Is Slower “Safer”?

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The mantra is that Slow is Safe. But Slow is often also oblivious – and sloppy.

Which tends to be dangerous, the opposite of safe.

The priests – and priestesses, more often – of The Safety Cult have not noticed.

The other day, I rolled up behind a car descending a mountain pass. The speed limit is 55 – the car was moping along at about 38 MPH. No, moping isn’t exactly the right word. It was randomly sashaying left then right, onto the shoulder – then across the double yellow.

But well below the The Speed Limit.

By Clover Standards, the person behind the wheel was thus, ipso facto, a Safe Driver.

Exceeding The Speed Limit is a kind of original sin within the Safety Cult. It must be obeyed, rigidly and reflexively. But otherwise? Not to worry!

Drivers like this one are largely immune from cops and tickets.

Certainly from a drunk driving ticket.

Just as some animals are more equal than others, some forms of impairment are regarded as less objectionable than others – by the law, at least.

Worst case, this Clover – and all the countless other Clovers just like him – might get pulled over and be issued a ticket for . . . something.

Failure to maintain control, crossing the double yellow. But nothing serious. Not on par with a drunk driving ticket. Which by the way, you don’t get a ticket for.

You get taken to jail. 

Then you go to court – where you face consequences that go beyond the merely financial.

Even if you didn’t cross the double yellow or drive all over the shoulder. Indeed, your driving can be faultless and you will still go to jail simply because a certain arbitrary amount of alcohol was detected in your bloodstream via a breath test. The fact that you were in control of your car – assuming you were – cuts no ice.

At all.

But this Clover can wander without worry. Three thousand-ish pounds of steel and glass sloshing around the road but hey, he isn’t drunk

Lord help any pedestrians or bicyclists who might happen to be occupying the shoulder at the same time as the sober Clover. Or any cars coming up the mountain, in the opposite lane – when a fourth to a third of Clover’s car is across the double yellow in a blind curve.

In the event of a wreck – even if some innocent person is killed as a result – it is probable that it will be treated as an “accident” – you know, like a tree falling over on your house during a thunderstorm, something over which you had no control. The Wandering Clover will rarely be dealt with as severely as a person who did the same thing but whose impairment was caused by alcohol.

On the other hand, maybe this Clover was just sleepy.

Driving at slow speeds will do that – especially if you have a long way to drive. There is not much to do as far as driving. You’re pretty much just sitting there. Especially in a modern car – at yesterday’s speed limits. 

It is 2017 – but speed limits are pretty much what they were in 1970. Back then, 70 felt like 70. Today it feels like 50. But speed limits haven’t adjusted upward to take into account that even if drivers are no better today than they were in 1970, the cars are.

A 2017 model year anything at 70 is like a 1970 model at 50.

One tends to  get  . . . bored.

So people tend to do other things. They text. They look around at the pretty scenery. They tap the apps. And wander all over.

Arguably, driving faster is safer. Because when you’re driving fast, you have to pay attention. You can’t Zone Out or text or fiddle with the touchscreen and tap the apps.

Not for very long, anyhow.

Driving  – safe driving – ought to be an active and challenging thing. Not a passive and narcoleptic thing. 

But fast driving affronts The Cult, no matter how safely done. It’s a crazy thing. A fast driver who drives expertly ought to be praised and admired rather than excoriated and abused. But then, we are viewing things from the wrong perspective.

What’s desired is not competence nor independence of any kind. Alertness being a function of both things; our brains constantly engaged, assimilating data and taking action. As in school, as everywhere else, that is not desired.

What is desired is passivity and torpor. The somnolence and stupefaction of a cow standing in a field, flies alighting on its eyes – the cow too indifferent to even blink.

