By on August 21, 2011

My 28-month-old son is a visionary. He can see things other people can’t. By “other people”, I mean “me”. He will point to the sky and say “airplane”. I see a dot that doesn’t look like an airplane to me until I realize it’s moving. He is currently very interested in garbage trucks, and he will call out “GARRTRUCK!” when the vehicle in question is swimming in the distant summer mirage of a flat Ohio freeway. I’m encouraging this interest, by the way. Trash-truck guys in New York City earn $144,000 a year. He can play a Fender Rhodes piano all night in the Village and collect garbage all morning if he wants to.

Honestly, I’d rather he be a garbageman than a race car driver. I don’t know if there will be much racing going on sixteen years from now. It probably won’t be like what we have now, with thousands of middle-class guys burning 200-300 gallons a NASA/SCCA/LeMons weekend in tow and race fuel and another few hundred millionaires running Grand-Am and ALMS. I’m not even sure how much driving we will have sixteen years from now.

Regardless, on the assumption that he is likely to drive a car at some point, I talk to him while we drive places, about what to look for, what to look at, what to deliberately ignore. It’s partially for his safety, although I don’t think driver “education” makes a huge difference in one’s chances in the big Auto Death Lottery. It’s partially so he will get places faster and with less stress. It’s partially so he will enjoy driving a bit, even if he chooses not to do it in a competitive or even aggressive fashion. And since I wish the same for all of you, I will tell you what I tell him, as we roll down the road in our broken-nosed Town Car.

“Look up! Look ahead!” Every driving instructor will tell you to “look up.” What does it really mean? Imagine you are driving down an arrow-straight freeway. Where should your eyes and attention be? Here’s a quick guide: If you can tell what state the license plates on the cars you’re watching are from, you’re not looking far enough ahead. If you can read the plates, even if you have 20/15 eyesight, you’re really screwing it up. You should be looking so far ahead that you should be proud of yourself for identifying what make and model of car you’re seeing.

I know why you’re not doing it, by the way. You think that if you “zone out” to the edge of your vision, you won’t see the things that are near, and dangerous, and happening quickly. That’s wrong. Your peripheral vision, which often has a quicker route to your brain, will see it. Furthermore, you aren’t just zoning out at the vanishing point…

“Look around!” How do you see, really? I bet you don’t know. Here’s a hint: Your eyes can’t see your entire field of vision at once. Unusually for a Wiki page, the visual saccades entry is very good:

Humans and many other animals do not look at a scene in fixed steadiness (as opposed to e.g., most birds); instead, the eyes move around, locating interesting parts of the scene and building up a mental, three-dimensional ‘map’ corresponding to the scene (as opposed to the graphical map of avians, that often relies upon detection of angular movement on the retina). One reason for the saccadic movement of the human eye is that the central part of the retina—known as the fovea—plays a critical role in resolving objects. By moving the eye so that small parts of a scene can be sensed with greater resolution, body resources can be used more efficiently. A human’s saccades are very fast.

Are you ready to freak out? Hold on: things can be right in front of you, and if you haven’t “saccaded” your fovea in their direction during the last few milliseconds, you can’t see the f**king things. You won’t see them. They won’t exist. How many accidents, particularly involving motorcycles — those fast-moving, fovea-resistant items — start out with the driver who “doesn’t see” the bike? They aren’t lying. They literally don’t see it. They don’t know how to look.

I make my driving students look at weird things. “Tell me what color the corner worker’s hair is.” “Read the billboards in Turn Three.” “Find the big rock down the left side of the front straight.” They don’t want to do it. They freak out. They want to LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD AT THE ZOMG TRACK, plain and simple. Then they get tunnel vision. Their eyes panic and the muscles lock up in the aforementioned eyes, the saccades stop, and their vision shrinks to the resolution of their fovea — a small point directly ahead of them.

