Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of O.J. Simpson’s infamous slow-speed chase through the Southern California freeway system, creating a watershed moment in the world of media circuses and celebrity-driven spectacle.
How would the infamous chase play out if it took place two decades later? TheWrap ran some numbers to find out how it would change, and how it would stay the same.
First of all, it would’ve ended very differently. When Simpson and his chauffeur, Al Cowlings, rolled the iconic white Ford Bronco off of the Sunset Blvd. exit of the 405 freeway en route to Simpson’s Brentwood home, they would encounter a drastically altered scene — because Simpson’s former home is no longer there. The residence, formerly located at 360 N. Rockingham Ave., was demolished by its new owner in 1998.
Remarkably, given the seemingly ever-more-congested state of Southern California’s freeways, it appears that the drive itself would pretty much take the same amount of time.
Amazingly, for an event that was so widely documented when it occurred, accounts vary as to when the chase actually began, with some accounts placing the beginning of the chase at approximately 6 p.m. and others placing it an hour later.
The Los Angeles Police Department has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for clarification, but we’re basing our calculations on the New York Times‘ account that the chase began at approximately 7 p.m. in Orange County, “near El Toro”.
Also read: O.J. Simpson Granted Parole
Simpson and Cowlings arrived at Simpson’s home “by 8 p.m.,” the Times notes.
A Mapquest directions search conducted at 7:09 p.m. on Friday, June 13, puts the driving time for the 59.29 mile trip at 1 hour, nine minutes — much as it was two decades ago. Granted, our route isn’t entirely identical to the path that Simpson and Cowlings used — Mapquest directed us to briefly take the 22 freeway, whereas media reports say the infamous duo traveled via the Artesia freeway and the Harbor freeway.
But let’s assume that Mapquest chose the most efficient path (yes, we’re aware how unlikely that is). This would mean that a chase that seemed to unspool at a snail’s pace in 1994 would equate to an average commute time today. What driver wouldn’t be tempted to make the drive O.J.-style, pointing the barrel of a gun at his own head?
While O.J. would’ve spent about the same amount of time on the drive, the actual financial cost is an entirely different story. In 1994, Cowlings’ 1992 Ford Bronco would’ve gotten 17 miles per hour on the freeway. With gas prices in Los Angeles averaging — grab your smelling salts now — $1.22 a gallon, the joyride would have cost $4.25 in gas.
Flash-forward 20 years later. The Ford Bronco was discontinued in 1996, so the equivalent ride would be a 2012 Ford Expedition. Cowlings and Simpson would get a break on fuel efficiency — the 2012 Expedition gets 20 m.p.g. on the freeway. However, with an average gas price of $4.13 in Los Angeles, the trip would cost a relatively whopping $14.41.
Clearly, crime still doesn’t pay — and with every uptick at the gas pump, it gets more expensive all the time.