Maximum Street Speed Explained, Part II

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
maximum street speed explained part ii

The über-wealthy have many fascinating ways to speed on America’s highways, from night-vision goggles to convenient spotter planes overhead. But those of us who toil in the middle class have to earn our velocity by hard graft. Freeway speeding is the crack cocaine of fast-road driving—cheap, easy, addictive, and deadly—and nighttime freeway speeding is both more glamorous and annoying than its daytime counterpart.

Once the sun goes down, we can do a lot more of that left-lane passing which is so near and dear to the hearts of wannabe Europeans, thanks to a trick I call “Poor Man’s Takedown.” Cop cars have “takedown” lights: high beams which flash alternately. We can simulate the effect as follows: While coming up behind traffic in the left lane, switch to parking lights only. When you are a few hundred feet back, flash your brights three or four times, producing the “takedown” effect. As Billy Dee Williams would say, “It works every time,” primarily because it startles Toyota drivers into yielding the lane before their natural territorial instincts can assert themselves.

We don’t use the shoulder at night unless we have to. Confused deer, abandoned cars, and discarded retreads tend to hide out there. In the event that a lane-changing fellow motorist leaves us with no safe lane choice and no time to slow the car, it’s occasionally possible to simply split the lane on the side away from the lateral direction of the lane change. If you are swift enough with it, you might even keep your mirrors.

The time will come when, despite our best efforts to look ahead, watch brake lights, and use our Valentine Ones, we will be clocked. At this point, we have two useful options. We can pull over and wait for the nice policeman, right there across the road from his clocking point (this will sometimes earn us some goodwill), or we can run.

It isn’t really “running” until the cop is directly behind us with his lights on. That’s a felony, and I advise against it. Until then, it’s merely additional speeding, spiced up with some unwarranted direction-changing. When we decide to perform said additional speeding, we need to absolutely abandon the idea of getting where we were going. That’s no longer important. Instead, we need to perform three important tasks.

Task one is breaking visual contact. As long as the cop can see us, we are toast. So it’s time to boogie. Most police sedans with light bars can’t break 120 mph, so we want to get to that speed or better immediately. We look ahead, not behind, or we will surely drive right into the back of a lane-wandering minivan full of multicultural children stroking crippled kittens and singing “Kumbaya.” We can check our mirrors in the gaps between traffic.

With Task One accomplished, it’s time to multiply possibilities. The police handbooks indicate that fleeing drivers almost always turn right. So we get off the freeway and turn left. If we have enough clear air and we aren’t driving something like a lime green Audi S5 or other memorable car, we can cross the median and join the lawful traffic heading in the other direction. If that’s too much to ask, get off the freeway . . . but do it quickly. We keep our speed up, using the techniques I’ll cover in Part III, and we make multiple direction changes.

After a few of these, it’s time to abandon the whip. We get out of the car and walk away. A gas station is fine for this, a restaurant is better, a car lot is best of all. If you have, ahem, a new Ford Flex, why not drive into a Ford dealership and park in a line of them? Then get away from the car. Guess what? If they can’t prove we were driving the car, we have a fighting chance in court.

If the police manage to catch us, we say we didn’t see them and that we always drive like a maniac. This abject confession of putative stupidity saved, um, a friend of mine from a beating after he led the Ohio Highway Patrol on a 120+ mph chase down Route 71 in a Lotus Seven clone. Sorry, officer! Didn’t see you back there! Gimme the ticket, I’ll sign it!

In cities, we return to the scene of the crime. Police search in an outward circle that expands with time. The one place they won’t be is the place where the search started, so we go there, using left turns. Needless to say, we don’t go speeding with weed, Ecstasy, firearms, or illegal immigrants in the car, because one felony charge at a time is enough.

In Part III, we will learn how to drive back roads at outrageous speeds.

[Click here to read Part I or Part III of the series. Note: as these editorials have triggered some strong emotions, I’ve turned off our no-flaming the website/author policy. Ish. I reserve the right to douse particularly egregious examples, in an entirely first amendment friendly sort of way]

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  • Kevin L. Copple Kevin L. Copple on May 26, 2009

    Regardless, this series encourages me to monitor posts at this site regularly. I don't want to miss what's coming next!

  • Fallout11 Fallout11 on May 27, 2009

    If we wanted complete safety, we'd never leave our homes. The roads are already dangerous (thanks largely to inattentive and distracted slowpokes and drunks, not hyper-attentive speeders), and we accept such dangers on a daily basis as a matter of course. Its called "life". Thanks for posting this series. Highly enjoyable.

  • MaintenanceCosts If you are going to buy anything Hellcat or 392 equipped, you better have a garage with steel doors, high-security locks, and some reinforcement for the walls. These things are catnip for thieves, including some with markedly higher levels of skill than Kia Boyz.
  • Fie on Fiasler "Pedestrian" is often a euphemism for "homeless," especially in blue cities.
  • Oberkanone Too slow! Need a Trackhawk.
  • SCE to AUX I'll guess 160 miles or less while towing at full capacity, especially in cold weather.Deduct 20% for minimum battery charge, and you're down to 128 miles in January if you have to tow something big that day. Subtract another 20% if you do this every day (don't want to fill to 100% every day).Then subtract more for any speeding, and a little for battery aging over time, and on the worst days you're under 100 miles of range.Good for local work on a good day, but not all 'truck stuff' on bad days. Buyers need to do their homework before getting an electric truck.
  • Wjtinfwb Memory lane... In '76, I got my full Florida D/L and started hogging my parents cars. That only lasted a year when it was decided I needed to take an additional class in school that started at 7am, before the bus ran and my friends went to school. Mom was not excited about driving me every day so I proposed a solution; I was a big dirt biker and floated out buying a street bike to ride to school, namely a new Honda XL350. Mom & Dad objected vehemently, they didn't want me dead on the road to school. And they know I'd be on that bike 24/7 and they'd never know where I was. Dad offered a car, stating if I'd put in the money I'd saved for the Honda, he'd match it and if needed throw in a bit more. Perfect! I started looking for a car, first candidate was a used Pontiac Formula 455. It was a '74, Automatic, an awful pea green but clean and on the front line at JM Pontiac. No way was Dad's instant answer. Too thirsty, too powerful, too expensive to insure. A Celica GT Liftback? Better but too expensive. Corolla SR-5? Warmer, but dad was uncertain of the safety of a Japanese car. Fiat 128? Why not just throw the money out the window. Dad's friend ran a leasing company and had a hook at the VW dealer, Rabbit? A Scirocco would be better, but lets look. Dealer offered a new, '77 Rabbit 2dr in Custom trim, 4-speed, factory A/C, AM/FM in Panama Brown (burnt Orange) with Brown "leatherette" for $3200 plus tax. One drive and I was in. Not fast, but peppy, '77 combined the '76 1.6L engine with Bosch Fuel Injection. Faster than the Corolla for sure and undoubtedly more reliable than the Fiat, right? Not so fast, my friend. The Rabbit was a nightmare, and VW dealers were stymied by the Fuel Injection, the A/C that while factory was clearly an afterthought and the leak from somewhere that filled the left rear footwell after ever rainstorm. A daily occurrence in S. Florida. It left me on the side of the road one evening due to a broken timing belt and ultimately succumbed to the bad valve guides that led to burning a quart of GTX every 200 miles. Sold at a fire sale price and replaced with a used Cutlass. A super fun car that was sold approximately 2/3 of the way through development. Two years later production moved to Westmoreland PA and those Rabbits were even more horrendous than my German built example. Great memory of a not very great car.