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Global Skywatch

another car guy blogger

This morning I discovered Eric Peters’ website. Perhaps a half-generation younger, he is strikingly similar to me in many ways. He clearly understands and has plenty of experience with high-performance driving for the sheer delight in the act itself. He also fully comprehends The Nanny State efforts to remove joy, individuality and thinking from our lives. Best of all, he can express that and more with written words.

His car- and motorcycle-guy stories are like reading my own with names and places changed to protect the innocent guilty. We both understand that speed limits good for cement trucks and motor homes are not real-world relevant to high-performance bikes and cars guided by skilled drivers.

Con Brio driving focuses an alert mind on every aspect of the process and environment, tending to be significantly safer than lounging in the driver’s seat with attention drifting to something, anything else cuz there is simply nothing of interest happening outside that windshield. We tend to see threats before they see us (including badged revenue extractors) and minimize the dangers to all.

I was 17 when the impetuous upstart Cobra Jet Mustang challenged the lofty ’62 Corvette I was allowed to pilot for part of an afternoon/evening. A freeway with a red light turned to green marked the moment I accepted my assignment to put the youngster in his place. A string tied between our door handles would have stayed intact as we ran through the gears shifting at redlines as if one driver was controlling both gearboxes. But eventually, in 4th gear, The King finally started pulling away… well, kinda creeping into the lead.

Then we noticed this speck of red light in our mirrors. Way back, for sure, but we knew well what it was attached to, and both cars obediently pulled to the side of the freeway. The patrol car parked between us with one trooper walking forward to the Mustang and the other back to chat with me.

Do you know how fast you were going?
No. I was really watching the road.
Well, I was doing over 100 and you were pulling away.

Different people would learn different things from times like this.
Quitting while you are winning has since struck me as not too bright.
I’m not going further with my tales along this line, but let’s just say Eric’s story Into The Woods struck a familiar chord with me.

But that’s not what I started off to share. Growing up as a car and bike guy is in part the liberation those devices give us. It is expression, artistry, ballet, mechanical excellence and very much about freedom. Having a vehicle in front of us impeding our progress and controlling our movements on a gorgeous curvy road is dancing in a straight-jacket and leg-irons, or being trapped listening to a musician-in-name-only torturing an electric guitar.

Eric gets it and describes it well in the essay I clipped below. Directly related is another of his posts describing how speed limits are set and some of the nonsense around the rules for speed – perhaps slowness, delay, hindrance, or sluggishness would be more appropriate words than “speed” for this discussion.

Slow drivers… is it getting worse?

by Eric Peters

I think the Flouride in the water is doing its thing…

Almost every time I go out, I come up on a car – or an SmooVee – that’s doing either just barely or several (often many) MPH below the posted limit. The typical offender also likes to slow down and speed up for no apparent reason; the concept of maintaining a flow is beyond them. They’ll wander across the double yellow – and not just in the curves. Then jerk the wheel to recover their lane.

And of course the limit itself is already ridiculous. Well below what a competent, alert driver can safely handle. So these slo’ mo’s are actually running (if that’s the right word) 10-20 mph below a reasonable cruising along speed.

For example, the main road through my county is US 221. This is a broad, two-lane secondary highway with gentle curves and many long, straight sections that run for as much as a mile or more. It is posted 55 mph. Most of the traffic is doing 60-65. That feels like you’re standing still. Cruising at 70-plus (assuming no cops) is about the same as doing the same speed on an Interstate.

Then you come up on some cowhead in an SmooVee (as often as not, some chrome-covered gigantosaurus with a 300-400 hp V-8) gimping along at 56 mph – slowing for the curves.

I wouldn’t mind these people so much if they’d just pull off and let the faster-moving traffic get by. But using the rearview mirror (and exercising common courtesy) are two things unknown to the pilots of SmooVees and Breedermobiles and high-powered luxury cars bought solely for the status, that never experience the north side of half throttle.

They just keep on going (slowly), indifferent to the line of cars stacking up behind them.

I have to do across-the-double-yellow passes every day. Sometimes two or three times in a row. It’s either that or let an SmooVee under the sway of some Flouride-addled cowhead determine my pace. And that isn’t in my operations manual.

Anyway, it seems to me the problem is getting worse and maybe it’s because there are more geezers on the road (America is graying; the proportion of oldsters is rapidly increasing) and because the up and coming generations have been reared in an environment of subservience, if not outright worship of “the law.”

