Classic Cars: Autobahn Driving Rules and the Hamptons

Watch your speed, unless you're German
Watch your speed, unless you're German, Photo: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Automobiles have really been engineered to go faster and faster over the years. In the early days, say around 1900 when the automobile was just invented, 24 miles per hour was considered fast, and 60 mph was death defying. Today, the world’s fastest super sports cars can nudge a little over 200 mph and even “slower” high performance sports cars can easily achieve 160 mph. Truth be told, any so-called sports sedan worth its salt can top out at 160 mph and run with any sports car in the top speed wars. Yes, we have come a long way since the Model T Ford.

It may sound silly to mention these top speeds here in America, where the average legal interstate highway speed is 65 mph, which, allowing for the 10 mph over the posted speed limit rule, is actually 75 mph. However, driving a complex high-speed vehicle at less than half its capability is frustrating, but quite safe. That, my friends, is the secret of most new cars. They are really, really safe as compared to cars built less than two decades ago.

The big danger on the highway is not automobiles, but the people driving them. Cars today are so much more capable than the people behind the wheel. First of all, it is much too easy to get a driver’s license here in America. The big part of the driver’s test in the U.S. is to see if one can parallel park. No one ever got killed trying to park a car. Teach folks how to get out of a skid. Teach how to avoid a head-on crash. Be aware that to a new driver, 75 mph on a superhighway is a very dangerous thing. Save lives, not egos.

It makes me mad every time I see a car ad on television that advertises a car’s new latest and greatest electronic driving aid. Rearview mirrors that warn of a car next to you? Brakes that automatically slow down and stop your car if there is a car stopping front of you? In front of you! This is pure madness. If you are so dumb that you can’t stop your car by yourself when a car stops short in front of you, you should not have a driver’s license. Period. Also, human beings are endowed with certain physical features for driving. They are called eyes. For 50 years I’ve counted on my non-electronic peepers to look into my rear view mirror and tell me what’s going on. New car manufacturers are not helping us drive, but they are insulting our intelligence and pocketbooks. Automakers should stop adding electronic Band-Aids on their automobiles to inflate their products’ prices. They are adding false security to a nation that just needs better driving skills.

The best drivers I’ve ever seen are on the Autobahn in Germany. The simple reason is because it is very hard to get a driver’s license in Germany and those crazy Germans drive their cars at 150 mph all day long on the Autobahn. Simple driving Autobahn tips: Never but never pass another car on the right—they put you in jail. Never but never drive in the left lane unless you are passing somebody—they put you in jail for that. When in the left lane, keep your left signal-light flasher on, especially when going over 150 mph. Germans are very serious about driving. They don’t like jail, but they like driving fast.

No, I don’t want to live in Germany. I’m just trying to make the point that there is something to learn about driving in a country that produces Porsche motorcars and allows no speed limits on certain highways. That lesson is: forget gadgets, take driving more seriously. No GPS programming or texting while on the move, and please pull off the road if you feel the need to have a meaningful conversation with your shrink on the cell phone.

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