An addendum to the addendum of “The Rules of Professional Speeding”
Yesterday on The Drive, Alex Roy published an article entitled “The Rules of Professional Speeding“. Shortly thereafter, Ed Bolian published his own list, building upon what Alex already wrote. Having known both of these gentlemen for a number of years now, as well as being a charter member of the “Fraternity of Lunatics™”, I felt it my civic duty to build upon both already excellent lists.
Before reading any further, I suggest you take the time to go read both articles. When you come back, you’ll have a much better idea of what I’m talking about.
On the morning of October 29, 2013 I received a phone call from the aforementioned Mr. Roy. He had himself received a call earlier that morning from Matt Hardigree, editor-in-chief at Jalopnik.com. Matt was doing due diligence for an article that Doug Demuro was writing about a guy who claimed to have driven from New York to LA in something like 28 hours. It was funny, because I had just finished the same drive in 31 hours 17 minutes on October 13th. Alex thought that this Bolian guy had supposedly ran the same weekend as me, and he wanted to put me in touch with Matt so Matt could ask some questions. When Matt called, he told me something along the lines of “this guy from Atlanta claims that he made the drive in 28 hours 50 minutes” to which I immediately responded “bullshit.” I had just texted Alex a message of “31:17. Long Live the King” a few days prior because I didn’t think his record could be beat, and now this used car salesman from Georgia is claiming to have not only beaten, but destroyed it by over 2 hours? I called bullshit loudly and proudly.
I spoke with Ed on the phone that afternoon. We spoke for about an hour and I started to believe his story. It wasn’t until 1 year later, when I went to Atlanta to meet with Ed, Dave, Dan, and the rest of the team, that I was fully convinced.
Since that day towards the end of October 2013 when I found out that there were other people out there in this world that share my penchant for disobeying traffic laws, the number of people in our little Fraternity has grown. Not a month goes by that I don’t meet someone new via social media that tells me about their dreams of beating Ed’s record. Some have dreamed it since it was Alex’s record… some even before that. Just like in any group of people that share something in common, there’s different levels of seriousness amongst the members, from the guys that love the idea of the whole thing and are only casual in their speeding, all the way up to folks that have spent thousands on countermeasures and countless hours of study on how to not get caught.
Most people think that driving 20 over PSL (that’s ‘posted speed limit’ for the uninitiated) is “real” speeding. After all, many jurisdictions tier their speeding tickets in such a way that 20 over is a pretty serious fine and a mandatory court appearance. In Virginia, if you get popped doing 20 over PSL, or simply 80+ MPH ANYWHERE, you don’t just get a speeding ticket, you can be charged with the crime of Reckless Driving, which is the same level offense as DUI. Surely speeding at a rate where it goes from being a traffic violation to an actual misdemeanor is “serious”, right? Let’s put it this way… if you drove 80 MPH the entire way from New York to LA, without ever stopping for gas or bathroom breaks, you would make it there in about 35 hours, or over 6 hours slower than Bolian and Black. If you drove 75 MPH on I-285 outside of Atlanta, where there’s a 55 MPH speed limit, you’d actually be passed like you were sitting still by people on their morning commute.
As mentioned by Alex in his article, it makes no sense to speed less than 100 MPH. You gain so little time at 10 or 15 over that it’s not really worth it. Both Alex and Ed make some very valid points in their articles and I will simply build upon what they have already said.
Pay attention!!!: This is the A#1, most important thing you need to do when speeding at the levels we’re talking about. 90% of the time, you won’t be saved from a ticket by your radar detector or your laser jammers. You’ll be saved by your eyes. You’ll notice the brake lights on the vehicles in front of you. The traffic pattern will change. Waze is good and all, but it’s not flawless. This is why Alex tells you to pull the radio our of your car and disable text notifications. If you are too busy singing “Hello” by Adele or checking to see what your girlfriend just texted you, you can’t pay attention to the road. When traveling at 100 MPH, you cover a football field every 2 seconds.
Practice makes perfect: Malcolm Gladwell tells us in his book “Outliers” that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Even people that are experts in their field still need to practice their craft. Lewis Hamilton doesn’t show up on a race weekend, go out on track, and set a time that would put him on pole on his first lap. There’s 3 practice sessions to every F1 race weekend so the drivers can re-learn the track and how the car handles on the track. Don’t expect to get in the car and be fast, because you won’t. It takes years of practice to do what we do.
