Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I CAN drive 55
There was a time in my life when I was addicted to driving fast.
I didn't feel comfortable driving on a freeway unless I was travelling at least 80 mph.
In fact, there was a time when, while attending a school that shall remain nameless, during my nightly drive home on a freeway that shall remain equally nameless, I made it a regular practice to drive almost the entire way at 100 mph.
One late night, while barreling down this aforementioned freeway at my customary high speed, something happened that changed the way I think about driving forever.
A motorcycle cop, travelling at a speed well over my 100 mph, pulled alongside me, looked me in the eyes and yelled "SLOW THE F**K DOWN!!", and then proceeded to pass me and pull over the car driving in front of me, who was going equally as fast.
I immediately slowed down to 80 mph and when I got home decided that this was a sign I needed to change my driving habits.
The solution I came up with was to reduce my freeway driving speed gradually over time. So for a few weeks I kept it at 80mph. For a few weeks after that I limited my speed to 75 mph, and so on, until eventually I was driving the speed limit, usually 65 mph on most Los Angeles-area freeways.
This change in approach to driving crossed over into other areas of my life. I was able to slow down and be more thoughtful in areas where before I had been acting impatiently, usually to my detriment.
It also completely altered the way I drive on surface streets. City streets have different posted speed limits for very good reasons: safety. They are in no way arbitrary. If a posted speed limit reads 25 mph, there's a reason for it, and that's how fast I drive. I don't complain about it.
In Los Angeles there's a freeway called the I-110 Pasadena Freeway. It was constructed in 1940 and was originally called the Arroyo Seco Parkway. The speed limit at the time (as was the speed limit on all U.S. freeways) was 45 mph. Nowadays the speed limit on this freeway is 55 mph, but most drivers insist on going much faster than that. My suggestion to any L.A. driver is, the next time you find yourself on the 110, slow down a little and check out the scenery. The 110 was the first freeway built in California and still has many scenic landmarks surrounding it. You might see something you haven't seen before, and when you eventually get out of your car, as we all must, you might walk a little more slowly, and enjoy your day a little better.