Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Give Me A Break!

Do you ever get the feeling you'd like to throttle someone, even though you know that technically, the person you want to throttle is not in the wrong? I saw this op-ed piece in last Sunday's Washington Post - from a guy who was issued a written warning for driving too slow on I-95. I think the cop who stopped the guy deserves a commendation... and the driver deserves a special place in Hell! (OK - maybe that's a bit harsh, but read on!)

Saving Gas Could Cost You Money
Sunday, June 22, 2008; B08

There have been a bunch of reports in the media lately, including a June 15 Business article, about "hypermilers": people who try to increase their miles per gallon by altering their driving habits.

I am a modestly committed hypermiler; I have a Honda Insight. It's rated 66 mpg highway, 60 city. Some hypermilers shoot for 100-plus mpg with their Insights. But I am happy to average 70 mpg.

I don't use some of the more controversial tactics:
· I don't roll through stop signs.
· I don't push my car down the hill to start it rolling.
· I don't tailgate tractor-trailers (well, not regularly).
· I confess to driving with a gentle foot, avoiding hard acceleration and hard braking.

Mostly I get my mileage just by slowing down a bit. It not only saves gas, but it's also what various Maryland State Police safety advisories and various eco-Web sites urge me to do. Slowing down is touted as thrifty, patriotic and eco-friendly. Too bad it's also "criminal."

The other night I was on my way to pick up my wife at BWI Airport just after midnight. There was almost no traffic on Interstate 95. I was happily allowing the car to speed up to 65 mph or so going downhill, but not punching the gas going uphill until I got down to about 50 or 55 mph (like the speed pattern of loaded semi-trucks). All of this was going on in the far-right lane.

So what happened? Well, I was pulled over by a Maryland state trooper. After I came to a stop, I sat in my car for three or four minutes with the spotlight from the cruiser in my eyes. When he arrived at my window, the trooper announced that we were being videotaped. It sounded serious.

He asked me why I had been driving 50 mph.
I said, "Saving gas."
"Saving gas?" he repeated.
"Yes, sir," I said. "I'm getting 69 miles per gallon on this trip so far."
He asked me to tell him my address, which I did, while he compared it to the one on my license.

He went back to his patrol car for what seemed like five minutes. Later he came back, handing me a written traffic violation warning. On my "Violator's Copy," the violation specified was, "TRAVELING 50 MPH."

I could not believe it.
"You're giving me a ticket for driving 50?" I asked him.
"If you're going 10 miles under traffic, you're a danger," he said.
I objected.

"I've heard of minimum required speeds of 40 and 45, but I've never heard of one at 50."
"You wouldn't believe how many drunk drivers I catch this way," he said.
I replied, "Well, I haven't been drinking."
He snorted, walked back to his patrol car and drove away.

I wish I'd gotten a ticket -- points, fines, things like that. At least then I could have argued it in court. This way I have no recourse.

It seems that to be a good American, I have to drive faster. I need to use more gas. Go figure.
I e-mailed the state police asking about laws relating to minimum speeds. No response. Maybe I should write to the governor or my state legislators. Or maybe I'll just drop it.
I got 70.3 mpg on the trip.

-- Glenn Conrad

Mr Conrad - whatever you do... PLEASE stay out of the left lane!


eyeonbooks said...

Gotta disagree with you this time, O Wise One. This guy specifically said he was hugging the far RIGHT lane, late at night, almost no other traffic. What traffic is he "endangering" by going 50? I have no doubt the cop catches a lot of drunks that way, but to cite someone for going highway speed -- just not the top highway speed -- is overkill.

John Matthews said...

Bill - go back and read my opening comments... I concede the guy is not technically in the wrong. That doesn't mean I don't want to throttle him!

Anonymous said...

When I read this editorial I wanted to choke the guy--I'm all with you here!