Tailgaters, Back Off
We’ve all been there; driving along, doing the speed limit, or maybe just a few k faster, when suddenly you have a person behind you seemingly inches from your bumper. Usually, the first reaction is unease at the situation. Knowing the tailgater is there increases the chance of being rear-ended astronomically; it is unsettling to find someone with a total lack of respect for safety, consideration or common sense.
The next reaction is often anger. ‘Why are they such jerks?’ you wonder. You consider slamming on your brakes to ‘teach them a lesson’. Although braking brinksmanship does work occasionally to make them back off, this tactic just as often ignites a road rage situation instead. This puts everyone sharing that stretch of pavement in great danger.
You can guarantee the brake slamming action will not teach the lesson you so ardently want them to learn. Studies have shown that people who tailgate don’t do it because they are in a rush; it is simply a bad habit. Given the fact that most of the time, their tailgating ways have not led to an accident, a feeling of complacency sets in and it becomes learned behavior. There is no rationality to it. Indeed, the vast majority of these tailgaters believe they are excellent drivers with such wonderful reaction times; the rules regarding leaving a three to four second gap don’t apply to them.
In light of the reality that 95% of motorists feel they are above average drivers, which, of course, is a mathematical impossibility, experts say awareness campaigns would be ineffectual. People who are deluded about their driving skills would not feel the message was directed at them. To them, there is no problem. They just have a different ‘comfort zone’ between vehicles than other people. Their comfort zone for people behind them is often greater, too. The lack of sense or reason for not allowing an extra second or two of reaction time in case of an emergent situation does not cross their minds.
There is a technological answer to the problem, however, that is already available. To remind people to stop this irrational tailgating behavior, all cars should start being equipped with distance sensors that produce a tone when the car in front is less than a four second gap. The tone will increase in volume, or perhaps, pulse, the smaller the gap, to remind the driver to back off. It would be a convenient way to change deep-seated behavior and make the roads much safer for everyone.
We all know it will never happen, though. People care about their freedoms too much, even the freedom to break laws and imperil their fellow citizens. If people were truly serious about making the highways safer, they would support a government effort to put a limit on how fast a car should be allowed to go. Given that the fastest speed allowable in this country is 110 KPH, why are vehicle makers allowed to sell street legal cars that go over 120? It’s not like it is legal to speed, even when passing another vehicle. There is no situation on our roads that an honest person requires a car to go any faster than that. Governments, however, would be loath to implement such a system. However, knowing the pushback would be massive. There are a lot of motorists who vote and most are happy with the laws as they stand, more or less. They would rather speeding and tailgating be managed through enforcement, rather than being proactive in limiting cars’ functions. This is because they know the chances of being caught for either speeding or tailgating are really quite slim and, having not yet died in a high-speed wreck, figure ‘so far, so good so why change’?
Since we can’t count on the government to save us from these irrational idiots with their front grilles filling the rear-views, it is important to learn how to deal with these special kinds of morons.
The experts will tell you the first thing to remember when you are suddenly aware of a tailgater behind you, is to remain calm. Panicking will obviously only make the situation worse. Check your speedometer and if you are doing the speed limit, don’t feel pressured to go faster. The tailgater won’t pay your speeding ticket. Try not to obsess about the vehicle and only check your rearview as often as you normally would. Remember to drive your drive. Never let someone else’s driving behavior influence your own. You cannot change how the person behind you drives but you can change your reaction to it.
There are some drivers that appear to be in great need of a Snickers bar, because they cross the line from mere aggressive to downright dangerous driving. In this case, your best defense is to try and pull over as soon as it is safe to let the idiot pass. If the jerk is persistent, maybe consider phoning 911 and driving to the closest RCMP detachment. Whenever you see someone imperiling the lives of other motorists in an extreme way, whether appearing to be intoxicated or in a rage, for example, it is vital to get the license and call 911. You would be doing everyone a favor, including yourself.
The fact is that tailgating does not get you to your destination any faster. If you are rushing constantly, maybe give yourself more time to get to your destination, instead of factoring in the need to speed as part of your time management strategy. Your lack of proper time management is not other drivers’ problem. Back off.
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