Two drivers make breakneck high-speed runs on public roads, one around Manhattan and the other across the country.
Both finish without accidents or getting nabbed by the police.
Both brag about it.
But one of these drivers is in trouble, and the other is not. One may lose his license. The other is enjoying consequence-free Internet fame, for now.
And only one will be hearing from his car insurance company.
How did this happen?
A race around Manhattan
At the end of August, a driver calling himself Afroduck took a high-speed trip around Manhattan – 26.5 miles in 24 minutes 7 seconds. At the speed limit in light traffic, the drive should take about 45 minutes, according to Google Maps.
He filmed the adventure with a dashboard camera and posted the video online. It doesn’t show his face. Anonymously, he gave interviews to interested parties.
“You frankly can’t identify who I am by just looking at the video,” he told Jalopnik, “and records were meant to be broken.” But Afroduck did tell the website the make and model of car he used.
The video drew hundreds of thousands of views, but his daredevil driving style caught the eye, and ire, of New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who promised to track him down. After NYPD’s Highway District Collision Investigation Squad reviewed video surveillance cameras on the route shown in the video, they did just that.
Christopher Tang was arrested Sept. 5 and his beloved BMW Z4 was seized. Charges include reckless driving, reckless endangerment and following too closely. A judge immediately suspended his license.
Cross country record shattered
Contrast that with Ed Bolian from Atlanta, whose “Cannonball Run” began in New York on Oct. 19 at 9:55 p.m. and ended in Redondo Beach, Calif., at 11:46 p.m. on Oct. 20.
Yes, he drove his modified Mercedes-Benz 2,803 miles in 28 hours, 50 minutes and 30 seconds (and has the GPS tracking company report to prove it). That’s an average of 98 mph.
In interviews -- he’s been featured on CNN, NBC and ABC News as well as the aforementioned Jalopnik -- Bolian says he wasn’t going “insanely fast.”
He also tipped the odds in his favor by carrying three radar detectors and taking cues from lead cars a few hours ahead that warned his team about police, traffic, construction or potential issues.
At one point on the trip, the Mercedes reached 158 mph.
Driving record makes the difference
You can be rated by car insurance providers only on what they see on your record.
Unless Bolian is tracked down, ticketed and convicted of traffic infractions, his insurance company can’t rate him on speeding or reckless driving-- even if the whole company watches him talk about his incredibly quick trek across the U.S.
Tang’s insurance future, on the other hand, is looking pretty bleak. Reckless driving and reckless endangerment are considered major offenses not just by the state, but also by car insurance companies.
The reckless offenses cannot affect his rates until he is convicted, but the car insurance company can act now on the suspended license. New York law allows auto insurers to cancel a policy mid-term if your license is suspended.
When he goes to get insurance again, the suspension will continue to haunt him. Some insurers won’t even consider him, and those that will are likely to charge him vastly more. Depending on his insurance company’s surcharge schedule, he could be penalized for the next three, five or seven years.
Had either driver had the misfortune to hit something or someone, all that noise on the Internet would be potent evidence for prosecutors of a history of risky driving behavior. If social media proved a driver misrepresented the facts that led to a claim, an insurance company could deny it, even if there were no conviction on a traffic violation. (See “It’s not social media – it’s evidence.”)