June 6, 2009

Driving Green

The American Model of driving, which is based on cheap fuel and ample horsepower, has interesting driving safety implications compared to the Rest of the World Model of expensive fuel and stingy horsepower, which we are constantly advised to take up.

Car companies advertise horsepower as desirable because it lets you go fast, but perhaps more importantly, the American Model encourages you to slow down any time you feel it's advisable, because you can get back up to speed quickly and cheaply.

In contrast, the Rest of the World Model of expensive fuel and small engines encourages you to conserve your velocity, because it's time consuming and expensive in gas to get back up to speed after you slow down. So, you really don't want to slow down until you get to where you're going, no matter how many ladies are pushing baby carriages across the road in front of you.

Also, the American Model means there are much smaller class differences on American roads than on Rest of the World roads. The differences between high end and low end cars on American highways aren't that salient. They can all go 75 mph and can all accelerate more or less adequately. In the RotW, however, the difference between the 0-60 in 14 seconds subcompact you rented and the BMW 7-Series bearing down on you from behind at 100 mph is not immaterial. Not at all.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

31 comments:

SF said...

It's not immaterial on the Autobahn because they can go 100 mph or more. When I rented a Mercedes A class diesel, about the size of a Honda Fit, I could cruise at 80 to 90 before I started to feel excessive vibration, but I had to get out of the way of the Ferraris and other high end cars.

outlaw josey wales said...

I await your comments re Nicholas Kristoff's article in the NYT. It's like it was written just for you Steve. It features, Asians, Jews and West Indian blacks. It makes statements utterly contrary to what you think, and what is probably real.

His solution is a joke. Anyway, I wait with bated breath.

weston said...

steve check out this article, it's the shocker of the century: http://www.uci.edu/features/2009/04/feature_datingandrace_090421.php

funny thing is that this article is like the same on you wrote -more than 10 years ago. with almost the same headline.

dearieme said...

And yet you chaps kill each other on the roads at a distinctly higher rate than us RotW people in Britain. It isn't the Mexicans, is it?

Rohan Swee said...

That theory would explain my experiences in certain Third World countries I've been in, at least. Otherwise sane-appearing people become possessed maniacs as soon as they get behind the wheel, the universal rule of the road seeming to be: "Accelerate to the maximum velocity your vehicle permits as quickly as possible, and then under no circumstances decelerate until one's destination is reached. Maintain an obsessed anxiety-consumed demeanor at all times." (I've been impressed by the observed driving skills of people motoring under these rules, but don't know if the accident and fatality stats would back up my perception of competence.)

I've heard anecdotally that First-Worlders like Italians and Koreans favor this style, though I've never been to these places myself; I would guess the Italians replace the anxious mental state with something sportier.

At any rate I find myself squelching the urge to adopt it when I find myself crawling behind Prius drivers.

Bill said...

dearieme said...

And yet you chaps kill each other on the roads at a distinctly higher rate than us RotW people in Britain. It isn't the Mexicans, is it
?

The US is still pretty safe per billion kilometers driven. We rank 11th in the world by that measure. That kind of amazes me, because if you drive somewhere like California you will notice that people are doing 85 mph while nearly bumper to bumper. If you allow yourself to think about it, it's kind of terrifying.

When I drive down to visit my parents in San Francisco, I don't particularly like that stretch of I-80 where people just floor it despite very heavy traffic volumes. However, the US is still relatively safe for drivers.

Anonymous said...

On the Autobahn they teach you not to look over your left shoulder if you change into the left lane. You are supposed to only quickly check your mirror then change. The reason is that if a car is in the fast lane doing 150+mph and you merge in at 60 the closing speed is so quick that the other care will be up your tailpipe.

The krauts practice what they call "lane disipline". You only stay in the left lane to pass. If you are in the left lane and you are blocking someone that is the second worst thing you can do. The worst is passing on the right.

KingM said...

I've rented cars multiple times in Europe and have never noticed a lack of acceleration.

Dave Lincoln said...

"It isn't the Mexicans, is it?" Usually, when there's liquor involved, yes, it is.

Any more questions, chap?

The Hegemonist said...

Does this speed conservation translate to safety? I'd love to see some numbers...

Anonymous said...

Actually, the practice of "hypermiling" (using the feedback mechanisms on your hybrid to get the maximum possible mileage) involves a lot of the same conservation of velocity tricks, leading to eco-conscious liberals rolling through stop signs.

