The Harsh Truth Behind Speeding
Forget everything you know about trying to get somewhere faster.
Las Vegas. Budapest. Bangkok. A party hosted by Rocco Siffredi or Charlie Sheen. These are just a few of the places you should never go without a plan—or at least some protection. And yet there are those who do. You don’t need to be Nostradamus to know this is really, really dumb. For most, the worst consequence is a hangover. For some, a visit to the doctor. For an unlucky few, the hospital.
And so it goes for speeding.
As a professional narcissist, and perhaps the most infamous speeder since Brock Yates inaugurated modern Cannonballing in 1971, I’m drawn to car shows not just for the cars. I also enjoy the look of confusion on my fans’ faces when I answer the second most common question about my nonstop cross-country Cannonball records (the first? How did you go to the bathroom?): How many speeding tickets do you have?
No one likes the answer. I want to lie. I want to say tons. Tickets are worn by the young Subaru STI and BMW M3 owners like rows of medals on a Soviet general’s chest. A license suspension isn’t seen as mark of shame but as a badge of honor. That, apparently, is the price of manhood. A rite of passage. Badass, dude. Only six more months until I get it back.
That lust for risk is the same impulse that drives twenty-somethings “downtown” to find an ATM, a bag of blow and some chicks. They’re going to have some great nights—until one of them doesn’t. I’ve had those nights. They seemed awesome at the time, most likely because—unlike some of my friends—I’m still alive to talk about it. I live in downtown Manhattan now, across the street from McSorley’s, so what used to seem “awesome” unfolds outside my window every Saturday morning at 2AM. Nothing screams middle age more than being woken up by a bunch of bros singing "Louie Louie" badly while a group of open-piped Harleys sets off every car alarm on the Bowery.
Back to the fourth question: How many speeding tickets do you have? I consider it my duty as a C-list celebrity to be be honest with my fans. Sadly, this honesty has left some disappointed people in my wake, because a red-blooded teenager with a driver’s license and 300-plus horsepower simply can’t handle the truth.
How many? “None,” I answer, utterly deadpan. “That’s like asking an optician how many people he’s blinded.”
Can You Handle the Truth?
Speeding tickets are given for speeding, after all, and the only reason anyone knows who I am is because I’m one of the most (ahem) “professional” speeders of our time. Being a professional speeder isn’t a profession, of course, but an obsession where one’s life is often on the line. As such, it requires some level of professionalism. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, which is where I differ with those for whom the Fast/Furious franchise looms larger than Le Mans. In other words, speeding tickets are for amateurs.
Ever wonder why so many people get arrested with suspended licenses? It’s not because they’re dumb.
Only a madman would consult a professional optician with a history of poking people’s eyes out—especially if he bragged about it—and yet people still get into high-powered cars with drivers that are drunk, or, in Paul Walker’s case, get into Carrera GTs with owners who haven’t changed the tires in nine years.
Like many dangerous pursuits, serious speeding should not be done casually. In fact, any dangerous pursuit, whether unicycle jousting or vintage parachute skydiving, requires a serious dedication to following a very specific set of rules. And you have to be ready to hear, understand and act on the truth—the truth behind why we speed, and the reality of the forces arrayed against us when we do.
God Is Speed. Time Is The Devil.
You can thank Nietzsche for that one, which is the best explanation for the psychology of speeding I’ve ever heard. If you really want to know more, buy Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic, but I think Nietzsche summed it perfectly. The driver/car relationship is as close to the seamless mind/machine interface as we’ve come. We get into our cars, the car becomes an extension of our bodies, and we express ourselves through how we drive.
No one wants to be left behind. Everyone wants to reduce commute times. No one wants to be late. No one wants to be passed. Everyone wants to be a winner, but with driving on a public road, what is “winning?” We assign value to getting somewhere, anywhere, a little faster. Once that value is assigned, every decision behind the wheel becomes an internal struggle between common sense and ego. One minute saved on the way to work Monday? Let’s do two minutes Tuesday. Late to pick up your kids? That can be solved with speed.
Put your foot down. Take control. Play God.
Time is the devil, and we defeat him as the speedometer moves clockwise around the gauge.
Or do we?
The Math Doesn't Add Up.
Sorry, everyone. Bad news. The math behind speeding is totally against speeding. There are approximately 15,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, employing a cold collective of 765,000 officers, each with the authority to write a speeding ticket with the thinnest of predication. On the other hand, you, with your gut feelings, good karma and memorization of the way home, are very much alone.
Nearly 86% of Americans commute to work by car, and each of us face the same merciless forces of speed and time.
I live in New York, where the Interstate speed limit is 65mph. Let’s say my commute is 10 miles long. At 65mph, in a perfect world, I can cover that in 5 minutes and 45 seconds. At 75? I save 30 seconds. At 85? I save one minute. Make that drive twice a day, and I’ve saved two minutes.
Two minutes during which I’m tempting fate against the New York State Thruway Police, each and every one of them dying to meet their quota by writing me a four-point ticket. Get three of those within 18 months and my license is suspended. If the trooper is in a bad mood and writes me for reckless driving—well, you get the idea. Throw in a few hundred dollars for the ticket, fees and likely semi-permanent insurance rate increase, and we’re starting to feel some real pain.
If you drive to work, if you drive your kids to school, if you drive just to get food—well then, your livelihood, if not your life, depends on keeping your license. Ever wonder why so many people get arrested with suspended licenses? It’s not because they’re dumb. The reason they’re still on the road is because 86% of us will literally starve to death if we don’t get in our cars twice a day, five days a week. The geography of American cities, our infrastructure, our entire society—all of it is centered around driving.
The solution? Set your alarm two minutes earlier. Two minutes is nothing compared to the cost, time and aggravation of getting a four-point ticket.
Still want to speed? Trust me, I of all people understand. There is a way to speed “safely” on public roads. And get away with it. Most of the time. Sort of. Certainly more than the average person, but it requires an intellectual and emotional commitment most people aren’t ready or willing to make. Want to know what those rules are? Then check back next week.
Alex Roy is the author of the LiveDriveRepeat blog and is really proud of coining the phrase “Autonomotive Singularity.” Roy is President of Europe By Car, the founder of Team Polizei, Editor-at-Large for The Drive and author of The Driver, which depicts his 2006 NY-LA Transcontinental Driving Record, accomplished in 31 hours and 4 minutes. He also the Producer of The Great Chicken Wing Hunt & 32 Hours 7 Minutes, was Chairman of The Moth from 2002-2007, won The Ultimate Playboy on Sky One, has competed in LeMons & the Baja 1000, and holds a variety of driving records which must still remain secret.
Please follow him on Twitter.
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