ahead of you.
  • If you have looked into a cars speedometer, you will notice that many are capable of going well beyond 100 mph. Car manufacturers certainly drum up the maximum speed when advertising new vehicles. Sometimes, this is even the main selling point of a car.
  • Highways are public roads which generally connect major cities with other suburban and rural destinations. They transport many people and vehicles to their designations quickly…Freeways are larger roads, which are characterized by having multiple lanes and they allow faster driving. In fact, large freeways can have as many as 16 lanes!

See Dick drive. Drive, Dick, drive!

traffic school courtesy

The course also inexplicably threw in passages on each page from, such as:

  • “Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor.”
    - Lady Bird Johnson

I highly doubt the target audience understood any of them.

A few years ago I was caught speeding in a city where they required your penance to be eight hours in a classroom with an instructor. Our teacher was hilarious, opening by making the point that had we been paying attention, we would be better drivers and would have spotted the cop before he spotted us. He cited real world situations and managed to hold our attention all day.

This worthless class cost me $199 and four hours of my life that I can never get back. Next time I just might take a live course again instead of an on-line version.

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Traffic Tickets On A Sliding Scale? Maybe It’s Time Thu, 20 Jun 2013 18:21:54 +0000 ferrari_458_italia_supercar_4-wide

In January 2010 a Swiss court handed down a $290,000 fine on a traffic violation. To be sure , the violation in question was a big one and involved speeds approaching 180mph. Police say that, once they rolled in behind the speeding car, it took it nearly a half mile to come to a complete stop. Apparently the driver had avoided earlier detection by radar controlled cameras because his speed was so high that it exceeded the cameras’ ability to measure the car’s velocity. Despite the severity of the offense, it was not the car’s speed that caused the severity of the fine, it was the driver’s income. That’s an idea I think I could get behind.

Think about it. As the gap between the rich and the poor in our society continues to widen, we are setting ourselves up for a situation where the elite can do virtually anything they damn well please. Drive like an ass and that’s a $1000 fine. For you and I that’s quite a bite but to a hedge fund manager making well into the six figures it’s chump change. He can pay that with a smile and go right back to putting the rest of us in danger.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Of course our hypothetical investment banker will eventually score enough points to lose his license, but before that happens he may have other options that will keep him on the road longer than you or I. Higher insurance rates are no bother. The cost of driver retraining and other methods used by state to reform habitual traffic offenders is minor. In some states they even let you choose your own driver’s school, and if the option exists he may end up hooning around on a racetrack as part of an advanced driver safety course rather than spending our Saturday in an overheated classroom with the rest of us budget conscious rejects.

Thank God the rich have enough political influence to stamp out this idea before it can even take root, but let’s ponder an egalitarian society where people are actually expected to redress their wrongs. As my old man used to inform me before he had to do what hurt him more than it hurt me, you aint gonna learn if you don’t feel the burn. Call it “class warfare” if you like, but if I have to feel the heat, why shouldn’t everyone?

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He writes for any car website that will have him and enjoys public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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ATS Red Light Camera Claims Driver Pulled 4g Turn Thu, 26 Jul 2012 15:10:58 +0000 ATS photo

The city of St Petersburg, Florida uses camera systems sold by American Traffic Solutions (ATS, formerly American Traffic Systems) to issue tickets to drivers allegedly running red lights. According to The Newspaper, when the activists at St Petersburg Red Light Cameras reviewed logs of the 21,602 photo tickets issued in the city from October 29, 2011 to April 30, 2012 they discovered that the ATS cameras were reporting that they “measured” Bugatti Veyron level speeds from cars not realistically capable of that kind of velocity.

Florida law prohibits automated speeding tickets, but the ATS cameras used to enforce red-lights still record motorists’ alleged speed. Red light cameras all measure vehicle speed in order to turn on the camera at the correct time. While nobody was cited for speeding due to the aforementioned Florida statute, the fact that ATS’ technology cited literally unbelievable speeds might call into question just how reliable their systems in general are. If they get speed wrong, what else don’t they get accurately? ATS claims that their cameras don’t lie, but the speeds cited are not just incredible but also not credible. At one intersection, a woman was measured as going 157 MPH as she went past the camera. At another, a lady was said to have been gong 170 MPH. While those speeds are unusual, there are indeed a small number of road cars that can see the other side of 150. However, to my knowledge there is only a tiny number cars capable of 210+ MPH, and the car that ATS recorded as going 215 MPH at 66th St and 38th Ave was not made by Bugatti, Lamborghini or a similar exotic car manufacturer.

