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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


The speed habit

There is no shortage of drivers who have a speed habit.  And those speeders are easy to spot when we drive in reasonable accordance with the speed limit, since everyone passing us is exceeding it.

That point is exemplified by reader V.K. who wrote, “I had an experience on Second Ave between Havana and Freya/Thor in the middle of the afternoon. Driving my usual five over at 35 I was surprised by two racers coming from behind me from somewhere that I didn’t see them until they just about blew my mirrors off. They careened on to a side street and were gone. Headed south on Freya by Fred Myers another speeder zipped past. Just for grins as I headed south at my usual five over at 35 I started counting vehicles passing me. Between Fifth Ave and Twenty Ninth, seventeen vehicles including two dump trucks passed me. Amazing!”

I have, at times, actually defended one’s right to speed.  I have speculated that I would rather have an attentive, accomplished driver speed through my neighborhood as opposed to a distracted, texting driver going the speed limit.

The problem is that many speeders are neither attentive nor accomplished.  For example, a speeding Washington State Trooper is trained, practiced and capable of doing so, unlike the pool of average drivers.  Additionally, many who think they have superior driving abilities do not.

An outdated mantra coined in the 1980s by Automobile magazine’s editor David E. Davis was, “Cogito, ergo zoom,” which roughly translated to, “I think, therefore I go fast.”  It was a play on the famous Latin phrase, “Cogito, ergo sum,” by philosopher Rene Descartes meaning, “I think, therefore I am.”

Davis’s then-popular quote was undoubtedly followed by many drivers who did not qualify for the first part, “I think,” but still practiced the second part, “therefore I go fast.”

Drivers who have not undergone training for driving vehicles at high speed (like state troopers) and don’t have the equipment to do so are only compromising safety when speeding.  Even well-trained professionals realize that when they speed amid slower vehicles in the line of duty they are at increased risk, knowing differential of traffic speed is itself a major cause of crashes.

While on a 7000-mile trip this summer, I was regularly confronted with speeding drivers using the right-hand lane of multi-lane highway to accommodate their 90 mph-plus speed runs when I was returning to that lane after making a normal pass in the left lane within 3-4 mph of the limit.

When those drivers are going 90-100 mph they appear very suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, since they were not present when my pass began.  Like V.K. implied, there is little-to-no advance warning of their presence until they appear.  If they must speed, and encounter me when I am making a pass, they should line up behind me in the left lane until my legal pass is completed, then blow by in the proper lane.  At least that would be more predictable — the way a trained law officer would handle it.

Corroborating the notion that many speeders don’t meet the “I think” minimum standard, 20-30 percent of the speeders observed on my long trip were talking or texting on their phones!

Even thinking drivers have little justification for habitual speeding, especially amidst typical dense traffic.  Speed limits are placed with safety in mind — exceeding them compromises that intention.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at