Measuring What We Can’t Do

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Almost every new car I test drive – even the humblest hybrid – has a speedometer that reads to at least 120 mph.

140 is common; 160 not unusual. Some cars have speedometers that read to 180 or even 200 MPH

And some of those are capable of pegging them.

Few ever do.

It would be interesting to know how many cars are ever driven faster than 100 MPH. And also how many ever see 130 – even briefly. My bet is maybe one out of ten and then only for a brief moment of furtive lawlessness.

First, of course, it is extraordinarily dangerous to drive that fast.

Not the speed, per se. In a modern car, 100 MPH is safer than 70 was in a 1960s-era car. Whether the measure is braking distances, lateral grip, susceptibility to loss of control or any other such. Many current year cars will brake – and come to a complete, perfectly controlled stop – entirely on their own, without the person behind the wheel needing to so much as scream . . . if the mighty bright sensors and computer Oz which control the thing detect an emergency.

Technology has advanced. Kind of like the way we don’t have to carry around brick phones anymore.

But speed laws have remained static. It’s analogous to carrying around a brick phone just because.

And being punished if you’re caught with a modern sail fawn.

Violating archaic speed laws is what’s dangerous.

To drive even 100 MPH in most states is to risk a felony stop at gunpoint and the sure certainty of a “reckless driving” ticket that will take an expensive lawyer to plead down to something that merely involves handing over large sums of money, as opposed to your driving “privileges” (as the government styles what used to be our right to travel) and, very possibility, your liberty. In most states, a “reckless driving” conviction carries with it the possibility of time in Hotel Graybar. Though that is usually deferred or otherwise held in abeyance, it remains a serious threat nonetheless.

Thirty days in the Hotel is pretty much a life sentence for most people with jobs. Tell your boss you’ll be in jail for the next month and it’s likely you will not have a job upon your release.

Regardless, the best case is you will be made to pay a very large sum of money – both to the government and its sister operation, the insurance mafia. A “reckless driving” conviction on your driver’s record – which the mafia has ready access to, notwithstanding it being your (phlegmy cough) private information. The government and the insurance mafia are like a WWF tag team – with you as the object of their suplexes and camel clutches.

This will go on for a minimum of three years – the amount of time a conviction remains held against you, for purposes of financially raping you.

Even an ordinary “speeding” ticket – 78 in a 70, for instance – will cost you at least $100-something bucks up front plus whatever the mafia decides to surcharge you. Get two or three such and it gets into money.

This accounts for the slowness of very fast modern cars. It’s not their fault. They are like a champion race horse ridden by a beaten jockey. If he doesn’t kick the horse in the ribs, the horse will probably just stand there.

You know, the way most modern cars do when the light goes green.

The way they “accelerate” – once their driver finally notices the light has gone green – at the pace of an advancing glacier. They way they glut up into bunches – I call them Clover Clusters – with no car going faster than any of the others and all of them going slow.

To Harass and Collect . . .

It’s not even so much the None Shall Pass phenomenon of the deliberately obstructive Clover. It’s that none of them even consider the idea of passing.

Like our jockey, they are beaten.

Given the consequences, this is perfectly understandable.

Enforcement of speed statutes has become outright vicious. The government isn’t much interested in the Wall Street flim-flam artists who crater whole economies for their personal enrichment and is almost casual in its treatment of rapists, thieves and murderers – probably because they are not paying customers (and it’s worth noting that “customer” is their term for us).

But god help the “speeder.”

So, defeat – and passivity – have settled in. And this has occurred as cars have become ever-more-powerful, ever-more-capable of routine operation at speeds that would have been unsafe – perhaps even “reckless” – forty or fifty years ago.

So, these 160 mph speedos are a form of car porno. It gets us excited, but there’s no real outlet. Ultimately, it’s a kind of self-abuse. Automotive onanism.

What’s the point?

You might remember when cars had speedometers that read no higher than 85 MPH. In the late ’70s, Congress thought people might be less tempted to drive faster if the speedometer didn’t tempt them to do so. I had all kinds of fun twisting the speedo in my 1980 Camaro all the way back around to 5 or 10 mph – which was about 115 or so.

