Dear Oppo: You don't know what Driving Is

I know I'm not like "most" Oppo-ites. I don't enjoy cars because they're cool, expensive, fun, or a good hobby. I'm the type of person who gets squirrely and irritable if I haven't been in a car for a week. If I don't go over 100mph once every few months, I get depressed. But I do share one thing: I love all cars.

The following explanation is not directed at burners or anonymous commentors. It is directed at the entire frequent commentariat of Jalopnik, many of which are on Oppo. Even if you don't feel it's pertinent to you, I bet you'll still enjoy reading it. This is a greater problem, not just with Jalopnik, and I want to express my thoughts on a very hot subject in automotive culture. So let me use a recent article to explain, what I think, has become the death of driving in today's culture.


I judge how a car is used based on success of its owner at achieving their goals not on my pre-conceived notions of correctness. Because that's what a machine is, isn't it? A device we use to accomplish a task? It doesn't matter if it is a car or a space shuttle. There is a vision, a goal, of what is possible, and then there are ways to achieve it.

Before we hash out why I act this way, let's get down to the real reason this post exists. At the end of August, Jalopnik posted this. It's been a week, but my attention was drawn back to it with the not-quite-unexpected followup here, where the NYPD responded, as they are paid to do. It's their job, and I wish them success in that too. In the 'offending' video, you see a guy safely, and successfully, achieving a set goal using his automobile in a way that requires more planning, skill, and intelligence than a vast majority of the drivers in the world.

Why Afroduck does not deserve the horrible fates he is being threatened with.

I don't mean to say that people should die. I mean say that if you're going to have a vitriolic reaction, let's optimize what you should point your rage toward. This is, essentially, a study of how to save lives, and why hating street racing is an inefficient way to go about it. You guys seriously disappointed me with your comments. They were ignorant, fear-mongering, and mudslinging attention-grabbing comments that are both ill-informed and offensive.


I want to emphasize those adjectives, because they aren't chosen at random.

Ignorant. Lacking knowledge in general. Annual deaths due to "speeding" were 10,000 in 2009. This number has been going down, primarily due to increased vehicle safety, since 2005. A majority of these deaths happened during 55mph or 45mph highways, not in town on the street. This is 1/3rd of all traffic fatalities. A vast majority happened with only 1 car involved.


Highway safety is past the marginal point of gain. We have passed the point where it is cost-effective to reduce road deaths. Why? Because motor vehicle accidents are 1/10th the size of any of the top 10 preventable deaths per year. What's the highest? Heart disease and hypertension.

However, deaths among children worldwide are highest from traffic collisions worldwide, and in the US too. Except that these "street racers" are not driving with kids in the car. That's right. More damage is coming from distracted drivers with children in the vehicle. Distracted drivers. So the argument "street racers rob children of their future" doesn't hold water either.


In all of my research over the years, I have never encountered a statistical scenario where automobile deaths due to speed were a huge pressing matter that needed addressing. Drunk driving? Absolutely. Distracted driving? Sure. Speed? No. The number of deaths due to excessive speed (NOT street racing) is too small.

So what would you say, if it's not worth slowing people down, if I told you that deaths due to "street racing" measure in the 100s per year? Does it still seem like street racing is the demonic child-killing sport that the media (not Jalopnik, who I commend for keeping a cool head over this) and the commenters present it as?


The law does not exist to prevent people from committing crimes. In fact, crime doesn't exist without the law. All the law does is make certain goals, certain visions, very hard to achieve, for the overall support of the public's happiness. It doesn't go for absolute protection this because making such illegal activities, would be more difficult to stop than the benefit from stopping them. Traffic laws are no different. So even if you are indifferent on an emotional level, asking police and enforcement to "step up" and stop actions such as his (which caused no damage) would be worse for society as a whole.

Fear-mongering. This is getting support and a reaction from cheap uses of fear to draw attention to oneself. This made me angry as both a Driver and a Writer. Jalopnik presented facts, and an interview, and didn't paint it one way or another. Even in the COTD they could have strung him up and gotten a lot more views and support. They didn't because there is something to be said for journalistic integrity. So it's up to the commenters to provide their opinion. This is perfectly valid, and I would not delete any of the comments. But I will say, here and now, that their comments are wrong and disappointing compared to the capabilities of the readership here.


