How does one pass another car safely and legally?
Thanks to Clovers (see here to learn more about them) it is a functional impossibility.
First, Clovers impose deliberately unrealistic, under-posted speed limits on most roads in order to frustrate and criminalize virtually all drivers all the time. To make driving an unpleasant, slow-motion grind.
This is not opinion; it’s provable fact.
The law in most states requires that posted speed limits be set according to something called the “85th percentile” standard (see here for more). This is a traffic safety engineering term used to describe the speed at or below which which most drivers (85 percent of them, by observation) normally operate on any given road under ideal conditions (daylight, dry, etc.) when these drivers are left free to drive at a pace that seems reasonable and prudent to them. The idea being that most people are neither suicidal nor reckless; that while they want to get where they’re going in good time, they also want to avoid crashing. Thus, a natural balance is struck – one that almost all drivers on a given road seem to hew to naturally, without external coercion.
Which is usually slower than 85 percent of the traffic around them.
Clover considers those 85 percenters “dangerous speeders” – but the fact (as opposed to his feelings) is that when speed limits comport with the measured 85th percentile speed, traffic flows more smoothly, and the number of accidents decreases.
Driving is made safer.
But here’s where it gets really interesting – and where Clovers become extremely agitated:
In practical terms, the 85th percentile standard – if used as the basis for setting speed limits – would mean that 85 percent of the cars on any given road, under ideal conditions (daylight, dry, etc.) would not be “speeding” – because the posted limit would be within the range of speed 85 percent of the drivers were driving.
Put another way: Only about 15 percent of the cars would be traveling significantly faster than the posted limit, if the limit were set according to the 85th percentile standard.
To put an even finer point on it:
If speed limits were set within 10 MPH (on the higher end) of the observed 85th percentile speed, almost no drivers would ever be “guilty” of “speeding.” The tiny fraction of drivers who exceeded the 85th percentile speed by more than 10 MPH would be statistically insignificant – and if they caused harm as a result of their driving could be dealt with separately. But in the meanwhile, the 85-plus percent of drivers who operate at reasonable and prudent speeds could breathe easy.
No more being the perpetual targets of cops who have become little more than mobile tax collectors, using trumped-up charges based on preposterous laws to separate innocent people from their hard-earned money.
But since most speed limits are not set according to the 85th percentile standard – are set significantly lower than the 85th percentile speed – it’s typical that a majority of the cars on any given road under ideal conditions (sunny, dry) are technically (legally) guilty of the manufactured crime called “speeding.” This fact alone ought to call into question the legitimacy of such speed limits – and even more so, enforcement based on such limits.
When a majority of people (presumably sane, reasonable, fair-minded) ignore a law, it is strong evidence that there is probably something wrong with the law – not with the overwhelmingly large number of people who ignore it.
In any event, under-posted limits set the stage for what I call Clover Clusters – where one slow-mover bollixes up the smooth flow of traffic, sometimes forcing a dozen or more drivers to operate at ludicrously glacial speeds (5-10 or more MPH below the already underposted speed limit). This ratchets up the tension, increases people’s frustration. Which – wait for it – increases the danger to all and reduces the safety Clovers love to crow endlessly about.
Does the driver who finds himself caught behind a Clover attempt to pass the Clover? And if he does, will he risk doing it illegally but safely?
Or legally – but dangerously?
The law in most states is that even while passing, one must not exceed the speed limit, even for a few seconds. Consider this. You are caught in an under-posted 55 zone behind a Clover doing 51. Legally (assuming you can find a legal passing zone) you may only increase your speed to 55 MPH while attempting to pass. And “attempting” is exactly the right word. Actually succeeding is not likely. Or at least, it will take you a good long while. Plenty of road – and time.
Usually, both are in relatively short supply.
As a practical matter, a legal pass under most conditions is simply not possible – which is just what Clovers want. You’d need probably an eighth to a quarter of a mile or longer to pass a car doing 51 going no faster than 55 yourself. That is a long time to spend in the opposing lane of traffic, too.
Which brings up the illegal – but far safer option:
Remember when car companies used to tout the passing gear performance of their cars?
Ah, the good ol’ days!
In those days, they also used to teach new drivers that the safe pass was the efficient pass – which necessarily meant the quick pass. You want to spend as little time as possible passing. You want to get out of the opposing lane of traffic and back into your lane.
This, unfortunately, usually requires “speeding.”
To safely pass a dawdler doing 51 in a 55, one will probably need to rack it up to 70 or so for a moment or two. Which by the way would be within the 85th percentile speed on our under-posted 55 MPH speed limit example road. But because the road is underposted, a safe pass becomes grossly illegal – while the grossly unsafe pass – if you dare – is perfectly legal.
This is the hair-pulling, teeth-aching world bequeathed to us by Clovers.
You can’t win.
At least, not playing by their rules.
And so I – for one – don’t play by their rules. I recommend you do the same.
A good first step is a top-drawer radar detector (I use – and recommend – the Valentine1). A good second step is to drive safely, according to your own sound judgment – and “the law” (and Clovers) be damned!
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