Anonymous said...

In recent years I've heard a number of liberal Americans observe that immigrant drivers are not assimilating to American driving behaviours, and may in fact be influencing some Americans to assimilate to their own imported car culture (which is often inconsiderate and dangerous).

Chief Seattle said...

"this article is like the same on you wrote -more than 10 years ago."

Only Steve didn't blame it on some vague socialization or "media portrayal".

I laughed hard when I read yesterday's NYT article on sexless marriages. Here's the quote:


Q. Is there any indication that the sexless marriage is becoming more common? Or are we just hearing about it more?



A. I suspect that we just hear more about it. Back in the days before reliable birth control, having a sexless marriage was one way of limiting family size. Those were also the days when women were not supposed to enjoy sex and often used it as a bargaining tool in their marriages (because they were socialized to do so).


"Because they were socialized to do so" - hah. I think if Steve just put those magic words at the end of each conclusion then he would be allowed back into polite media society.

Reactionary said...

dearieme,

That is because Britain is a crowded island with winding roads that won't let you get up a head of steam.

Steve-O is right. I've driven all kinds of vehicles for 30 years in all conditions. In that time, I've been in two wrecks, and the other driver was cited both times. Now, having bolstered myself before impeachment, I will state that good acceleration is one of the most important features for me in buying a new car. It enables me to speed up and away from trouble.

This isn't my area, but I seem to recall the top-tier NASCAR drivers bitching mightily when restrictor plates were first implemented. The better and more experienced drivers argued that this would keep them in the "wolfpack" with poorer drivers, leading to more wrecks. Since then, it seems NASCAR has done a better job culling drivers out who aren't ready for the big dance.

Anonymous said...

"And yet you chaps kill each other on the roads at a distinctly higher rate than us RotW people in Britain."

Really, Britain? Britain is your great counterexample? Do they teach logic at Oxford anymore, or what?

Anonymous said...

Two interesting data points:

1. In the JFK/MM era my dad was a Citroen dealer in the Midwest. They were about the size of an AMerican compact but had the weight and engine power of a VW beetle, but also great aerodynamics-as good as modern cars. They had good top end but abysmal acceleration. One pattern we saw was the people who bought one and got hard hit from the rear in the first couple of weeks. However none were killed: the car crumpled into a ball and took the impact and the passengers survived what would have been a fatal crash in an American car of that time.

Citroen was spared no effort in an attempt to make them aware of the changes needed to make their car successful in the United States, and they studiously ignored every one. They did not care if Americans bought them or not. In contrast, Mercedes Benz-a car of similar prestiege and price in the european market for the most part-did pay attention.

2) Among American GIs in Germany there is a long tradition of building hot rodded American cars that can take the Autobahn and impress the natives. Generally this doesn't work so well, but mostly because the GIs have drag rather than road racing backgrounds, and they build cars that can outrun the Germans for a short burst but then overheat or blow up. The new generation of crate motors and aftermarket overdrives and 6 speed transmission has really started to turn the tables, though.

Of course, the GIs rarely have the skills the Germans do, so this has resulted in some big wrecks-something that does not bother the Germans too much. They assume car crashes are usually fatal and eschew the safety improvements forced on US market cars: there wee no air bags on German home market cars until recently, and they prefer (and require) tempered rather than laminated windshields.

Anonymous said...

I actually had to read this article twice to make sure it wasn't a joke. I'm still not sure.

Your argument that high horsepower and cheap gas makes people more likely to drive safe is probably one of the most idiotic things I've ever heard. It boggles the mind that anyone could even arrive at the conclusion, let alone state it as fact without giving any empirical evidence to bolster the claim. That you left out the latter part is probably more out of necessity than lack of intellect (you do write well, despite saying nothing worth reading). You'll find, even with a cursory Google search, that the deaths per year due to automotive accidents in the US are far higher than our developed country counterparts. I mean sure, you can point to third world countries like India and find higher death rates. But I think you'll also agree (or maybe not, because you seem to be allergic to fact-based analysis) that it may have something to do with the fact that they have old cars, few or no traffic laws, and oh, a paved roads to population ratio that would blow your mind.

