Live Blogcast: Jack Baruth Defends His Safety Article

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
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  • 210delray 210delray on Feb 21, 2009

    I dug into some archives and unearthed an interesting study that relates directly to this issue of advanced driver training. In the early 1970s the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety sought to compare the driving records of the general public with “national competition license” race drivers certified by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). The SCCA consented to participate because it was sure of the outcome: the “trained” drivers would certainly have superior records. Surprise! Not only did the SCCA members have more traffic violations (well, not really a surprise), they had proportionately more crashes than the control group of drivers. This was true even when mileage driven by each group was taken into account. Needless to say, the SCCA never again agreed to participate in further such studies. I’ll say it again: in driving, attitude trumps knowledge (that is, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force him to drink). And of course, you have the overconfidence factor — the SUVs in the ditch scenario in that first winter snowstorm — but this too is part of attitude.

  • Highrpm Highrpm on Feb 23, 2009

    Wow, two articles on this. No kidding! My opinion is in defense of Mr. Baruth here. The speeding Phaeton discussion was clearly meant to show his "what was I thinking" mindset about it, rather than any form of bragging. He's very open about the fact that he let his driving ego get a little out of control due to all his track time. He is absolutely not defending his behavior. Based on all the negative responses to the 123mph speed thing, it appears that the majority of folks on this site have never pushed the limits of their cars on the road? I have, and I look back on some of my youthful endeavors with the same "what was I thinking, lucky I didn't get killed" mindset as Mr. Baruth. I was going to cite one particularly shocking example but decided against it just now due to all the Baruth backlash. Let's just say that with all my track experience, I was short on common sense. Anyway, I would have to say that from my decades of road racing and open track day time, I have seen my share of folks that took their performance driving to heart, and I've seen my share of folks that let the whole thing go to their heads. We called it the "God complex" where a few folks with one or two track days under their belts would suddenly start driving very aggressively on the roads, thinking that they were indestructible. Sure they could handle their car, but they were very poor at "playing with others" in traffic. I wouldn't blame the training though - it was probably in their character to act that way. The key thing to take away from these articles is to watch your surroundings when you're out there, whether in a car or on a motorcycle. There are inattentive folks out there. Sometimes, you and I are the inattentive ones. Don't get complacent about this just because you've taken some drivers training classes.

  • Rcolayco Rcolayco on Feb 23, 2009

    It’s one thing to say one oughtn’t drive too fast, quite another to say that driver training does not serve any productive purpose. Not too long ago, I found myself in a near head-on collision on a two-lane country road in New England. Driving a rental Explorer at 60 mph, I had to cross the opposite lane and get on the far-side shoulder as there were obstacles on the shoulder next to my lane. Given the sudden, severe way I yanked the wheel, the car tilted seriously as if to tip over. Looking back, I believe my experience in driving on the track enabled me to instinctively take appropriate action, ie, apply judicious opposite lock & power to straighten up the car as well as avoiding a spin. Wouldn’t the instinctive response of an untrained driver have been to yank the wheel and brake? Which of course would have guaranteed disastrous results. There are elements of what appear to be both non-reality as well as non-truth in Mr. Baruth‘s piece. Drive at 120+ mph on the NJ turnpike? Hardly possible, given the extremely dense traffic on that road. Worse, do it in a heavy sedan full of passengers and baggage? Foolhardy, to say the least. Not even in a well engineered car like the Phaeton. He’s right in saying it was luck rather than skill on his part that saved him and his passengers. However, as noted by another reader, he may not have been able to stop in a similarly short distance nor with similar stability in say, an SUV (except perhaps in a Cayenne or Merc ML). The superior dynamics of his sedan surely added to his luck. A rather difficult viewpoint and narration to comprehend; indeed to take seriously. Both facts and logic preclude credibility.

  • Discoholic Discoholic on Feb 23, 2009

    [This is a repost of my comment on Jack Baruth's original article. Comments here seem to be more recent. I wrote:] I may be a bit late for this, considering there are already 120 comments, but DEAR GOD, anyone seriously talking about driving safety while admitting he was blasting down the I 95 at more than 120 mph cannot possibly be taken seriously. Robert, I hope it’s not considered flaming, but does TTAC make a difference between pistonheads and reckless drivers who should get their licences revoked NOW? Honestly, all the talk about safety training just sickens me. How about some very basic mathematical safety training: at 123 mph, your stopping distance including reaction time is more than 250 metres (that’s if you happen to be in a car with good brakes). If you havent’ got at least 300 metres of EMPTY, dry, straight-as-a-laser road ahead of your car, you do NOT go as fast as that. And yes, that goes for no-speed-limit autobahns as well. Jack, do you even begin to realise that sheer dumb luck kept you from being responsible for the severe injuries, possibly deaths of several people? Do you realise that slamming ANY car into an obstacle at 70 mph reduces that car to a cloud of debris and the passengers to a smear? (It’s physics: crash tests are done at 40 mph - at 70, the cinetic energy is over three times as high.)