A reinvigorated approach to driving safely

Originally posted in April 2004 on TUG with the title “A new approach to driving”. I’m reposting this because I plan on doing a slightly better job of driving than I have been lately. Partially due to my wife’s prodding, but also because I found this post and remember that there was a time when I really wanted to do better. This post has been edited only slightly from the original.

“I Can’t Drive 55″ – Sammy Hagar. For the duration of my driving life, this was my religion. I quite often would exceed the speed limit to the point of wondering why there even was one. I’ve had an epiphany. Driving the speed limit is actually useful, and has many benefits. Once again, I’ll elaborate.

Recently, I had to take a short trip to Wilkes-Barre – which takes me exactly 45 minutes. I’ll explain my use of the word exactly momentarily, for now take my word for it. I decided just prior to going, for reasons that I will keep to myself that are above and beyond the reasons stated in this post, that I would shelf my racing gloves for this trip. So, how long will it take me to get to Wilkes-Barre going the speed limit nearly the entire way? I’m glad you asked.

Benefit #1: Consistent speeds expedite travel time calculations.

I am taking for granted that going the speed limit will allow for greater consistency of average speed over large distances. But I have a few reasons to back up this assumption. 1) The simple fact that going 85MPH is not legal will sometimes cause inconsistencies in speed. For example, when driving through an area that is known to have police officers in parked police cars waiting for people going 85 you will inevitably slow down. 2) Most cars (unless modified) are not meant to take corners at 85. 3) Weather and road conditions may sometimes inhibit going 85.

So, full-well-knowing that I’d be averaging 65 on my way to Wilkes-Barre, and knowing the distance between my house and my destination allowed for concise calculation of travel time. So, I was able to burn a new CD (more on this later) which was timed out so that I could listen to all the songs without missing a song, nor listening to one twice, for the amount of time it would take to get to my destination. Which was pretty cool.

Being almost out of gas didn’t help either. With gas prices on the rise, I wanted to see if I could save a few cents on gas. Buying gas in Wilkes-Barre has almost always proved to be slightly cheaper than buying it locally. Not that I don’t want to support local businesses, but when it comes to gas, the best price wins my patronage.

Benefit #2: Fuel efficiency.

Most cars, not all, are rated for their best gas mileage at 65mph. This means that your car will use less fuel and maintain a cooler temperature running at said speed. This is not usually due to horsepower, but rather gearing. American made cars are generally geared to be most efficient at the average highway speed of 65. Whereas German produced vehicles, which can take advantage of the Autobahn, are geared for higher speeds. The difference between most consumers vehicles is in fact; gearing ratio.

Of course, on occasion there is some mandatory maintenance to automobiles. The oil should be changed from time-to-time, tires rotated/replaced, and many other little fixins’. Just recently I had a transmission take a mechanical poop on me, due to misuse and time.

Benefit #3: Less aggravated wear and tear.

If you don’t push a machine to it’s limits, and operate it within certain parameters set out by the manufacturer; chances are the machine will last longer. For instance, push the Channel up ( or ^) on your Television remote control 5 times. Pushing it again, you should get the same results the 6th time. The remote control was designed for each of it’s buttons to be pushed many times, even rapidly at times. Now, hit the same button 1 more time, this time applying about 1,500lbs. of pressure. No doubt, the remote will break into a few hundred pieces. My point? Cars are designed with specific purposes in mind. Exceeding those purposes can put a huge amount of strain on the car. Do you know how much your car weighs? Look it up sometime – you’ll drop to your knees and kiss your break pads once you see what they actually slow down and stop.

In my region of the Blue Planet, we don’t have an extraordinary amount of endangered species. However, you could actually save a species from extinction by how fast your traveling. Over the edge? Exaggeration? Not hardly. I can almost guarantee that more White Tailed Deer are killed each year by car then all the hunters in our area. Our drivers are far more efficient with a bumper than they are with an arrow or bullet.

Benefit #4: Saving the whales.

I don’t drive on water, but you get my point. When a car is tested before sale, there are certain specs that a car is graded for. Things like acceleration, braking etc. Some manufacturers even release information such as “feet to stop”. So I would know that if I was traveling at 65, and literally slammed on the brakes, I would stop within 25 feet (not an actual or educated guess, just an example). If I was going 85, it would take 40 feet, let’s say. If an animal jumps out at you and your going 85, chances are your going home with some meat. Or a truck will have to bring your car home.

There are many more benefits, that I don’t need to elaborate on. Stating the cons will then reflect the pros, as I will do below.

  • Speeding Tickets
  • Tire wear
  • Accidents

These are just a few.

When it comes to tailgating Chris used to be an expert. I wanted to keep tailgating separate from speed, as you do not need to speed to tailgate.

What is tailgating? For those of you unfamiliar with this term, tailgating is when you drive entirely too close to the car in front of you, leaving very little room for error. Although I am not an advocate of this behavior, I am certainly not innocent. I’ve caught myself on more than one occasion being able to read the odometer of the driver ahead of me. Exaggerating? Yes. But I am sure that Chris has been able to determine whether the driver ahead of him had eaten garlic that day or not. He drives so close that sometimes he asks the driver if he minded him changing radio stations.

More to the point, tailgating allows for very little room for error. This error may not be your own mind you, other drivers are of more danger to you than yourself. Of this you can be sure. If a driver all of the sudden decides that he/she wanted to turn down the road that they are currently passing, and slams on the breaks, your SOL. This happened to me on the way to work one morning, fortunately I was just far enough away that only our bumpers touched. I knew in the back of my mind I had been fortunate, because I was going faster than I should have been. The woman in front of me realized that it was her fault for slamming on the breaks, and so she was very nice about the situation. In our state, as far as I am aware, if you hit someone from behind it’s almost always your fault.

I didn’t set out to make a point, or to change anyone’s habits. Yet – I am going to make a concerted effort to slow down, back up and take it easy. Leaving early, planning the trip and keeping a clear head are all good actions of protection.

[tags]life, driving, good form, repost[/tags]