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Ten Best Tips For Fearless Flying


The following article appeared in Car and Driver Magazine in January 1991. The editorial department of Car and Driver has released this article for non-commercial use on the Internet and any other electronic networks and bulletin boards providing this disclaimer is attached. The article "Ten Best Tips for Fearless Flying" is written by Umberto Bigone (a pseudonym) and the 1990 copyright and all rights to this story belong to Hachette Filipacchi Magazines.


Speeding-ticket headaches? Dr. Bigone has just the medicine for you. by Dr. Umberto Bigone

Umberto Bigone (bee-GO-nay) ranks as one of the worldís most enthusiastic motorists. At home here in Europe, or even in Canada, Dr. Bigoneís license is pristine and points-free, which is to say clean, making him, statistically at least, a paragon of law-abiding propriety, a status he has enjoyed for decades.

How, we asked Dr. Bigone, can he drive so rapidamente so regularly, while for the rest of us itís all we can do to keep our points total below the license-threatening redline? Generously, he has consented to share with us his ten best tips for flying on the highway without fear. Of cops. These tips are, most of them, methods we here at Car and Driver are well acquainted with, but Dr. Bigoneís unique presentation conveys them concisely and in one highly entertaining and easy-to-use package.

I, Dr. Umberto Bigone, lover of high velocity vehicles and of using them in the manner that God intended, share for the first time with my fellow enthusiasts knowledge gained over decades of experience on heavily patrolled highways of the nation and the world. I do this free of charge, though the evolution of my secrets came in small, incremental, often expensive steps as new situations, new equipment, and new measurement techniques caused my original Golden Rule ("Watch Your Rear-View Mirrorí ) to blossom into the Ten Best Ways.

As in all offers American, a disclaimer is called for: if, after you learn these rules, you are apprehended, please do not attempt to call me and threaten legal action. Remember that advice may be worth no more than what you paid for it ( nothing in this instance) and that Dr. Bigoneís special remedy cannot eliminate the risk of apprehension, though my tips can and do dramatically reduce such risk.

RULE 1: Select Proper Equipment

You cannot hope to speed with impunity without proper equipment. The best radar detector money can buy is a mandatory investment. But there is more: think about the car itself. A bright red Ferrari F40 or Lamborghini Diablo, and a bespoilered and fat-tired Mustang GT are "ticket magnets". A nondescript Ford Aerostar, in mouse-gray- metallic, or a powder-blue generic U.S. sedan, are largely ticket-proof. It is sad, but the more overtly your vehicle displays the intent for high-speed use, the less it will be capable of doing so. Perhaps this fact explains why, in a presumably Darwinian evolution, Corvette drivers have become slower and slower, to the point of now being tragic but amusing mobile chicanes. The answer to driving fast without resorting to a dull automobile is the sports sedan, and fine examples abound, ranging from the Infiniti Q45 to the Taurus SHO and the Dodge Sprint R/T. If ordered in other than "Arrest-Me-Red", the modern sports sedan will provide many more miles of hassle free motoring at far greater speeds than a more "overt" vehicle. All cars may look the same to a radar gun, but radar is not the only threat, and if you are stopped, the type of vehicle you drive and what it says is about your driving style can be of decisive importance.

RULE 2: Recognize the Threat Early

This is a straightforward rule. Believe your detector, even if it gives only a short, uncertain signal. It may well be the dreaded K-band "instant-on" aimed at vehicles ahead of you. How often have I, hurtling down the highway, heard the first plaintative bleat from my Escort, pulled courteously to the right, permitted my close follower (in disregard of Rules 5 and 6) to blast by, only to have him receive a full dose of microwaves seconds later. This is inevitably followed by the offensive sucking-vacuum sound of a large police cruiser rushing past the now sanctimomously-slow Dr. Bigone. The scene ends, so sad, with a display of flashing lights somewhere up ahead. Scanning X-band radar is falling into increasing disuse, and many agencies are resorting to traditional seek-and-pace techniques. Or they may sneak up behind, match your speed, and then, within range, squeeze off a burp of instant-on to lock up the evidence. So sad, yes?

You must learn to recognize "threat" vehicles. Even though the telltale "light bar" is increasingly absent, threat vehicles have some common characteristics they are almost always American, usually full-size Fords, full-size Chevrolets, Mustang GTs, or Plymouth Gran Furys/Dodge Diplomats. Period.

