COVID-19 = Speeding

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. An article in Jalopnik, “You Idiots Are Going To Kill People”, talks about the increase in traffic fatalities and speeding tickets during the pandemic. Because, sure, that’s just what we need right now —  people driving like maniacs.

Theories range from it being due to there being less traffic, to thinking the cops might be avoiding contact due to the virus, to just general frustration and unrest in these strange times. (I do have a sense of social unraveling sometimes.)

I have to say, driving around I’ve seen it. Lots of speeders!

The article mentions that, in July, Ohio saw its deadliest month since 2007. In Vermont, in August, there were 43 traffic fatalities compared to 22 the previous August.

It getting insane. Quoting the article quoting the AP:

The Iowa State Patrol recorded a 101% increase from January through August over the four-year average in tickets for speeds exceeding 100 mph, along with a 75% increase in tickets for speeds of 25 mph or more over the posted speed limit.

California Highway Patrol officers issued more than 15,000 tickets from mid-March through Aug. 19 for speeds exceeding 100 mph, more than a 100% increase over the same time period a year ago. That includes a continuing spike from May on.

Okay, 15,000+ tickets for fools going faster than 100 mph? Yikes!

That same quote mentions a ticket issued in the Cincinnati area for someone going 147 mph.

I do love this paragraph from the article:

If your modern car detects you going over 120 mph around other living people in a public area, it should spontaneously combust inside. Most American cars used to come like that from the factory, though not intentionally.

These days you might blow out a head gasket, but cars these days are very capable of high speeds, especially the sportier models.

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Like my Ford Fusion with the 3.6 liter sport package and (regrettably expensive) tires that look like fat rubber bands wrapped around the rims.

A car that I know from personal experience is fully capable of going 100 mph (90 almost effortlessly).

Not that I do normally, but one does need to know the full capabilities of one’s car. A brief test under safe conditions by an experienced driver with a strong sense of his capabilities is a risk I’m willing to take once or twice per vehicle I own.

(Even rental vehicles I’ll often find an empty parking lot or totally empty road for a quick, entirely legal, test of acceleration, braking, and general handling. That knowledge can come in handy if one gets into a dicey traffic situation. If I know a car is slow to respond, for instance, my driving “envelope” has to be bigger than for a more responsive car.)

FWIW, in 45+ years of driving, if I can deduct a few parking lot fender benders and one instance of bad luck, all in the first year or so I was learning, then I’ve never had an accident (and very few close calls).

I know I’m too aggressive of a driver to be called a good driver, but I do think, compared to most, I’m a skillful driver. Not on par with trained professionals and people who drive for a living, but maybe just a rung or two down?

In any event, experienced enough to never get over confident and to always, always, always pay full attention to the road.

§

I learned to drive in Los Angeles, the car capital of the USA, if not the world, so my sense of ability is well-earned and well-deserved, I think.

The decade or so I was driving around LA was the decade the other drivers shot at you if they didn’t like your driving.

It never seemed to be with the intention of actually hitting anyone. It was more a way of saying, “Hey! This is Los Angeles, and we take driving seriously around here! Drive Right!!”

I have to say, absent the shooting, driving in LA back then was a kind of cooperative dance that made the sheer volume of traffic work much better than it could have. But it really does take knowing how your “partners” will respond.

I’ve never really experienced that in other cities. I’ve been driving in the Twin Cities now for over 35 years, and I still can’t read the flow the way I could in LA. Drivers here continue to be far more unpredictable.

Although that, too, might be a sign of the times. Perhaps driving in the LA area is just as chaotic with just as large a spread of possible driver behaviors as I see here.

(I’m not sure that aspect has gotten worse, though, since I moved here in the mid-1980s. I noticed the lack of predictability right away. Honestly, to my LA-trained eyes, the drivers here are rank amateurs. The question might be whether LA, now, is filled with amateurs.)

§

I’ve wandered far from where I started and probably severely undermined the point I intended. (Which was: “Don’t speed!”)

But it’s my blog, and I’ll irony if I want to.