But back then, they didn’t draw down on you for such things. The Cult of Officer Safety was as yet a backwater eddy. The insurance mafia wasn’t as strong; you could still get away with not having insurance – there was no SCMODS (State, County, Municipal Offender Data System) in most cop cars and no such things as plate readers. The government didn’t give the mafia ready access, anytime it liked, to your DMV records.

Back then, it was much harder, in terms of the machinery available, to hit 160. But a lot easier to “get away” with it, if you managed to get hold of the machinery that could.

Today, probably a third of the cars on the road can get there – or get close to there.

But it’s a lot more dangerous to go there.

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39 COMMENTS

  1. I might have broke 90 in an 89 Corolla. I have not driven that fast since. However, I accelerate like a madman. To the speed limit of course.

  2. When I was working in Saudi Arabia, on my days off (three in the six months I was there) I’d rent a Toyota Corolla and take it out on the coast road to a resort, Indonesian bootleg cassette of the Eagles’ Greatest Hits album cranked on the stereo. Once nobody was around, I’d put the pedal to the metal. Once I’d get it up to @ 160 (kph), the steering would get a little squirrelly, I suspect because of the sands blowing across the highway. Good times, good times . . .

  3. Funny thing. I noticed recently that there are new signs on I-95 north of Richmond that warn driving over 80 is reckless driving.
    It seems to me that they were there years ago, but “went away” until fairly recently.
    .
    BTW: How about reversing the comments so the newest are at the bottom.

  4. I have never pushed my Ford Ranger beyond maybe 85 (or maybe 90?). Quite frankly, it is dangerous in the truck. It does not feel secure in its handling, but that is because it is a truck. They handle very differently from a traditional car. But even doing 85 would only be on the Interstate anyway. Plus your gas mileage suffers greatly. But what I can’t stand is the clovers who tailgate you, or drive below the speed limit. They hold up the flow of traffic, and it is maddening. Traveling at higher speeds takes brains and skill, and clovers don’t have that.

  5. I don’t think I’ve been in a vehicle that went over 130 mph without being inside an aircraft. I’ve never actually landed in an air vehicle that wasn’t a commercial jetliner come to think on it. Although I have jumped out of them plenty of times.

    There may have been some opportunities in rural Iowa or Wyoming where my car may have hit triple digits between 120 and 130 but of course neither of those times ever happened on I-80E. Just like I know for certain that my current ride won’t go over 100 mph because of course I’ve never tried that either on I-95N on an afternoon with wonderful visibility and light traffic with no one in the left lane in sunny Florida.

    It probably never happened on Ventura Highway while Venture Highway magically started playing on the FM radio either because hey why even look at the speedo when you are singing to no one in particular.

      • From 1980 to 86 I was “invisible” to radar due to the new Cincinnati Microwave Escort. Late 86 brought instant on to Tx. DPS(only, expensive back then). I built the Elco engine to be a screamer for that time and drove it thusly. 100 mph was a common speed and 120 wasn’t uncommon. If the wife was along she was the limiting factor. The Elco had a tarp on the back which made it immune to crosswind and such, a great handling car for its size.

  6. I “max speed” test every car and motorcycle I have ever owned (I chickened out once at 163 MPH on a Kawasaki GPZ-1000). The Bayside bridge in St. Petersburg is one of my favorites. If you time it right you have an easy half mile where it would be obvious if there were police or other cars on the 3 lanes on your side. I have a 2015 6cyl Impala, with 149 listed as the official top speed. My car stops accelerating at 120 MPH exactly, every test. I have a feeling most cars that are not high end sports cars have some kind of limitation set in the computer to keep people from even going as fast as the car potentially could. The car companies get away with it because most people wouldn’t dream of going over 120mph.

  7. I think you’re being a bit generous to suppose one in ten cars have been driven over 100mph. I would guess more like one in thirty.

