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Driving Fast: Where the Danger Lies

by Roger Lister

I like to drive fast. But only if conditions allow it.

I carry a scanner, but no radar/laser detector. I never exceed 90 if I have passengers. And then I only see 90 when passing. If there is too much traffic to proceed at my preferred speed, I slow down. (I've never had a reportable accident of my own, always been a passenger in bad wrecks. Motorcycle accidents don't count for these purposes.)

There is no reason for someone to be in the left lane doing sixty in a seventy zone. Why don't the police give these idiots tickets for obstructing traffic? They do more harm in my opinion than me doing 90. And the police could leave me alone (and others).

Speed doesn't kill. Moronic lack of thought, kills. Inattention, kills. Just plain disregard of your fellow human being, kills. But speed doesn't.

Yes, I drive fast. But I maintain situational awareness. My head is on the proverbial swivel. I constantly scan my mirrors and gauges. If I am on a land speed record run, I don't have the stereo on. I want to hear what my car has to say to me. And sometimes, that is better music than any CD has ever had.

Let's be careful out there, but I will never tell you not to have fun...

[note: sent with permission to reprint this]. The last couple of trips have sent me off in this wild foray of commentary. My frequent trips to San Diego from a not so secret location in the Mojave desert are due to my wife's medical condition. I enjoy the drive and most aspects of driving too. But the morons on the road are what light me off. I generally have a fairly even temper. It is a good thing that others can't hear me when I rant in the car... But I never aim that "two ton weapon" at innocents, no matter how much some truly deserve it.

I would like to add (or have added), that if your car isn't capable of maintaining 90 mph, don't drive 90. If you can't remember when your last oil change was, don't drive 90. If you can't hear your engine, turn the radio down. I am not an expert here. If you are not comfortable at these speeds, don't do them. And stay out of the left lane. That is rude.

Featured Response: John Applebee

Saying that speed doesn't kill is like the T-shirt that says "I don't have a drinking problem...I drink, I fall down, no problem." The equivalent analogy here (and just as ridiculous) is that speed really doesn't's the sudden stop that does the damage.

Everybody who admits to speeding seems to think of themselves as confident, experienced, courteous, attentive drivers who only drive cars in perfectly maintained condition. They also think that the vast majority of other drivers are physically and/or mentally impaired morons who don't belong on the same roads. Both extreme views go to the heart of the topic.

Nobody is in tip top mental or physical condition all of the time. Nobody keeps their vehicle in racing condition all of the time. The vast majority of drivers do have habits which are careless and even dangerous. Somebody will always be talking on a phone, drinking hot coffee, fussing with a child, arguing with a spouse, playing with the radio or putting on makeup. This is unavoidable. The number of drivers keeps on increasing, which adds even more stress and opportunity for mishap on already overcrowded roads. Unfortunately, we all see these things every day.

Inevitably, no matter how skilled or careful you are, something unexpected is going to happen to you or your vehicle. The faster you're going, the less time you're going to have to react. If you're lucky, it might only be yourself that you kill or maim. If not, you might have to live the rest of your life with some child's death on your conscience. Everybody who speeds has to make that choice whether they admit it or not.

Other Responses

Mr. or Ms. BaileyI agree with everything everyone has said. I live in a small town of about 5,200 and the cops here will let you do 45 in a 30. They don't care but if you were to smoke or squeal your tires they will pull you over like that but they dont care about people doing 15 mph over the limit. The other thing is this town has a lot of [people] that like to go 50 down the street in front of my house with their stereo so loud I can hear it in the house over my stereo in my room. These people should not be driving.
Edwin A. del ToroI would rather loose a minute of my life, than my life in one minute because of driving fast


I have no problem with driving fast, or other people driving fast, as the long as the driver is aware of what he is doing and is very conscious of the traffic around him. I have a problem with those goobers, the average driver, who thinks he or she is better than they actually are, trying to push their way through traffic just because they have convinced themselves they are going to be late at their destination.

