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Speeding shouldn't be fast track to driving joy

LAST weekend I was out on the roads, breaking the law. So were you. So was your neighbour. Everybody speeds.

LAST weekend I was out on the roads, breaking the law. So were you. So was your neighbour.

Everybody speeds. Well, maybe not everybody, but the odds are, lay your hand on your heart and say, "I've never sped, not once, not ever," and your pants will probably burst into flame.

101 kilometres per hour in a 100 km/h zone? That counts. Breezing over the limit on the downhill side of the Lion's Gate Bridge? That counts. Trying to catch the ferry in Horseshoe Bay and making up a little extra time? That counts double.

And the thing is, we view it as being harmless. It's just a few klicks over the speed limit, and hey, the limits are way too slow anyway. I mean, obviously if the limit doesn't change whether it's bucketing down rain or flawless sunshine, then obviously the numbers on that sign are just an average and should be treated as such.

If you get a ticket: oh come on, don't you guys have real crimes to solve? I can imagine being a traffic cop could get a little tiring, most days.

The police are no angels either - on the same day that an article was published showcasing the West Vancouver Police department's toughest speed enforcer, I overheard two cops talking jokingly about the need to stretch a car's legs up around the Cypress Bowl Road.

There's lower-case speeding, and then there's upper-case Speeding. As in, "do not get fined $200, but your car goes directly to jail" speeding. It's more common than you think. Last year, they even impounded a Canada Post truck.

Some would say that the problem is that the speeds are too low. Modern cars are much better than they once were, and modern roads are properly designed for high-speed travel. They have autobahns in Germany: why not here?

Everyone crosses the Lynn Creek Bridge (where the speed limit is 70km/h) at around 90 km/h - if not more. If you parked a police cruiser there, at the end of the long hill, you'd have to ticket the entire North Shore. Why not simply raise the limit to reflect the speed traffic actually flows at?

Simple. Because we're all (me too) morons. Bump the limit on the Upper Levels from 90 km/h to 100km/h and everyone will just drive at 110km/h. Adjust the speed upwards more, and we'll just keep going faster. And faster.

What's more, we'll do it while paying the least amount of attention possible. We'll text, and fiddle with the stereo, and punch directions into our sat-nav systems. We'll tail-gate and forget to shoulder-check, we'll weave out of our lane while trying to reach in the back seat to grab something. We'll generally, taken as an average, suck at driving.

George Carlin said it best, "Anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac." These days, most of us are the latter rather than the former. I blame our cars.

Engineers have gotten too good at isolating people from the road. This is especially true of luxury marques like Lexus and Mercedes, but even lowly compacts can trick you into going too fast. With the horsepower level in the average driveway higher than ever, speeding is the default, rather than the exception.

Later this summer, I have a BMW M6 to review. Quite frankly, I'm not sure how I'm not going to have it taken away from me: just glance sideways at the gas pedal of that 560 h.p. beast and it'll break the sound barrier.

The law is already in place: speed excessively and they'll take your car away. It's not going away.

And so, the end of speed. Rather than a selling feature, horsepower is becoming a liability. Who wants a two-tonne hypersonic tomb where they have to pump in engine noise when you can have the same amount of fun in a lightweight car with modest limits like a Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ?

In the future, sports cars won't necessarily be fast any more. Quick, sure, but not fast. While electronically linked up, self-driving autonomous cars ferry the uninterested around the landscape, small, lightweight, moderately powered machines will be the chariots for those still interested in driving.

Speed limits are just fine. Sure, on a sunny day, with no one on the road and clear blue skies about you, you'll be tempted to stretch the law a little bit. Thing is, if you've got the right car, you won't really need to.

Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and automotive enthusiast. If you have a suggestion for a column, or would be interested in having your car club featured, please contact him at Follow Brendan on Twitter: @ brendan_mcaleer.

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