Those were straight line speeds and, as I mentioned, there are cars on the road capable of those speeds, when going straight. The ATS cameras, though, also recorded cornering speeds that are simply not possible, at least outside of a race track and even then they’re so extreme as to not be believable.

On April 12, 2012, a man was accused of making a right-hand turn at 96 MPH at the corner of 34th Street and 22nd Avenue. Now I don’t race competitively but TTAC has our resources so I asked Jack Baruth if that was physically possible. JB kindly sent me a chart that indicated G forces at particular speeds based on the radius of the turn. I printed out Google’s satellite view of that intersection and measured the turn radii at the two corners under surveillance. Based on the location of the two cameras, the driver had to be traveling on 34th, turning onto 22nd, though the cited speed was not likely achieved on any of that intersections 4 corners.

From a print out of the satellite shot I determined that one corner has about an 80′ radius for the right turn lane. The other corner is a tighter turn, actually a sharp turn in, then a constant radius. I figure the effective radius is closer to 50′ in that turning lane. In either case, 96 mph would be off the chart, literally. Jack’s cornering speed charts don’t go below a 100′ radius. Even bumping up the radius to 150′ maxes out at 94.5 MPH and 4.0 Gs! To give you some perspective, for a road car, anything over 0.9 G is considered to be very good cornering. A small number of the very best handling production cars might slightly exceed 1 G on a skid pad, under steady state conditions. At 4 Gs in a road car, I’d be worried about parts breaking off. Can a road tire withstand 4 Gs without separating from the rim or some other failure?

Now on a race course drivers don’t have to abide by things like right turn lanes. They use as much of the road surface as they can, usually going wide on approach and turn in, hitting the apex tight, and then going wide on exit. What that does is create the widest possible radius on the turn, maximizing cornering speed. Even if the cited driver was genuinely “driving in a racelike manner”, using the entire road, driving in the wrong direction on entry and exit, the radius works out to only be about 200 feet. At 96 MPH, on a 200 feet radius turn, the driver would still have been pulling over 3.0 G.

Maximum loading under cornering in a Formula 1 car on a race track is generally quoted in the 3.0-4.5 G range. ATS cameras say that drivers in St Petersburg are seeing cornering speeds with that level of lateral acceleration. Either people are getting ticketed by a system with proven unreliability (at least in terms of measuring speed), or American Traffic Solutions thinks that there are a lot of budding F1 drivers in the St Petersburg area.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Generation Why: If You Are Under 25 Or An Idiot, Please Don’t Buy A Scion FR-S Or Subaru BRZ Sat, 21 Apr 2012 13:00:45 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

With the release of the SciBaru FRZ just weeks away, everyone’s been caught up in the sticker price, available options and aftermarket support for the car, but nobody has asked a crucial question; what about insurance?

Insurance premiums tend to vary by jurisdiction, but under-25 males (such as myself) always suffer from financial trauma when trying to insure anything remotely interesting. In some places, paying double digits to insure a Corvette Z06 is considered robbery. Here in Ontario, anything under $150 a month for a young person is a steal, and the cars that can be insured for that little are not even remotely cool.

I don’t really care whether the FR-S/BRZ will drift easily or not, but I know lots of people will. There will be a percentage of people who will confine their behind-the-wheel adventures to the track, but there will also be another percentage that will attempt to play Formula D on public roads, or engage in other forms of reckless behavior. And this group, no matter how small, may ruin it for everyone.

While the sticker price of the cars aren’t exactly exorbitant, my friend Michael Banovsky over at Sympatico Autos raised the idea that high insurance premiums could conceivably kill the car’s appeal to a significant portion of its target market. Even though it’s a 2+2 coupe with a naturally aspirated engine, a few too many accident claims or speeding tickets could see premiums spike upwards to a level where even the most car-obsessed fanboy with a terminal lack of financial acumen might shy away from buying one. In Ontario, insurance for cars like the Honda S2000 or Subaru WRX can cost hundreds of dollars per month (I was once quoted over $500 per month for a WRX. I was 21, but without any tickets or claims) thanks to high theft rates and their adoption by local idiots who insist on racking up tickets for illegal car modifications, speeding, street racing and reckless driving. One of the reasons my Miata doesn’t have such high premiums is because owners tend to be closer to collecting their pensions than paying off student loans and they’re rarely crashed or stolen.