These are the people who ride your back bumper, who cut people off, who weave in and out of traffic while driving their Mercedes, Acuras, or BMWs, and think that we all driving "lesser" vehicles should just get out of their way. I would wager the driver's abilities do not go beyond mashing the gas pedal. These guys will try to pass everything in site while their cell phone is glued to their head.

I typically cruise at 75 - 80 because that is a nice rhythm for me. I monitor my mirrors and try to know where all the traffic is around me. Out in the mountains and away from traffic, I'll push my speeds up. As long as there is no other traffic that I will affect, I'll have as much fun as safely possible cutting apexes and just driving. I have explored the limits of my car and know when to back off. I have driven autocross events and have learned how to upgrade my car to expand those limits and its capabilities. Speed is not all there is to driving a car. Driving with intelligence, courtesy, and respect for others on the road is what's needed.

EdThe problem with a speeding ticket is that the insurance company may jack your rates up. I called my insurance company and asked them a simple question: Do you have a study that shows that people who get speeding tickets have more accidents than people who do not. The answer: "No such study." However, while the company did not, they assured me that New York State did. I called New York, but they also had no such study. The did send me a study done by California which seemed to show something. I showed the results to our statistics person. He looked at the numbers and said they had virtually no significance. The case had not been made, On the top of that, the California study related accidents to tickets for all reasons, not just speeding, so in fact it was irrelevant.

The statistics collected every year by the New York State police on causes of accidents did not even show exceeding the speed limit was not even listed as a cause. The closest category was excessive speed for conditions, accounting for 4%. Folks, the next time you get a speeding ticket, remember, they are collecting your hard earned money, the insurance company raises your rates, and there is not a shred of evidence to back up this robbery.

ChrisI believe we have all forgotten that driving above a posted speed limit is a ticketable offense. The best offense is a good defense and the best way to save money is to not spend it in the first place.
Virginia McGeeI enjoy speed as much as anyone, being an ex-motorcycle racer. Though most of you are right, there are too many dangers existing on the street to speed unless all alone on an open road. Two years of driving a semi showed me that someone is going to do something stupid at the worst possible time, especially RVs. Talk about people that should have a CDL license.

These people use a normal license and training to drive a huge vehicle
or tow a trailer without the sense it takes to ride a bicycle. I've seen people do everything including have sex behind the wheel; I quit after two years due to road rage. I turned in the truck and gave up the frustration or I was going to kill somebody.

I do know what you mean by cops though. I've called them on drunk drivers and had them say "so what." Driving 7 days a week gives you the chance to see every jerk on the road. Nobody wants to be behind a semi and will do some of stupidest things imaginable to get around one. I've seen so many accidents caused by everything, but a lot of what I saw were speed related! speed mixed with other causes to be sure but speed nonetheless.

Speed in traffic is reckless driving. Like I said, I do like going fast, but you're responsible for the consequences.

Racer RickFirst off I would like to say one thing - I am not a highway saftey expert. But I bring good old fashioned common sense to the table. Especially when I drive.

You can be a world class driver, but if you have the judgment skills of a hyperactive five year old, you still shouldn't drive.

I have a good friend who has actively races Formula 2000. He is one of the best drivers I have ever seen. He is also a moron at times. He has destroyed two cars and currently is going to court to fight an exhibition of speed ticket and the loss of his drivers licence. He was caught doing 220 kph in a 60 zone, charged with exhibitions of speed (he was racing someone), and with me riding shotgun, he has raced around a subdivision at 140 kph, apexing every turn, and drifting the car around blind corners, at 4pm on a school day. He has been in the fast lane doing 20 kph under the speed limit. He has passed cars on the right hand paved shoulder, and this is all in one day of me driving with him. I won't mention what happens when he answers his cell phone while driving.

I don't think he should be allowed to drive on the street. Nice guy...just makes all the wrong judgement calls when driving.

Speed doesn't kill. Moronic drivers like my friend do.

Kenneth Rudd

I've read nothing here but complete stupidity and idiocy. "I can drive fast, because I drive safely." Try bringing a car to a stop at 100 miles per hour on a blown front tire.

