We’re all familiar with the cry “Gentlemen start your engines,” the long standing traditional command made to drivers that each year gets the Indianapolis 500 underway. The command went unchanged until 1977 when the first woman qualified for the race an in fairness to women drivers the call was changed to “Ladies and gentleman start your engines” and continues to be changed whenever a woman is competing in the race. The 500 mile race is run on a 2.5 mile long, oval track where cars can reach speeds in excess of 220 mph. Ask any racing enthusiast and they will tell you, it’s all about a “need for speed.”
Well it appears that here in California and other states as well this “need for speed” has made its way from the raceways and drag strips and onto our streets and highways. On any given day you can get on the freeway and see cars traveling in excess of the posted 65 mph speed limit. And these vehicles are not traveling at 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit but in many cases at 15 or 20 mph over the speed limit! A couple of days ago I was on the 71 freeway headed to Corona. There is a stretch of the freeway that passes through a residential section of Pomona with two lanes in either direction. At this point it becomes a regular highway complete with two signaled intersections and a 55 mph speed limit. Of course you would never know it. I swear I was travelling at 70 mph through this section and still had cars right on my ass! At the first opportunity I moved into the ‘slow” lane and immediately 3 cars shot past me. If I was going 70 mph they had to be doing in excess of 80 mph. This really troubled me because there was a signal less than a half mile ahead. But then I guess if you should happen to hit a red light you just blow through it or slam on the brakes that’s what they’re for right?
There used to be a time in the not so distant past where speed limits actually meant something. Oh many people still exceeded them but by no more than 5 – 8 mph. Drivers had this common misconception that the CHP would allow you 5 mph over the posted speed limit. If you were in that range they’d leave you alone, so most people stayed in that zone particularly in highly populated areas near cities. As soon as you were out of the city and out in the sticks, speeds increased considerably particularly if you were in the desert headed for Las Vegas where even today it isn’t unusual to see cars travelling 90 or even 100 mph. I think I may have even done it a few times myself. A few times? Oh who am I trying to kid, I played Ricky-racer out there more times than I can remember.
Another particular freeway where The CHP seemed to look the other way and drivers felt free to pour on the speed is the 30 mile stretch of Interstate 15 between Temecula and Escondido. Drivers did in excess of 100 mph out there, I’m sure they still do and unlike the 15 to Vegas I’ve seen relatively few people pulled over by the CHP on this stretch of highway. Another popular speed zone was the 10 Frwy between Beaumont and Palm Springs/Indio. Lots of speeders out there. There were/are of course other freeway hot spot, speed zones throughout SoCal but these three are the most notable that I’ve experienced.
But that was then and this is now. Today’s speeders are bolder,don’t fear the CHP like they used to, for them any freeway or highway is a potential speed zone. Today’s speeders are not the young and reckless drivers you might think them to be, today nearly anyone can be a speeder and they are! That 75 year old grandma driving her Toyota Tercel with the Pomeranian in her lap could just as likely be riding your ass in the fast lane at 80 mph as the twenty-something hipster driving his new BMW. It makes no difference, whether they’re young or old, male or female, driving a four banger or a V-8, they all have the potential to be rude, thoughtless, aggressive Ricky-Racers.
Nothing irks me more than to travelling down the 210 Raceway, I mean freeway and have some rude, idiot driver riding my ass! Hell I’m going 70 sometimes 75 mph and they’re still right on top of me! God sometimes I’d love to just slam on my brakes. Oh I never would, much too dangerous, but believe me I’d sure like to. I’m the type of driver who usually will move over when I see a car approaching at a high rate of speed in my rear view mirror. I have no problem with that. But when I’m already 10 mph over the speed limit and am less than 2 car lengths behind the car in front of me and the right lane isn’t open, some idiot driver seems to appear out of nowhere, climbs up my backside and ride my bumper, sometimes they even flash their lights, as if that will make a difference. It drives me crazy! Don’t they see the same road ahead that I do? Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? Idiots! And this doesn’t just happen when I’m in the fast lane. Oh no, I’ve had people ride my ass at 75 while I’m in the number three lane as well! But then these are the same assholes who bounce from lane to lane all over the freeway trying to pass slower vehicles.Where the hell is the CHP when you need one.
Perhaps my attitude about speeders is a result of growing older but I think not. I don’t have a problem with speed, I like to go fast but I also like to be safe. I usually drive at 5 to 10 mph above the posted speed limit on the freeway usually because that seems to be the average flow of traffic at the time. Hello! 75 mph is fast yet as I mentioned before cars blow by and quickly disappear into the distance. Just how fast are these idiots going? It’s crazy. Is reaching their destination quickly worth risking their lives over? Safety is why we have speed limits.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe we should just do away with freeway speed limits. Most of European highways have an 80 mph speed limit. Much of the German Autobahn has no speed limit, and the cruising speed is 95-100 mph, with some people driving closer to 115. Hell most people in SoCal are driving over the posted speed limits anyway. It’s a “pedal to the metal” mentality. The freeways have become the equivalent of four lane race tracks, everyone jockeying for position, in a major hurry to get where they’re going. I tell you, if you must take the freeways enter at your own risk, buckle up tight and stay alert. And as you begin picking up speed on the on ramp remember the rallying cry of the racing world, “ladies and gentlemen start your engines…”