High insurance premiums are cited (along with gas prices) as a reason for the death of the muscle car. I really hope they don’t torpedo the BR-Z either. There’s really not much that can be done about it, save for people driving responsibly and not screwing it up for the rest of us. Unfortunately, wishing that the world was a certain way rather than accepting it on reality’s terms has consistently proven to be a losing strategy.

I called my insurer to get a quote on the BRZ/FR-S for this article. They didn’t even have it in their database yet.

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Ohio: Legislature Considers Ban On “Visual Guess” Speeding Tickets Tue, 15 Jun 2010 13:29:28 +0000

A bipartisan effort to overturn a controversial Ohio Supreme Court ruling garnered the support of twelve of the state Senate’s thirty-three members in just four days. Senators Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) and Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) jointly introduced legislation on Thursday that would forbid police from issuing speeding tickets based solely on the officer’s best speed guess.

The bill is designed to chastise the high court for its controversial June 3 ruling that held any police officer could be certified as an expert in visual speed estimation. Once certified, the word of such and officer would be taken as proof beyond a reasonable doubt of any speeding violation alleged. As a result, police could hang up their expensive radar and laser units as no longer needed (view decision). Driver’s rights groups, including the National Motorists Association, blasted the ruling.

“The NMA has been flooded with email traffic expressing alarm and concern about the implications of courts giving judicial notice to what is, at best, a questionable method of determining how fast a vehicle is going,” NMA Executive Director Gary Biller wrote.

Biller explained that there is no hard scientific evidence to back up the accuracy of the methods used by police and that the typical certification involves little more than a few hours of training. Members of the state Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle agreed that the legislation should be overturned.

“When Ohio motorists are pulled over for speeding there should be measurable proof rather than someone’s estimate,” Senate Minority Leader Cafaro said in a statement. “This legislation clarifies the Ohio Revised Code to require verifiable evidence to issue speeding tickets.”

The proposed measure would take re-write the law so that it is clear that the legislature never intended tickets to be issued based on no more than an officer’s best guess.

“No person shall be arrested, charged, or convicted of a violation of any provision of [the speeding statute] based on a peace officer’s unaided visual estimation of the speed of a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar,” Senate Bill 280 states.

The legislation referral to a committee for further consideration. A copy of the bill is available in a 10k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 280 (Ohio General Assembly, 6/10/2010)


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UK Blazes New Trails In Orwellian Speed Enforcement Wed, 21 Apr 2010 00:35:31 +0000

How cruelly ironic is it that the UK, home of the world’s most vibrant sportscar cottage industry and some of the most notorious “petrolheads” in Europe, is also the world’s leader in automated ticketing and surveillance? Oh, and before you try to answer, understand that Old Blighty’s Orwellian tendencies have just hit a new high/low. The Telegraph [via Jalopnik] reports that Britain’s Home Office is testing new average speed cameras which combine license number-reading technology with a GPS receiver. In contrast to previous generations of speed cameras, the new system, named SpeedSpike, can calculate average speed between any two points in a network, rather than just in a straight line.

SpeedSpike was developed by PIPS Technology, an American firm with operations in Britain. According to company evidence obtained by the House of Commons and paraphrased by The Telegraph:

the cameras enabled “number plate capture in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day”. It also referred to the system’s “low cost” and ease of installation.

The system could be used for “main road enforcement for congestion reduction and speed enforcement”, and could help to “eliminate rat-runs” and cut speeds outside schools, it added. It could also reduce the need for speed humps.

Britain’s Automobile Association calls the system “a natural evolution of the technology that is out there.” We call it creepy. Oh yeah, and cruelly ironic.

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Chicago Tribune: No Probation For “Extreme Speeders” Mon, 22 Mar 2010 21:15:44 +0000

Enforcing laws against victimless crimes is never easy. Limited resources force local governments to constantly assess their law-enforcement priorities, assigning the squad cars and jail beds to the most pressing problems facing their jurisdiction. The problems that don’t make the cut? Unless there’s a revenue motive at play (see: red light cameras, speed cameras), local law enforcement often has little choice but to tolerate the breaking, or under-enforcement of certain laws. Which begs the question: on a scale of, say, murder to marijuana possession, just how bad is speeding?

