Stay away from me!!!


By Al Vinikour   

You have to admit that lane widths on major roads and freeways are fairly liberal and unless you’re driving a Formula 1 racer with laser steering or you’re just a nervous driver there’s not too much pressure to stay strictly within your lane and still enjoy the scenery along the way — just as long as you don’t focus on it versus the traffic around you.

However, through the years I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. The newer, nicer and more unique your vehicle is…the most likely it’s targeted for death.

Don’t take my word for it…I’m basically a congenital liar. But do this cheap little experiment some time and you’ll quickly see that I can at least tell the truth occasionally. If you have access to a rundown piece of junk for a car, head to the nearest expressway and find a long stretch of straight road that will allow you to spend some time observing. You’ll quickly see that very few times during your ride you’re concerned about how close vehicles in other lanes are getting to you.

That’s the way it should be!

However, drive an exotic, expensive or just plain, clean, new car and watch how the scenario changes. I first noticed these phenomena years ago as I was driving a Corvette press vehicle from Detroit to Chicago. I was putt-putting along, happy as a clam (whatever that means) when I started noticing through my brilliant peripheral vision shadows from vehicles moving in on my territory (or as my son used to say when he was very little, “they were invading my prokity”).

This happened very early in the ride and for the next 275 miles I literally had to drive on the defensive.

I tried to figure out what would cause such a condition. Was it just that the other drivers were distracted by seeing a new vehicle like the Corvette and lost track of exactly where they were in their lane and started drifting? Was it a subliminal jealousy thing that found them creeping closer to me in a “playing chicken” manner because they knew that I wouldn’t challenge a dual with their old K-Car? Did I encounter hundreds of miles of intoxicated drivers? Or was I just imagining it because I sub-consciously thought I was the King of the Road?

That was some time ago. Since then I have paid attention to the multitude of high-end vehicles I have driven as part of my “chores” as an auto writer. I’ll pick out a handful of vehicles and see if you can draw your own conclusions. (I was going to rent time on a Cray Super-Computer but with all the tension in the Middle East the Defense Department wouldn’t sell me any time for such an evaluation.) We’ll call the luxury-type vehicles Group A and the economy-priced vehicles Group B. Keep in mind that this test is in no way scientific nor even conclusive but it should shed some light on my theory.

Some of the Group A vehicles I drove were a: Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, BMW and Cadillac. Among the Group B cars were a: Hyundai Elantra, Ford Escort, Plymouth Breeze, Chevy Caprice, Datsun B-210, Daewoo Lanus and Mercury Grand Marquis.

I tried to keep score through a multi-year experiment so the numbers I’m going to give are basically rough estimates and should in no way be considered gospel. But you’ll definitely see a pattern develop: Also, rather than detail every incident I’ll just mass them all into a category we’ll call “near misses (not to be confused with a near “Mrs.” which my first girlfriend Carol almost became).

When all was said and done, the near misses to Group A vehicles amounted to something like 11,627. This is based on the amount of times vehicles from another lane veered into the lane I was driving in. Conversely, with Group B cars the amount of near misses dramatically decreased to an amount like seven. I think these numbers speak for themselves.

The conclusion you can draw here is if you’re going to buy a fancy new car I would go for the ugliest one I could find with the most safety equipment. It’s just like lyrics from the old Jimmy Soul song, “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife.” So, too, can that be applied to invest money in a new transportation vehicle; buy a mundane car, keep it constantly serviced, glamorize the interior all you want (because generally it can’t be seen from other cars in other lanes) and never, never wash it.

Few in their right minds will want to veer towards your space and face the possibility of “catching something.” Just like I’ve always said, “I may be from Indiana…but I didn’t leave there yesterday.”