I was trained and steeped in Los Angeles (were you?), and I’ve taken driving very seriously all my life (do you?) — because it actually is a matter of life and death. It doesn’t get much more serious than that.

And it should go without saying to leave your damn cellphone OFF.

Let me emphasize the OFF part. I don’t want to hear about hands-free. Fuck that. You don’t need to chatter with someone who isn’t present while you pilot a 2000+ pound killing machine.

It’s actually not wise to chatter with someone who is present, but the one saving grace there is that a present person can see when the traffic situation requires more attention and pause the conversation while you drive.

Placing your attention out of the car with someone else is just plain stupid. (I’ll confess to driving a little faster than I should when I’m alone in the car and fully focused and conditions permit. When it comes to cellphones, as Meat Loaf famously sang, “But I won’t do that.”)

Turn your cellphone OFF. Enjoy the drive.

Enjoy living! And not killing anyone.

§

Stay under (or darn close to) the speed limit, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

13 responses to “COVID-19 = Speeding

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Just as a 16oz DIPA induced story about my views on driving, a very long time ago I got a ticket for making an illegal U-turn. I thought the ticket unfair since there was just one sign indicating the illegal U-turn, and since I’d approached the intersection from a short distance (about 20 yards, where I’d been parked), that sign wasn’t where I’d naturally look.

    I took photographs of the intersection and prepared my story anticipating my day in court.

    But on the day, when I got there, I realized I was kidding myself. As a driver, it’s my responsibility to see all the signs — there’s no excuse. So I just paid the ticket.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Two things more than go without saying:

    Firstly, seat belts. I had an insurance agent long ago, who, due to legal medication, fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the centerline, and caused an accident. As a result, from then on, he told me, the first thing he did upon getting into the car was fasten his seat belt. That’s not a horrible idea, and I think of him every time I get into the car and the first thing I do is fasten my seat belt. (Seriously. Every time.)

    Secondly, drinking and driving. Just don’t. Seriously, most of you don’t drive that well when you’re sober. When you’re even a little drunk, it’s bad. When you’re really drunk, it’s a disaster, so just don’t.

  • Brian

    Maybe more people are under the impression that Covid is the big killer and therefore driving recklessly is less likely to be what kills them. Perhaps with Lockdown there is a greater sense of freedom when one drives, and with that comes a heavier right-foot.
    As for getting a feel for the limitations of your vehicle I think that’s important. This brings to mind when there are icy conditions; I like to figure out at what point my car is likely to go sideways (in a relatively safe environment) before it goes sideways.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      There may well be some fatalism at work here. One thing that always made me grin is how many avid hobby skydivers smoke cigarettes. They tend to party hard, too. Definitely a fatalistic attitude in many of them.

      I wonder, too, if the lockdown doesn’t just make people restless. Finally get out of the house, and it’s hard not to put the pedal down. Wind through the hair and so forth.

      Ice and snow, very true! When winter starts I find an empty parking lot and do braking and donuts until I get my winter driving “legs” again. Gotta get that muscle memory back and tuned!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    It seems like everyone’s frustration and anxiety levels are high right now, and I suspect that has something to do with the driving speeds.

    Myself, I hardly drive at all anymore. When I do, because I’m not used to it, I drive like a grandpa. I have to admit I do leave the cell phone on, but I’m not one of those people who are constantly on the phone. It’s a rare occurrence.

    One thing to consider about the cell phone thing though. If there’s an accident and any kind of legal dispute, the lawyers are going to ask for the cell phone records of the other side, to see if they were on the phone during the event.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Good point about cell phone records. Another good reason to leave it alone (if not off).

      Since I retired in 2013 it’s surprising how low my yearly mileage is now. My 2010 car is still in great shape and doesn’t yet have 30K miles. That said, when I do drive, I’m still a fast driver, although not nearly as aggressive as I used to be. I used to work the pattern; these days I just go with the flow (mostly 😀 ).

      Retirement turned out to be good training for the lockdown. My life has hardly changed. Mostly just shopping a bit less often and seeing friends a bit less often. The main thing is wearing a mask when I shop and in some restaurants while entering and leaving.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I actually gassed up the day before the lockdown started, and my tank is still at the 2/3 point.