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  1. I’ve been having to deal with more clovers than usual this past week. Twice I came around a curve and encountered a 4 wheeler stopped on the road with no flashers on, and I had to pass their dumb ass by crossing over the double yellow line with another curve just ahead. I’ll be damned if I am going to stop behind them in between two curves while driving a truck pulling a hazmat tanker. They both occurred in a low speed zone, so the chance of having an accident with on-coming traffic was minimal. The idiots were probably trying to use google maps on their phones or taking pictures. I was glad that I did not encounter a coproach during those times as he would’ve certainly ticketed me for not stopping. That would have probably made the clovers laugh at me with glee.
    I also had to stop behind another 4 wheeler in a left turn lane at a traffic light. The green arrow came on, and the car did not move. I honked at him, and I could see that he was looking intently at the stopped oncoming cars. Finally he was satisfied that the oncoming traffic would remain stopped, and he finally made the turn. How did he ever get his drivers license?
    I also caught up with a slow semi-truck in the hammer lane passing an even slower truck on I-70. He or she sees that I am behind him or her, and turns on the left turn signal. I am wondering if this idiot is about to try to make a u-turn across a median crossover, so I back off. The idiot passes the slower poke and signals a right turn. I speed up preparing to pass, and the left signal comes on again. Another slower poke is passed before the idiot signals a right turn and actually gets in the slow lane, and I finally get past him in my governed 67 mph truck. Where did this idiot get the idea that the left signal must be turned on when one is in the left lane? What idiotic company would put a driver like that in a newer Peterbuilt? How did the idiot get a drivers license, especially a CDL?
    On the plus side: My company leased brand new Mack trucks for us. These are so much nicer than the 800 series KWs we were driving. The newer trucks being made have been further cloverized though. The cruise control slows you down long before you catch up to a slow poke, so you have to either get in the hammer lane and stay there until you pass him or you have to mash on the accelerator until you get with-in a reasonable distance behind him before making the pass. Truck drivers have to cross the center line on narrow two lane roads when going around a sharp curve. I sometimes cross the center line to avoid a bad pot hole. Each time any lane line is crossed an annoying buzz is emitted from a speaker behind my head. GAWD I hate the cloverization of Amerika!

  2. I think it’s ridiculous that the Authorities focus on what “might” happen when certain rules are violated (see: drunk driving), yet they never focus on the same issue when a sober Clover crosses the double yellow line. Does the grief of the relatives of the biker riding the shoulder feel any better if the errant car driver WASN’T drunk?

    Sadly, the victim if just as dead either way.

  3. All things being equal, slower is safer. Its common sense. Shorter breaking distance, more time to react to changing road conditions, more time to close distances.

    In unfamiliar terrain, poor visibility, wet, icy road conditions….slower is always safer.

    The only time I believe slow is not safe is when you are bucking the tide of the flow of traffic, then its highly unsafe.

    Passing any vehicle involves risk…..two or more cars driving at different speeds in close proximity create unsafe conditions. It can be true if one is driving too quickly, or one is driving too slowly.

    I understand Eric’s points about boredom, and I would argue that many speed limits cater to the lowest common denominator of driver, but the least safe driver especially on congested highways are drivers who are not flowing with traffic regardless if the flow is above or below the speed limit.

  4. Some idiot passed me this morning doing 100mph. so I twisted me throttle and rejoiced “I’ve got a front door”. lol.

  5. Another point never elucidated is the simple math of lives lost to slow travel. Most Americans travel 2 hours per day. If they travel 120 miles in those 2 hours at 60 they can travel the same 120 miles in 1.6 hours at 75. Those 26 minutes per day are stolen from them if there is no reason other than a nazi law for traveling so slowly.

    Over a 70 year lifespan that’s 461 days wasted by slow incompetent travel, sitting at stop signals for no good reason, etc. plus the time value of lives stolen by tickets written by Jack Booted Thugs. Frankly there is no reason for speed limits anywhere, very little of what governments do is legitimate and most of it is destructive to life and civilization.

  6. I have done some motorcycle racing in the past and it is well understood among pilots that if you have a confortable lead, you never slow down too much, because you would crash. It happened to me and many others. By slowing down too much you simply loose your focus.

  7. Driving slow and staying in your lane are two different animals. Some people are better drivers than others. It’s knowing your strengths and working on your weakness. I enjoy driving, but not at high speed. High speeds have me tense, on edge, driving high. I stick to the secondaries and blue highways. It’s my style and my favorite. You hot rodders can have the long stretches of speed and I’ll do my best to stay out your way. Signed Old Girl Driver.

    • Well-said, Rebecca!

      Everyone has different skills; this is why the dumbed-down/one-size-fits-all model of traffic law/enforcement is so unjust as well as counterproductive.

      I have no beef with people who drive slower – or faster – than I.

      I would simply like the slower drivers to yield, just as I yield to the (occasionally) faster ones. 🙂

    • Rebecca, I have a sil like you. Drives 80 in a 110 zone. I was a passenger in the back seat with her doing that while she was busy talking to my Mrs. It was unnerving to see everyone pass us and she took no notice. Never again will I ride in her back seat, and even the front seat. Like most women, she is afraid of something. I don’t know what all you slow women are afraid of. Cars are far safer than wild-eyed horses, slow unseen bikes, and walking. I guess the conversation my sil had with my wife about stuff she has no control over was more important than driving the vehicle.

      And like Eric I see these slow drivers wander over the whole road. They are the bigger threat to safety than the fast driver. Especially on lightly traveled country roads.

