We all do it – and that includes the cops who spend their days giving us tickets for doing it. Of course, they enjoy legal impunity to speed as much as they like, as often as they like. “Speed” only “kills,” it seems, when one is not wearing a special costume.
At any rate, since we all drive faster than the posted speed limit, at least occasionally – even Clovers – it seems right and proper that we do what we can to avoid being dunned for doing it. And feel no moral guilt about practicing such avoidance. Our ancestors felt no moral guilt about doing their damnedest to ignore the Volstead Act – and avoid the clutches of the “Prohees” (Prohibition enforcers) and today almost everyone agrees it was the right thing to do. The idea of cuffing and stuffing someone for having a beer seems both clownish and evil at the same time. Someday, hopefully, issuing speeding tickets (while speeding all day yourself, in official costume) will be regarded with equal contempt.
Meanwhile, we must do what we can.
As a professional speeder who has learned some hard lessons and (I think) acquired some feral cunning as a result, I herewith share with you my Tips for running under the radar:
* If you decide to speed you should first decide whether you are going to do it a little bit – or a lot.
If a little, the key to “getting away with it” is – above all else – to do it in company. On any given road, most cars are operating at 5-10 over the Posted Speed Limit (PSL). This is due to the fact that almost all PSLs are deliberately under-posted, for the express purpose of turning almost every driver into a potential provider of “revenue” for the county/state. This is well-known. If PSLs were set such that they conformed with reasonable speeds, most people would no longer be “speeders” – and the revenue stream would decline to a trickle. Can’t have that. Hence the unwritten rule that all PSLs must be set below the bar, to put drivers in the Catch 22 of either driving at teeth-aching, ludicrously slow velocities, transforming them into vehicular arterial plaque and opening them up to screams of abuse from fellow motorists … or “speeding” – and thereby opening themselves up to a fleecing.
The best course is the middle course. Neither too slow – nor too fast. Slide into the midst of the pack. Avoid, when possible, being the lead car. Do you know what “walking point” is? In the Army one soldier – a very unlucky soldier – would be selected to lead a line of soldiers as they made their way forward into enemy country. This was the guy who took the first bullet – and the same will happen to you if you are foolish enough to lead a group of speeders. Whether it’s radar or laser, the cop behind the gun will draw a bead on the leader, even if everyone’s speeding.
He can only pull one car over at a time. Why should it be you?
But – and here’s where it gets tricky – do not be the last guy in line, either. If a group of speeders sails by a cop running radar, he will gave chase and come up behind you – if you’re the guy at the tail end. Unless the leader was going obviously faster than the rest – or driving a cop-provoking kind of car (more on that shortly) his lazy porcine proclivity will be to pull over the first car he gets behind. Which will be you, if you’re bringing up the rear. Remember: It’s all about money. And yours is just as green as the leader’s. The cop doesn’t care, usually. He just wants to make quota. By running in the middle of the pack, you vastly increase your odds of “getting away with it.” This is the same tactic, incidentally, used by smart herd animals in Africa to avoid being the one eaten by a lion. Take the hint.
*If you speed a lot, pick your moment wisely.
Extreme speeding – which in these weird times means literally (because legally) anything in excess of 20 MPH faster than the PSL – no matter how absurdly low the PSL – can bring felonious consequences. In my state (Virginia) it is “reckless” driving to travel 81 MPH on a highway with a PSL of 70. Because in my state any speed in excess of 80 MPH anywhere is – automatically – defined as “reckless.” Same goes for 56 in a PSL 35 zone, even if 35 is preposterous and traffic flows at 45-50.
It is worth a momentary segue here to make the point that these idiotic “reckless” driving laws encourage genuinely reckless driving. Because they serve as a strong incentive to make a run, to try to get away. Why not? What have you got to lose? If you pull over, having been targeted for driving say 83 MPH (just slightly faster than the flow of traffic when the PSL is 70) you face ruinous consequences, including the very real possibility of jail time. This is no joke, for people with jobs. Which you stand to lose – along with your license. Plus lots and lots of money. Thousands in fines, lawyer bills and quadrupled insurance premiums for years to come. The thought naturally occurs: Maybe I should just go for it. A steely-nerved and highly skilled operator can choose this course and not cause problems for anyone (“the law” be damned). Most cops are not particularly adept wheelmen and the cars they drive are generally mediocre. If you know what you’re doing – and have the right tool (and the situation is favorable; you must have “the drop” on the cop) then going for it can be a smart bet. A few moments of sheer terror ending in orgiastic bliss once you know you’re in the clear. There is nothing to compare with doing the Duke Boys on Roscoe, especially when “Roscoe” isn’t the basically decent fellow TV Roscoe was but is instead a buzzcut thug who’d have been at home in the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger who will enjoy making you suffer if he catches up with you.