Break out of it. Look around. Look at these fine-ass women all around you, doing their hair, talking on phones, plucking their eyebrows. Look at the billboards. Look at the aftermarket spoilers. As the late, great Jeff Cooper once said regarding hunting, “To my mind it is all good, and the more different ways I have enjoyed it, the richer my life has been.” While you look around, your saccades will build a more detailed map of the environment around you… and that includes the road ahead. Just don’t fixate on that young blonde next to you in the Camry. She’s driving a Camry, which means she’s already given up, or she’s married, in which case you should be a decent man, forget about her, and send me a text message photo with her license plate clearly visible.

“What’s happening up there?” I’m a guesser. I like to guess about what people are going to do. I watch the kids blowing through traffic, swerving without signaling, and I like to see if my Town Car and I can stay ahead of them without appearing to make any effort. Try it yourself. Say, “I’m going to stay ahead of the kid in the Vette for the next ten miles without exceeding the speed limit by more than eight miles per hour,” or something similar. If you’re in light traffic, it’s impossible… but the heavier traffic gets, the more prediction becomes important. Look a quarter-mile ahead and watch the traffic patterns. Watch the spaces shrink and grow. Don’t get smoked out of your fat pants like Dutch Mandel did. Be the aware driver, predict the traffic and the motion, and act accordingly.

The ninjas of this particular amusement can sit with a relaxed smile on their faces, signal every lane change, never do anything even remotely aggressive, and still stay ahead of the bob-and-weave supercar driver. I knew that I was on top of my game the other day when a guy in a 997 Turbo pulled up next to me after seven or eight miles and gave me the rare double bird. I’d never exceeded 72 mph; he’d hit at least 110 or 120 a few times. I’d signaled every move; he’d swerved around, but every time he thought he had a clear lane ahead, there was a white Town Car sitting there. My son was at home enjoying “The Backyardigans” at the time, so naturally I reacted to his hand gesture by moving him over into the breakdown lane so he could find out first-hand what the glass-and-nail resistance of the P Zero Nero might be. Then I gave him the “Oh, I’m sorry” wave so he would be totally confused. The usual caveats apply: professional driver, open road, your mileage may vary, don’t play God with the lives of bond traders.

“Big truck! Small truck!” My son sings a song while we drive. The refrain is, “Big truck! Small truck!” with the appropriate hand gestures. He likes the song so much that he will run up to S-10s and Rangers in parking lots and yell, “Small truck!” This is not appreciated by everyone.

Big trucks are death on wheels. Don’t drive next to them, don’t drive in front of them. Hell, even time spent right behind a semi can be deadly; it can’t stop but it can put a tire through your brain pan. When you see somebody running down the freeway next to a semi, matching their speed, know this: that person’s an idiot, and a danger to you. Put a car between you and the semi. Let them die. They don’t feed your kids or hold your wife at night. (Unless that other car is a white Town Car, ZING.) Big trucks are death on wheels. I repeat it so you’ll remember.

Small trucks aren’t much better. Yukons, Suburbans, ML450s. They are driven by people who are a danger to you. Avoid them, even if you’re in a Navigator or Land Cruiser yourself. Their drivers are busy with other things and they are statistically more aggressive. Save yourself the hassle. This is doubly true if you’re driving a low car. My Boxster and I are regularly moved over on by thirty-five-year old women on the phone or baseball-capped emasculatroids who are frowning at the world because they can’t backtalk their boss.

This was all easy advice, right? If my kid can remember it, you can too. Perhaps it won’t be relevant for long. Perhaps we are in the twilight of driving, and this will all be academic in my son’s adulthood. I suppose I should mention one other thing: the other day, when a woman in an old Sable panic-stopped ahead of us because the light had turned yellow with ten feet between her and the intersection, John listened to his father for a moment then said, in remarkably solid fashion:

“Fock fock id yut. Fock id yut. Fock.”

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41 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: The vision thing....”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Don’t forget to introduce him to “Honda Girl.”

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Just don’t let him read in the car, or watch TV. When there’s nothing to watch but traffic you learn a lot about when a car looks like it’s about to dodge into another lane, or that a truck will want to come out for a pass or a copy is hiding in the shadow of an overpass ahead.

    I-50 is a real test of the patience of those senses, though, other than looking for cops (which are out there, even in the middle of nowhere).