        The lockdown / work from home thing is functioning as a retirement dry run for me. I have to say if I imagine my days the same, minus the all the Zoom / Teams meetings and pesky work stuff, I could really dig this. Although work is a lot easier to take when you’re doing it in t-shirts and shorts with your fridge right at hand. They’re going to have to give me a lot more money to go back to the office again.

        Just the same, it’ll be nice to have the option of moving around in the world again.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Wow, you really don’t drive! I’ve gassed up several times in the past months. (Although not as often as normal, it’s true.)

        Are you concerned about your car battery? I make sure I take at least a 20-minute drive at least once a week. I knew a guy in San Francisco whose battery died when he started working from home (years ago; not due to COVID-19).

        As a programmer, I did a fair bit of working from home, and it’s pretty sweet. Management was never comfortable with it, though. Kind of ironic in retrospect. 🙂

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I do worry a little about the battery. Actually the majority of my driving is taking the car out for that 10-20 minute drive every week or two. I drive around the suburban region I live in, enough to get the car over 50 mph for a bit. So far, the battery has held. I did go almost a month at one point and noticed it a little sluggish to start. Since then I’ve tried to make sure it’s more frequent.

        As a manager, in the past I’ve actually been a bit uncomfortable with the work from home thing. Part of the problem is some people would be unresponsive and having them connect in remotely for meetings would be awkward. What’s changed now is the infrastructure that’s in place and a cultural shift. I have daily face to face meetings with my direct reports over Teams, and regular meetings with everyone in the organization. It’s easy to see who’s online and reach out to them when necessary.

        It’s also been pretty sweet that in a crisis, with all of us communicating through Teams, lots of people can be in on the conversation as it’s happening. We don’t have to do frequent reports to leadership, because leadership is directly monitoring it all, along with anybody else who needs to know or could potentially contribute. We worked a technical problem all day yesterday with 16 people in a chatroom, with periodic screen shares. I have to say working the problem this way is a lot easier than when we were in the office.

        Now, if we can just get the brain interfaces worked out so I can do it while laying in bed or dealing with house chores.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Sounds like you’re “read in” on the battery thing. My friend in S.F. had no idea and was caught by surprise by his dead battery (which of course came at an inconvenient time). Ever since, I mention it when the topic comes up, especially these locked down days.

        I understood my manager’s concerns about WFH, but since I was clearly more productive, I kept waiting for their light bulb to go on that this was better for everyone involved. I’ve always thought management was one of those really tricky skills that’s hard to evaluate, so many slide by being very bad at what they do. On the other end of the scale, there are some amazing people I’ve worked for who really understood how to manage others. (It’s not something I have any facility for or desire to do! I’m strictly a (highly advanced) worker bee.)

        I think one advantage we’ve had in this pandemic is that technology is now capable of connecting us so well that the lockdown has been much easier to function within. All the various sharing platforms have matured to useful products.

        Elon Musk is working on that brain interface. Probably be a big part of living on Mars… :/

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’ve actually had two management careers, the first right out of college, and then the second after I’d worked up through the ranks in IT. I think the biggest secret to management is getting out of the way of your people so they can do their job. It’s realizing that you’re not the hero of the story anymore, your team is. There are a lot of things you can do to incrementally improve on that, but my experience is that’s where the worst managers screw up. (Imagine how less bad things might have been if Trump had just let his health professionals do their job.)

        I can’t imagine this pandemic in 1985, or really anytime before everyone had reliable high bandwidth internet. I suspect we just couldn’t have had the lockdowns and would have had to deal with a massive fatality rate.

        On Musk, yeah, I don’t think I’ll be volunteering for that beta program.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’ve said many times that my favorite managers were the ones that gave me a target and then got out of my way. Allowed me to produce some good results. In contrast the guy whose main concern was that my butt was in my chair by 9 AM at the latest. Couldn’t understand, let alone judge, the work. I ended up jumping ship to another department. (It was time for a change anyway.)

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