I can still remember thinking at 16 that young drivers were unfairly discriminated against. Police kept a special eye out for us, I thought, and insurance companies were out to ream us for every crumpled-up dollar in our pockets. I drove around shot through with fear of a random police stop. I was outraged by the exorbitant insurance rates we were made to pay for our age. Extortion! I thought, sure maybe we drive faster than `old people', but our reflexes must be twice as quick, even on a bad day...
Looking at it with a (slightly) more mature perspective, though, I realize it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the younger demographic is targeted by both police and insurers. Despite notions inside the heads of cocky teenagers worldwide, it turns out the best kind of driver isn't a newly licensed one.
Young drivers crash more. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that: "The crash rate per mile driven for 16- to 19-year-olds is four times the risk for drivers 20 and older. Risk is highest at age 16. The crash rate per mile driven is nearly twice as high for 16-year-olds as it is for 18- to 19-year-olds." Insurance companies aren't pulling these rates out of thin air just to gouge teenage drivers. Whether or not you personally are a crashing young whippersnapper, you're going to pay higher rates at that age. Because there's a bigger chance that you'll eventually screw it all up and smash into the scenery at high velocity. I'm unsurprised to find that in my teenage years I crashed four times as much as in the rest of my life altogether.
And police harassment?
Unfortunately, it does happen, and I can't make excuses for it. But come on. These guys are just playing the numbers. The chances that you have a non-functioning part of some sort in your old modified car are simply greater. And when it's three o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday and you're bouncing around in your slammed and booming rice rocket, `sitting duck' doesn't begin to describe your situation.
And besides, most of the time you're being stopped because you're doing something illegal, not because you're young or because your car is lowered. Add to that, when you're younger you'll find any excuse to go for a drive, which means you're on the road all the time. And that makes a police stop statistically much more likely. I'd venture a guess that, like me, most young people drive a hell of a lot faster, too. That means more speeding tickets and more blowing through red lights.
Given that modified cars do receive special attention, though, why do we fit high-performance parts when we know they're illegal for road use? Simple--we see no reason why they should be illegal.
So we screw the coilovers down to ground level and rip the catalytic converter out. Damn The Man. But as I get older I realize the price of the tickets and the hassle of constant harassment just aren't worth it--even if there isn't anything wrong with what I'm doing.
What if you're unwilling to be a sissy like me and submit to the oppression of The Man? Well, if the performance parts are staying on, come hell or high water, make sure you're implementing...
Six things that have allowed me to continue driving like an elitist asshole while not having accidents or attracting any unwanted police attention
1. Defensive driving as an understatement: You may have heard you should expect anything on the road, but really you're best off just assuming everyone is a complete and utter jackass waiting for the opportunity to kamikaze your car. After all, most people actually are. Assume none of them know left from right or red from green.
2. Got a green light? People run reds for sport, but it takes two jackasses to make an accident happen. One to run the light and another who doesn't look before blindly going on green. Look both ways--expect the jackass.
3. Doing some street racing? Good luck with that. At some point, your need to win will overcome your judgment and even an awesome driver like yourself will do something completely moronic. You deserve the results. Thank the cop for taking your car.
4. How about some tailgating? Doing some of that? Those sweet cross-drilled rotors ain't gonna give you the Jedi powers you'll need to stop in time at 70mph. Back off. Besides, you'll be able to plan your sweep pass from a better vantage point.
5. Cruising down the freeway? For the love of God, don't sit in someone else's blind spot. Just because it's that person's job to notice you doesn't mean they're not on the phone/picking their nose/clinically insane/doing it for sport.
6. Lead foot? This is a no-brainer. Get a radar detector (unless you live in Virginia or Washington, DC). It will pay for itself in a month. If you can stay out of bad situations, you won't get pulled over as much. If you don't get pulled over, you won't get harassed and your insurance rates aren't going to skyrocket, either.