It’s a question that the fair city of Chicago is grappling with right now, following an investigative report by the Tribune that shows:

For hundreds of motorists caught driving that fast every year, court supervision helps keep their insurance rates low while stopping officials from using the tickets as a reason to suspend their licenses… A Tribune analysis of state police tickets, license data and court records shows that since 2006, Chicagoland courts have given supervision to nearly two-thirds of those found guilty of driving 100 mph or faster.

The implication: citizens of Chicago can speed with impunity. But then, what motorist sees speed limits as being as important as, say, laws against theft or assault? Luckily, the Trib’s exposé isn’t about legal theory, or even the devastating effects of unpunished speeding… it’s pure political gotcha.

Judges across the area defended supervision as a helpful alternative to conviction, but some were surprised at how often their peers handed it out. Also surprised was the state’s keeper of driving records: Secretary of State Jesse White. Citing the Tribune’s findings, White now wants to ban supervision for extreme speeders.

Not because the state doesn’t have bigger law-enforcement priorities, or because road deaths are disproportionately due to speeders (winter conditions and drunk drivers are the big killers on area roads). Or because serial supervision-receivers aren’t being targeted (a 2005 law forbids more than two supervisions per driver per year). The IIHS’s Russ Rader does bring up a good point when he argues that “a lot of what these (supervision) programs effectively do is hide the records of careless, reckless drivers.” But what neither he, nor the now on-the-warpath White want to face are the real reasons for the popularity of the court supervision program for speeders. A local judge explains:

Some judges do 7,000 cases a month, and you have municipalities who are as interested in revenue as they are in a conviction.

Ah, the old “R” word. In addition to community service and a probationary period, court supervision usually involves a larger fine than might otherwise be levied. In essence, it’s a plea deal that pays for itself (if you speed often enough) by keeping a conviction from running up your insurance premium. The court brings in revenue, and drivers caught breaking a law that every citizen breaks at least once if they drive often enough, get to move on with their lives. Where’s the problem?

White will try to change that. Based on the Tribune’s findings, his office helped draft a bill last week to ban supervision for people going at least 40 mph over the speed limit. Because most area interstates have 55 mph limits, it would cover the vast majority of the area’s triple-digit speeders.

“No driver has any business driving that rate of speed,” said White spokesman Henry Haupt.

Note that he didn’t say “no driver is capable of safely driving at that rate of speed.” This is acutally important, considering that the Tribune caps off its politician-riling muckraking with a fittingly inapplicable example:

In July 2008, Johnson’s Lexus sped past a trooper at 110 mph while weaving along I-57 near Dixmoor, before exiting and hitting 105 mph on a side street. Police said his blood-alcohol level was 0.120, which is 50 percent higher than the legal limit.

In the eight previous years, Johnson had received five supervisions on six speeding tickets.

Still, a judge waived the state-mandated six-month driver suspension for the DUI arrest. Then another judge gave the Bourbonnais man supervision for two years. Illinois law allows supervision for a first-time DUI. In exchange, Johnson agreed to pay $1,035 in fines and promised to follow the law.

But in June 2009, while on supervision, Johnson was clocked at 100 mph on I-57 in Markham. He never showed up in court and remains missing. To date, no judge has revoked the court-approved supervision for his high-speed DUI.

You see, the problem isn’t the non-enforcement of DUI laws, it’s the non-enforcement of speeding laws. Johnson shouldn’t have received supervision because he was driving over 100 mph, not because he was drunk off his face. Good thing we have newspapers like the Chicago Tribune to set our law-enforcement priorities straight. And good thing we have politicians as spineless as White to be cowed into embarrassed, unthinking knee-jerk reactions. Otherwise the good people of Chicago might think that speeding isn’t always necessarily an endangerment of others, and is therefore a less urgent law enforcement priority than, say, driving drunk. And God help us if that ever happens.

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Georgia Enacts Speeding Ticket Tax Wed, 06 Jan 2010 14:45:22 +0000 The fourth or fifth oldest profession (

Drivers in Georgia were hit for the first time last Friday with a new tax on speeding tickets designed to raise between $25 and $30 million in annual revenue for the general fund. The plan was modeled on the driver responsibility taxes in states like Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Texas. A similar plan in Virginia was so unpopular that legislators repealed the tax within six months and refunded all of the money that had been collected under the program.