    My own experience is that far more cars have governors on them that cut off the fuel long before reaching drag-limited top speed. General Motors vehicles are notorious for their 98 mph limiter, especially their trucks, which have been present for at least the past 25 years. The Germans, other than Porsche, were well known for having 155mph limiters on their. Hi les, many of which could easily do 200mph otherwise. In fact, on rare occasions they sold a trim level that included a higher limited or none at all for extra cost.

    Unfortunately, though both have been well past 100 mph, I’ve not had the opportunity to determine the top speed of either of my current vehicles. I prefer physically safe locations (little traffic, long sight lines) and politically safe locations (no cops), and these are getting fewer and harder to locate. As populations increase, clovers increase and urban sprawl slows things down. Also, since the crash of 2008, municipalities aren’t getting quite as much tax revenue so have resorted to ever more intrusive revenue generating traffic policing. While rape victims and burglary victims go without justice, hundreds of cowering, whimpering “heroes” afraid for their lives harass every day citizens who have committed nothing but a victimless “crime” by driving slightly over an admittedly low speed limit.

    So I entertain myself by seeing how many multiples of the corner speed limit I can manage rather than outright top speed.

    • Sojourner, I started doing the “how much over twice the posted safe curve speed” I could do in high school I became quite adept at it at an early age. If I still did that I’d once again prefer manual steering since it was slow enough to better adjust at the lateral limit.

      I used to scare shit out of people who didn’t ride much with me. They’d come to me to see how fast their car was on a curve. I never pushed theirs quite as hard since part of reaching and not exceeding the lateral limit is getting to know the vehicle.

      It became progressively more difficult as tires got better. Also, I didn’t like to push a car as hard if it didn’t have enough power for bringing the tail out if it became necessary. Driving with the throttle, I love hell out of that. I don’t think it can safely be done on current vehicles unless they’re made for it. Too much grip and not enough power even though they have a great deal of power. I’ve always been of the mind you couldn’t do that nearly as well with an automatic since you don’t have the advantage of something with gears close together to stay right on the sweet spot in the power band. Pounding a FWD car hard? Never learned and don’t wish to at this late date.

    • Best to have a high quality radar detector, but “instant on” radar can beat a radar detector, used more on interstates and major roads. Seems Ka band is used around here. Some towns still use the K band. Best to set the cruise control at legal limit. I can’t afford a ticket, I’m retired on fixed income. Lots of ticketing are in residential areas with low speed limits like 25mph.

  8. I’ve done 130 (1999 Porsche 911) on a good long stretch where one can relatively safely (lack of cops) do it. Sometimes I’ve tagged into a group on the Interstate and we all go 90-100. Mostly it’s cloverville. I’ve added a continuous record dash-cam because cops are the most routinely dangerous thing you can run across out there.

  9. We did a couple of Racing School weeks at Bondurant’s School in AZ, back in the mid 1990s, when each son turned 16..their Dad N Lad weeks if you will. WE routinely drove race-prepped Mustang GTs at 125-130 mph and it was fun.. I used to own a 2007 V-6 Sonata w V-rated tires..it was rated at 149 mph by Car N Driver, wh was why I chose it over an Accord. That “sleeper” wd whip a Beemer 5 series any time, & I had her at 130 several times..felt stable and just as safe as the Bondurant Mustangs too. Fine car. Wife wrecked it..when got rear-ended by HS girl texting on way to school. Dang I miss that Sonata motor!!

  10. anyone else remember the Porsche 911 “clocks” from the stuipd 85 days? It was the same dial as the one that went to 140, laid out the same way, except they just did not screen on the numbers past the 85 mark. the needle, and the rest of the dial, still went all the way round to where it used to. Easier for VDO to simply leave the paint marks off than to remake the whole guage…. smart. And way cool.

