But there is a zero percent chance that I’ll get a trophy at the end of those long drives for making them one song-length shorter. No. But the chances of getting a ticket for hanging in the upper registers of the double-digit speed column are slightly higher.
My first ticket of any kind was a speeding ticket near Lavonia in 2005 — 89 mph in a 70. But my ‘81 Malibu hadn’t met you, cruise control. My ‘97 Thunderbird had you, though, in 2006 when College Park PD nipped me at 86 in a (ridiculous) 55 zone. Thankfully, I kept my license, as I had just turned 21. Over the years I have ignored you, but I probably wouldn’t have used you on the side roads of Doraville or Avondale where I’ve been caught doing a more-modest 15 over. Police in Jacksonville some time ago nipped me at a similar clip after I missed an exit and was trying to quickly get back on my route.
Oh, cruise control. I’ve been driving for 19 years. I’ve gotten warnings on a side street in Alpharetta and just after entering Greenville on I-85. No tickets then, thankfully. But hey, I just lost track. I wasn’t trying to go that fast. I was fine. In fact, I never even considered you. I just knew I needed to mind my speed and I would … until complacency would yet again metastasize.
But I didn’t get a slap on my oblivious wrist in Vienna, Georgia, on Friday, May 1. While driving our new SUV — and still getting used to how easily it can accelerate — I was averaging 80-85 mph and going with the flow of traffic on I-75/southbound. I don’t know how, but before I realized I eclipsed 90, I passed a squad car coming the opposite direction. The flashing blues illuminated.
I slowed down and moved a lane to my right as the Georgia State Patrol car switched directions in the turnaround and came my way. Dang, but maybe it wasn’t for me. I kept plugging along as they neared and knew they sought me when they slowed to my speed. I pulled over in actual defeat.
93 mph in a 70 was the inarguable charge. Guilty, the verdict. I asked if we could get a break, but the trooper very respectfully said 93 mph doesn’t get that consideration. And rightfully so. And I am being honest when I say that I wasn’t trying to go 90-plus. I was great with 80. But I was relying completely on my feel and attention to maintain that consistency. And if I had kept the speed slightly more modest, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have yet another ticket (and my first in more than five years).
Then my wonderful, wise brand-new bride, Momo, chimed in. She didn’t ream my posterior for daring to get a ticket or for being careless. She just said she’s glad we aren’t hurt. Then she told me about her longtime relationship with you, cruise control.
Momo had made a comment that week about how she got better fuel mileage than me, something I scoffed at aloud. But I knew this was probably true, as she is a very responsible and trained driver. She said that I speed up and slow down too much and she uses you, cruise control, to maintain pace. While conceptually I knew you, I never had tried and didn’t want to bother with it. I learned you quickly after my latest infraction.
Now, instead of worrying about winnowing down my ETA on the GPS app, I watch the average-miles-per-gallon feature on my car’s fuel gauge. Staying locked-in at 78 mph for the rest of our drive to Jacksonville and then in the coming days for our stint in Savannah and then back home to Atlanta, I got the average mpg up from 24.6 to 25.2! And I thought that deploying you would make me less attentive on the road. Not at all.
I still maintain that I didn’t drive dangerously when I would push 90 mph. But I certainly was less efficient and I had a far higher risk of getting a ticket. Cruise control, God bless you. You have taken my unsteady lead foot out of the arsenal of tools that can inflict harm on me. I am not too proud to admit that I am so glad to have finally befriended you. And I cannot wait until our next trip together.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin' Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.