This applies especially to people who drive 4x4s. I commuted 40 miles each way every day for three years, on a freeway. It always amazed me to see that the only vehicles I saw flipped over on the side of the road in wintertime were four-wheel drives, because they were driven by morons who thought, "So what if the road surface is covered with BLACK ICE, I'VE GOT A FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE! I'M INVINCIBLE!"

You who think you can drive so well are the very people I fear. You're the ones who cause accidents which kill people every day. You're the ones in need of driver's education. You're the ones who make certain I drive defensively every day.

George DenzingerMore power to you! These are my feelings exactly! I have experienced much the same problems in my time driving, but there seems to be no end in sight. I swear, when my daughters are old enough to drive, they are going to a a racer's driving school, so they will have a fair chance to survive on the streets. I can't imagine how bad it will be in another 7-10 years.
Robert KristofI think driving safe has a lot to do with being aware of your vehicles limitations and how it works in the first place. I also believe that by adding a basic automotive maintenance course to a driving school curriculum would help produce some better drivers out there.

Ever notice how it's OK for a cop to exceed the limit by 20 MPH or KPH (depending on where you're at) but if you follow behind him at that speed they get really, really angry!

(not the editor)
No question about it! Though I have had no problem driving at high speeds - 3 digits and above - I frequently find that many people drive dangerously either at or just above the speed limit. Every day I have to contend with the Hondas and Saturns driven like flies (that is, buzzing around unpredictably, always seeking an entry), the SUVs that suddenly swing into another lane without changing their speed, the various "blockers" who simply do not want to be passed, and the nuts who want nothing else. That's not to mention the tailgaters who refuse to pass - you're supposed to get out of their way - and the "doing the speed limit in the passing lane, quite stubbornly" folk.

Try driving with cruise control on for a's amazing. You keep passing the same people you just passed. One moment they're at 65, the next at 80, then back to 65.

Every day, I am cut off dozens of times by the same people. Half the time I end up passing them again a few minutes later. What's the point? To always be first? Some people actually try to make other drivers angry, to see how close they can come. (Yes, I do know this for a fact). What kind of nuts do we have out there?

To all those other fast drivers out there, please be courteous and kind, because rudeness does kill, and also make sure you're using good high quality performance tires that can deal with wet roads. Thanks.

JasonI like to push my car, but never ever with passengers or with highway traffic. Sure, your car is in tune and normally safe, but I always fear the unavoidable like a tire blowout. At high speed it's a guarenteed wild ride to a stop. Unless you have a roll cage and drive on deserted roads, be smart. I have seen the leftovers of high speed rear ends.
Douglas Miske Speed definitely does not kill, and there are many studies to support this. Speed does compound ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance on the road. Drive safely and with respect for others, at a speed that is appropriate for road, etc. conditions. It's that simple. If we weren't meant to go faster, we wouldn't have highways or cars in the first place.
Landon RobinsonI agree, people should not drive below the speed limit in the fast lane. I also am always looking at my guages and looking far, far up the road for any trouble. I also prefer to have my radio off at times to hear and feel what the car/truck is trying the tell me.
John V. AgugliaroI wholeheartedly agree. I travel frequently interstate and am constantly amazed at the general stupitity displayed on the roads. And people wonder why others get pissed off ! I've seen people merge onto a road way at 40 mph cutting in front of a semi doing 70 + mph! I truly believe these people will meet their demise this way, hopefully with out taking others with them, and actually provide clearer, safer roads. But yes, I speed too....
Ken McHattieRoger - I agree 100%. I was talking to my father the other night, we agree the speed limits are awful low here in SW PA, but they have to be because so is the driving ability and common sense of people behind the wheel. When I'm doing 50 in the right lane of a 45, it's disconcerting to have someone pass w/their right blinker flashing as they roll on by.

Like you, at higher speeds, I'm driving with all five senses.

Nigamanth LakshminarayanaThe problem, I believe, is that we all come from different backgrounds.