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      If you really want to make your son a good automobile driver, make him drive a motorcycle or scooter only for three years before he touches a car. A car-only driver cannot understand the reflexes and avoidance abilities you develop on a motorcycle, but a biker will know, instinctively.

      I wish every car driver could be forced to live on a motorcycle or scooter first before they’re allowed to touch a car. It’s amazing how quickly you learn your true place in traffic (hint: It’s not necessarily ahead of everybody else).

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Agree with the predict your fellow drivers’ behavior routine. In fact, it’s part of the curriculum for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses that nearly all states subsidize as part of their rider training courses. Scan-Identify-Predict-Decide-Execute. And staying away from trucks is always a good idea. Ever been near one when a tire let loose? It’s like a stick of dynamite going off, complete with shrapnel. I know a guy who had little bits of tire belting working their way out of his wounds for weeks.

    Violently disagree with any form of interacting with traffic, much less advocating it. Save it for the track. Eventually you will run across a truly unbalanced individual who will take your games personally and respond with lethal force. They make the news on a regular basis. I wonder how often they simply responded to aggressive driving with even more aggression.

    A lot of my perspective comes from a couple of decades and a several hundred thousand miles on motorcycles, where you are virtual plankton in the highway food chain. Removing the armor takes a lot of the appeal out of jousting; you tend to realize how much of your driving behavior reflects your sense of safety behind your shield. I would have been nowhere near your fun and games with the Porsche driver, since I would have identified you both as hazards likely to create a fair bit of collateral damage, certainly much higher on the risk scale than mere trucks. Truly expert drivers use expert judgment to avoid using their expert skills.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Good tips, Jack, but I have to side with rocketrodeo about the ‘jousting’ thing (a point that my wife has also rightly driven home to me in the past, and to which I have listened, reflected upon, and readily agreed).

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Violently disagree with any form of interacting with traffic, much less advocating it.

      Agreed. Unless your car is both bigger and cheaper than theirs. Then you can have fun.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I don’t think it was intentional, but there was the red pickup that may have been “toying” with me. In front of me, he was straddling lanes and driving “jiggly.” Some idiot on the phone, I thought.

      I slowed down hoping to put some distance between us, but he slowed down too. I saw an opening in the left lane and sped up, and quickly passed him. Whew, I thought.

      Later, I got off my exit, took the right lane, and slowed to a red light. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw the red pick up in the leftmost lane. He crossed two lanes, cut in front of me, and stopped at the red. Ahhhh! It felt like something from a Hitchcock movie!

      When the light turned green, he drove a few feet and pulled to the shoulder. I drove passed him. The idiot was probably lost.

      I think “Fock fock id yut. Fock id yut. Fock.” would have been appropriate.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I don’t think it was intentional, but there was the red pickup that may have been “toying” with me. In front of me, he was straddling lanes and driving “jiggly.” Some idiot on the phone, I thought.

      I slowed down hoping to put some distance between us, but he slowed down too. I saw an opening in the left lane and sped up, and quickly passed him. Whew, I thought.

      Later, I got off my exit, took the right lane, and slowed to a red light. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw the red pick up in the leftmost lane. He crossed two lanes, cut in front of me, and stopped at the red. Ahhhh! It felt like something from a Hitchcock movie!

      When the light turned green, he drove a few feet and pulled to the shoulder. I drove passed him. The idiot was probably lost.

      I think “Fock fock id yut. Fock id yut. Fock.” would have been appropriate.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    “…and I like to see if my Town Car and I can stay ahead of them without appearing to make any effort.”

    Oh, man, my FAVORITE game! It makes me so happy and drives aggressive drivers absolutely nuts. I’ve seen them resort to the emergency lane to get ahead.

    It’s especially fun with Boy Racer types.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      +1

      Learned this from my dad. For a number of years his commute home involved about 20 miles of nightmarish “bumpa-ta-bumpa” traffic on I-80 in northern NJ. He would lock himself in the right lane because weaving was often slower and simply more aggrivating. It was interesting to watch the same people hopelessly jockeying for position in the left lanes every day.