    AN old Morris Minor sedan, about 1959 model, came stock with an 850 CC engine with a single 1 1/8 inch SU carb. It would top at about 65 or so on a good day. Engine eventuallly failed, I found a 948 cc engine from s Sprite, including the twin 1 1/4 inch SU carburetters. Same block casting, fit right in. NOW there was some power. (well, relatively speaking….). The petrol guage was at the bottom of the large speedometer centred side to side in the fascia…. now the car would wind out to about 1/4 tank on the petrol guage…. almost a complete wrap round to the zero peg. Near as I could make it, that was about 85 mph, where it would jog along rather nicely. Always wondered if I could fit a higher geared final drive to it. But then, those brakes….. I think tney were 8 inch drums all round. What else is the gearbox for, if not to slow the car down?

  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9kVCQ0y5Ec

    from Eddie Craig, and ex cop from Texas who has come out with the truth. 2.5 hour video jam packed with info applied to all states in the US and Canada.

    How to protect yourselves against bully cops and why car rego, insurance and fines for travelers are illegal and theft by government.

  12. Eric, I am starting to think you are the best writer/capturer of the moment we have now. Thank you for churning out great articles and car reviews after great articles and reviews.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Eric!

      It’s a sick compulsion of some kind; my OCD run amok, I suppose. Ah well. Someone’s got to do it. Might as well be me. 🙂

    • Yes, in a better period, he would be publishing a magazine sold on newsstands. I have read lots of online car reviews and I find his to be top notch. I also agree with like 99 percent of his political views as well. That’s why I donate to the site. I would donate more if I could.

  13. Revenue farming, fast cars, and generally incompetent drivers all go together. I spent many many miles over the road as a truck driver, marveling at the lack of skill, knowledge, and common sense of the average “four wheeler” driver (and plenty of truckers too). At the same time the police, particularly the traffic and motor carrier police, became more centered on milking the cash cow than motorist safety. Far more highway wrecks are caused by dual/different truck/car speed limits and slow vehicles than by speeders.

    • glad for two things you included: first, “plenty of truckers”….. that lot are, in general ,getting worse. Aggressive, careless, inconsiderate, high beams too close, following too close, dogging my tail on a regular basis when I’m ten, fifteen over the magic number, and theirs is ten or fieteen less than mine…..

      second thing: wrecks caused by the different car/truck speeds (est coast are the worst) and slow vehicles, especially driving too far to the left when they should be in the right, and TAILGATING. Nearly every highway crash I pass by, directly caused by following too closely. Sorry, folks, that fancy ABS will NOT find enough traction to sTOP you in time, particularl if you’re playing with your tunes, phone, GPS, hair…….

  14. “The way they “accelerate” – once their driver finally notices the light has gone green – at the pace of an advancing glacier.”

    Many years ago I came up with the terms slothelerate or slotherate and slotherater for people who will accelerate at slow pace often until something gets in their way. They can easily end up 20 or 30mph over the PSL it just takes them miles to get there.

    I detest slotheraters because of the very enforcement you speak of. The only way I can make decent time is through brisk acceleration and leveraging that to timing lights.

    • Around where I live, they’re generally hypermiling their Toyota Priuses or Nissan Leafs. I despise driving anywhere near these things, they’re like moving obstacles, and here in the CA bay area, those two + Teslas are about 1/2 the cars on the roads.

    • You wouldn’t believe how many times, tens of thousands, I’ve been behind those dicks and got a chance to go around them in a big rig and have them realize they’re about to get passed and speed up well beyond the speed limit. Well shit, if they’d just driven that way to begin with the entire debacle could have been avoided. I’ve let some know I thought they were #1.

      The other slotherator does that bs getting up on a 4 lane highway forcing you to move over and then sometimes have you hang out in the passing lane while they eventually moved to a speed you couldn’t match. Seems like somebody faster than my truck always got the bad end of the deal but they knew who the culprit was. We talk shit about those people on the radio too.

      I had a young woman do the old too slow to get into the lane bs one day in a SUV I knew had at least 380 hp. I was tired and on cruise so I just let it run in the slow lane and she had to slow down to get on the interstate. Boy, was she ever pissed and jumped into it with both feet and went around me shooting me the bird and turned around and cussing me, an ugly sight if there ever was one. Then she pulls off 3/8’s a mile later at the very next exit to a cross highway, hence the question, WTF get on the interstate for 5/8 of a mile to begin with? She probably wasn’t doing calculus….or even breathing with her mouth shut.

