Newspaper columnist is agressive driver?

Warren Brown wrote this review of the new Accord:


I emailed him:

Dear Mr Brown,

While it’s not the first thing you’ve written that I disagree with

your recent review of the Accord has compelled me to write you. It

strikes me as hypocritical that one week you complain that drivers and

politicians are unwilling to make any sacrifice to mitigate the coming

oil crisis and then another week write how you find it so distasteful

to behave like “the nice driver” because your vehicle does not have

the power to compete with the other aggressive jerks on the highway.

Then you belittle the efficiency of the Honda 4 cylinder engine and

partly nullify it by “stomping the accelerator”. So, what’s the chance

of a car economically reaching 100,000 miles when you drive like that?

It seems car companies are in the midst of a horsepower war that has

passed the levels of the “muscle car” era of the '60s. The solution is

not more power. When the Soviets set off their first A-bomb US hawks,

led by Ed Teller, convinced others that the solution was more power,

in the form of the H-bomb, roughly 1000 times more powerful (Google

“Castle Bravo”). So where did that get us? So now we have inattentive

drivers yakking on cell phones and hormone driven teenagers running

overpowered cars and SUVs off the road and into buildings on a regular


The argument that you need more power to tangle with other aggressive

drivers is a weak one. Every agressive move carries a small chance of

making a mistake or having inadequate safety margin when the

unexpected comes along.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on a road trip sharing the driving in a

Buick Grand National. I’ve driven V8 powered Fords and Chevys. But I

feel that 1 horsepower per 20 pounds of vehicle weight is adequate

power. The 190hp Accord you reviewed meets that criteria up to a

weight of 3800lb. I’ve owned several cars with about that much power

and driven on 95 and the NJ turnpike at a steady 75-85 mph and stayed

out of trouble. In my younger years I could be provoked into

unnecessary interaction with other drivers, but now I want to get from

point A to point B with minimal stress and energy consumption even if

it takes 2 minutes longer.


His response:


Welcome to the real world. You want to drive a fuel-sipper? Fine. Do

it with a light load in the right lane. Just because something is

hypocritical does not mean its false. Consider war. Cheers.–Warren

Different people behave differently in the driving environment. I wish for everyone to drive prudently and considerately… even of the inconsiderate drivers. /// Hypocrisy, by definition, is morally wrong.

There are two things I find kind of silly and trivial with this situation:

A: Complaining about the car in the first place, because it’s not THAT bad.

B: Complaining about the complaint, because he’s got a point. It’s frustrating to drive in traffic with a car that just doesn’t have enough torque (the 4 cylinder’s downfall.)

I communte. And the highway I commute on is not among the more aggressive that I’ve driven (such as the Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway). Yet I find it much easier, less stressful and safer…yup SAFER…to have a vehicle with some gonads. I’m inclined to suggest that writing one article lamenting the lack of willingness to sacrifice for fuel economy and a differnt article suggesting that today’s econoboxes cannot keep up with today’s traffic aren’t inconsistant. The first is an article on economy, the second on safety.

Just one man’s opinion.

Warren Brown is clearly a fool. The object of a trip is not to bend people to your will as you careen down the highway. It is to get to your destination safely while having little impact on those around you. Why do you care what he thinks?

Sometimes these columns are written for entertainment because the writer knows that a lot of drivers will agree with him and laugh. We shouldn’t take it seriously or follow a bad example. We all know what is right if we do SOME thinking. Most agressive drivers grow out of it, but there is always somebody who wants to get a moving violation turned into jail time. That’s his story but I hope he uses his brain when he gets in the car.

Warren Brown is a successful columnist. He knows how to inform and to entertain his audience, how to keep them coming back for more. No one should take him too seriously – anyone who does so has lost touch with reality. Please, circuitsmith, take your simpering somewhere else.

I agree with Mr. Brown, as I usually do. On modern high speed commutes, a car that has the not only balls to accelerate into the flow of traffic, but to handle other modern traffic needs, is a must. While nearly all modern cars can cruise comfortable at 75-80mph on a straight road, when you factor in short on-ramps, high speed deceleration proceeding traffic, and high speed maneuvering, some cars just don’t cut it.