      Now that I think about it, the event that probably cooled him off for good was when he unknowingly cut someone off. That person pulled next to him, rolled the window down and offered to “tap his ass”. Not quite knowing what that meant, but somehow thinking it might be a compliment, he asked around at work what it meant. “‘Tap your ass?’ No, he was probably threatening to ‘cap your ass’. Harry, that means he was gonna f’in shoot you.”

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmy-powered

      It’s ALMOST as much fun as the game Miata and other slow-sports-car drivers can play: leading aggressive tailgaters into an curved off-ramp at a speed that’s fine for the Miata, but WAY too fast for whatever is doing the tailgating. I’ve done it many, many times.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Jack alludes driver training in that he uses his eyes to scan near and far along with smoothness of car control inputs.

    This is what ACNA, MBCA, and others teach. I will also slow down my new students/new track to about 60% of top speed going down the main stretches. This helps with the vision scanning and helps relax the mind to go through the mental checklist before the next sequence of turns.

    There is something to learn about weight transfer and car inputs. This best done in an autocross setting or on a wet or snow covered lot. Both of which I do annually.

    Because we both know if the 911 driver was lighting up his stability control icon on the dash trying to keep up with you.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    Jack, you’ve basically described the Smith System, used by professional drivers all over North America. I had it beaten into my head (and beat it into others’) in my 13 years at UPS. I now use it as the basis of driver training at a medium-sized transit authority.

    For everyone’s edification, remember, “All Good Kids Like Milk”:
    Aim High in Steering: have an 8-12 second eye-lead time.
    Get the Big Picture: How wide, how deep, what’s in the picture?
    Keep Your Eyes Moving: scan your mirrors every 5-8 seconds.
    Leave Yourself an Out: leave a 4-6 second following distance behind the vehicle in front that increases as speeds increase.
    Make Sure They See You: use your horn, lights, and signals to see and be seen.

    Simple stuff that has kept me out of harm’s way for the past 20 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      Oh lord, another ex-UPS man! They do try to tell you how to do everything there, but the Smith System is quite worthwhile.

      I think the time interval for “scan your mirrors” is slightly off. I want to focus on the road; If I’m checking all my mirrors every few seconds I’m not doing that.

      • 0 avatar
        TCragg

        The mirror scan is actually based on a “triangular” field of vision. You should have your eyes to the front most of the time. When you need to scan your mirrors, you do left-straight ahead-right. You never go mirror-to-mirror, for fear of missing something right in front of you. Eight seconds is a long time at 100 km/h.

        Nice to hear from (I assume) another ex-UPSer. I was a package driver in Windsor, ON for several years before being promoted into management and running my own centre. I probably trained over 200 drivers in my time at UPS, and yes, UPS is very intolerent of creativity during driver training. You master the five seeing habits, ten-point commentary, and 340 delivery methods or you work somewhere else.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Very, very interesting, thanks for passing that along.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      And speaking of mirrors, a few years ago, I read of a new recommendation to set mirrors – possibly here. The classic way was to include some of the fenders in the mirror field (to make sure they aren’t sneaking up on you?). The new-to-me way is to lean against the driver side window and just make the fender disappear in the driver side outside mirror. Repeat for the other mirror by leaning in front of the interior mirror. A little unnerving for me at first, it really does help eliminate blind spots. Relax, your rear fenders really aren’t going to catch you.

      • 0 avatar

        @chuckrs: Seconded. I first heard about this through the “Car Talk” guys.

        IIRC, Instead of that old thing about seeing the qtrpanels in the side-views,

        they recommended widening-out the view so that there was only a small “visual handoff space”,

        between the inside edges of each sideview and the outside edges of the rearview.

        +you’re right; it’s a little wacky at-first, but I’ve been w/o blind-spots ever-since.


