You pull up to the red light. To your left is a police cruiser. You take a look, smile, and gun the engine. To your surprise, the patrolman does the same. As the light goes green, you both zoom off and you think to yourself: "Is this a dream?"
In most cases you would be, but in a few states you can practice defensive driving and still race against cops. The program, Beat the Heat, sets up at local drag strips and police are happy to participate. In their eyes, racing off publicly travelled streets is much safer.
In fact, many take their old cruisers, or cars that used to be in service with other departments. They soup them up, tweak the engines and have a night of fun with people who, were they doing the same thing on the highway, would lead to flashing lights and impounded cars.
It's one option for drivers who have learned, maybe from needing to take an online traffic school course, that having a lead foot isn't the best idea when it comes to day-to-day driving. In fact, safe racing is available in more areas than you might think. At many advanced driving schools, you don't need a fancy set of wheels or safety gear; they usually come as a part of the package.
There, maybe on a race track or an old airstrip, you can go faster than you would on any public street. But as a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times found out, you also learn a variety of skills that can be beneficial in everyday situations, including:
* Anticipating events and responding to them: Drivers on race courses have to adapt to situations much more rapidly than most motorists. Quick decision making helps.
* Practicing techniques until they become second nature: While anti-lock brakes help, knowing how to get out of a slide or a skid over and over without being able to crash into someone can help in case it happens on a public road.
* Going through unique scenarios: You can do many things on a race track that you simply cannot do on a public road.
"[On a track,] drivers become far more aware of and confident of their ability and their cars' abilities to handle an emergency on public roads," one organizer told the newspaper. "If someone slams on the brakes in front of a driver, instead of panicking they calmly drive to the open lane and around the accident."
Anecdotally, it makes sense to allow drivers to vent their need for speed in the safety of a controlled environment. Famous race car drivers like NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr., have said in interviews that while they race at more than 150 MPH on most tracks, they stick at or near the speed limit on the highways near their homes. They just don't need yet another adrenaline rush.
Racing or driving on closed circuits might not be for everyone. But if you need to go to a traffic school online course
to reduce points from a speeding violation, it might be worth it to see whether or not these options can become a safe outlet.