But the ordinary Joe – not a veteran of the track, a Disciple of The High Church d’ Bondurant – and lacking the necessary nerve and concentration? Such a person – operating on fear and adrenaline – can become a genuine menace. All because of a trumped-up charge, with sanctions entirely disproportionate to the offense.
But what about the truly extreme forms of speed? The real stuff; not technicalities. Serious velocity? Such is best done in short, furtive bursts. You should pick your moment – and your place. It is one thing to briefly rock up to 167 on an empty stretch of very straight road, with great sight lines. One you know really well; all the dips and irregularities – that hidden driveway from which an old lady in an ’87 LeSabre might creep out but which you are confident she won’t do because you know the old lady only goes out every once in awhile and usually not early Sunday mornings. What you want is to cut the odds of a horrible death down to something reasonable.
But the most important thing is that while you may perhaps leave the road at high speed, the odds are no one but you will be hurt in the event something goes wrong. This is just good manners. And if there is a cop around, you’ve got the drop on him. By the time his brain registers your speed, the signal from his tiny brain setting legs and hands in motion, the car beginning to give chase… you are already three miles down the road and – if you’re at all smart – will take this as your cue to disappear. Into the woods, down a gravel drive. Wherever. Just get off the road. Now. And stay put. For at least the next six hours. If at all feasible, you should leave the car where it is (well-hidden) and make your way home some other way. Get the car later, when things have cooled off.
If you ever decide to flee, go to ground quickly. Do not continue to flee. This is the prime directive. Get out of sight, that’s number one. Then stay out of sight. Do your best imitation of an Area 51 UFO. A brief glimpse, then gone. Do not, by the way, make the usually fatal mistake of taking the first right turn off the road you’re on, with Roscoe hot on your tail. It is known to cops that most first-time fleers will panic and take that first right. Do it and you too will be doomed. Steady your nerves and take the second right. Then haul the mail like you are a wounded A6 Intruder over downtown Hanoi, having just dropped a load of incendiaries. Zig and zag, left and right; find a likely looking gravel or dirt road and push it up there as far as you can, then shut down and hunker. See above. Odds are good you’ll escape with your hide – and DMV rap sheet – intact.
Of course, you can stack the odds even more favorably by adopting countermeasures. I will not leave my own driveway without the latest in state-of-the-art cop detection and recommend you follow the same policy. At minimum, a high-performance radar detector is essential. I like the Valentine 1 because it’s still the most sensitive unit out there – able to suss out swine like a truffle pig roots out those fancy mushrooms. Though extremely illegal, a laser/radar jammer is a not bad item to have, too.
Again, we can learn something from nature. Gaudy only works as a deterrent when you don’t taste good. Or when it signals: Eat me and die. Certain brightly colored moths; poison dart frogs. They can get away with lurid displays of color. For you and me, it’s not such a great idea. In the first place, because it increases the odds of being selected as today’s source of revenue. It is absolutely true that a bright red or yellow or neon electric blue car is more likely to get you ticketed simply because it’s more likely to be the one a baconator notices. And avoiding notice is primary, if you want to speed – and get away with it. One way to do this is to drive something that blends in. Silver, gray and white. Notice that cops favor these colors for their cars. Take the hint.
Notice also that they favor sedans. “Old man” cars like the Ford Crown Vic and Chevy Impala. Lately, the Ford Taurus, too. They blend in; it’s harder to ID them until they’ve ID’d you. But the same methods can work for you, too. Even more so, because you have more options. Foreign sedans (revenue collection is a very American activity; virtually all cop shops in the U.S. purchase only native brands) as well as under-the-radar bodystyles such as wagons. There are a dozen such that are quicker to 60 (and much faster on top) than any muscle car of the ’60s. How about a nice V-8 E-Class Benz? An AMG Benz? One of my personal favorites is the Cadillac CTS-V station wagon. Motorheads know this car and its capabilities. Most cops do not. It’s just another wagon. With a 556 hp V-8 and a 180 MPH top speed.