        Otherwise: I never knew much of what was written here in the post, Or the comments,

        But- I always liked playing the “Guess what everyone you can see is about to do”-game.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        That’s fine for automobiles, but for working trucks and vans where you often have no direct rear view, you still need to keep the mirrors angled inwards to provide some sort of “what’s behind me?” information. This is where convex driver side mirrors are especially useful. Having grown accustomed to convex main glass on both sides of the cab in my Pinz, I find the old flat/convex side mirror system to no longer make any sense in passenger automobiles, and long for the day when some automaker figures it out and just offers wide vision field glass on both sides of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      That is a solid system. I think, however, that the Smart People of the World have billions (maybe trillions) of Studies (by even Smarter People (if you can believe it)) that show driver training is a complete and epic waste.
      No one should even think about showing the Smith System to a new teen driver. It results in nothing but increased hoonery, accidents, teen pregnancy and alien abduction.

    • 0 avatar

      I learned the Smith system in driver’s ed 40 years ago. “Leave yourself an out” is something I practice behind the wheel and also on my bicycle.

      Forget motorcycles, you want vulnerable? Try riding a bicycle in traffic. A motorcycle can at least accelerate away from a car. On a bicycle when someone flips you off, they usually also try to kill you.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Even though I never worked for UPS, I’ve used the tips my brother above rattled off one day and I’ve had 0 accidents for 14 years. Here’s the official UPS link – http://responsibility.ups.com/Safety/Safe+Driving+Tips

  • avatar
    obbop

    Note how the typical herd member drives in a pack upon the freeway, even when there is ample room to drive in a manner that keeps YOUR vehicle apart from the packs.

    Due to humans being pack animals?

    Feeling some ‘sense of security” being amidst fellow humans?

    Sheer stupidity/ignorance?

    Packs where if even one of the vehicles/drivers does something outside the norm other vehicles will be involved.

    As written above, keep distance from BIG trucks for many reasons.

    Re-tread tires on trailers are well-known for tread separation as proven by residue on the road.

    Those things, when “thrown” can be deadly.

    Other ways they can be a hazard.

    When possible stay away from other vehicles so you can see the road residue ahead with time to avoid hitting it.

    In town note the MANY in a rush rush rush mode. I drive the speed limit or slower, depending upon conditions.

    MANY people despise me. Too bad.

    I do not purposefully hog ANY lane upon a multi-lane in-town roads but if I have a left turn to make ahead there I will be.

    Or… if in an area where MANY right turns are made (enter business parking lots, etc) it is often safest and fuel saving to be in the right lane OR, if it is a 3–lane road, stay in the middle lane.

    So many variables but the experienced driver is aware of how traffic flows function that driver knows the most efficient and safest things to do.

    I see so MUCH self-centered screw everybody else type driving yet the rush rush rush seldom leads to reduced travel times.

    So much illogical and immature driving; mere reflections of the mentality of those drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      obbop

      “Or… if in an area where MANY right turns are made (enter business parking lots, etc) it is often safest and fuel saving to be in the right lane OR”

      Blatant inexcusable error. Flogging deserved.

      When MANY right turners ahead I go into the left or middle lane (if present) to avoid constant slow down-speed up events.

      Safer and assists mpg for 5,280 pound truck.

      I hate tailgaters and do attempt to avoid the cretins AND…. attempt to avoid inhibiting traffic flow even when I perform my regular on-road behavior of not exceeding the posted speed limit.

      I quiver with delight when the obviously impatient and in-a-rush typical vermin behind me dart into the left lane with the most impatient and idiotic accelerating as they do so, even when that acceleration is not required to merge into the left lane (I guess they are “showing me” something or the other.)

      The acceleration continues though the red stop light is clearly visible ahead.

      The inanity of the action is such that even when there are a plethora of waiting-out-the-red-light cars to ensure the accelerating passer will merely reach the red light sooner and need to apply the brakes rather heavily so as to be able to stop.

      Also, the left and right turn lanes are frequently full during busy traffic periods so it is not a case of “knowing the lights” and wanting to be present for a green arrow event.

      Anyway…. even if the acceleration and knowing the lights etc. is in play within the in-a-hurry driver’s mind consider the already-mentioned cell phone droid’s and texter’s slooooow responses to external stimuli that impairs ALL driving behind them.

