Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page

Cops & Rodders

Words by Cliff Gromer

hese new radar detectors crack me up. It’s a never-ending cycle: every time a new detector comes out, the cops come up with a new wrinkle with their own radar. Then a new detector is developed to detect the new radar technology. And if it isn’t radar, it’s laser or sonar, or speed-sniffing dogs, or whatever. Seems to me, the cop radar and the radar detector folks have a good thing going, continuously developing and selling new (and expensive) hardware to their customers. Wonder if they could be in cahoots, ya think?

‘Course, the age-old game of cops & drivers goes back to the dawn of the automobile. Look through some real old issues of Popular Mechanics, and after you flip past the articles on how to turn your lawn mower into a lamp, and how to turn your brother-in-law into a lamp, you’ll see what I mean. Back in the teens or early 1920s, the cops came up with a scheme to clamp down on speeders. The term used in the article was motorists who “let out the notches.” I guess this referred to a hand throttle that you could set by engaging a series of notches on the throttle control. But, as I said, that’s just a guess. As an aside, there’s probably a whole ‘nuther story in forgotten automotive expressions. Back in the ‘40s, I believe, a car was referred to as a “short.” Wonder what was up with that. But, I digress.

So the cops came up with a two-man system. The first cop would hide in the bushes next to the highway that had two marks on it. He held a stopwatch and timed a car as it rolled over the marks—all by eyeball, mind you. If the car was over the limit (we’re talking probably 15-25 mph here), he would signal his buddy who was down the road a piece. The second cop would stride out to the middle of the highway and hold up his hand. You know -- “stop in the name of the law,” or whatever they said back then. The way it was supposed to work was that the speeder would stop and meekly accept a tongue-lashing and a speeding ticket. The emphasis is on the word “supposed.” While nothing was ever printed about it in Popular Mechanics, it would be logical to assume that some motorists figured that he was in a 30+ mph road rocket, and the cop was on 5 mph feet, with no motorcycle or Hemi this or that to chase him with. So, I guess it was “See ya!”

My suspicions were borne out, when a few PM issues later, I read another article about how the cops were apprehending speeders using the above-described method—but with one slight modification. When cop No. 2 stepped onto the road, he was backed up by a fire truck -- with the hose pointed squarely at the oncoming driver. And, as they say, the rest is history.

So what’s next? Drunk drivers?

Now, before I get into it, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t condone drinking and driving. Period. Drinking and singing is OK, but not behind the wheel. Singing and driving is OK, but just barely. However, there are some motorists who are going to drink and drive, no matter what. Should they be taken off the road? Definitely. But they themselves don’t think so.

Nissan says it is developing cars in Japan that will not start if the driver is three-sheets to the wind. They don’t use that exact terminology, but Nissan press releases are pretty dry. What they’ve come up with is a straw-like tube on the driver’s seat, which the driver would have to blow into to start the car. The engine would not start if the machine shows the driver is in the aforementioned condition. Nissan is also studying a device that requires drivers to enter personal identification numbers of many digits, which may be a difficult task if they are drunk. Which seems to me may spawn a whole ‘nuther industry to help drinkers beat the system. That in turn would lead to more sophisticated drunk detection devices, which would then lead to more expensive devices to beat the system. And on and on.

Now I know I’ve milked the max out of the above subject, but since I get paid a nickel a word (Jeff Burk upped it from four cents on the condition I wouldn’t tell any of the other contributors), I figured a needed a few extra to pay off my new radar detector.  





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