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Thread: We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

    We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    Americans' love affair with the car may be headed for divorce court -- according to a new survey done by the Pew Research Center. It found that the number of people who still enjoy going for a drive has dropped from eight out of ten back in 1990 to just under seven out of ten today. Inescapable traffic -- and the rudeness and/or general incompetence of their fellow motorists -- were cited as causative factors.

    With more cars than licensed drivers out there -- more than 200 million of them at last count -- and with residents of some major urban areas like LA spending the equivalent of almost an entire week per year stuck in traffic jams -- it's no wonder the bloom's begun to fall off the rose a little.

    People are feeling boxed in -- literally.

    Driving, after all, is as much about freedom of movement as it about freedom of expression -- and if you can't move, there's not much freedom. What good is a 500 horsepower sports car like the 185-mph Corvette Z06 when it's literally impossible to drive it faster than 60-something mph -- except every once in awhile? (And even then, for brief and furtive spurts at best.)

    It's not mentioned in the Pew study or the news coverage of the study, but it's an interesting and cruel irony that cars have never been more powerful, capable and safe -- even at very high speeds -- than they are right now. Even middle-of-the-road family sedans like the Toyota Camry V-6 and Honda Accord can hit 130-plus on the top end and are quicker 0-60 than many of the V-8 muscle cars of the 1960s. And today's V-8 sporty cars -- models like the Mustang GT, Dodge Charger and its kin -- offer what was once six-figure exotic-car performance levels for around $30k.

    Yet as the power/capability of cars has tracked ever higher, they are increasingly throttled by external realities such as chock-a-block traffic that reign them in more effectively than Joan Claybrook's wildest midnight fantasies or any mere law ever could.

    Twenty-something years ago, the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit was the law of the land. Yet one could violate it with impunity if one had the hardware -- and an indifference to the authority of Roscoe P. Coltrane and his radar gun. Fast driving was very possible. It was just a matter of putting your foot down.

    Today, most state highways have considerably higher lawful maximums -- as much as 75 or even 80 mph in some places -- but it's getting harder and harder to actually drive that fast. The DC Beltway, for example, slows to a crippled crawl for several hours every day. Ditto the I-95/395 corridor that runs from Richmond to Alexandria, Va. Similar stories -- and worse -- can be told by the unlucky denizens of Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and Boston.

    Drivers of crusty old Subarus jockey for position with brand-new BMWs -- neither of them able to do much more than 45 mph. The minute a hole opens up and you put the pedal down, a minivan plastered with soccer ball and "I care" (put your cause here) stickers appears in your path -- ending the epiphany.

    It's no fun. Hell, it begins to get on your nerves after awhile. You pay all this money for a car with more built-in capability than some pure race cars had just a few decades ago -- and you might as well be driving a primered and rust-pocked Ford Festiva with 257,000 miles. The sole bennie -- more precisely, the one usable thing you do get for your $30,000 or $50,000 (or more) that you didn't get in a clapped-out 70-hp Festiva -- is a better radio, maybe GPS and, of course, your cell phone with Bluetooth hook-up. Electronic soporifics to keep you distracted -- to keep your mind off the mobile Skinner Box in which you spend 2-3 hours or more of your life each day. Two to three hours of your life going short distances, very very slowly.

    Back in the '80s, rock crooner Sammy Hagar cut his signature track, "I Can't Drive 55" -- which contained the lament, "... what used to take two hours now takes all day... it took me 16 hours to get to LA!"

    Sammy may not have realized how prescient he was being -- albeit from an entirely different angle. The Drive 55 crowd may ultimately win the battle for a slow-mo society by dint of sheer numbers.

    END/TAG:

  2. #2
    torinoman
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    Re: We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

    it's true. driving is becoming a real pain in the ass. and it just seems to get worse all the time. what do we do?

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

    Quote Originally Posted by torinoman
    it's true. driving is becoming a real pain in the ass. and it just seems to get worse all the time. what do we do?
    Probably not much... the population increase of just the past 40 years (100 million in the US) is pretty incredible - and a sure guarantee (if the trend continues) that traffic will only get worse - and driving even more of a PITAS, especially in and around major urban/suburban areas...

    Welcome to the site, by the way!

    -Eric

  4. #4
    rc74racer
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    Re: We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

    More telecommuting and better mass transit would help. If we can get more people off the roads those of us who truly enjoy driving can have our roads back. Unfortunately for most of us we need to be near the masses in order to make money. I for one can't stand northern va anymore and it's the traffic and inconsiderate people that are making this area hell.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

    Quote Originally Posted by rc74racer
    More telecommuting and better mass transit would help. If we can get more people off the roads those of us who truly enjoy driving can have our roads back. Unfortunately for most of us we need to be near the masses in order to make money. I for one can't stand northern va anymore and it's the traffic and inconsiderate people that are making this area hell.
    Dude, I hear ya!

    This is why we fled, too. Of course, the masses will eventually make it out here, too - bringing the "northern Virginia experience" with them.

    And when they do, we'll flee again...

    PS - I can remember when RT. 7 was basically deserted once you got to the Rt. 193/Georgetown Pike light...

  6. #6

    Re: We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

    I live in So Cal and the freeways are practically useless except for a small time slot between 10 PM and 5 AM. If that weren't bad enough, there are dozens upon dozens of consecutive signals on surface streets and timed to discourage those seeking refuge from those freeways thanks to the NIMBYism.

    There are useless HOV lanes all over the place around here. I watch many single motorists risk the $341 fine by cheating past the onramp meters and in the designated lanes.

    When there isn't bumper-to-bumper traffic, lane discipline is non-existent. Oddly enough, there aren't many signs reminding motorists to keep to the right unless passing. Doesn't matter anyway, because where there are signs, they are usually ignored.

    The worst freeway stretch has to be the 91 between Orange County and Riverside. From about 3PM to maybe 8PM the eastbound direction is literally a parking lot. Why? The infrastructure cannot be improved due to a non-compete clause with the agency operating the Lexus Lanes in the middle of the freeway.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: We can't drive 55 -- even though 65 (or faster) is legal now

    Dunno how you stand it; I couldn't!

    No amount of money - and no other lure I can conjure - could EVER get me back to a major city/suburban area for anything more than a quick fly-by.

    I keep a malignant eye on my area - watching carefully for signs the Masses are going to migrate here and ruin everything, too....

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