Off The Air

I’m driving out to Denver today and tomorrow, then the suborbital researchers conference on Monday through Wednesday. Play nice in comments.

[Monday-morning update]

Arrived in Denver area without incident, other than chickenpoop speeding ticket in northern NM for 82 in a 75 zone. I’ve always assumed that if you’re within 10% you’re OK. Guess this is my decadal ticket.

12 thoughts on “Off The Air”

  1. Yeah, New Mexico. Try to avoid it. I-15 to I-70 is mostly 80mph speed limit in Utah, as is the vast majority of I-70 up to the CO state line and even then it’s mostly 75mph to Vail Pass. Never been stopped for <85 in a 75 in either UT or CO. And has excellent video cameras from Grand Junction thru Denver.

      1. Yeah, you don’t want to be driving Vail Pass-to-Denver on a winter weekend evening. The other nice thing though about I-15/I-70 route is its diagonality, which cuts 200 miles off the right angle I-40/I-25 route.

  2. I never* go more than 5mph over because you just never know but I have never been pulled over for 5.


  3. Coing late to this… I’ve driven across the country more times than I can count by now. “Within 10%” is an overly simple rule-of-thumb. It will occasionally get you into trouble, yeah, but far more often slow you down more than needed.

    The core of driving-speed wisdom: Watch what the locals do, and don’t be doing conspicuously different. But I’ve watched to-the-Moon and partway back’s worth of local drivers, and reached some generic conclusions.

    The basic American rule-of-thumb is, measurably less than 10 mph over, whatever the limit. 33 in a 25 zone, 73 in a 65 zone, etc. That’ll work with no further modifiers 95% of the time, coast to coast.

    The other 5% of the time… Where there’s a speed limit that’s conspicuously too low – almost always a holdover 55 limit on a decent freeway in good weather/traffic condistions – it can be <15 mph over.

    Where there's a high limit on a beat-up/crowded/bad-weather freeway, it can drop to <5 mph over. A 75 limit on an iffy stretch of road and it can be wise to limit one's ambitions to 80.

    And finally, if you're driving past a highway cop in a deterrence-trap – IE, one where he's easily visible if you're paying attention, as opposed to a revenue trap where he's well-hidden – more than 3-4 mph over indicates to the cop either inattention or disrespect. Lights, siren, ticket!

    My guess would be you hit one or both of those last two.

    All that said, a radar detector is indeed useful – once you learn to tune out and not stress over the high false alarm rate. It used to be mainly trucks, but at this point, every other car on the road has a K-band chip in it for auto-brake. And recently someone must have come up with a Ka band chip, because that's showing up too in the fancier status-mobiles.

    To make radar detection useful, you have to learn to use it situationally. If you see a classic revenue-trap setup ahead of you – say, a long downslope with cover (brush or trees or whatever) then take the detector lighting up seriously. In heavy slow traffic (or near an airport with its radars), less so. And on a straight open no-cover stretch of highway, take it as a signal to give *close* scrutiny to any stopped vehicles by the road up ahead.

    Band and signal strength and timing matter too. My advice is, figure on spending the first couple months with a detector driving at easy-conscience speeds just learning to ignore most of what the detector shows. It can be a revelation – LOTS of things use radar these days.

    1. New Mexico is apparently notorious, based on discussion with people at the conference. Leonard David told me that when he got a ticket in NM, the cop said, “We raised the limit to 75 for you. We expect you to obey it.”

      1. Maybe I’m just lucky, then. I’ve been through NM end-to-end on I-40 several times a year at 6-8 over the limit since forever – at 80+ since they raised it to 75 – and never been pulled over there. (Ticketed in NM just once, doing 15 over on I-10 just outside of Las Cruces on that last long downhill stretch into town – but that was a LONG time ago; I was on my way out for a DC-X flight.)

        Or maybe I’m just sufficiently careful? See previous remarks RE radar detectors and watching for likely cop-hides and not passing them at more than a couple over.

        Then there’s the time I got off with a warning for 68 in a 55 zone in a small town in Colorado – the cop asked what I was doing there, I cheerfully told him “my brother just got married to XXXXX”, where XXXXX not coincidentally had the same last name as the town’s mayor – she was in fact his daughter. The cop gave me a “this better not be BS” look, went back to his car and talked on the radio for a couple minutes, then came back and sent me on my way with a warning.

        Alas, that one’s not generally duplicable…

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