I have always driven slow cars. It’s not that I have anything against fast cars, though. It was more or less an accident, aided and abetted by poverty. When I was young and wanting to drive fast, I got my first slow car, an extravagant $1,200 gift from my grandmother, a 1979 Honda Civic. It would go about 80 miles an hour with a tail wind, and I managed to get a few speeding tickets in it before I turned 20. It looked just like this except with a lot less paint:

1979 Honda Civic CVCC Hatchback

I bought my second (and current) slow car at 20, a 1988 Mazda pickup, and got my next and final speeding ticket a few months later. I was on the I-5 just south of Corning, CA. The Highway Patrol officer said, “You were going well over 70 miles per hour.”

I decided at that moment that speeding was not worth it. It was expensive and stressful because of the tickets and because of constantly watching the rear-view. “Oh crap, is that a Mustang? Is is black and white, or is that just sun glinting off of it?”

So why would I want a fast car? If I can get speeding tickets in slow cars, why would I want to tempt myself with all that velocity-headroom? No reason I could think of, until now.

Reanna and I just drove to Joshua Tree from Whistler in a fast car, a 2001 Acura 3.2CL. Borrowed. The owner told us he’d been clocked by radar at just under 150 miles per hour, and then the officer who clocked him (after he was off duty) drove it just over 150.

Still, I was not much tempted to speed. My aversion to paying speeding tickets has only grown over the years. But I realized that velocity is not the real reason to have a fast car. It’s acceleration. Driving is a series of decisions about what is safe to do. Is it safe to pass this slow car? Do I have enough room to change lanes? Make this left turn? Etc. In my Mazda, the answer is very often, “No, I’d better not.” In my decades of driving it, all those “No” decisions became invisible. It’s not a choice if there’s only one choice, right? In the Acura, even with my habitually conservative driving style, the answer is usually “Yes, no problem at all.” A very different experience!

Fast Car, Slow Car

And even though I was still driving the speed limit, I think that all those “Yes” decisions add up to to a faster trip, especially on a long trip like we just made. I continue to think that fast cars are probably not worth the extra money for the purchase price or for the lower gas mileage, but I concede that fast cars probably increase your quality of life.

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