With my generation (Generation X) it was very different. We grew up contemptuous of “the law” and did our best to circumvent it when it seemed stupid. The 55 mph limit, for example. That was my reality in high school and college. And it was so obviously idiotic that not only did people in my g-g-g-generation ignore it whenever they could, it imparted a reflexive cynicism and suspicion of “the law” in general. From 55 to the Dope Laws and on and on.

So, we developed our own compasses. We evaluated a situation on its merits and decided accordingly. Who the hell cares what the number on a sign by the side of the road says?

But today’s crowd was reared in an environment of less-than-individualism. They are much less likely to know there’s a two-part question: Ok, it’s illegal. But does that mean it’s wrong?

Plus, they grew up in a video game word, with cars that are deceptively easy to “drive.” Many have never experienced a car with drum brakes and no ABS. If you had 100 of them do a road test in a 1970 F-100 pick-up with a three-on-the-tree manual and no power steering (or brakes) 90 of them would be in the ditch, wheels-up, within five minutes.

But mainly, it’s the suffocating steam of “safety” – the endless background drone that says to ever drive even a single MPH faster than that number on that sign … Well, you might as well get an AK and go shoot up a kindergarten.

People have absorbed this. They live it. How else to explain the situation? Almost everyone is driving around in a car that is fully capable of safely (assuming a competent driver) running much, much faster than the speed limits on American roads. And not just running faster. They stop well, too. Most modern cars take half the distance to come to a complete stop relative to a car from the 1960s – when speed limits were higher than they are today, by the way.

And they have ABS and traction control and a whole array of technologies that keep them on the road even when the driver can’t. All for what, exactly? So the “driver” can plod along at speeds that would have seemed hypercautious back in 1966?

At least back in ’66, the bluehair (or whomever) up ahead would have pulled off onto the shoulder to let you by.

27 comments for “Slow drivers… is it getting worse?”

Brian
September 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

While in the Air Force, I was stationed in Italy. There I got to drive on the Autostrade, the Italian version of the Autobahn that Americans seem to never have heard of.
One and only one SIMPLE rule turned this rather regular highway into a great road to drive on – at any speed: drive in the right hand lane / pass in the left hand lane, then immediately move back into the right hand lane. I think that may even be or has been the law in the U.S. that no one seems to follow. It works like magic, at least in Italy.

Tim
September 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I grew up in Iowa, which has a very high percentage of senior citizens, and they all drive the same way: SLOOOOW! There were countless times when some 90 year old geezer who could barely see over the steering wheel would be going down a two lane highway at 20 mph, forming a line of traffic behind them. Here in California, at least on mountain highways, they have turnouts. These are 50-100 ft. strips of paved siding that slower drivers pull off on so that faster drivers behind them can proceed. Turnouts would work, provided the bluehairs actually use them.

A minority of us recognize that passing lanes are not comprised of right and wrong passing lanes, but right and LEFT passing lanes. I really don’t much care which one the crawlers choose, I’ll take the other. – Ted

Ethan
September 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I can’t stand those slow drivers either. Especially when they go 35 through the “curves” and then 55 in the passing zones (most state highways are 50 here in northern NH). Sometimes I haul stuff in a pick-up that requires me to drive at 35 or 40 on these roads, and I will dutifully pull over when people come up behind me because I know I’d be pissed if the tables were turned and the other driver didn’t pull over. I normally drive 8-10 over on town or state roads and 12-15 over on the interstate. Sure, you could safely drive faster, but I’m sick of paying tickets. Radar detectors don’t seem to be much help, and my brother has a 10-day license suspension on his record to prove it. Around here the blue-lights’ favorite tactic is to pop the radar on the second they see you appear around the corner, before you have a chance to slow down. With no radar signal on before that, the detector is useless. On the interstate, it does help that the cops always hang out on the U-turns, so I’ve mapped out where those all are and some are 2 or 3 miles apart :). You don’t have that ability on the state roads though.

SteveL
April 15, 2012 at 1:28 am

One other reason for slower drivers is fear of speeding tickets. Such fines are quite high here in southern Ontario (Canada). In addition, rising gas prices (gas is heavily taxed here) create an incentive to conserve fuel by driving more slowly. I used to drive the 100 km/h (~62 mph) 400-series highways at 140+ km/h (87+ mph)–such speeds are quite safe–but now I tend to cruise at about 110-115 km/h (68-71 mph); traffic here probably averages 110 km/h (68 mph), though sometimes it will move at 130+ km/h (81+ mph).