      Want to lengthen your life? Reduce stress? Reduce the odds of cancer, stroke or heart attack?

      Approach driving with a Zen-like attitude.

      And laugh inside at the idiotic brain-dead illogical irrational driving behaviors of the mass of human herd around thee.

  • avatar
    Neb

    Angry driving is a pet peeve of mine. On anything less then the highway, you get there in literally the same time, so getting all worked up about traffic is cosmically dumb. Take it easy! Enjoy it; you are getting there in the same amount of time anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      +1 I have seen this demonstrated about 1 billion times. People weaving and passing inevitably come to a screeching halt at the next stop light (because they are only looking at the “obstacle” in front of them. I’m in the right lane, usually doing 5 under, and I adjust my speed as I approach the lights, timing them so I can roll through the intersection at 20-25 mph, while speed demon accelerates aggressively, only to stop at the next red. Then we repeat the game, where I roll by him at the light and he accelerates madly ….ad nausem. Once or twice out of a billion times has the other driver looked my way with a flicker of understanding.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Microwaving Hot Pockets in the car is okay, too. Just do it at a red light.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    You quote the Guru. Never cease to surprise and amaze, Jack.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I never had a chance to meet Mr. Cooper, unfortunately, but I read him without fail from about 1991 forward and ended up reading all his books. I didn’t go to Gunsite due to all the ownership business but I did train with Chuck Taylor, Gabe Suarez, Dale Fricke, and Naish back in ’96-97. I count Jan Liboruel as a personal friend and have a very funny photo of us both dressed to the nines in some very odd colors back in ’05 or thereabouts.

      Today, of course, I leave the shooting to Vodka McBigbra, who qualified pretty well during her time in Uncle Sam’s Green Machine.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    “It is Dark At Night”
    Do not let your brain fool you into thinking that you see better than you actually are seeing when driving at night. Do not overdrive your headlights. Do not go faster than the speed limit at night. When we drive at night on a familiar route, our brain pretends to see better than it actually is, and gives us false confidence when caution would be a better approach.

    “Drive. F*&K the Phone.”
    When you call someone on their cell, you don’t imagine them trying to get through traffic as you speak to them. If you knew what they are doing, you wouldn’t have called or texted. Consequently, don’t fool someone into thinking you can just drop a steering wheel to have a lively discussion with them by answering your cell.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “I watch the kids blowing through traffic, swerving without signaling, and I like to see if my Town Car and I can stay ahead of them without appearing to make any effort”

    I like to play this game, just with slightly different rules. My goal is to keep up with Swervy McLeadfoot while maintaining legal speed (posted + 5), and using only moderate accelleration and minimal, signalled lane changes. This can be readily done on the surface streets I regularly travel. I try to make a point of pulling alongside or behind Swervy at the inevitable traffic lights and flashing him/her a beatific, Zen-like smile.

    As to teaching while driving, my Mom always preferred to travel on US highways instead of the growing interstate hwy system. She would distract her kids on the those trips by having us play the alphabet game, where one child on each side of the car attempts to find each letter of the alphabet, in order, on signs found on their side of the car. Of course, this game works best along roads with enough business activity to sprout a good assortment of signs. I think that many rounds of the alphabet game probably stood me in good stead for learning to scan quickly thru a moving environment.

  • avatar

    Things my Dad taught me about driving:

    “Quit sawing at the Godddamn steering wheel!”
    -Remember to use smooth throttle and steering inputs.

    “Speed up! You’re entering the freeway, not a Goddamn convent!”
    -Match the speed of traffic flow when merging.

    “Jesus wept, would you look at the fecking eejit in the Toyota weaving all over Hell’s Half-Acre?”
    -Remember to give erratic drivers a wide berth.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I know the writers don’t necessarily pick the lead-in image but this is a great one for the article. To paraphrase:

    This blog was named Baruth, in honour of the last American hero to whom speed means freedom of the soul. The question is not when’s he gonna stop, but who is gonna stop him.

