3 reasons why you shouldn’t tailgate
For this post, I thought I would take a break from high performance upgrades, racing strategies, or discussions about why owning an older car can be challenging. Instead, I want to focus on a topic that has bothered me since before I picked up my drivers license: tailgating. I don’t like it. And I’m not going to pussyfoot around this one… I dont’ like people who defend themselves for tailgating. If you’re one of those people – and let’s be honest, there’s a 50% chance you are – listen up. Here are three great reasons why you should stop arguing with me and stop tailgating.
Reason #1: risk to other drivers and yourself
The absolute most important reason for not tailgating is that it greatly increases the chance of a wreck. (You’ll notice that I didn’t call it an “accident” because it wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t tailgating!) As a human in a machine, there is a reaction time between the moment your eyes see something, your brain interprets that data and makes a decision on how to react, your muscles actually doing something, and the car responding to your commands. We’ll call that amount of time X. There is another amount of time that we’ll call Y. It’s the time it will take for your car to catch up to the car in front of you. Normally, Y is constantly changing because you and the driver in front of you are varying speeds. But in a rear-end collision, that time is very finite and very short. If time X is greater than time Y, you will hit the car in front of you. Among other factors such as road conditions and the health of your car, the distance that you follow will play a huge role in the length of time Y. If you’re tailgating, time Y can be extremely short.
But enough of the technical, let’s just look at the facts. If you rear end a car in front of you, you will be blamed for the wreck. You might get a ticket and your insurance premium is likely to increase. Your insurance company may even drop you. Your car will likely be damaged, the other driver’s car will likely be damaged, and you will be responsible for fixing both. You might injure the the other driver, their passengers, your passengers, and yourself. If there are any medical bills associated with the wreck, you will be held liable. If the wreck is bad enough, you could cause serious injury to another person who can then take you to court for the time they lost at work, pain and suffering, and future medical bills. And let’s not mention that you could flat-out kill someone.
Risk. C’mon, I had to go there.
Reason #2: it doesn’t help
I haven’t done any real research on this, but I believe people who tailgate feel that it will get them to their destination faster and/or it makes slower drivers get out of their way. For the most part, these are common misconceptions. Most of the time, it is red lights and congestion that will hold you up. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a very aggressive drive tailgate and dart in and out of traffic to get ahead. Sure, they’ll seem like they’re getting further up the highway than me, but we both take the same exit and we both get stuck at the same red light. I’ve even seen them sitting at the red light and it turns green just as I’m approaching. So really, all they gained was a bit of “hurry up and wait.”
As for making slower drivers move, that’s just silly. Yes, slower drivers are supposed to keep to the right, but the fact of the matter in the Greater Seattle area is that most lanes on the highways are filled up most of the time. Tailgating the guy in front of you when you’re both stuck behind a thousand other people in a 1/2 mile stretch of highway is not going to make them move. You really gain nothing by riding his ass.
It doesn’t help… get it?
Reason #3: it pisses people off
I can already see the reaction to this from the people who defend tailgating, “Why should I care if I piss off the other drivers?” Well, for starters there is a thing called common courtesy and not being a total cock to your fellow man (I think that last one was taken verbatim from the bible). But more importantly than that, pissing off other drivers can cause them to be aggressive to you and other drivers. It’s a vicious cycle, really. You’re a cock, so you tailgate and piss someone off. They, in turn, cut off someone else. The person who gets cut off turns out to be an up-and-coming murderer who decides that getting cut off is the last straw. They get to the office and unload an AK-47 into their colleagues. Well, congratulations, Mr. Tailgater, you just caused a mass homocide. Feel better about yourself?
Exaggerations aside, you really could get into it with someone over something as trivial as commuting to work. For example, my wife and I were in a crowded parking lot hunting for a spot when a lady swooped in and stole a spot we were waiting for. I murmured something about her being a bitch and kept on moving when my wife reached over and honked the horn. A few minutes later we found a spot and the lady who stole the first one walked past and said with a bitchy attitude, “See? You found a better one!” Well, what if said she-bitch was a 300 lb. linebacker with a short temper whose wife just left him. Now your face is going to pay the price for that honk. Same thing could happen by tailgating.
You don’t want to piss this guy off, but he could be the one you’re tailgating.
So please do everyone a favor and back the fuck off. You’re putting yourself and others at risk for absolutely no reason besides making yourself feel better. But guess what? Do it to the wrong person and you could come home with a boot in your ass all because you thought (incorrectly) that it would get you to your destination faster. Way to go, captain, maybe you can use that boot from your ass to remove the dent in your car that the 300 lb. linebacker made.
~ Alex “No, I’m not at all bitter about this topic” Gregorio