P.S. Your writing is good. I also admire your civility in responding to hostile comments. I found your site via LRC. My baby is a tweaked but stock-appearing 1998 Camaro SS.
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eric
April 15, 2012 at 9:53 am

I hear you, Steve (and thanks!)

This is why I got a top quality radar detector. Driving had become truly miserable here in the People’s Republic of Virginia. Now I can drive again. But I know it’s only a temporary thing. They are going to use GPS and other such technology to make it impossible to speed (or speed and get away with it) within 10 years at the outside.

Tre Deuce
September 22, 2012 at 5:29 am

Eric, I have to chuckle a bit.

I was on the road for six years doing field engineering in the seven western states. The time frames often had me running hard to the next job site which sometimes were up to 1,500 miles apart, so I researched and invested in the top two detectors available in 1998-2004. After several years and constant upgrades I came to the conclusion that they were only good for finding fast food restaurants as every microwave oven in the county would light up those units.

I never got a ticket, but I witnessed plenty of Jack Rabbits who did. I simply applied my usual common sense regime to the situation and have now gone 30 years without a ticket chargeable to my driving record.

I did get one ticket in 1989 that was never applied to my record, so I don’t count it. A radar detector would not have saved me in that situation. I was coming out of Clear Lake California, near the end of a 7,000+ mile bike trip, headed to I-5 and home. I was going down a steep curvy hill to the valley floor, sucking up Semi truck brake lining asbestos dust.

I could see that it was clear all the way down the hill, so I dropped a few gears and nailed it, my 1100 Katana passing several Semi’s in one near instantaneous fell swoop. As I rolled out on the valley floor I could see this Black & White erupt in cloud of dust from a bunch of trees. He was waiting for me at the intersection of the highway and dirt road. I waved him over to some shade in a rocky semi park.

The officer asked me politely for my paper work and went back to his car. I thought I was going to jail, because I had probably hit 110 plus down the hill. Pretty slow considering the speeds hit in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico,and the Bonneville Salt Flats which does have a BLM imposed 35 MPH speed limit. But I was still figuring I was going to have to make bail.

When the officer came back I was resigned to the trip to the county jail. The CHP officer handed me my ticket and said that he didn’t care how fast
I was going, “but you just can’t pass on a double yellow in California”. And then stated, that he should impound my bike because my new back tire was beyond limits. It was new 7,000 miles back and thirty days ago when we started our banzai trip of the Western states. Too many fast corners and gear.

He then mentioned that if I hurried into Corning and went to the court house and payed the clerk for the ticket, it wouldn’t show up on my Oregon record. He further stated that I would have to hurry as he was taking the clerk out to lunch in a few minutes. Relieved that I had dodged a bullet, I relaxed in the shade and waited till after lunch to visit the clerk. All I can say is, that CHP officer was one lucky guy to be taking that winsome clerk to lunch. The ticket never showed on my Oregon record.

Despite my clean record, I’m a habitual offender, but I do have one hard, fast rule. I don’t speed in town, and especially in residential neighborhoods. I’m always looking for the three year old who is going to come out into the streets between parked cars. And I reduce speeds from posted limits when conditions warrant increased caution. Besides, if I go too fast, I might miss a pretty Grrl’ or my next project.

And I also don’t want to reduce the livability of the neighborhoods I travel through, through increased road noise, raised dust, and hydro carbon emissions…fumes, and I would expect the same from everybody else coming into my neighborhood even though, luckily, I currently live rurally and my drive is 1600 feet long.

And finally, I’m an old ‘Geezer’ and probably a ‘Clover’…LMAoff!

You all have a good weekend ..Tre
Reply
eric
September 22, 2012 at 10:16 am

A radar detector isn’t foolproof, but (in my experience) it dramatically improves the odds in one’s favor. I have avoided dozens of tickets I would otherwise certainly have been issued – which translates into thousands of dollars in fines and hiked insurance costs avoided.

I use the Valentine 1, by the way – widely regarded as the best unit on the market. Its main weakness is laser detection. It detects laser – but only when it’s already too late. See my discussion with Meth on the virtues of having a laser jammer in addition to a good radar detector.
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methylamine
September 23, 2012 at 4:01 am

Tre you’re not a geezer for slowing down in neighborhoods/residential areas–that’s just common decency.