  8. Watching that video, I was wondering if they were an impaired driver. Or someone either really new at driving, or so old, that they couldn’t handle even that slow speed.

    You’re a brave man, Eric. I’d have put a whole lot of road between me and them, to give lots of reaction time if they lost control of their vehicle — either pass them and zoom ahead, or pull well the fuck back.

      • Seems to be lots of drivers like that in Virginia. Not a good state to be living in, if you’re afraid of curves in the road.

        At least the clover that ran into me isn’t contesting my (and the rental car company) insurance claim on his policy so far. I probably saved him from running into a pedestrian(s) (the beachfront road in Yorktown). There were literally a hundred people that saw that old clown back into me. Didn’t even look and just went.

        In my case slow was not good. I wasn’t even moving…………..

        • > Not a good state to be living in, if you’re afraid of curves in the road.

          There are no curves here in south Florida yet these old geezers still wander all over the road. The other day I fell behind (way behind) when one of these age impaired drivers treated the center line as if it was supposed to be directly under the hood ornament of their car. The road had no curves at all. I runs straight as an arrow for some three miles and terminates when it tees into a major road at either end. One of the problems, here in south Florida is not clovers but the walking dead. Some of these drivers shroud be classified as zombies.

          • Hi Larry,

            They – the walking dead – are everywhere… I am convinced this passivity and torpor is the result of decades of purposeful conditioning.

            Somehow, you and I and a few others escaped…

      • Eric, I do not know if you are seeing what I am seeing increasingly. I drive 300 miles per day during the week, about 75% of it on interstates. I will see a half dozen at least vehicles weaving all around, alternating speed drastically, and invariably on their cell phone. I have noticed more than a fair share of law enforcement doing this same behavior. I have also noticed none of these assholes being pulled over for reckless driving even when performing same behavior in front of an officer. Yet come Friday & Saturday night the roadblocks and bar stake outs are in full force for any one drinking. And no you don’t have to test above a certain amount to be drug in, simply have been drinking and “under the influence”. Sure you can beat it if you appeal and spend a shit load of money. Such an absolute farce.

        • Binary laws. Either/or you were in violation or you weren’t. If the PSL is 55 and you were doing 58, well, that’s against the law. Add that they have devices that can be calibrated and tested to measure your speed and alcohol consumed (although they never allow the defendant access to the devices) and you end up defending yourself against the machine.

          The same thing happened with photographic evidence until the invention of photoshop. Today, knowing what I know about digital photography, if I were on a jury and presented with pictures of a defendant committing a crime I’d ignore that evidence.

          • RK here in Oz the radars are NOT legally approved for collecting fines. That’s because the makers say in their instructions that they have “too many interferences to mention.” So they do not get a Pattern Approval Number. Unlike breathalyzers that do get a PAN. Yet the thugs at Tenix, a private company who run the courts, get by with using them. Radar devices cannot properly measure speed. Ask any air traffic controller.

    • I think the driver was probably distracted. Texting, surfing the net, reading a book or whatever. I will be driving my truck down the interstate at 65 mph. A car will pass me going 75-80 mph. I will get only a mile or two down the road, still going 65 mph, and I will pass that car which is now only going 50 mph. Without fail, the person in the car is texing or doing something else with the phone, or applying makeup or something.

  9. In the video rant it is a seemingly uninterested driver and I agree a person walking on the shoulder could experience great misfortune, occasionally I take liberties with regards to the lines on the road. It might be an actual pedestrian or driving in the center of rural roads to avoid deer ambushes. In Massachusetts you are expected by law to give police and emergency services a wide berth, of course this regimenting of lane discipline is at their discretion. I wonder if it could be argued that these lines are suggestions, since every other place where they really mean it has jersey type barriers? If the choice is an obvious collision over a lane infraction, I know my choice.

  10. And this goes right here:

    Automotive News says the Dodge Demon should be banned.
    The editorial says that the Demon is “the result of a sequence of misguided corporate choices that places bragging rights ahead of public safety,” and that it “spits” on the industry’s goal of improving safety while “knowingly placing motorists in danger.” It goes on to quote Ralph Nader and proclaim the Demon “unsafe at any speed.”

    • “spits” on the industry’s goal of improving safety

      Exactly. The industry’s goal is — or used to be — to make cars people wanted to buy. Now, the industry’s objectives include providing health care, settling discrimination lawsuits, and making cars as inefficient as possible.

    • There are numerous publications that take the idea that all automobiles should be toasters. Simple driving appliances dictated to us by appropriate experts.


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