Even without light bars, you should be able to pick out these vehicles at great distances by looking for windshield-pillar mounted spotlights (carefully folded inward) and, more importantly, fat tires. When approaching a suspect vehicle from the rear, look for the above cues plus check the underside for the telltale stabilizer bar, especially on Chevrolets.

If you think you see a well-shod white, ivory, blue, or black Diplomat, Caprice, Mustang, or Crown Vic in your rear-view mirror, slow down! Permit him to come closer for positive identification. The seconds lost are meaningless and quickly regained if the possible threat is found to be benign.

When entering a new state, take a few moments at a local gas pump to learn what types of vehicles and what types of surveillance the indigenous enforcement professionals use. Itís time well spent.

RULE 3: Maintain A Good Daytime Scan

Daytime threat-avoidance is different from night-avoidance. You see the threat earlier, but he also sees you. (This is where the wisdom of Rule 1 becomes apparent Innocuous cars may pass unnoticed.)

When moving smartly in daylight hours, constantly scan your mirrors and the road ahead for threats. Slow when going through underpasses, for the enforcer may be parked out of sight behind the far-side concrete. Be suspicious of any vehicle parked on the inside or outside shoulder. Slow down until you are sure it is not an enforcer. Check on-ramps as you drive by them. Give a quick look over your right shoulder, all the way to the top of the on-ramp to ensure that it is clean of the authorities. Monitor your rear-view mirror constantly for any sign of unusual activity. Try to remember cars that you pass. If, later, you see what appears to be a possible threat vehicle far behind you and donít remember passing it, slow down for identification. Even if you are reasonably sure you passed it, if that vehicle is now matching your speed (not getting smaller in your rear-view mirror), slow down for positive identification.

Proper daytime scan has saved the author as many as five times per month.

RULE 4: Maintain A Good Night Scan

At night, the radar-silent enforcer is hard to see. The daytime rules of underpass-slowing and on-ramp checking apply, but are more difficult to execute.

The risk of moving up on an enforcer vehicle can be minimized by learning taillights. This is largely a process of elimination: pickups, vans, minivans, and Japanese or European vehicles are not likely to be threats. Nor are Chevettes, Escorts, GM J-bodies, or any front-wheel-drive vehicle. But if it looks large, or has Mustang LX taillights, you must immediately look for folded-in spotlights and/or fat rubber. Tragically, if these items are present, you must slow down, though it might only be an employee of a private security service on his way home. You canít take the chance.

The prime instrument for night driving is the rear-view mirror, and the prime rule is to drive fast enough so that all headlights of passed motorists reduce rapidly in size. Any pair of headlamps that maintains the same size or the same separation between the lamps calls for immediate deceleration pending positive identification.

RULE 5: Practice Stealth, Deception and "Hiding"

You can move fast without exposing yourself, because you can usually find a "hare" who is pleased to demonstrate that his car is better than yours. Never attempt to dissuade him: instead, drop back to a safe distance and enjoy the radar shield. Do maintain the rear scan, because threat vehicles coming from behind you are now your responsibility.

Moving in a lane containing Class 8 trucks some distance ahead will also shield your car until you pass the truck. In daylight hours, you may choose to run at times with lights, at times without, hiding yourself in front of a group of trucks when you change illumination. The reason for this is that an enforcer, having "noticed" you from a long distance back, will be looking for a certain as-yet-unidentified vehicle with lights on (or without) as he moves quickly up through traffic. Suddenly, he is in identifiable range of a vehicle similar in size and shape to the one he believes may have been violating, only now the illumination is different from what he saw earlier, thus rendering him unsure. Meanwhile, you, practicing Rule 2 and 3, will have slowed to a quasi-legal speed. This usually draws a perplexed and suspicious look from the officer, but no pull-over order, especially if you have removed your radar detector from the windshield or visor. An integral part of deception and hiding is the placement and removal of the detector. The unit belongs on the windshield or dash directly in front of you so that a following threat vehicle cannot see it. If you were an enforcer, would you not pursue vehicles wherein reside little amber or green blinking lights and kinky power cords, which can be seen from hundreds of feet away? If you believe you have been actually "noticed" by a trailing police vehicle, hide in front of large trucks, accelerate while under cover, and exit any off-ramp or rest area. At this juncture, you have nothing to lose.

