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Never Worry About Tailgaters Ever Again

September 30, 2015

What is he doing?

There is tons of room. Why doesn’t he go around?

Doesn’t he realize the headlights from his lifted truck are shining right in my eyes? 

Tailgaters. Everyone hates them, including the offenders themselves if they happen to end up on the frontend rather than the backend of the exchange. What do you do? Speed up? Change lanes? Slam on your brakes? Give them a one finger salute?

Or just don’t get mad and get them to go around you?

First, let’s dispense with the fiction that speeding helps you get to your destination faster. If you drive on America’s freeways, it doesn’t. Not unless you want to get totally crazy.

I live about 40 miles from my office. About 35 miles of that commute is freeways. I get on I15 in Pleasant Grove, UT, take it north for about 20 miles. Then, switch to the westbound I215 freeway. I take that about 10 miles northwest to the 201 freeway. I follow that for a few miles west and it drops me right at my office. The speed limit on those freeways is between 65 and 70 mph. (Yeah, Utah has some of the highest speeds in the nation, there’s even an 80 mph freeway in Southern Utah.)

At 70 mph, it takes me 30 minutes to cover that 35 miles of freeway driving. But, who goes the speed limit? Not a lot of people in Utah. Like most people, I’ll tack on that extra 5 mph. How much sooner does that faster speed get me to my office? Two minutes. That’s it. If I drive 5 miles over the speed limit, I save a whopping 2 minutes off my commute time. No one is going to notice that extra 2 minutes in my day. And I have a long commute. If yours is shorter, it’s going to save you even less time.

So, speeding doesn’t really save you much time.

Now, let’s talk about tailgating. I’m driving along at 75 mph and that guy behind me wants to go 80. I know it isn’t really saving him any time, but I have no way of telling him that. And even if I did, he wouldn’t want to listen or believe me. 

Those crazy people who try to whip through traffic by cutting back and forth across multiple lanes, speeding and tailgating? They are gaining MAYBE 5-10 seconds on you. Try this experiment the next time you are driving on the freeway. Watch for one of those speed demons. When he (and it’s almost always a he, sorry guys) goes past you, keep an eye on his car. After 5 or 10 minutes look for a road sign or an exit sign. When Speedy Gonzalez goes past it start counting. When you reach the sign, stop counting. Chances are you counted less than 10 seconds.

I mentioned that my commute is 35 miles of freeway driving. However, it’s not all 70 mph. I commute past a landmark known as Point Of The Mountain. It’s a section of the mountains that sticks out and forces the freeway to veer to the west and go up and over it. Utah Department of Transportation is widening the freeway at Point of the Mountain. They are half way through a 2 year construction project. Part of the reason I leave for work so early, is that traffic at the Point is pretty bad. They take away the carpool lane, and drop the speed limit from 70 mph to 55 mph. I’m willing to drive 75 in a 70 mph zone, but 75 in a 55 is a little too much for me. Besides, there are construction workers all over the sides of the road. I slow down to, you guessed it, 60 mph. And that’s when the tailgaters start.

Not everyone wants to drive 60 through the construction zone. In fact, lots of people want to continue driving 75 or 80. The lanes are narrow and the shoulders non-existent. I think that’s why the Highway Patrol doesn’t give a lot of tickets through there. But, there are lots of people who think I’m going too slow at 60. Of course, I stay out of the left lane. That’s just rude to drive slow in the inside lane. But, parked in the lane second from the left, every day I tool along for the 10 miles of construction at my safe(r) 60. And every day I get tailgaters. The ones that want to go 70, just whip around me and keep going. It’s the ones that want to go 63 that end up behind me; as if they can push me with their headlights to bump it up a few miles per hour.

Here’s the secret to getting them to stop tailgating you: slow down. Not aggressively. Not by slamming on your brakes and making them fear for their safety. That’s not only dangerous driving, it’s going to make the other driver angry. While that might be momentarily satisfying, it’s potentially dangerous. And it’s just not a nice thing to do. No, instead, just take your foot off the accelerator and decrease your speed by a couple of miles per hour. The guy behind you won’t even notice that you are consciously doing it. All he knows is that it’s now worth it for him to go around. People who will tailgate you when you are going 60 mph will go around you when you are going 55 mph. And we’ve already established that you really don’t lose any commute time by dropping your speed slightly. If you try to outrun the tailgater by speeding up? They’ll match pace with you. If you change lanes, you’ll pick up a tailgater in the other lanes as well. Instead, just take a slight break and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the tailgaters go around AND as an added bonus, your own stress level will decrease.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

One Comment
  1. Eric Scott permalink

    EXACTLY the method I employ on the DC/MD/VA freeways and major grid streets. Doesn’t ALWAYS work, but maybe 75% – I’m often pointing out to my son the useless jackrabbit drivers darting all over the place and ending up almost even with me miles later. Sometimes BEHIND me, if I made good lane choices to stick with!

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