My initial training was on an iced lake. My driving test was very elaborate. I go to Ohio for instance and train my friend for a serious driving test. He comes back from the driving test five minutes later and says that the instructor just took him out around the block. No highway training though the highway was only a few blocks from the station. No maneuvering or anything of any sort. Just four left turns and a nice little roll back into the station's driveway--a typical Ohio driving test. This is what we have on the road to contend with.

If everyone took a more elaborate driving test/instruction we could easily do 90 on average. Most interstates at least can handle this.

Roger's response and responses to it

Roger Lister, the original writer has written this reply:

After reading some of these responses, I had to respond as well.

What bothers me is that there are so many people out there that don't deserve their licenses. That the very government that requires us to have that license, doesn't do a good job of evaluating those that present themselves for testing. What bothers me is the insurance companies charging more when you earn a ticket, despite the fact I've never had an accident (doesn't mean I won't though).

I don't consider myself to be an average driver. In fact, I don't even use a scale to rate drivers. I do believe that I know what I am capable of, what my car is capable of, and that I can fairly judge what other drivers will do. I don't use "the force" (but admit it wouldn't hurt) nor do I rely on any other form of clairvoyance. I rely on my own past experiences, my own (personal) training and education, and road and weather conditions including traffic.

I get the feeling that the naysayers of speed misunderstood my commentary to mean I speed all the time. I don't. And those of you who do, frankly, scare me. I don't wish to seem contradictory here, but I feel the need to pass this on. Yes, I know the upper limits of my cars. Yet I choose not to explore them constantly. Yes, I speed. But if road, weather, or traffic conditions prohibit, I do the speed that is safe. I used a cellular phone while driving once, nearly had a wreck. Don't use one now.

I attribute a lot of what I use while driving to my years (and miles) of driving, and to my years (and miles) of riding motorcycles. I also count luck for my survival of my younger days. And my own study of my fellow human beings.

Yes, I've had close calls. I had a blowout at nearly 100. In that case I felt a thump thump thump through the wheel and took my foot off the gas. Probably saved my life. I also survived a front blowout on a motorcycle. Without crashing. I'm not superhuman. I'm not invincible. I accept the "risks" associated with speeding. I know the risks.

I don't like the swarms on the interstates. In fact, I don't really exceed the limit on the interstates by much. No, my speeding is done more on deserted two lane highway. Out where I live, the roads are good, long and mostly straight. If there is traffic, I slow down. I don't make an [I should have my mouth washed out with soap for using such terms] of myself by swerving in and out.

For the truck drivers, first off, thank you for what you do. I respect the skill it takes to drive large vehicles. I encounter many of these rigs on my drives. Yes, they slow me down. But I like to eat, wear clothes, play with my kids and the toys they get thanks to the trucks that deliver their goods to the stores of our great country. Small price to pay, slowing down for these trucks. I watch so many people complain and swear about trucks. Hide on the back bumper of these trucks until they can (almost) safely pass. And then practically cut the truck off as they swerve back into their lane.

To the police officers in the crowd. I really do respect the job you do too. No, I'm not kissing [I should have my mouth washed out with soap for using such terms] here. You put your life on the line daily. And you waste your time with people speeding. What about enforcing turn signal usage. Or citing people driving unsafe vehicles. Or the idiot that is on the phone and realizes he (or she) has almost missed their exit and blindly swerves four or more lanes to the exit. Or the folks that can't or won't stay off my bumper, yet won't pass.

My point is, if I don't believe the road is safe to speed on, I don't. If the traffic is heavy, I don't. If it is bad weather, I don't. If I don't have enough light, I don't (100 mph with original equipment headlights is stupid, they barely work well enough for 60 mph ). Traction control and ABS brakes are wonderful only if you know how to make them work for you. So many accidents have happened in bad weather with cars with ABS, because, when the brakes were applied the driver could really steer, and didn't know where to steer to. So they won't automatically save you.

I said it before, be safe out there, but I will never tell you not to have fun.

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