Back in my misspent youth we took chances in cars-incredibly risky chances. But there was one time when I was really glad that I wasn’t along for the ride.
That’s when a severely drunk and stupid buddy of mine decided to take a car-load of his closest drinking colleagues for a 5-mile trip on a major four lane freeway.
In the wrong lane.
Despite my dangerously uninformed youthful age at the time I couldn’t believe how lucky these guys were to survive a wrong way trip on a busy highway.
Because even at that age we’d already had some peers end up with toe tags in a meat wagon thanks to that same insane stunt on that same road. In our youthful leap of logic we could forgive the guy if he was driving the same way as traffic but driving headfirst into heavy traffic crossed a line.
And in a way it made some sense because the sober drivers have a much better of chance seeing this drunken wheel man in front of them than seeing this clown heading straight at him in his lane at the last millisecond cresting a hill. That’s the kind of driving that exceeds the power of 120,000 St. Christopher medals-the patron saint of travelers only has so much juice.
It was the “driving the wrong way on the road” part of the equation that sent our severely underdeveloped adolescent danger radar into a Star trek caliber “red alert”. And now guys are paying good money to drive cars designed for the wrong side of the road…when they’re sober.
Japanese vehicles are dirt cheap because Japan is so heavily anti-old beater car. In other words you don’t see a ton of 1981 Celicas kicking around Kyoto in 2010. In fact you’d have a much better chance of spotting a 1959 Cadillac convertible in traffic thanks to the Japanese love affair with vintage U.S. culture.
In Canada you can basically import and drive any 15-year-old right hand drive vehicles and license them for the road and most North American jurisdictions are similar. So you can take that 1995 Suzuki truck right off the boat, jump through the same hoops for a left hand drive car and have it on the street within hours.
Even though that little truck is 40% more likely to be involved in a crash and 4 times more likely to cause a crash. Add in that fact that many of these imports are Japanese street monsters that ruled the roads in Tokyo back in 1995. They’re insanely fast and most of them are being driven by guys closer to 20 years old than 30.
So you end up with a young guy driving a car designed for the other side of the road-throw out the 24 beers that my buddy drank back in the 70s and you essentially have history repeating itself.
You run into a fine line here between property rights and public safety-it’s not quite as well defined as the law that doesn’t let you take your UZI on a jet but it does beg a few questions.
Questions like why don’t these vehicles have sky-high insurance rates? They sure priced the 1970 Hemi-Cuda out of the reach of the average guy back in the 70s simply because those cars turned too many kids into Teen Angels.
The same logic should apply to these “righties in lefty traffic cars” if your chances of a crash go up significantly . If not, then a whole bunch of aging guys who had to sell their beloved GTOs back in the 1960s because their insurance rates could buy a small bungalow should start working on a giant class action suit.
Or I can quit hacking on my buddy for something he did over 35 years ago.
Jerry Sutherland @mystarcollectorcar.com.