  15. OK. I have posted this before with no responses so I’ll try again. In Michigan, the revenuers take a “Foreign” driver’s license if he is ticketed and does not surrender $100 – $300 as insurance he will pay the citation. Does anyone know if there are other States doing the same thing? And are there any other States where the weather in October and the road taxers are not too bad? I understand, Texas is OK to drive in but to stay away from Oregon because of its anti-car/driving laws and Louisiana because the highway men steal a driver’s cash via civil asset forfeiture.

    • D, in Texas it’s called an “out of state bond”. See, that sounds a lot better than “highway robbery”. Of course they’ll give you to the option of paying $150 ticket adjudicated right then and there these days(they have a fee schedule they’ll hand you). You can swipe your card and pay the fine or swipe it for triple the money and get 10 days for your day in real court. See, everybody wants to pay their fine on the spot and be gone and all too often, it’s another 5-600 miles to the next state. See you “in court” again on down the way ifn you screw up again. Watch those speed limit signs boys, we’re going broke fast.

      • Thank You 8southman.
        I will be driving to the US this year and Texas is one of the States I’ll be in. According to the Michigan Website, if one does not have or want to give money for the bond, his license is taken away and a receipt is given. With this receipt, the person can drive in Michigan until the citation is paid.
        Does Texas do the same thing? I have a duplicate licesne so this is no problem but can they demand a credit card or money before letting me go?

  16. I’ve lived all over the world, and the US is the only place where I feel scared when I see a police officer, whether that’s when driving or walking around town. They have more power over you than anywhere else I’ve seen, even cops in eastern europe before communism fell. The danger under communism was the bureaucrats, but you could be pretty sure cops wouldn’t harass you more than their job required. Usually, the mindset was no harm, no foul. When traveling abroad, I look over, say hello sometimes, and usually don’t avert my gaze. I’m a white person who doesn’t have trouble with the law, and if I feel this way around US police, I can only imagine what the people they target must feel.

    That being said, it’s stupid to top out a modern car on the public roads, you have no idea whether there’s a pothole or raccoon coming up which could end you. Sure, 100mph, no problem, but once you start to hit higher speeds, the situation can get real ugly real fast. I take my car to ~140mph every lap around my favorite track, highly recommend that sort of thing to everyone!

    • I was once driving a RWD Toyota pickup truck, starting from a light. Those cars have no weight over the drive wheels, so they chirped as they went over the crosswalk paint. i got a ticket for “exhibition of speed” because the statute says tires chirping is sufficient. Fought it and lost. Free country my ass.

      • I did the same thing once in my old camaro. Went to court (rock island county, IL) and got lucky with a cool judge, still had to pay a $60 fine but nothing on my record provided I didn’t get another violation before 90 days.
        the cop writing the ticket was an absolute dick about it….

        • Cops are dicks by definition!

          They can’t not be dicks.

          Not without not “doing their job” – which includes being tax-feeding government parasites.

          • So true eric. A special kind of disonance, a Constitutional sort, must be in play to even consider the role as “cop”.

            I’d also add the job isn’t even possibly taken on without a completely hypocritical view.

            For one to enforce the immoral laws of our society one must not only be a hypocrite but a sociopath as well.

            • Generalizations are often untrue. I haven’t had many interactions with police, but some of them acted like human beings (maybe half of them) even when I provoked them. I feel they are more likely to be dicks in metropolitan areas.

        • Try driving west from Nashville TN on I-40..you soon get to Dickson County(boy) and there, if you R driving a car w out of state tags’ you will soon meet the Dickson County Drug Interdiction Unit(DCDIU) . You can drive the posted limit, but no matter…The DCDIU nazis will stop you w/o provocation and they will relieve you of any CASH, jewelry and firearms, legal or not, and give you a “court date” about 3 MONTHS hence..and send you one yer way. IF you dare to make any ruckus, you will meet the drug sniffing dogs, Rusty or Rex, and you may see the inside of the DC jail too. You have been warned.

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