Reader Question: Speeding and Tailgating

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Roger asks: The speed limit is 75 mph on the highway in Texas. Many are doing 80 but the real problem is they will only be 30-50 feet a part. If some slammed on their brakes the one or several would wreck. That’s because it takes about 3/4 seconds to hit the brake peddle, at 75+ its 110 ft+, would 75-80 feet to stop, they are to close. I generally stay in the right lane and stay at least 5 or 6 car links behind. People need to be taught!

My reply: I agree that not maintaining a safe following distance is .  .  . unsafe. But it’s also unsafe at 55 or even 45.

Put another way, it’s not the speed that’s fundamentally the problem.

You’re right that the higher the speed, the greater the impact in the event there is a crash. But the speed – as such – does not necessarily mean a greater likelihood of a crash. Especially if people maintain adequate following distance. I agree absolutely that this ought to be taught – an tailgating discouraged.

. . .

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  1. If conditions dictate that I follow very closely, (& sometimes they do!) a trick I’ve used to good effect is to look *thru* the windows of the car I am following to scan the up-ahead traffic. That way, I am not dependent on the car in front of me signaling (via his brake lights) of any traffic issues. Try it!

  2. Lane disipline and keeping a space cushion seem to be the biggest issues with drivers in the US. Even though there are laws on the books that require slower traffic to keep right, and that normal travel lane is the right lane, there are plenty of people who insist that the left lane is just fine for travel. Of course this infuriates people attempting to pass.

    Then there’s the clover who creeps up behind you, gets over in the left lane then doesn’t pass. Just sits not-quite in the blind spot. Particularly annoying at night since their lights are now in your side view mirror. If there’s no one behind me I usually just cut off the cruise control and slow way down, forcing them to pass. More than a few times clover has matched my speed, just refusing to pass and not getting behind me. EXTREMELY annoying. I can only guess that they’re drunk or high and they think traveling in herds will keep them safe. Or that they don’t want my lights in their mirror, which can be completely avoided by not traveling in the left lane.

    Of course no one is ever ticketed for tailgating or traveling in the left lane. Too easy to fight in court. Much easier to go after “speeders” since it’s a machine (radar) making the judgement not a fallible human being.

  3. I often “tailgate “. One of my main concerns is they’re going to get a lesson at both our expenses when they stupidly slow after passing while the traffic flow is fast and crowded.

    The problem isn’t the speed but incompetent driving. When the vehicle in front slows after just pulling in front of you you have to slow causing the vehicle behind to slow. This often leads to distance being reduced and reaction times being reduced so that eventually someone back down the way doesn’t have the proper distance and time to slow because this is an accumulative time problem. Often the driver who starts this goes erratically on their way as vehicles behind them are emergency braking because of their stupid driving.

    Dash cams everybody, especially truckers, CYA.

    The general public drives HUA while occasionally looking at the road.

    It seems to be much worse when people are going to work and doing fairly much everything except paying attention.

    John cuts across 2 lanes braking hard to hit that exit cause it snuck up on him while he was looking through papers or just forgot that was his exit for getting coffee…and Mary is clueless while trying to get her makeup on. Of course she can’t see what’s going on with the lighted mirror showing her face and not the road.
    I see lots of drivers in fast, heavy dark of the morning traffic who just won’t put their foot in it to not be going fast enough to blend in once again causing that accumulative braking situation. If you’re lucky and no one collides that same slow ahole will be charging past you in a minute or 2, right as he realizes, because of HUA he needs to get off right now for gas and burrito.

    He’ll do it every morning too. ….like clockwork. What? Me worry.? If they’d all put an Alfred E sign on their pickup the rest of us would be forewarned.


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