Yes, I'm well aware I may be seen by some as a contrarian voice in the chorus here on Jalopnik today. But, despite the large number of posts, I know I'm not the only one of us who has expressed some misgivings over covering the topic of Alex Roy and Dave Maher's record-breaking sea-to-sea run of 31 hours, 4 minutes. However, after reading comments from some of our readers as well as those elsewhere on the internet, I felt the need to voice some of those thoughts a little more clearly than has yet been expressed. Some may see me as wearing the hater hat, but luckily I've got thick skin, so I think I'll manage.
First, let's drop a couple of caveats on the table. Like many, I have driven too fast before. I've driven above the speed limit before. I've also done some stupid things in a car before — including driving when I've not had enough sleep. I've even covered and participated for a short time in a road rally. None of those things should be commended, celebrated or reveled in. It was stupid when I did it, and it's stupid if I do it again. Now that we've got that settled, let's talk about the matter at hand.
The "Transcontinental Record" for driving once meant something — I'm sure it was a symbol of the freedom of the open road, the success of the national highway system or the achievement of a goal once impossible — but whatever. The '79 record occurred one month before I was born, so that era of driving excitement is obviously not as intertwined with my childhood past as others with fewer and more gray hairs. But for me, that's the rub — it's the past — a past that no longer exists.
Let's talk about the present. Instead of highways and byways of clear and open sailing across middle America — today's roads are continually becoming more and more congested. The roads and highways of the nation were largely unpopulated at night and during most of the non-commuting day in the 70's when the first attempts at the "record" occurred. But as the population has expanded and the suburbs have simultaneously sprawled, roads are now populated at all times of the day and night.
Regardless of whether that's a good thing — it's a fact. In addition to the soccer mom minivan drivers of this world traveling to and fro during the day at a snail's pace, and the vampire-shift workers coming and going in the dark of night, there's also the truckers. The number of large trucks has steadily increased. Just from 1980 to 2000, there was a 82% increase in miles travelled of domestic freight (Bureau of Transportation Statistics), while the number of multi-axle roads didn't increase more than 1% during that same period. (Federal Highway Administration). Our roads are becoming more congested than ever before — and congested with people who don't expect to have a car racing by, in front of, or around them.
Given that, and the need to focus on the road in front of you as you attempt to accomplish a record requiring a lead foot of at least 89 MPH sustained over thirty hours — does attempting a "transcontinental record" really make sense? No, it does not. There's too many innocent lives on the roads these days — and endangering them for the sake of a person's pride and a desire to beat a time from a past that no longer is relevant given today's roads is selfish, silly and dangerous.
The transcontinental record for driving needs to go the way of the dodo bird. Those thrill-seekers who want to go fast and prove their endurance (insert sexual innuendo-laced double entendre here) should do it on the track. That's the place where real men and women, those who realize the importance of not endangering civilians, race. I'd much rather be applauding 24 Hours of LeMans-style max endurance track racing than applauding people stuck to the belief that a style of road racing popularized by Dom DeLuise and Terry Bradshaw is in some way a logical way to spend one's time.