‘175mph in Utah, vis­i­bil­ity to the hori­zon in both di­rec­tions and no hu­mans for miles’

CAR (UK) - - Insider -

YES­TER­DAY I BROKE a law. I live in Amer­ica, so those words could mean al­most any­thing.

On one end of the State­side il­le­gal­ity spec­trum you have acts like mur­der: eth­i­cally straight­for­ward; of­ten re­quires muck­ing about with messy hu­man flu­ids; gen­er­ally a bad idea. At the other end of the list you have a host of silly civic left­overs from when my rel­a­tively young coun­try was even younger, suss­ing how to op­er­ate a gov­ern­ment. Laws that made sense long ago and now do not, but were never struck from the rolls. (Fact re­gard­ing the state of Ari­zona: it is il­le­gal there for a don­key to sleep in a bath­tub.)

And then, some­where in the mid­dle, you have speed­ing. (Missouri: the law there pro­hibits you from driv­ing a car con­tain­ing an uncaged bear.)

We can bi­fur­cate this into two types of acts. First, there is the kind of speed­ing that puts pedes­tri­ans, other driv­ers or just about any­one but your­self at risk. Un­de­ni­ably a bad idea, prac­tised only by self­ish troglodytes and pro­fes­sional nose-pick­ers. The sec­ond type of speed­ing, how­ever, is won­der­ful. It is the sort of thing that keeps me up night, eyes bolt open, won­der­ing why I’m not in a car. It is what hap­pens in the mid­dle of nowhere, not a liv­ing soul for miles, when you beat the liv­ing wee out of the pave­ment and maybe feel as if your pulse was built solely from caf­feine and laugh­ter. (South Dakota: it is il­le­gal to sleep in a cheese fac­tory. These are all real state laws, by the way. Ask Google.)

Ve­loc­ity can be fun. That should be ob­vi­ous. It can also be dan­ger­ous, as sta­tis­tics have long told us. A re­cent study by Amer­ica’s Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board found that speed­ing was the main fac­tor in 31 per cent of US traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties from 2005 to 2014. Set aside is­sues of driver train­ing, au­to­bahn sta­tis­tics or sit­u­a­tional aware­ness – speed is a form of en­ergy, and traf­fic ac­ci­dents dis­si­pate that en­ergy. En­ergy dis­si­pated into the hu­man body tends to dis­si­pate the hu­man body.

To be clear: don’t speed in a way that puts oth­ers at risk. But oh, the other thing.

I won­der, some­times, why we de­monise that bit. Why, in my coun­try, the penalty for dou­bling the speed limit across an empty Ne­vada desert is roughly the same as the penalty for go­ing 70mph across Man­hat­tan at noon on a Tues­day. (West Vir­ginia: it is pro­hib­ited to whis­tle un­der­wa­ter.)

I have so many mem­o­ries, all of them il­le­gal. A Fer­rari Lusso at 175mph in Utah, vis­i­bil­ity to the hori­zon in both di­rec­tions and no other hu­mans for miles. Cal­i­for­nia’s de­serted Mount Shasta in win­ter, noth­ing to hit but the side of a moun­tain, dou­bling the 30mph limit be­tween hair­pins on an old BMW R90S mo­tor­cy­cle made of frame flex and torque re­ac­tion. A 997 911 GT2 far out­side Las Ve­gas, in the ex­plo­sive part of fifth gear, as­phalt so rough the front tyres were ba­si­cally waft­ing in the breeze. That weird, whole-body zen-bal­let when you find the speed at which some car or mo­tor­cy­cle will turn a road into a glis­sade, hang­ing on the al­go­rithm of weather and ma­chine abil­ity and pave­ment con­di­tion, mak­ing you feel so alive it al­most hurts. (Ken­tucky: one may not dye a duck­ling blue and of­fer it for sale un­less six other duck­lings are also for sale at the same time.)

Or last night, in the Cas­cade Range east of my house, the drive that got me think­ing about all this. So good that de­scrib­ing the mo­ment would ruin it. (I lived in Ken­tucky once; that last one is per­haps rea­son­able. Five ducks would have been enough.)

Change is com­ing; black boxes and data col­lec­tion mean that this brand of risk-only-your­self civil dis­obe­di­ence will be­come a thing of the past. Do we off­set that through a way to legally vent ve­hic­u­lar steam out­side a cir­cuit? De­serted nowhere high­ways ac­ces­si­ble only with a spe­cial driv­ing li­cence, gained through train­ing? And why is the ap­peal of this sort of thing so dif­fer­ent from driv­ing on a closed cir­cuit, or a der­e­stricted au­to­bahn – pas­times I also en­joy? (Texas: it is il­le­gal to sell one’s eye.)

Laws ex­ist for a rea­son. I’m not say­ing you should break them. (Florida: A per­son can­not have sex with a por­cu­pine.)

I’m just ask­ing ques­tions. (I just searched ‘por­cu­pine quills in hu­man body’. Do not do that.)

Okay, maybe not some ques­tions. (Good law, that por­cu­pine bit. Should prob­a­bly stay on the books.)

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