Umberto Bigone (bee-GO-nay) ranks as one of the world's most enthusiastic motorists. At home here in Europe, or even in Canada, Dr. Bigone's license is pristine and points-free, which is to say clean, making him, statistically at least, a paragon of law-abiding propriety, a status he has enjoyed for decades.
How, we asked Dr. Bigone, can he drive so rapidamente so regularly, while for the rest of us it's all we can do to keep our points total below the license-threatening redline? Generously, he has consented to share with us his ten best tips for flying on the highway without fear. Of cops. These tips are, most of them, methods we here at Car and Driver are well acquainted with, but Dr. Bigone's unique presentation conveys them concisely and in one highly entertaining and easy-to-use package.
As in all offers American, a disclaimer is called for: if, after you learn these rules, you are apprehended, please do not attempt to call me and threaten legal action. Remember that advice may be worth no more than what you paid for it ( nothing in this instance) and that Dr. Bigone's special remedy cannot eliminate the risk of apprehension, though my tips can and do dramatically reduce such risk.
You must learn to recognize "threat" vehicles. Even though the telltale "light bar" is increasingly absent, threat vehicles have some common characteristics they are almost always American, usually full-size Fords, full-size Chevrolets, Mustang GTs, or Plymouth Gran Furys/Dodge Diplomats. Period.
Even without light bars, you should be able to pick out these vehicles at great distances by looking for windshield-pillar mounted spotlights (carefully folded inward) and, more importantly, fat tires. When approaching a suspect vehicle from the rear, look for the above cues plus check the underside for the telltale stabilizer bar, especially on Chevrolets.
If you think you see a well-shod white, ivory, blue, or black Diplomat, Caprice, Mustang, or Crown Vic in your rear-view mirror, slow down! Permit him to come closer for positive identification. The seconds lost are meaningless and quickly regained if the possible threat is found to be benign.
When entering a new state, take a few moments at a local gas pump to learn what types of vehicles and what types of surveillance the indigenous enforcement professionals use. It's time well spent.
When moving smartly in daylight hours, constantly scan your mirrors and the road ahead for threats. Slow when going through underpasses, for the enforcer may be parked out of sight behind the far-side concrete. Be suspicious of any vehicle parked on the inside or outside shoulder. Slow down until you are sure it is not an enforcer. Check on-ramps as you drive by them. Give a quick look over your right shoulder, all the way to the top of the on-ramp to ensure that it is clean of the authorities. Monitor your rear-view mirror constantly for any sign of unusual activity. Try to remember cars that you pass. If, later, you see what appears to be a possible threat vehicle far behind you and don't remember passing it, slow down for identification. Even if you are reasonably sure you passed it, if that vehicle is now matching your speed (not getting smaller in your rear-view mirror), slow down for positive identification.
Proper daytime scan has saved the author as many as five times per month.
The risk of moving up on an enforcer vehicle can be minimized by learning taillights. This is largely a process of elimination: pickups, vans, minivans, and Japanese or European vehicles are not likely to be threats. Nor are Chevettes, Escorts, GM J-bodies, or any front-wheel-drive vehicle. But if it looks large, or has Mustang LX taillights, you must immediately look for folded-in spotlights and/or fat rubber. Tragically, if these items are present, you must slow down, though it might only be an employee of a private security service on his way home. You can't take the chance.
The prime instrument for night driving is the rear-view mirror, and the prime rule is to drive fast enough so that all headlights of passed motorists reduce rapidly in size. Any pair of headlamps that maintains the same size or the same separation between the lamps calls for immediate deceleration pending positive identification.
Moving in a lane containing Class 8 trucks some distance ahead will also shield your car until you pass the truck. In daylight hours, you may choose to run at times with lights, at times without, hiding yourself in front of a group of trucks when you change illumination. The reason for this is that an enforcer, having "noticed" you from a long distance back, will be looking for a certain as-yet-unidentified vehicle with lights on (or without) as he moves quickly up through traffic. Suddenly, he is in identifiable range of a vehicle similar in size and shape to the one he believes may have been violating, only now the illumination is different from what he saw earlier, thus rendering him unsure. Meanwhile, you, practicing Rule 2 and 3, will have slowed to a quasi-legal speed. This usually draws a perplexed and suspicious look from the officer, but no pull-over order, especially if you have removed your radar detector from the windshield or visor. An integral part of deception and hiding is the placement and removal of the detector. The unit belongs on the windshield or dash directly in front of you so that a following threat vehicle cannot see it. If you were an enforcer, would you not pursue vehicles wherein reside little amber or green blinking lights and kinky power cords, which can be seen from hundreds of feet away? If you believe you have been actually "noticed" by a trailing police vehicle, hide in front of large trucks, accelerate while under cover, and exit any off-ramp or rest area. At this juncture, you have nothing to lose.
Any time you believe that an officer wants to close in on you, remove the detector at once and place it on the seat next to you. If you are in imminent danger being stopped, execute the following emergency procedures in sequence: ( 1) remove detector and jam under seat, (2) wipe off suction cup or other telltale mark with moistened index fingertip, and (3) replace the cigarette lighter! An empty cigarette lighter outlet is a dead giveaway to the officer that he is dealing with a chronic but sly violator. He will treat you accordingly.
Do not act blasť. A cocky stance of "Okay, so-you-got-me" is provocative. So is attempting to argue that there must be some terrible mistake, you know you were under the limit. Failure to remove the detector and the suction-cup marks and to replace the cigarette lighter will terribly disappoint the officer.
(It is now, by the way, that you wish you hadn't ordered the Sports Decor Pack," but this is a moot issue.)
Be courteous, candid, and contrite. Trembling while handing over your license demonstrates that this situation is an unusual and terrifying experience for you. It shows respect for the law and fear of punishment. (You'll do this automatically .)
The question, "Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" should be answered with, "Truly, I don't - my mind was wondering." (This is accurate: You were not focusing on Rules 1 through 9!) "But I must have been over the limit or I guess you wouldn't have stopped me." Note that you weren't speeding deliberately - no "late for work" or "catch a plane" excuses! Your attention drifted a bit, that's all, no premeditated criminally was involved!
At this point, the officer may run a computer check on your hopefully uninteresting driving record which, if you have been diligently and consistently been practicing Dr. Bigone s rules, will be point-free! The resultant action may well be (1) a warning, (2) a modest fine not involving points, or (3) some "break" in the reported excess speed, minimizing the points and thus limiting the damage. The author has experienced all of these outcomes.
There you have it! May you drive enjoyably, safely, with low insurance premiums and a good, clean driving record.
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