The Pointless Flex
The Pointless Flex
By Eric Peters
It’s amazing what you can do in a three-row/eight passenger SUV . . . but not many people do it anymore.
This 2020 Kia Telluride I’m test-driving right now (reviewed here) can hustle through the curves faster and with less effort and much more margin than my ’76 Trans-Am. Which is no small thing because in its day, the Trans-Am was the best-handling high-performance car made in America. It was designed for speed; everything else was secondary. The Kia is a family hauler.
One hand on the wheel through the esses and not even close to pushing it at speeds that would have the Trans-Am’s rear end slip-sliding and near the break-loose point. Its 15×7 inch BF Goodrich radials as dated as the 8-track in the dashboard.
If something solid – a deer or a slower-moving car – appears in the road ahead of me I might as well turn the 8-track up up (KISS, Destroyer) as apply the brakes, both having about the same effect as far as slowing the car down in time.
That’s how far we’ve come in the intervening for nearly 50 years.
People no longer like to drive (much less corner) fast. Or they’re afraid to. Either way, they rarely do so. The Kia is wasted on them. A Corvette is absurd.
The Safety Cult has practically destroyed car culture, but – oddly enough – not cars. Which are much more powerful now than they have ever been. This is an across-the-board truth. Any current family sedan accelerates to 60 faster than almost any ’70s muscle car; runs a quicker quarter mile – and has a much higher top speed.
The family sedan’s brakes (which are four wheel discs) stop the car faster, the tires (which will be 17s or 18s at least and probably rated for 130-plus MPH) are grippier . . . everything is better. And yet, almost everyone goes slower.
A brutal regime of speed enforcement – of seatbelt enforcement – has supplanted the old regime of reasonableness or at least not-murderousness that used to exist. Guns were rarely drawn on people merely for driving fast.
There have always been radar traps; now there are checkpoints – manned by body armor-wearing stormtroopers trained to regard the wispiest absence of total deference as a “threat” to their Authority.
You used to be able to “get away” with driving fast, most of the time. But now cameras are everywhere. Also automated license plate readers. They’ve got you before you even get there.
80 in a 55 used to be a ticket – and that was it. Sometimes, you could talk your way out of it. You could almost always at least talk it over – on almost equal terms. This will sound unbelievable to those under 30 today but before the sun began to wane in the late ’90s, one generally got out of the car after pulling over and walked over to the cop’s car to discuss the matter.
We weren’t under martial law, then. You had to pull a gun or a knife, at least, before a cop would pull his. It took real effort to get yourself cuffed and stuffed.
Things have, as they say, changed.
Today a pull-over for any reason, even the most trivial and non-moving, can lead to life-ruining and even life-ending consequences. You are at the mercy of armed government workers – there are no cops anymore – who don’t need probable cause to force you out of your car and let themselves into your car. Sure, you can say no – which will delay them for the 10 minutes it takes to summon a four-legged AGW and its handler, who will discover probable cause.
If they find cash on you – any amount – it’s “forfeit” if the AGWs decide they want it. And good luck getting it back, even if they never give you so much as a ticket.
Even if all you end up with is a ticket, it’s the equivalent, these days, of taking out a payday loan at 32 percent interest – only worse because it’s more than 32 percent interest (factor in the insurance-rape for the next 3-5 years the ticket will be used as the pretext for mulcting you).
A Hut! Hut! Hutting! has become a much more realistic threat than angry bedouins.
Best to avoid the pull over.
Thus, people hew to the speed limit, try to blend in. They text and chat and zone out. It’s safer.
People have also been conditioned to fear speed as much as speed enforcement. They accelerate tepidly, usually in a pack – no one pulling ahead. This goes for merging, too. Often, people just stop on the ramp, signal – and expect to be let in.
Traffic creeps along accordingly.
At least two generations now have been taught – it has been hammered into them – that it’s not saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe to drive the way people used to drive when cars had half the power and a third the capability that cars have now.
Today’s road speeds are about what they were in 1970 but 2020 cars are much safer at those same speeds and if speed limits were adjusted to jibe with the increase in the capability of today’s cars – of cars made since the ’90s – highway speeds today should be closer to 90 than the 70 that’s typical.
Instead, people in the main drive slower today than they did back in 1970 – in cars with angry faces, screwed up with rage but no outlet for it.
It’s akin to bodybuilding. Lots of flexing of muscles not used for much of anything.
More absurd, actually – because they don’t even flex.