Governor Sonny Perdue sold the plan as a tax that only hits “Super Speeders.” The levy first proposed by state officials, however, would have been imposed upon anyone who receives a citation that carries license points — no matter how minor — as is the practice in the states with so-called driver responsibility fees. For now, the legislature decided to limit the tax to those accused of driving over 85 MPH anywhere in Georgia or over 75 MPH on a two-lane road.

Those accused of such “super speeding” offenses will pay a hefty fine to the jurisdiction where the violation occurred. Within thirty days, the state’s motor vehicle department will mail a bill demanding a separate $200 payment. This secondary punishment must be paid within ninety days of conviction, as those who cannot afford the fee will have their license automatically suspended. Those who fail to receive the bill or suspension notice in the mail are out of luck because the new law does not require any effort on the part of the state to ensure the letter is actually received.

“No other notice shall be required to make the driver’s license suspension effective,” Georgia Code Section 40-6-189 states.

License suspension under the new law become even more lucrative by imposing a $100 “restoration fee” for license reinstatement. The bill also ups the reinstatement fee for other offenses to as much as $400. In Texas, for example, the speeding ticket tax generated over 1.5 million suspended licenses. Lawmakers in the Lone Star state were disappointed, however, by the amount of revenue this generated. It turns out that only about one-third of fee recipients were able to pay to regain their licenses. The remainder simply drove without a license or insurance.

View a copy of the law in a 75k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 160 (Georgia House of Representatives, 5/5/2009)

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California Cities Skirt Law With Administrative Speeding Tickets Fri, 11 Dec 2009 15:18:58 +0000 Paradise in the central valley?

A number of local jurisdictions in California have quietly turned to administrative citations for speeding tickets as a means of circumventing state law. The legislature had set down a very specific set of procedures for issuing and adjudicating traffic violations, including a split of the revenue for each ticket between the state, county, municipality and the court system. Cities like Newman now believe they can cut the state government out of the process.

Under new procedures adopted in October, $150 speeding tickets will be issued under a city ordinance governing disobedience to a speed limit sign and not the California Vehicle Code. This means the citations will not carry license points since they will not go through the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Newman claimed that this created a “win-win” situation for motorists and the city.

“The advantages of administrative citations for traffic violations include: lower fines for violators, more convenient for our residents by not having to travel to Modesto and high probability of increased revenue for the city (because the state and county do not get a portion of administrative fines like they do for traditional traffic fines),” Newman Police Department Chief Adam McGill wrote in a September 8 memo to the city council.

Newman had been following the lead of Riverbank which adopted the same system on May 11. Alameda County turned to civil ticketing on July 21. The city of Corona even examined the possibility of issuing red light camera tickets under the same procedure but it backed away from the idea over legal concerns.

Those concerns are substantial. The website, which covers California photo enforcement issues, pointed to the 1994 decision Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara, in which the California Court of Appeal expressly prohibited local jurisdictions from using ordinances to escape the requirements of state law.

“Local legislation in conflict with general law is void,” the court ruled. “Conflicts exist if the ordinance duplicates, contradicts, or enters an area fully occupied by general [state] law, either expressly or by legislative implication.”

Another concern is that the procedure could violate the equal protection clause of the state constitution because the administrative procedures give police officers the ability to treat different classes of drivers with greater or lesser punishments.

“Not all traffic violators will receive administrative citations,” McGill wrote. “Most will continue to receive traditional traffic citations with infraction violations being heard in traffic court.”

Those who receive an administrative citation have lesser due process protection as any challenge is heard by an “administrative hearing” instead of a court of law. Speeding tickets in Newman rise to $300 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense.


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Autobiography: ’69 Plymouth Fury Sat, 16 Feb 2008 13:39:41 +0000 plym6901.jpgSomewhere west of Ogallala, rocketing across the plains at ninety-six in a sixty-nine Plymouth Fury, a twangy voice lectured us with the old song: “love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” My two female traveling companions and I exchanged glances, laughed and sang along. “…you can’t have one without the other.” In that precious moment, everything crystallized: what it meant to be nineteen in 1972, free as a bird, barreling down the freeway in a powerful American sedan.