Again, I really hope all your posts are an elaborate joke, because otherwise I'm going to be sad. I'm a moderate Republican and if this blog is anything it's the epitome of how well the party, in being brainless and ultimately intellectually barren, so accurately reflects its base.

Anonymous said...

I have to blow our British trumpet here...

While in many respects there has been a decline in the standards of public behaviour, on the roads a certain discipline and politeness is pretty well maintained.

Just going over to France for example one can see an immediate drop off in driving standards. Ive not driven in the US so I can't comment on that.

Im sure there are road safety stats available that can lay this debate to rest.

Anonymous said...

"That is because Britain is a crowded island with winding roads that won't let you get up a head of steam."

You'd be suprised how fast you can go on those winding roads if you actually have some skill.

It's like the difference between drag racing, American racing, and actual racing (the kind were you need to deal with both left and right handed turns...).

Driving fast in a straight line is reasonable fun if you can go really fast, but 75mph is not really fast.

Anonymous said...

"I'm a moderate Republican and if this blog is anything it's the epitome of how well the party, in being brainless and ultimately intellectually barren, so accurately reflects its base."

How's that working out for you? Yeah and this website is really pro-Republican too!

Anonymous said...

"I'm a moderate Republican..."

You could just call yourself a Democrat. They're the same thing these days. Look how easy it was for Arlen Specter.

Peter A said...

After this post I can only assume Steve has never actually been to Europe.

regular joe said...

Anonymous moderate republican guy...I actually don't know if the stats back up Steve's thoughts, but:
-Steve often posts thoughts and gathers data partly from his audience's response, decentralized research that.

-actually, if you think about it, acceleration doesn't cause many accidents, folks don't generally get in accidents accelerating from stops, but rather at speed. I think you're just associating the hot headed drivers you see with the hot rods they drive, but most econoboxes actually hit the same top speeds eventually (achievable speeds on urban/ suburban roads given laws and traffic). Hot heads can drive econoboxes crazy too, if forced to. So your intutitive point on that could be the dumb one, lets see the stats.

-on cheap gas, you may have a better point, only because cheap gas will incentivize more road time. Its like the 'men really have more accidents than women' thing...er, yeh, only because they drive a lot more miles on average.

flex05 said...

You need huge horsepower to get the heavy and inefficient automatics which you favour up to speed. Europeans drive manuals (sticks).

Have you ever considered that Americans' inability to drive or to build decent cars might have a genetic basis?

Anonymous said...

"You need huge horsepower to get the heavy and inefficient automatics which you favour up to speed. Europeans drive manuals (sticks)."

Modern slushboxes with lock-up torque converters are actually more efficient than manuals. Also, the cost of replacing a clutch has escalated to nearly the cost of swapping in a reman transmission, because of labor flat rate inflation.

Anonymous said...

When I saw this post title, I thought it would be about golf, so I didn't read it...

Ronduck said...

flex05 said...

Have you ever considered that Americans' inability to drive or to build decent cars might have a genetic basis?

Have you ever considered that since the US workforce is around 40% non-White that holds us back compared to a White country like Britain?

sj071 said...

White Man's Automotive Burden?
'After this post I can only assume Steve has never actually been to Europe.'
No, he was in Turkey which despite the ongoing Neoconistan propaganda, is definetely NOT in Europe.
My personal experience of American driving habits is that there are huge regional differences, roughly Cali=Hell, Vermont=Bliss.

professor said...

Steve, this is so true! The first time that I drove in Europe was in a rented subcompact. I was going 120kph and I looked in the rearview mirror before I switched lanes. A couple of seconds later I did switch lanes, and I almost collided with a sedan that had come out of nowhere, and was out of sight in seconds. It had to be going 250kph.

stari_momak said...

Many well to do people, not to mention Bobo types, Euro-yuppies (BCBGs) and old old money don't even drive in Europe, and I suspect in Japan. In the Philippines, vehicles are indeed a status symbol, but I don't think speed has anything to do with it given that city roads are packed and country roads too narrow and ill maintained to get up to high speeds. In rural Mexico the hugh pickup reigns supreme, again not so much for speed as for its hauling capabilities.

Mr. Anon said...

" Peter A said...

After this post I can only assume Steve has never actually been to Europe."

I can only assume that you have never tried to cross a street in Rome or Paris, where drivers will not stop for pedestrians,.....ever. This is what Steve was referring to.