Monday, June 28, 2010

Dark Arts for Good Guys: Drive Like You Mean It

Somethings in life that you just don't mix. Drinking and Driving, Free-Style Swimming and Great White Sharks, and Shooting and Driving.

Hollywood has made much out the driving and shooting scenes in the action flicks. Automatic weapon fire, Good Guys and bad guys leaning out the window slinging lead.

There is nothing naturally inherent about driving a car. It is a learned skill. Just like shooting.

And if you are in the drivers seat you bear one responsibility. Driving.

Whether you trying to escape from a hostile crooked government or a gang of armed kidnappers, time and distance are your current best friends.

The greater the distance from the “Kill Zone” the longer your life expectancy increases. The problem of course can be compounded if the “Kill Zone” is also mobile.

If distance is your friend, speed and maneuverability are its kissing cousins. Mashing the pedal to the floor and reaming out tachometer may increase your speed, but there is also a likelihood of losing control of the vehicle.Running away from bad men who seek to do you harm is far more intense than running late for work.

Getting killed, injured, wrecked, and/or arrested does you no good. Control of yourself means control of the vehicle. That dire run to Zagreb and that “friend's plane” is the most important thing in your life and if the E59 is riddled with traffic you better know how to bob and weave outside the lines to get there. Good speeding, braking, and driving are a premium.

Lane width tends to run a universal width of 9-12 feet, in most developed nations that have things like paved roads, highways, and expressways. The average automobile is around six feet wide. This gives you plenty of room to maneuver. And by maneuver I mean go between the lanes, between the vehicles and over the lines, and do it with surprisingly little cosmetic damage to the vehicle...if done right.

Whether you call it, the Slip & Slide, Drunk Uncle Charlie, or as a French guy I worked with called it “balancer le bébé” at the end of the day its Offensive (not Defensive) driving. Like eating barbecue spare ribs in public, if you are more worried about offending those around you than you are with concentrating on whats in front of you don't bother to start.

The white lines on the road are like fences. Good fences make good neighbors, so when you break the natural flow and order of the system you are going to freak the "peoples" out in a big way (except for maybe India). So expect plenty of brake lights, horns, yelling. In some cases the vehicles ahead of you, if they are paying attention to the rear view mirror, may try to block you. And lets face it, its reasonable. In their shoes you would do the same thing.

Not wanting to be killed by the maniac on the freeway is perfectly natural, so in turn they will also make room for you.

Either way you are going to leave a path of destruction in your wake on some level. And to a certain extent you want this.

Decisions made behind the wheel have to be deliberate every-step-of-the-way. Because while you are conscious of the extreme measures you are going to everyone else is going to see chaos. And chaos travels fast.

At 40 MPH you are covering 60 feet a second. At 80mph 120 feet a second. Reaction times get significantly decreased. So its a kin to playing Death-by-Chess, because you have to be at least one move ahead.

Drivers slamming on their brakes, swerving to avoid the "^%$(*@# Idiot" driving down the center lane will cause mass concern, panic and wariness. How far you have to keep running your escape and evasion tactic will be determined by who your pursuers are, and of what value you hold for them.

If you are attempting to out run and out drive a couple of crooked Geral De Policias I wish you the best of luck. Work in those certain "quiet status'" overseas operations long enough though and sooner or later the pooch will get screwed and everyone with a badge and a gun may be chasing you. Even if you are trying to do the right thing.

If your pursuers are criminals that are not moonlighting their pursuit may not be quite so lengthy.

You might as well expect to ding, dent and crinkle the paint on the car but what you will be surprised to find is that 98% of the damage done to the vehicle is going to be to the sides. And since your vehicle will be rubbing and grinding against the sides of other car you are not going to get structural damage by and large.

You do however want to keep your tires away from their bumpers. As I can attest to personally. Tires that get under or hooked to a bumper is going to blow it. And while you can run a long way on a flat tire, you are not going to do it quickly and maneuverability of the overall vehicle is gone. If you have copious amounts of trunk space or other cargo area and your pursuers are right behind you, a good slam on the brakes may disable their vehicle for a number of reasons.

If you go this route before you nail the brakes, brace your body (neck to). Yeah I know some people will tell you just go limp so your body isn't injured. Its also a really good way for your brain to slam into your skull from copious neck and head movement. Its the reason NASCAR drivers wear helmets and neck support.

Overall the better route is to keep your car in the best condition as possible. If you need to keep the traffic around you and behind you in a state of confusion short bursts of excessive speed with the lighting up of the brake lights will do wonders to bring traffic to an effective jam.

Either way if the course of the day led to this being a solution to you getting home alive in an all or nothing scenario. Drive like you mean it.


Anonymous said...

Finally! The Summer reading season has begun!

GunRights4US said...

Spend two years living & driving in Kingston Jamaica. It's ALL gravy after that!

Matt said...

I just finished reading through your entire archive. Thank you for taking the time to write. It is appreciated.

Home on the Range said...

Everyone that has keys in their hand should read this.

The pictures? Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

Casey said...

Great to have you back!

Great article too, I think many people are influenced by Hollywood, thinking they'll be driving as fast as they can in a straight line. Probably not.

I always think of it as the difference between a NASCAR oval race, and an SCCA Road Race. You might have some straight-aways where you can floor it and go, but the majority of it is tight turns and dodging traffic that you bounce off of if you're not careful.

Great stuff as always, looking forward to the next installment.


Mike said...

And always always remember - brake in a straight line before you turn.

SCCA events (especially autocross) are a great and cheap way to learn how a car handles on the edge. It's nothing like running through traffic at twice the posted limit, but it'll at least let you know what to do when your tires give out on you.

Unknown said...

Commonsense commentary and great writing!

Back atcha!

Most of my teenage years were spent east of Buffalo, NY, on a farm. We had lots of snow in the winter with lots of safe opportunities for learning how to go into and out of slides on slick surfaces. And in the summer, flat, cut wheat fields and variously-surfaced lots gave the same opportunities on surfaces with traction.

I had the chance to use these skills and an accurate feel for the actual size of the Cadillac limousine I was assigned when I escaped a group of paparazzi at the behest of a certain popular star I was driving.

Same kind of bold and tricky maneuvers, and a burst of high speed ending with a quick braking and a wide, sliding turn - against the light - onto a wide avenue. put enough traffic and traffic signals between us and our pursuers.

But no contact with other vehicles! That would have been displeasing to the one I was driving (not to mention the owner of the vehicle.) ;-)

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