Drive Fast — Responsibly

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery
drive fast responsibly

If speed killed, we would all be dead. After all, we are rotating around earth’s axis at up to 1038 mph (1670 kmh) and Earth is zipping around the sun at a whopping 66,660 mph (107,279 kmh). Speed’s not a problem. The problem is when we collide with objects that are moving at speeds that are substantially different than our own. Jack Baruth would have us believe that if we follow the advice he imparts in his “Maximum Street Speed Explained” series, that we can safely navigate American highways and byways, day or night while traveling at two or three times faster than the prevailing traffic norm. Unfortunately, his advice ranges from the obvious to absurdly dangerous (if he’s trying to be ironic or funny, he has very poor timing).

When the misguided double-nickel national speed limit was revoked, freeway accidents and fatalities declined. When this change went into effect, faster drivers tended not to drive much faster than they already were. However, the more compliant drivers sped up to the higher norms, narrowing the dissonance between the faster and slower drivers. Accidents declined even though the average speed on roads increased because traffic was moving at relatively constant and predictable speeds.

So when writing a series on how to drive faster, why not impart some advice on the best times and places to avoid traffic, animals and cops so we don’t make a menace of ourselves while indulging an automotive adrenaline fix? I guess addressing this didn’t occur to Jack. Here are a few examples of what we did get:

The obvious:

Your car needs to have its fluids at the appropriate levels, its tire pressures checked and its suspension components torqued. Your tires need full tread, no plugs, no camber wear.

But wait, there’s more:

You, as the driver, need to be alert, sober, rested, and ready to look all the way down the road.

This is brilliant stuff, folks! They really need to start teaching this to high school kids in driver’s ed.

Now for the absurdly dangerous:

Stay to the right . . . We come up on a car-to-be-passed from directly behind. We do this to attract the driver’s attention into his rear-view mirror.

And we mustn’t forget this pearl of wisdom:

Get in the habit of driving on the shoulder. We learn to drive on the shoulder because we’ll have to do it many times in the future, both to avoid panic-swerves and to pass recalcitrant lane-blockers.

Yes, the shoulder, a good place to pass because on US highways there is never any tire shredding debris that one cannot easily see and avoid while hurling along faster than 150 feet per second.

And for night driving, remember:

We don’t use the shoulder at night unless we have to. Confused deer . . . tend to hide out there.

Thank goodness that confused deer know the difference between the road shoulder and main lanes of the freeway. If they didn’t, it could be a problem for someone driving faster his ability to brake or maneuver around in the distance illuminated by headlights.

This next humdinger’s neither obvious nor absurdly dangerous. It is in a category all by itself. I’ll let you categorize it:

Cops expect you to speed in the left lane and they tend to look down the left lane. Stay to the right.

So cops are blind to cars traveling two to three times faster than the rest of traffic just because they are traveling in a lane 15 feet to the right. Uh huh. Maybe Ohio needs to get new cops with better eyesight. In Texas, they’re not so handicapped.

I could go on . . .

Here’s a clue, Jack: this ain’t Germany. American drivers tend to be poorly trained, distracted, easily startled, and unpredictable. Our highways aren’t maintained with the meticulousness required to make them Autobahn safe. And most of our roads lack the extra high fencing to keep large mammals from using the interstate as a game trail.

When traffic is traveling at a consistent pace and drivers are acting predictably, driving at high speeds on the freeway is a relatively low risk endeavor. But when some jackass thinks that he can weave through the flow at speeds 200 to 300 percent faster without introducing extreme risk to everyone else, no matter how skilled a driver he thinks he is, he is delusional.

Five years ago I attended the funeral of a friend who killed himself in a single vehicle accident while horsing around on his motorcycle. At least he had the decency not to involve other motorists by utilizing seldom-traveled country roads. Of course, that was little consolation to his devastated wife and the autistic child.

If you must prove your mad driving skills, join a club and take it to a track.

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2 of 31 comments
  • William C Montgomery William C Montgomery on May 29, 2009
    As I chuckled my way through [Daniel J Stern's masterpiece of passive-aggressive behavior], I wondered whether it would be possible to present a truly opposing viewpoint. Where Stern was passive-aggressive, I would describe naked on-road aggression. Where he detailed the joy of impeding other road users, I would detail the joy of treating him and his ilk like cones on an autocross course. And where he was vigorous in defense of my (not his) nation’s ridiculous speed laws, I would be positively vicious in deriding them. Good. Now we have articles from both idiotic and dangerous ends of the driving spectrum.

  • William C Montgomery William C Montgomery on May 29, 2009
    Paul Niedermeyer : after limits were increased, the fatality rate stayed the same, continued to decrease, and in a few isolated cases, crept up a bit. First, I apologize for being so late in commenting on this. But, for anyone still following this... The National Mandatory Speed Limit was enacted in 1974. In 1987, and act of congress made it possible for some states to increase speed limits on some roads. Finally, on November 28, 1995, the National Highway Designation Act fully repealed the NMSL by returning power to the states to set their own speed limits. From 1994 to 1995 traffic fatalities and the number of fatal accidents increased 2.7% (rates of fatalities and fatal accidents remained flat year over year). However, this really cannot be attributed to repeal of the NMSL. Only 6 states changed their speed limits during 1995 as a result of the repeal -- all enacted in December. This is hardly enough time for the speed limit changes to impact 1995 fatality stats. Most states had already upped their maximum limits to 65 mph under the 1987 law. 24 states upped their limits AFTER 1995 (many in 1996) and 15 at still at pre-1995 speed limits. The bottom line is that from 1994 (the year before the 55 mph national speed limit was revoked and the oldest data available in NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System) to 2007 (the last year data is available) the number of fatal crashes per 100,000 registered vehicles has declined 23% (from 18.83 to 14.56 per 100k vehicles).

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