Don’t underestimate: To make a 1,000 mile trip with an average speed of just 85 mph is exceedingly difficult. Just because you have a car that can do 205, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do 205. There’s a lot of traffic out there and a lot of people that don’t like to abide by the “slower traffic keep right” laws. To make a 1,000 mile drive at 85 while going solo is exponentially harder.
When I drive home to Louisiana, it’s right at 1,000 miles, especially if I’m going to Houma. My best time from near the New Orleans Airport in Kenner to my house in Powell, OH is 10 hours 25 minutes. That was probably the hardest 10 and a half hours I’ve ever driven because I did it solo. Look at the bar graph in this image and see how much time I spent over 100 MPH. It looks like the vast majority of the run was well over 100, but my average was only 90. This is what I mean by “don’t underestimate”. For you to keep a 90 MPH average over 1,000 miles, you can’t drive 90. You have to drive 110+ to make up for all the time you’re going to be stopped filling up or slowed down behind traffic.
Have an escape route: This is probably the #1 reason why I was so much slower than Bolian and Black. I NEVER make a pass unless I have a way out should something bad happen. Always assume that the person driving the car you are about to pass is a teenager too busy texting to pay attention to what’s going on around him. Eventually, you will make a “bad” pass of someone, and when you do, something like this is bound to happen. Before you go into the pass, make sure you have enough room to avoid an accident without endangering someone else, or that you have enough brakes in the car to bring it down from speed safely. Want to know why cars like BMW and Mercedes dominate these records? They have great brakes.
Have more than you need: Have more of EVERYTHING than you need. More information, more fuel, more catheters, more everything. You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a drive and not have something you need.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness: Face it, when you’re moving at triple digit speeds, you are committing bug genocide with the front of your vehicle, and the largest surface area on the front of your car is the windshield. If you can’t see out the windshield properly, you can’t drive properly. Every time the car stops for fuel, the windshield gets cleaned. No excuses. Bring your own tools to do this because most gas stations don’t bother with it.
Stealthiness is greater than Godliness: The whole point of being a “professional speeder” is the fact that we don’t getting caught. To maximize your ability to not get caught, it’s best to not be seen, and definitely not remembered. If you pass someone at a speed where, had someone passed you at that speed, you’d consider calling the cops on that “maniac”, you might want to rethink that pass. The biggest fear of the professional speeder isn’t the cop and his lidar gun hiding just on the other side of the hill; we’re not stupid enough to crest a hill at full speed. It’s the soccer mom calling Johnny Law to tell him that a black BMW with antennas on the back just “ran her off the road” and is “driving like a maniac”. The kids in the back of her minivan are terrified now because of this psycho on the roadways. They won’t roll one unit to find you, they’ll roll 5, and heaven forbid they actually clock you doing 115 in a 70 after they got that phone call. When that happens, you do not pass go, you do not collect $200.
Amazing things happen at 125: Your muscles tense, colors become more vivid, background noise deadens, you feel every crack and bump in the road; you become hyper-focused. We all have speeds at which we’re “comfortable” driving. Speed limits are supposed to be set at the 85th percentile speed. That’s the speed at which most drivers are reasonable and prudent, don’t want to have a crash, and desire to reach their destination in the shortest possible time. When many of the maximum speed limits in this country were set, cars were horrible compared to today. If you were guaranteed to have an accident doing 100, would you rather be in a 1981 Corvette or a 2015 model? Knowing that you’re in a safe car can actually make you a worse driver. You don’t focus on what you’re doing because you’ve got GPS telling you when to turn, lane departure warnings telling you that you’re drifting, blind spot warnings, brake assist, and even autopilot. You know in your heart of hearts that if you were to wreck at 70 MPH in your modern car, you’ll likely be shaken up a bit, but you’ll probably escape with minor injuries. That changes as you go faster.
Remember the days before GPS, when you’d actually have to look for a house number to know where you were going? What’s the first thing you did when you turned into the neighborhood? You turned down the radio. Then you leaned forward towards the steering wheel to get a better look. No one taught you this, it’s instinct. You want as few distractions as possible so you can focus on the task at hand. Well, as the speed climbs, you subconsciously know that the level of danger rises. You’ll turn down the radio. You’ll stop paying attention to everything else in your life. You won’t think about the argument you had with your girlfriend that morning or the important meeting with the big boss next week. Everything else disappears and the only thing in life for that moment is the drive. It really is cathartic. It’s also very addictive.