Somewhere west of Ogallala, rocketing across the plains at ninety-six in a sixty-nine Plymouth Fury, a twangy voice lectured us with the old song: “love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” My two female traveling companions and I exchanged glances, laughed and sang along. “…you can’t have one without the other.” In that precious moment, everything crystallized: what it meant to be nineteen in 1972, free as a bird, barreling down the freeway in a powerful American sedan.

We were headed for the Rockies, retracing the annual eight hundred mile pilgrimage my family and I made there in the early sixties. This time I was literally and figuratively behind the wheel, re-writing the script.

Back in the day, the Niedermeyer family would stop at church to pray for a safe trip before all six of us squeezed into our barely mid-sized ’62 Fairlane penalty-box. God drove a hard bargain for our safe-keeping: two seemingly endless days spent sweating on the CIA-interrogation approved clear plastic seat covers, second-guessing our pilot’s passing skills.

Papa drove like the stereotypical newly-minted immigrant driver. His tentativeness trying to pass trucks on the crowded two-lane highways taught us what we couldn’t articulate: decisiveness (and good judgment) inspires confidence; hesitation… doesn’t. The tension in the Ford was thicker than the greasy truck-stop steaks we admired from afar. After a particularly hair-raising episode my older sister refused to return to her seat after a stop at a roadside gas station. Thankfully, daily hikes in the Rockies relieved our accumulated stress (and restored regularity).

So there I was, stretched out behind the wheel of a “fuselage body” 1969 Fury with my companions of choice (not fate). We were cruising down the interstate’s smooth, barely-cured concrete without a care in the world.

Back then, Chrysler’s barges weren’t quite as plush-riding as GM and Ford’s. But their unibody construction made them the lightest of the three. And Chrysler’s superb Torqueflite transmission put Mopar muscle to the wheels. With the popular 383 V8, the zero to sixty sprint required just 7.5 seconds. Even today, that’s not bad for a comfortable family sedan.

Little did I know that smog controls were about to emasculate this singular breed, the American barge, as OPEC gave Detroit’s carmakers an identity crisis that continues to this very day.

Anyway, the Fury, dubbed “Ply-mouth,” belonged to the two sisters’ Mom. She’d bought the car for its ability to pull a horse trailer down Iowa’s rural roads. But on that magnificent day, the Chrysler was paying service to a higher calling than equine transport: sheer balls-out speed.

It’s not like I’d set out to challenge Cannonball Baker. But once we hit I-80 on that glowing summer morning, the Ply-mouth just wanted to run, just like the well-bred horses it usually hauled. Traffic was sparse back then; cops were jawboning with the farmers over their fourth cup of dishwashing-water at the local cafe, and the purple mountain majesties beckoned us.

As the big V8 cleared the gravel-road dust from its lungs, our speed crept up. I swear, there was no holding that Fury back. In what seemed like a flash, we’d traversed Iowa and crossed the Missouri. The next thing I knew were barreling across Nebraska at somewhere between 90 mph and the ton.

It was so effortless and relaxed we might as well have been sprawled on (and across) the living room couch. The endlessly-wide bench seats became chaise lounges. Bare feet were everywhere: on the dash, across a lap, out the window. Seat belts? The restraints had atrophied from neglect.

In another break from the past, we gave greasy spoons a wide berth. We’d packed an ample supply of organic produce from their Mom’s garden, some home-baked bread, excellent cheese and iced mint tea. We only stopped for gas, which, at our Furious clip, was a regular occurrence. Even though gas was ridiculously cheap (just thirty-five cents a gallon), our meager gas budget took a big hit.

It was money well spent. By mid-afternoon, we were already well into the mountains. Having forded a stream, we made camp and slept under the dazzling stars, the smell of pine and sage intoxicating our nostrils.

I had driven fast before, but only in short bursts. Our dash through the heartland was my initiation into the joys of sustained speed. I was eight (hundred) miles high.

Truth to tell, I’ve been hooked ever since. But I’ll never recreate the magic mix of ingredients that day, which etched those glorious moments into the depths of my memory.

Within a year or so, the energy crisis hit, and we were driving fifty-five. The Ply-mouth soon gave way to a weak-chested if practical Corolla. And in just a few more years, we all heeded the song “love and marriage…”

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