Driving sports or classic car provides different perspective on road safety

Alfa Romeo 4C hugs the road | Larry Edsall photo
Alfa Romeo 4C hugs the road | Larry Edsall photo

Spending a weekend in an exotic sports car provides a very different, exciting and in too many cases a terrifying perspective on driving and road safety. And I mean that literally and figuratively.

Literally because when you’re sitting just inches above the pavement, that compact crossover in your rearview mirror looks as large as a full-size pickup truck, and a full-size SUV suddenly seems big as a semi tractor.

Figuratively because, well, you are indeed looking up at everything else on the road — and hoping all those other drivers are paying attention to you and your small car rolling along way down there.

I recently spent three days behind the wheel of a 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, a small, stylish, swift and svelte sports car that is a lot of fun to drive. But because the 4C is a small, stylish, swift and svelte sports car, I was being particularly careful, trying to keep it from drawing the attention of any law enforcement officials who would delight in writing a speeding citation for such a vehicle, while also trying to make sure all that other traffic didn’t simply run us over.

The former turned out to be much easier than the latter because all I had to do to avoid speeding tickets was — obviously — not to exceed the posted speed limit. Which for the most part, I did, but with a great deal of discipline because the 4C is, frankly, so eager and willing for a third digit to pop up on its digital speedometer.

But while I was driving at or just a below the legal limit, no one else on the road seemed to be — and that was both frightening and enlightening.

From down where I was driving — low to the ground and at or slightly below the posted limit — it was terrifying to see just how fast and how poorly people drive.

Hey, you on my tail in your full-size SUV, do you have any idea, should I need to apply the Alfa’s amazing brakes, how long it would take you (a) to notice the tail lights glowing, (b) react to that sight and (c) for the laws of physics and the power of your vehicle’s overworked brake pads to bring that thing to a stop?

Well, I do. So back off!

And you, speeding along in the left lane, instead of reading the texts on your phone, how about noticing that your exit is coming up and (a) signaling that you are going to be moving to the right and (b) doing so before the last possible moment so your under-inflated if not balding tires might be able to negotiate that maneuver without putting everyone within a quarter-mile in jeopardy?

Or better yet, why not drive in the right or center lane to begin with rather than backing up traffic behind you in what is supposed to be the passing lane?

Oh, and while you’re at it, when you pull onto the freeway in the first place, try merging with traffic instead of immediately making everyone else panic while you cut across the lanes to take your rightful place because “Hey, I’m an American and I have every right to read texts in any lane I so choose, plus when I’m in the left lane I only have to worry about people to my right.”

I know I’m preaching to the choir because if you’ve clicked onto this website, you most likely are a classic or collector car enthusiast and no doubt have experienced the same things I’m writing about when you venture out on the road in your finned ‘50s coupe, your ‘60s pony car or ‘70s muscle car, your pre-war classic or your own exotic sports car.

Which means you also know the joy of finding an empty stretch of country pavement or a winding mountain road void of traffic where you can drive your car as it was meant to be driven, if only for a matter of minutes, while worrying not about other traffic but those laws of grip — and grin.larry-sig

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