Rest… a lot: One thing you’ll underestimate is how draining driving at high speeds can be, especially when driving solo. Your brain has to take in all the information from the car, the road, Waze, the countermeasures, the trip computer, and everything else. It has to process information at a much higher rate than normal. You can liken it to having a very mild seizure, but for a very extended period of time. Your neurons are firing at an abnormal and excessive rate and that is physically and mentally draining. Whereas you might be fine to drive 16 hours straight at the normal speed limit, driving 16 hours at 150% of the speed limit is going to have a major effect on your performance. You will instinctively slow down. Your reaction times will increase. Your focus will diminish. It’ll have the same effect on your driving as a couple beers. If you think you’re going to wake up at 8am, prep the car, get some stuff done, then get on the road at 2pm for a 12 hour drive, you’re going to have a bad time. Have everything ready to go the night before you plan to leave for a long drive. You should wake up and be on the road within an hour or two to maximize your wakefulness on the roads ahead.
Don’t be cheap: Being a professional speeder is not cheap. If you want to drive at triple digit speeds and be “safe” doing it, be prepared to open your wallet. The cost to fully prepare a vehicle and make an attempt at a transcontinental record currently stands at roughly $25,000, and that’s not including the cost of the vehicle itself. Here’s a spreadsheet I put together to track the costs involved when preparing for run. You’ll see there’s over $2,000 just in the AL Priority and radar detectors. Wheels and tires are another $2,400. Fuel cell design and install is over $3,000. When Ed Bolian brought the record holding CL55 AMG to Mercedes to have them do the maintenance, the bill for that was over $12,000. There’s no telling how much Alex spent on his runs…
If you try to save money, you’re going to increase the likelihood of both and accident and failure. The minute you decide “oh, I’ll just put the laser jammers on the front of the car and leave the back off”, a cop is going to hit you from the rear. If you think that you’ll save money by getting H rated tires rather than W/Y/Z rated ones, you’re increasing the chance that the tire will blow out at speed. Skip out replacing all the fuel filters on your car and you’ll find yourself on the side of the Will Rogers Turnpike with a stalled car and a bill for towing and shipping that’s going to be much more than if you had just replaced them to begin with. Buy only the best, because when your life and the lives of others are on the line, second best just doesn’t cut it. Keep in mind that quite often, the best money you’ll ever spend will be on the thing you’ll hopefully never use.
Prepare to make frenemies: If there’s one thing about the community of really fast drivers, it’s that there’s more than enough ego to go around. After all, it takes a certain level of narcissism to do this sort of thing. People are going to talk shit about you. They’ll call you a liar. They’ll question your sanity. They want insane levels of proof of your deeds. And they’ll never do any of this to your face. You will inevitably make some close friends if you chose this path. The number of people that speed at this level is low, so when you find someone you have this in common with, there will be an instant bond.
Prepare to be hated: If you should ever make a record-setting drive and the story makes its way to the press, you will be hated. The vast majority of the public has the mindset that speed equates danger, so people that drive fast are a menace to society. After Alex and I perpetrated the 26:28 April Fools Day Hoax, I read dozens of comments comparing us to Hitler, the Columbine shooters, al-Qaeda, and any other horrible thing you can think of. People were calling for us to be jailed with rapists, and in one case, for us to be crucified. All that for simply driving fast. People will talk about the busload of nuns on their way to the orphanage that you could have killed.
Be safe: If “Pay attention!!!” is the A#1 rule, then this is rule #0. Everything that Alex, Ed, and I have said all comes down to this one thing. You need to understand that what you are doing is inherently unsafe and you need to do everything in your power to mitigate risk. I’m a firm believer that if we made speed limits high enough to be outside of the majority of people’s comfort zone, we’d have much safer roads. When you are driving a vehicle at a rate of speed where you fear dying, you’re going to be a much better driver. You won’t be texting or fiddling with the radio because you’ll be too busy trying to not die. That’s why I feel like I’m a safer driver at 115 than I am at 70. When I’m tooling along with the flow of traffic, I’m complacent. I trust everyone around me, I trust the road, I trust the car, and I trust that I’m not going to die in a giant ball of flame. But, when I’m moving at an excessive rate of speed, I trust no one and nothing other than my own abilities and vehicle preparation to make sure I’m not delivered home in a ziplock bag.
I am not here to tell you that you should go out and break the law by driving exceedingly fast. I don’t think Alex or Ed were telling you to do that either. What we are saying is that no matter what the speed limit is, there will be people out there that will want to go faster, and if you’re one of those people then there are ways to go about doing it that will lowering the risks involved. Alex and Ed did an excellent job of covering nearly all the “rules”, so I just wanted to touch on a few things I thought they missed or didn’t give enough attention to. But then again, why should you listen to me? I’ve never set any records you’ve ever heard of…