Every Christmas Eve night, our family likes to take a late night drive just to see how others have decorated their homes and yards. As we do, we drive down residential streets we wouldn’t normally travel, at a snail’s pace trying to take in scenes on both sides of the street at once. Sometimes the brightest lights we see are the headlights of a car beaming in the rear view mirror. This only makes us wonder why drivers tailgate.
I clearly remember an incident in the 1980s while riding home on a public bus speeding profusely down a busy residential street in North Minneapolis. I mean, the driver was going so ridiculously fast that the whole empty bus was shaking and rattling. Ahead of him was a cab, of course being tailgated by the bus. Once the cab driver reached the intersection, he came to a sudden stop forcing the bus driver to stop quickly as well.
The cab driver got out of his car and ran to the entrance of the bus, jumped on and the bus driver yelled to him, “Why did you have to stop so quickly in front of me?” The cab driver responded in anger, “Why are you riding on my ass for?” The bus driver stated, “I have a schedule to keep up with, that’s why?” They looked like they both were about to duke it out right there on the spot.
Of course, I feel that the bus driver was totally out of line. How stupid of him. What if the cab passenger’s house was in the middle of the block? What would happen then? More likely the front end of the bus would end up in the back seat of the cab. By adhering to his schedule, would this make a difference in keeping or losing his job? Most likely not!
One day as you’re driving, you’re trying to find a place where you never stopped at before. As you’re looking for a particular address, you see in your rear view mirror, a car tagging right behind you. In fact, this driver is so close, you fear that if you slow down, he or she will rear-end you. As you know, the person directly behind you is a tailgater.
What do you do now? Some will pull onto the shoulder and let that person pass. Others may drive faster in hopes of leaving this troublesome driver behind.
Because there is currently little, if any hard research on this subject, behavioral experts find it hard to state why drivers tailgate. Leonard Evans, a GM Senior Researcher published a book entitled, Traffic Safety and the Driver. This book is nicknamed “the bible of traffic research safety.” In this publication he states:
“Drivers appear to do many things for their own benefit rather than a utility benefit. It may be done as criminal behavior that’s indulged in for its own sake.”
Not only is tailgating dangerous, it has few, if any real advantages. Perhaps tailgating is more of a habit than a practically intended strategy. For some, tailgating gives the driver an extra sense of safety, especially since crashes rarely do occur because of it. Maybe the driver feels that he/she can’t predict or prepare for situations that might lurk ahead in traffic. Others may do it subconsciously, not even being aware of it. By tailgating, some feel they can get to their destination faster. Oftentimes, it’s a sign of stress.
Hello all you tailgaters out there! Tailgating is not a safe practice. It could lead to a crash and possibly an explosion, especially if the car ahead has a full tank of gas. Likewise, passengers in the car ahead can be injured or killed, not to mention your front end being smashed up. Is that worth getting to your destination faster? Absolutely not! By tailgating, you too can be classified as a murderer.
- Traffic Talk: What constitutes tailgating? And why you should never slam your brakes in response (mlive.com)
- Tailgating ‘worst motorway habit’ (confused.com)
- Tailgating Turns Terrifying for Driver (autos.aol.com)