Any time you believe that an officer wants to close in on you, remove the detector at once and place it on the seat next to you. If you are in imminent danger being stopped, execute the following emergency procedures in sequence: ( 1) remove detector and jam under seat, (2) wipe off suction cup or other telltale mark with moistened index fingertip, and (3) replace the cigarette lighter! An empty cigarette lighter outlet is a dead giveaway to the officer that he is dealing with a chronic but sly violator. He will treat you accordingly.

RULE 6: Beware of Slow Moving "Clumps"

Many an otherwise-experienced and skillful motorist gets done in by what I call "clumps." Clumps are largish groups of vehicles covering all available lanes which move at, or close to, the posted limit. Danger lurks, strangely enough, because the vehicles are maintaining a very safe nose-to-tail distance, thus permitting the unsuspecting enthusiast to carefully make his way through. Unfortunately, when he emerges at the front of the clump, he will see a blinding array of flashing lights overwhelming his rearview mirror. Moral: most loose clumps contain at least one enforcer vehicle, one near the front (a marked cruiser) and maybe one near the center, or end, checking for lane-changing and in-and-out weaving. The latter may be unmarked, but knowledge of Rule 2 makes it a dead giveaway. There is no excuse for getting caught in a clump.

RULE 7: Beware Of Curves, Crests, and Grassy Medians

Instant-on may be placed so that the violator can be "shot" just as he crests a hill, before he has a chance to react. The crest ahead of you may also hide a police vehicle coming in the other direction, radar at the ready. Slow down before crests. Itís safer.

RULE 8: Avoid Unprofessional And Provocative  Behavior

The smart motorist does not alienate others. Slow to a moderate speed differential when passing other motorists. (After all, one of those benign-looking minivans may contain an off-duty officer equipped with pen and phone.) It is also good judgment to avoid provocative license plates such as "HI OFCR" or "SPEEDR." If I were an enforcer, I would give no breaks to those bearing the bumper sticker, "Howís my driving Call 1-800-EAT-SHlT."

RULE 9: Maintain A High Level Of Attention At All Times

Rapid motoring is a serious business incompatible with any simultaneous activity. Women canít conk their hair, males canít shave, and nose-probing is out of the question for both sexes. Caressing the passenger s fine thigh is permissible only while driving at, or near, the posted limit. Marital arguments, discussion of offspringsí grades, negotiations involving business - in person or on a car phone - are all incompatible with Rules 1 through 9. The enthusiastís favorite argument that the skilled, dedicated driver is safe at higher than average speeds holds true only if he is unimpaired and totally focused on the task at hand.

RULE 10: Behave Correctly When Stopped

Chronic rapid driving will, statistically, get you stopped sooner or later. Observance of Rules 1 through 9 will make it much, much later, but not "never." The consequences of the interception depend mightily on your behavior.

Do not act blasť. A cocky stance of "Okay, so-you-got-me" is provocative. So is attempting to argue that there must be some terrible mistake, you know you were under the limit. Failure to remove the detector and the suction-cup marks and to replace the cigarette lighter will terribly disappoint the officer.

(It is now, by the way, that you wish you hadnít ordered the Sports Decor Pack," but this is a moot issue.)

Be courteous, candid, and contrite. Trembling while handing over your license demonstrates that this situation is an unusual and terrifying experience for you. It shows respect for the law and fear of punishment. (Youíll do this automatically.)

The question, "Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" should be answered with, "Truly, I donít - my mind was wondering." (This is accurate: You were not focusing on Rules 1 through 9!) "But I must have been over the limit or I guess you wouldnít have stopped me." Note that you werenít speeding deliberately - no "late for work" or "catch a plane" excuses! Your attention drifted a bit, thatís all, no premeditated criminally was involved!

At this point, the officer may run a computer check on your hopefully uninteresting driving record which, if you have been diligently and consistently been practicing Dr. Bigone s rules, will be point-free! The resultant action may well be (1) a warning, (2) a modest fine not involving points, or (3) some "break" in the reported excess speed, minimizing the points and thus limiting the damage. The author has experienced all of these outcomes.

There you have it! May you drive enjoyably, safely, with low insurance premiums and a good, clean driving record.


Dr. Umberto Bigone, for obvious reasons, releases no biographical information


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