I was about to get passed. A couple of SUVs and a car. The Ceppos family had been motoring blissfully homeward from Chicago one recent Sunday, enjoying the miles in AutoWeek's long-term loaner Infiniti Q45.
Smooth as Glenlivet, this car. The speedometer hung around 85, a crawl on this slab of Midwestern interstate. My wife was reading, my daughter listening to CDs.
And so they passed, an Explorer-Malibu-Tahoe three-pack. A trio of wholly unremarkable vehicles, their passengers chatting nonchalantly, at approximately 11/2 miles per minute. A non-event.
I've been getting passed a lot more often these days, by everyone from gray-haired grandmas in Crown Vics to soccer dads herding loaded SUVs. Regular folks driving regular cars going irregularly fast.
I know I have not slowed my pace so, anecdotally at least, the world is driving faster. Which is exactly why we should be concerned.
How could driving 90 mph have become a non-event? Something so common, so normal, so easy, that so many more people are doing it without even having to pause in the middle of their conversations?
Don't get me wrong here. I'm all for speed. The ever-upward spiral of better! safer! faster! is what progress is all about. Besides, going fast in a great car is fun.
But every time some half-awake schmo blows by me in an ``average'' automobile I start wondering if our cars haven't gotten too good.
Fact is, cars have gotten better-exponentially-in almost every way. Drivers haven't.
Today's so-called average car or truck delivers a level of dynamics, comfort and safety-ride, steering, stability, performance, refinement, solidity and ergonomics-we didn't dream possible a decade ago.
If you haven't pedaled a full-sized pickup or SUV down the road in recent years (hasn't everyone by now?), you will be amazed at how effortless it is to do. These vehicles used to be unwieldy beasts of burden.
Parking one of them is the only challenge left in the operator's portfolio of talents.
Great engineering has made the once difficult easy, and to that I say ``Bravo!'' But our vehicles today are so stable, so smooth, so quiet and so confidence-inspiring that they make under-skilled drivers feel like pros.
As evidence I give you the wild man weaving his Excursion through traffic as if it could defy the laws of physics.
Add to that the distractions of cell phones, pagers and navigation systems, and the road-going wisdom of our driving population is severely challenged. They're sloppy out there.
Driver training and licensing protocols must change.
I generally hold that the government's responsibilities ought to stop at protecting the coasts and delivering the mail. But c'mon, we have to deal with these battalions of bozos cluttering up our highways with rude, crude driving behavior. Better training. Tougher licensing hurdles. Something.
We keep building better cars. It's time to build better drivers.
Rich Ceppos is publisher of AutoWeek, a sister publication of Tire Business.