Ahem. I was thinking of titling this article “Hyperspeeding” to poke fun at hypermiling – the methodology of driving to maximize gas mileage. I like the idea, but I like to drive fast. Not too fast, but generally faster than the speed limit. I acknowledge this is not always advised, but let’s look at some things I’ve learned over the years that could almost be called a speeding methodology.
The important thing to remember is don’t be a tool. There are many tool-like behaviors, but what it all boils down to is being excessive. Tailgating, passing on the right, and passing really fast may seem like bad behavior when in fact it may be appropriate. What’s inappropriate is doing these not to keep the traffic flowing but to deliberately be mean to other drivers whom you think have slighted you in some way by passing you or driving too slowly or some other bad reason. Let it go. Speed for good reasons — because it’s fun to drive fast, not because you’re being a jerk. Trust me, karmic debt will catch up to you with sirens blazing.
Look around. Keep a mental map of the cars in all directions, especially on either side of you for emergency movements. Braking is dangerous because you may be rear ended, but look occasionally to make sure you have a small cushion behind you. Ideally you won’t have a car in front of you (you’re speeding, remember?), but when you do try to look through or around the car in front of you to gauge the traffic ahead. Thinking more than one car ahead will go a long way to calm driving in addition to being more fuel efficient…. for those that are into that.
Traffic should flow. Everyone is traveling and everyone wants to get to their destination with a little growl in the engine. Whatever action is taken should not cause others to brake. It is universally agreed that braking is bad. It wastes the engine power.
The inside (number one) lane is the fast lane and the outside lane is the slow lane. Lanes in between should increase speed moving towards the number one lane. Sometimes the slow lane is 5 below the limit, the next lane is the limit, and the number one lane is 5 over. Sometimes the spread is wider, sometimes it’s not uneven. Generally, though, this banding of speeds creates a flow that is easy to grasp. When someone drives faster than the pack in the right lane it usually means they are erratic and probably change lanes without signaling. Stay away.
Don’t hesitate when passing. Passing slowly is dangerous for all parties because the safety cushion for sideways movement is blocked. Passing with a little bit of gas is not only safer in general, it feels darn good. Passing on the left is preferred as this maintains the number one lane as fast lane, but when (not if) some self-righteous driver decides to set the cruise control at the speed limit and chug in the left lane and won’t move for armageddon, then it’s time to pass on the right. Just don’t make a habit of it and resist the urge to look over to see the reaction of the driver you’re passing. I know you will sometimes, but try not to be a tool.
Don’t match speeds. This is very important because not only does matching speeds bad practice from a traffic flow perspective, but it also is tool-like. Matching speeds when cars are abreast is dangerous because there is no side cushion for evasive maneuvers. Matching speeds when slightly behind and to the side of another car more than likely parks you right in the driver’s blind spot. Both of these block the progress of decent speeding individuals from passing. We’ve all been there when the cars in front of you have decided to run at the same speed for the pack mentality or whatever reason and quite often this is at a speed that is.. ahem… less than you’d like to drive. Be careful that this is not because of a police car that you are missing, and just chill until one of two things happens: a. one driver will peel away enough to create a passing lane or b. someone with less patience than you will pass you and tailgate one of them until they move. In case b, back off a cushion and eventually it will play out.
Speeding may not be appropriate. When excessively late speeding will often magnify bad decisions. It’s more important to slow down, hit the bluetooth button and call your date to tell them you’ll be late. Then pick up flowers or something on the way in. Another inappropriate speeding time is when the traffic’s already nicely gridded up from commute traffic. Eventually it will reach the optimal flow rate, but jinking lanes to pass one or two cars will usually end with brake lights, and a beating the car behind you by a couple car lengths isn’t worth it.
My friend Cordelia summed it up nicely once: “Drive fast but safe.” See you next bi-week!