Did you know that you can get a new Chevy truck with the identical engine that’s in the new Corvette Stingray? Plus it can haul a stack of 4x8s. But it’s not a Stingray?
Is the object to go fast – or project the image of fastness?
Keep in mind also that if it comes to nut-cutting, if you are faced with the hideous choice of pulling over to face a life-ruining cite for “reckless” driving (for 76 in a 55) or going for it because you’ve got a solid 30 second lead on the cop and you are pretty sure that by the time he pulls out of the median and onto the highway and brings his own car up to speed, you could – if you put the hammer down – make the next exit and disappear… a car that’s subtle will greatly aid your cause. It is no good parking your red Stingray at the shopping mall and going inside for awhile to shop. There will be a Tactical Team in full hut! hut! hut! gear awaiting your return. But a white Chevy pick-up? How many others just like yours (or close enough) do you suppose there are within a five mile radius of your current location? Once out of sight, you are safe. There is no way the squealer could have noted your plate number as you flew by him at 80 with him standing still and parked perpendicularly relative to you. All he’s got is make and model and color. If all three are common, you’re holding a winning hand.
Of course, you can’t win ’em all. If you are a habitual speeder, one fine day, your luck will run out. For me, this usually happens when I’m not really speeding. And of course, not really paying attention. The typical bust will be something like 43 in a 35, the cop using “instant on” radar that is the major weak point of all radar detectors (including the V1). The detector will alert you if the car ahead of you gets painted by a hidden porker. But if you are first in line – hopefully because you’re the only car on the road and not because you forgot the rule elaborated earlier about letting another car walk point – you’re screwed. And for various reasons – the bust’s not too severe, there are civilians present, your wife is with you – you decide to give up and pull over.
Number one priority: Hide the detector. Legal or not, if the cop sees it, it is an affront. He will know you are a habitual offender and any meek talk along the lines of “I’m sorry officer, I didn’t realize how fast I was going; is there any way you might cut me some slack this time?” will be futile. Indeed, the cop will likely write you up for everything possible – not just the “speeding” charge.
Number two priority: Put the got-damned seatbelt on before he notices you weren’t wearing it. You want to project the appearance of playing ball, of being a good and “law abiding” driver. Any indication of recalcitrance will be met with hoof stomping rage and given you have zero power to respond in kind, it’s best to keep the porker snuffling and grunting contentedly, which you’ll do by clearly deferring to his authoritah. Or at least, pretending to in order to limit the potential damage.
Number three priority: Have a “clean” record. Which you will, if you’ve lived by all the rules above. The cop is going to run your name through his computer database and if he finds a long list of previous tickets, you are baked. But if you’ve got “plus” points, or at least, haven’t got a ticket on record during the past several years, there is – based on my experience, at least – a decent (50-50) shot of talking your way into a warning. I find it’s helpful to be white and middle aged and to not fit any “profile” that cops don’t like. But being calm, polite and deferential will usually soothe the porcine soul.
The absolute key thing is to not argue. It’s a fight you can’t win. Use guile instead. Slump your shoulders; look defeated and non-threatening. If you have glasses, wear them. Even if you don’t need them. In low and pleading tones, tell the cop your job depends on your clean record, that you haven’t had a ticket in years and could he maybe give you a break this time? It’s degrading, true. But it does work. And if you think about it a little, there’s no shame in resorting to such tactics given the dynamics. Is it cowardly for the badger to retreat into his hole rather than face a pack of dogs?
If, despite your best efforts, you do end up with a piece of payin’ paper, you must fight it. Use every low strategy available. Delay, by demanding multiple continuances. Stop up their works by subpoenaing witnesses, making lots of “discovery” requests for documents, which they must honor. Use their own bureaucracy against them. Hire a shyster, the oiler the better. Sometimes, you can “cut a deal” with the court before your trial. Speak with the assistant DA or commonwealth attorney, whoever the state’s hatchet man is.
Ideally, get the charge reduced to a non-moving violation (no “points”) or dismissed entirely after you waste an entire Saturday attending the DMV “driving school” some courts will let you take as an alternative. You’ll still pay a beefy fine, but just the once. And a one-time it is infinitely preferable to future (and ongoing) hits from your insurance Luca Brasi and of course, the next time you get pulled, they will be merciless if there’s already a ticket on your rap sheet.
Run silent… run deep.
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