Mr. Brown wasn’t tangling with agressive drivers, he was dealing with every day commuters whose cars can accellerate with the ebb and flow of modern traffic, and are more than comfortable at super-legal speeds. 190 hp may be enough for that weight of a car, but perhaps the car is deficient in other manner, such as slush box gear ratio’s, extra junk in the trunk, or an un-responsive throttle. The car has 162lb-ft of torque, weak at best. And with just two passengers and a super-big gulp, it’s curb weight is nearing the 3800 lb weight mentioned in circuitsmith’s response, add two more and you’ve just got a porker. Braking, in the same vane as horsepower, can also be deficient in a car, and many don’t realize it until they are sliding on thin economy tires into the rear of my german engineered baby’s backside. Not because they weren’t expecting the need to stop, but because they were expecting more from a econo-box in fancy dress costume.

In fact, nowhere did Mr. Brown belittle the economy of the car at all, in fact he praised it for that, with a caveat. That it may not meet the needs and wants of his, and many others, driving style because it is, in fact, economical. But not everybody wants economy, which is why my commute to work is filled with more as much german as american, more power than economy, and speeds well in excess of the legal limit.

And in response to jtsanders, Mr. Brown was not forcing others to bend to his will, his car was forcing others to adjust for its deficiencies. Yes, you should make your presence on the road as safe and un-remarkable as possible, but part of that is keeping up with traffic, merging at appropriate speeds, and having the power, both in go and slow, to react to ever changing situations. He certainly isn’t nationaly syndicated because he is a fool.

It was not just Brown’s column, but his response to the letter. He seems to be just another aggressive DC driver. And there are thousands of them. I see many of them on my daily commute. It isn’t anything new. I learned over 30 years ago that you don’t use your turn signal to show that you are changing lanes. That is not informative, it is a challenge. Many DC are drivers will speed up to cut you off. Warren Brown had an opportunity to show who he is when he responded to the OPs letter. It was not friendly. Brown informed circuitsmith that he should never get in Mr. Brown’s Very Important Way. That would be telling all the sniveling toads to beat it, wouldn’t it?

" I learned over 30 years ago that you don’t use your turn signal to show that you are changing lanes. That is not informative, it is a challenge. Many DC are drivers will speed up to cut you off"

I’ve driven all over the country and so far I have found this to be a Virginia thing. I lived in Virginia for a couple of years and it broke me of that habit, but now that I don’t live there anymore, I use my signal for lane changes again.

The gist of Brown’s article is that the 4-cylinder Accord is short on power if you load it full of people and their baggage. For that, he recommends the V6. In fast, heavy traffic it’s both unsafe and bad manners not to keep up.

You inferred quite a lot from the 3 lines that he wrote in response.

It is not unsafe nor is it bad manners, if you mean exceeding the speed limit just to keep up. Another poster provided a traffic safety review in July 2005(attached). It shows that within 15.6 MPH of the real mean average speed the likelihood of having an accident is equal. If the speed limit is 55 and the average speed is 65, then anyone between 50 and 80 is equally likely to be involved in an accident. It also shows that the likelihood of serious injury or death goes up exponentially as your speed goes up. I disagree with your opinion. Read the facts.

If a person only gives a 3 line response then that’s all you have to go with. On the other hand it would’ve been equitable to show us the review in question, although maybe not practical or even possible. Circuitsmith maybe should have quoted more of the article so we could get a better handle on exactly what he was responding to. His point about the HP war is valid, though.It’s a self-energizing process

(vicious circle). You auotomotive people all know about self-energizing brakes, right?(Oops, bad metaphor) Anyways, columnists sure do entertain but are also opinion makers, so they should try not to be hypocritical, which Brown seems to admit he himself
is. He says being hypocritical isn’t necessarily being false but consider the definition of the word: “falsely claiming high principles.”