  • avatar
    ohiomax

    Jack, had to laugh about how knowing the road and maintaining your flow location in traffic to out class an idiot with an engine. I used to drive the Hamburg Turnpike in New Jersey to work each day, speed limit was 45, the fastest time between any 2 points was not accomplished with max engine speed. It was anticipating when someone would need to turn left and bring the passing lane on the two lane road to a dead stop or right but with a full stop before turning right on the turnpike. Smart drivers switched lanes a quarter mile before this point, cruised around at 45-55 and kept moving. I made it a game, figured out the best speed, combined with correct picking of lanes to make it to work in 20 minutes usually at 5-10mph below the posted speed. The stop and go speed freak took 35 minutes to transverse the same distance. One day an idiot with a Lamborghini Diablo was gunning the engine, wiping in and out of traffic, never picking the correct lane getting pissed when he got stuck in the slow traffic lane. I passed him 7 times in 3 miles as he continually got stuck by the lane turners only to slam on his brakes then re-gun the car. If he just watched traffic, he would not have to drive like a bat out of hell only to be then repassed by slower traffic that picked the correct lane. Annoyed I let the devil come out, see I knew the heavy storms had washed out the right lane on the downhill curve and left 8-10 inch crater potholes. I scraped bottom 3 days earlier in my 4×4 which is how I knew the road ruts where deeper than 8 inches. Those potholes had been growing for a week. Driving at a sane speed or within 10mph of posted speed most drivers could brake effectively to either change lanes or guide their vehicle at a crawl through the mine field of pot holes. I watched the anger in the Lamborghini Diablo driver build; yes I may have started to pick my lane based on trying to keep my truck in front of this super exotic. I may have known right where to release him. He could make the right or wrong decision. He threw me the finger way, gunned his car full throttle (great sound), passed blindly around me, on the right side, full bore way above the speed limit. Shame he didn’t know about the pot holes, or had his rage blinded him. It didn’t appear as if he even was able to touch the brakes before impact The sounds of a Lamborghini bouncing through these road ruts were excruciating to hear, he hit them so hard, my teeth rattled. The shrieking of scrapping undercarriage cracking, slamming, twisting frame, the horror or the awesome power of the new jersey pot hole depending on your point of view. He didn’t lose control per say, he was not injured, no other vehicles or property was damaged. His car came to rest about 3/8 of a mile passed the pot hole death zone. The look on his face was f*&^ing priceless, front end was severely bent, fluids were leaking from everywhere, the car was toast, I just got to witness hundreds of thousands of dollars pissed into the wind, priceless. On a positive note, that stretch of roadway was repaved the very next day.

  • avatar
    claytori

    Bad merging onto freeways is almost the norm. You don’t tiptoe out, hope someone slows down to make a break, wait forever to confirm that this has indeed happened, then pull in front and impede traffic, then think about it a while and slowly accelerate to freeway speed. It is an acceleration lane. Full throttle (unless this would result in wheelspin or loss of control, then as much as possible) to slightly above the speed of the near lane of the freeway, then find your gap and deke in. No matter how powerful your car you can lose speed at least twice as fast as you can gain it. This is a basic technique that was taught to me by my driver’s ed teacher. Sadly, no-one seems to teach this to many people. Remember, when you change lanes between two that are travelling at the same speed, you need to speed up briefly because you are taking a diagonal line and the distance is longer, hence the need to be slightly faster.

    The only little “game” that I play any more is to anticipate the light turning green, verifying that either all lanes crossing have stopped or there are no incipient red-light runners (RLR), then briskly engaging the clutch on the green. If I can’t verify, I hang back and take it slow. If there is a large vehicle in the adjacent lane, it goes first because you can’t see past it, and it will do a better job of stopping the RLR. With a manual trans, the ability to use the KE from the flywheel and quick reaction time will give you a much quicker takeoff than any auto trans car of reasonable power. I accelerate briskly to the speed limit then cruise. This is actually the most fuel efficient way to do this and it expedites traffic flow. I am often across the intersection before the Porsche/Audi/etc. in the next lane. In the UK the traffic lights change from red to green with a brief flash of the yellow to warn you (green, long yellow, red, short yellow, green,…).

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