I save my speed work for places I won’t endanger people, too.

After all–we’re responsible, as only freedom-loving people can truly be.

Dave
January 3, 2012 at 2:39 am

Then there’s the worst of all: The “enforcer”, the guy who will hold up a line of cars in the fast lane so he can make sure nobody is speeding. Once, just once, I’d like to be driving a James Bond equipped car when I’m behind an “enforcer”.
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eric
January 3, 2012 at 11:30 am

Oh yeah!

The upside is usually this person is an uber Clover and so, neither particularly bright nor particularly adept behind the wheel. The key is to lull the Clover into thinking you’re fine with being in his six. Wait for your moment. Don’t crowd him. And then, when the moment arrives – hit it! Blast past the Clover, smiling at him as you do.
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dom
April 15, 2012 at 1:37 am

OMG.. So I was out today putting some miles on the new engine, which by the way pulls like a tractor! Anyhow, going down a road in the middle of no where and was passing through the stupid ass “your speed is” permanent fixture signs. It was just clover and I on the road. He was about five car lengths in front me. The “your speed is” sign flashed that he was going 47 in a 45 and the dood fucking lit up his breaks. Honestly I was not quite ready for that, but just passed his ass..
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eric
April 15, 2012 at 9:50 am

It’s conditioning, mang! Not only are they programmed to cringe before any authority figure, they also believe those signs have power – they’re gonna get caught for speeeeeedding!
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methylamine
April 16, 2012 at 3:11 am

The only good thing about those signs is they reduce the “take” the cops extract out of the populace.

Enough people believe they’re monitored that they actually slow down, hence depriving the Stasi of their bounty.

I on the other hand take great pleasure seeing how high I can make them register.

I wonder if there’s some kind of “Bingo!” moment if you can roll them over into triple digits? Will it explode? Or just crash its feeble embedded processor-mind?
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eric
April 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

As I’ve mentioned, we live in a rural area. There is a section of the main road (a posted 55 mph rural highway) that is arrow-straight for about 3 miles. At the end of this section, the county cops sometimes erect one of those “your speed is” machines – complete with flashing red and blue cop lights, if you’re over. Now, this is a rural area – one often has the entire road to oneself. And it’s pretty easy to tell whether there are any cops around. If not, I’ve done the following:

Go home, get sport bike. Make sure the coast is clear by doing a drive-by at semi-legal speed. Turn around. Go back to the start of the three mile stretch. Now do a real run. On a high-performance bike (or in a high-performance car) it’s not too challenging to get to 170 or even faster. This really upsets the machine.

But it makes me real happy!
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embree smith
September 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

Eric…
You should know the real purpose of those Signs…
is logging speeds for Enforcement planning
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Tom McCarthy
September 22, 2012 at 12:25 am

I think your spelling and grammar says it all.
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dom
September 22, 2012 at 1:08 am

Thanks Mang! I’m always appreciative and shit of compliments!
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Bevin
September 5, 2013 at 11:36 am

Dear dom,

I hope you blew past him at twice the “legal limit” and shocked the shit out of him!

LOL.

I really don’t understand clovers who try to keep “speeders” from passing. I hate tailgaters. They make me nervous as hell.

I WANT them to pass me as soon as possible. Usually I’m the one passing others. But if I happen to be in a less rushed state, I sometimes cruise. When that happens, I don’t want anyone sitting on my rear bumper. I always wave them ahead.

I really don’t understand these clover “enforcers.”
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Garysco
September 5, 2013 at 11:16 am

Two wheel heaven when that opportunity presents itself.
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methylamine
September 23, 2012 at 3:57 am

@Dave–you don’t want a missile system. You might get rid of them, but imagine the damage the debris might do to your car!

I want a rear-facing flame-thrower. Keep the problem behind you.
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eric
October 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Same here!

It’s really strange. I could understand it if I were tailgating them or something like that. But I never do. I keep a safe distance, then when the opportunity comes up, I hammer it and pass ‘em. But about 8 our of 10 of them seem to think it’s their job to force me to drive at whatever speed they are doing – even if it’s less than the limit. Or they just don’t want to be passed. They speed up; they honk or flash their lights.
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dom
October 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm

It’s getting worse for sure!

I’ve noticed people seem to be getting more aggressive when I try to pass them, speeding up and honking their horn at me.

Don’t understand it..