Can’t see how Brown shouldn’t lose credibility re this. Circuitsmith’s rebuttal seemed right to the point- not confrontational and Brown seemed to overeact. Anyway, there’re good/bad points on each side so polarization ain’t where it’s at. Consider war.

jtsandars, are you really quoting mostly 40 year old data? (the study is 2005 but the tests are from '68 and '71, and one from the 90’s, I’ll give you that) Do you think the highways 40 years ago(and austrailia) are at all relevent to the highway and traffic safety of today(Specifically, the Jersey Turnpike)? Sure the Jersey turnpike is 56 years old this year, but the traffic load is nothing like the traffic load in 1952.

You cherry picked the one chart (with only 5 data points to boot) in the paper that supported your argument, and didn’t actually read the quantifications on the chart, or the factors that make the data questionable. And of course the likelyhood of serious injury goes up when speed goes up, its not the fall that kills, its the sudden stop, right?

Telling quotes from the paper…

"There is evidence that crash risk is lowest near the average speed of traffic and increases for vehicles traveling much faster or slower than average. The occurrence of a large number of crashes involving turning maneuver partly explains the increased risk for motorists traveling slower than average and confirms the importance of safety programs involving turn lanes, access control, grade separation, and other measures to reduce conflicts resulting from large differences in travel speeds"—Summary Paragraph

Cerrilli (1997) found less than one-third of all crashes and 5 percent of all fatal crashes in 1996 involved two or more vehicle traveling in the same direction. Many of these likely occurred as a consequence of a vehicle slowing or stopping for cause … and being struck from behind by a vehicle following too closely or going too fast for the driver to stop in time to avoid the collision.–deduced to include merging and lane changes at speeds with a delta…

Thus, the increased risk of crash involvement is a result of potential conflicts from faster traffic catching up with and passing slower vehicles. The slower motorists go relative to the median speed, the more overtakings and potential inter-vehicle conflicts encountered.

Hauer claimed “the indiscriminate public crusade against speeding should be replaced by a balanced approach emphasizing the dangers of both fast and slow driving.”

As you can see, the argument can be made, and stronly supported, that the slower or faster the car is moving than the average speed, the more likely it is to be involved in a crash. The one plot you picked, with 5 data points, didn’t show this because it only had 5 data points. So it is, in fact, unsafe, and bad manners, to not keep up.

So basically, if your car can’t move with traffic, just like Mr. Brown said, keep a light load, and stay out of the way.

It seems that many people (mistakenly) think that the posted speed limit is the actual speed of traffic. This is a wrong mind-set. In my area, the actual traffic speeds are 10 mph, 20 mph, and 30+ mph aove the posted speed limit. True, they ain’t supposed to drive at those speeds: but, many peoples treat the posted speed limit as the minimum speed limit. I see many people who don’t accelerate their POWERFUL cars to, even, the posted speed limit on long on-ramps. Ten (10) mph above the posted speed limit seems to be the best compromise between too fast and too slow.

Note that I put a link to the article at the top of my post. Here it is again:

Sorry, circuitsmith. I misssed the link. Good work.

The paper showed that a lot of the evaluations included roads where traffic crossed lanes. That is, they were not limited access. The author tried to factor out the turning accidents which included vehicles moving very slowly. This skewed the data to show that going only a bit below the average speed caused accidents. That is a false conclusion. The author went on to conclude, with support from more than one study, that there is a wide allowance for speed variation without causing accidents - over 31 MPH. He also concluded that as speeds increased over 45 KPH, the likelihood of serious consequences increased exponentially.

I do believe that old data is acceptable if it is used appropriately. The idea that wide variations in speed cause accidents has not changed in my view. Do you think that with modern cars more than 30 MPH between two cars is safe? That’s 50% more than the speed limit on many limited access highways. It seems that you want the quotes to justify that slow drivers are at fault. They really say that the speed difference is the issue, not whether slow or fast drivers are to blame (3 of 4 quotes). You and the original poster (Cold Car) try to draw the same conclusion because it is what you want to see. That’s bad science.

It may be interesting to note that more than 20 MPH over the speed limit is considered a criminal offense. If you choose to drive that fast and get a ticket, you just earned a rap sheet.