Mudslinging. This is using insults to damage an opponent. At first you may find me guilty of this, but there is a difference between an insult and a point of contention. I do not mean to offend anyone by using the word "ignorant". I am using it because by definition, that is what is what I am describing. Claiming that a person should be killed, jailed, or harmed in ways normally not socially acceptable, and then giving them an insult to the purpose of insulting them results in a failure to express your thoughts properly. If calling someone "reckless" was your justification for suggesting they are beat to a pulp (or jailed, murdered, or any form of severe punishment) then in order for your argument to hold, "recklessness" must be the crime. Otherwise, you're using the phrase as a way to block reason, logic, or knowledge, and convey your own opinion. Worse yet, in the case of this article, the emotion behind these comments was wrong.

Why Afroduck is smart, safe, and better than you at life.

Afroduck was successful. That's the thing. If he lapped Manhattan in 45 minutes and caused 3 wrecks along the way, I'd condemn the guy. But he lapped Manhattan in 24 minutes and caused no wrecks. No harm done. He passed through, quickly, transparent, and succeeded at something that no one else could.


"People pay a million dollars to be recognized, but nobody cares about them. They cared about me because I did things other men were afraid to do. That's why my fans identified with me."


This quote comes from someone else who knows how to achieve a goal they set: Evel Knievel. The 'bullshit' response to that is "Evel did his stunts away from people and safely! He was only hurting himself!" And you're completely right. That's because his stunts, if done in public places, would have killed himself and others, and would have served his goals (excitement, thrill, challenge) worse. But can you say that about our mysterious driver in Manhattan? I watched the video. I didn't see anyone die, or get into a wreck. It would have been impossible for him to achieve that vision any other way. It doesn't matter if you do something in public, or out of public, it's all about setting your constraints and your goal, and then achieving it.

Part of his goal was getting through safely and without causing harm. It was one of many goals, but you can't deny, Afroduck set out to complete his run, making sure he wouldn't kill John and Jane and little Bobby, or tear down their suburban picket-fence life. He left them untouched. He planned, built his skills, and like any good driver, took a well-informed risk in hopes of becoming famous. This is very far from the malicious intent (or indifference) that is expressed by the responses to his actions. It's a case of commenters acting without reason.


Why do we give Race Car drivers a pass if they crash? Why is it better to fail on a track than to succeed on the street?

Why do we have competition in life? Why do we seek danger? Why do we have dreams? Why do we drive toward a dream?


Maybe I don't know the answer to those questions, but I do know that the answer is certainly not "because its safe."

Afroduck is not the problem. You are the problem.

So now I can explain the title. You don't know what driving is. You're a plane enthusiast who hates the SR-71 Blackbird because it was too dangerous. You're a scientist who refuses to support space travel because astronauts could die.


There is a difference between Driving, and pushing pedals. Go to a driver's Ed course, and you'll find out quickly that they do not teach students how to drive. They teach them traffic laws. Knowing the rules of the road is not the same as learning how to operate a machine. The driving knowledge is limited to what each pedal does (and in a general, not exact, way). You, you criticizers who are appalled to see so many laws broken, you are the students. You don't drive, you push pedals when someone else, thousands of miles away, says its okay for you to.


You, the staunch formalist of driving culture, are a child playing with a Rubik's cube, just to see the parts turn, but never to try and solve it. Then, you take your cube to a Track, and spend tons of money and time so you can pretend to solve it. But in the end of the day, you have done nothing impressive, constructive, additive, unique, creative, or lasting with your time. You have merely made yourself happy by doing something that anyone could do with enough money. That is the most selfish thing of all. It's no different than injecting heroin to make yourself happy and avoid going outside. Even I'm guilty of it, I want to drive constantly, not to do something interesting with my car, but to just feel the pleasure of driving. I find myself bogged down with finances, school, and life, and my automotive dream is constantly slipping away.

