Tailgating Kills or Tales of the Tailgater

As many of you may know by now, I don’t like tailgaters. Tailgating is not only dangerous, it’s stupid. I mean, how close do they have to get to feel like they are getting somewhere? Five feet? Ten? Twenty? Someone has to tell these people that they are not going to get there any sooner if they get any closer- Especially a car behind a truck. How can they see?

I said just that to a group of drivers recently and one of them argued that when he does it, he is trying to make the slow car ahead move over into the slow lane, where he should be. But then what about the next car who is only fifty feet ahead? Is he going to tailgate him too, so that he will move over? And the next one too? I have seen drivers do just that, many times. They think that they can get somewhere by “pushing” their way through. All that effort and risk, just to squeeze out an extra two or three miles per hour.

Tailgating Tale One

You may have heard about the accident in Chicago last month, where a truck overturned, spilling a hazardous material. They had to shut down the highway to clean it up and it took all day. The driver had a drivers license that was in the name of a man who had been dead for seven years. But, before they figured out that the license was a fake, they said it wasn’t the drivers fault.

He said he was swerving to avoid a car that had cut him off. When I first heard the news, I was happy that it wasn’t the drivers fault, because I know how some companies always love to blame the driver. But then the next day, I found out that witnesses came forward and claimed that he was tailgating and speeding, purposely trying not to let anyone cut in front of him. But, of course they cut in front of him anyway, then stopped suddenly. Then, they found out that his log book indicated that he was supposed to be sleeping in Danville, Illinois and that he was out of hours. Then, the fake drivers license and then they found out that he was an illegal immigrant. Luckily nobody was killed, but there were many injuries including several firemen and police officers, who were exposed to the fumes of the hazardous material.

Tailgating Tale Two

There was another accident,that also happened in Chicago, about five years ago, where two people got killed by a tailgater. Their car had broken down in the center lane, on a busy six lane highway (three lanes in each direction). All of the traffic was going around them on both sides of their car and it was impossible to get out, so they stayed in the car, with their hazard lights flashing. The tailgater never saw them because he couldn’t see them. All he could see was the back of the car in front of him, because he was following so closely. When the lead car switched lanes at the last second, he had no choice but to smash into the stalled car. He was charged with reckless homicide and is spending a few years in jail. I talked to a driver who was a friend of the driver who did it. He didn’t think it was his friends fault. He said that it could happen to anyone who is simply trying to keep up with traffic. But I disagree. This could have been avoided by simply keeping enough space in front of his truck.

Tailgating Tale Three

Then there’s Paul, a very good friend of mine. He’s a professional driver for over twenty years and he usually never tailgates. His truck was fully loaded and he was going down a very long, steep hill somewhere in Tennessee. His brakes were getting hot when he reached a small bridge at the bottom of the hill. He had about two hundred feet of space between him and the car in front of him. Suddenly, the car in front of him stopped on a two lane bridge for no apparent reason.

If he was to hit her, he would have killed her for sure. So he took evasive action. He went around her and smashed a parked car with nobody in it, instead. But with all that weight and the downgrade, he still couldn’t stop. He wound up going into a ditch, nose first, before he finally stopped. According to the police and even his company, it wasn’t his fault. With all that weight going downhill, he would have had to maintain a following distance of at least five hundred feet in order to stop in time. Which would have been impossible because cars were constantly passing him. Maybe he should have been driving a little slower. Some hills have different speed limits for different weights. On “Cabbage” (a big hill in Oregon), the recommended speed limit for a fully loaded truck is eighteen miles per hour. I like that speed because if my brakes are going to fail, I want it to happen at a slow speed.

Tailgating Kills

Many truck drivers love to complain about all the four wheelers that don’t understand just how difficult it can be to stop a truck (myself included). But, if we all are so sure that this many people don’t get it, then who is going to compensate for the ignorant? Someone has to. Otherwise there will be a whole bunch of dead people.

These are just a few examples off the top of my head. People get caught up in trying to go with the flow. But sometimes, when traffic is heavy and all of the four wheelers are only maintaining a following distance of a car-length or less, a truck still needs more. Some drivers will argue that as soon as they create a safe enough space, a car or two always jumps in there. And I know this is true. That’s when I say that sometimes you have to go a little slower than them. It’s a law of nature. Cars do circles around trucks because they can. They take off faster and they stop faster. You have to except this fact and get on with being the professional that you are.

If you think you can keep up with the four-wheelers, then you are just a four wheeler driver who happens to be driving a big truck. A lot of responsibility comes with those eighteen wheels. Please be careful out there. In an otherwise crazy, hyped up world, you can still find a voice of sanity here.

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