Do you know why beigemobiles are so popular? Because of you. Not because of people who don't care about cars, but because of the people who care but don't do anything with them. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it means you are one of the biggest hypocrites of the automotive world. Your support of a system that breeds ignorance and unfounded hate for anyone who independently creates something new and unique out of their appliance has cost the USA tons in tax dollars that could go toward solving disease, improving education, or improving national health. All because you have some vague notion of safety or law that someone is violating, and it bothers you.


Through the cars you buy and the things you use them for, you have watered-down and diminished the driving experience. Through your own personal self-satisfying driving, you have turned racetracks from a friendly place to push limits, to an opiate for the wealthy and the lucky. You have turned abandoned roads from a friendly place to push limits, to an inefficient scare-tactic for your own political goals. You have adopted eachother's attitudes, beliefs, memes, and abilities, and you have given up your dreams in favor of an easier-to-swallow idea pre-made for you.

And in that conformity, you have forgotten what driving is.


But among you, there are individuals who are different. There are individuals, such as Mr. Afroduck, who are trying to solve that Rubik's cube. They have a goal, they are achieving it, and they are giving their experiences to the public, to thrill, inspire, and excite. Instead of going to the track and being one-of-a-million BMW drivers doing nothing impressive or constructive, patting themselves on the back for a job (of no consequence) well done, Afroduck created his own goal and achieved it safely and effectively in a way that no one else has. That's what driving is. Driving is making your Volvo last 1,000,000 miles. Driving is taking a quarter mile at 6 seconds or faster.

Driving is taking that hunk of metal and doing something with it completely unique, because you are not one-of-a-million-people. You are one.


I'm not saying that you should all be trying to do something crazy and unique with your cars. But I am saying that before you are even able to criticize Afroduck the way you did, you should know the difference between someone who does something like that and someone who comments the way you do. You should know the facts (above, subsection "ignorance") and you should think rationally.

Or, in other words... c'mon Oppo. You're better than this. Don't be stupid.

Remember this video?

I want you to think who that video applies to more. The commentor who is scared for their kids'safety from the big-bad-evil drivers who will kill them without a second glance... or Afroduck.


When this video was posted, I don't remember people commenting "Oh no! This video will inspire people to go do a horribly expensive and dangerous sport! They should be happy and safe and all do things the normal way! We can't have race car drivers who push the limits! What if they kill spectators? What if they kill themselves? Think of the kids!"

It inspired people to do something with their lives.

To drive.

Maybe they're not driving a car. Maybe they're driving a desk job. Maybe they're driving a relationship. Maybe they're driving a gun, or a book, or a wheelchair. It's the ability to take the best of your resources, create something new, and give it to the public in a way that they could never do. To challenge and enlighten with the same action.


That is driving.

That is why we drive special cars. Why we customize, why we break the law, why we help eachother with opinion and advice. Because we want to see more drivers in the world. Oppo is beautiful for that, and that is why we have such a tight-knit community.


So if you're going to start pulling bullshit like the comments in that article, then just remember that going down that road means giving up all of that enthusiasm, and becoming something significantly weaker than you are right now.

I hope next time a street racing article is posted, people actually stop and think about the content being presented, and judge it fairly, instead of working on superstition, fear, hear-say and weakness.


Thanks for reading.

EDIT: Just to clarify some confusion,

I'm not saying "go out and street race". I'm not saying "Everyone should do something unique with their cars" (pretty sure I typed that out almost verbatim in the post...) I'm saying: don't be a hypocrite, idiot, or fear-mongering slime when you're commenting on stuff like this. Use facts, knowledge, and recognize the skill and effort required to pull stuff like that off successfully. Then, if you're going to still condemn those actions, which you are perfectly free too, have the common sense to accept that you then should condemn a vast majority of successful scenarios as well that were not safe or pleasant.


The only action I'm calling for is more informed commenting. I don't want Oppo to turn into a foaming-at-the-mouth idiot every time the word "Street" is put in front of "racing". That makes the whole community and the website look bad, and really waters down the experience.

Share This Story