Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Friday, August 31, 2018

Tailgating 2018

I suppose there could be more than one explanation for this but recently, and by far more this summer, I can't seem to drive anywhere without somebody coming up behind me and tailgating me.
What's tailgating? Bill, define your use of this word.
Back when I learned how to drive a car there was this notion that was taught to new drivers that there was such a thing as a "safe following distance" which, if I recall correctly, was defined, in Maine at least, as allowing at least one car length of distance between the front of your car and the back of the car ahead of you for each ten miles per hour of speed. I still tend to go by that measure. By that measure a driver should allow at least three car lengths at 30 miles per hour, six car lengths at 60, etc.
It's difficult for the car ahead to regulate how far behind the car that's following is so maintaining a safe following distance is the responsibility of the driver of the car that is doing the following.
In other words, the tailgater is the driver of the car that is following too closely.

So picture this:
  • It's late in the day on a Monday in late summer and I am driving an older Subaru Outback with my wife beside me and two of my grandchildren in the back seat and we are in Acadia National Park on the Maine Coast and we have just started up the narrow paved road that climbs Cadillac Mountain.
  • The pavement is just wide enough for two lanes, one ascending and one descending.
  • There is no shoulder to speak of on either side of the road, no place to pull over.
  • There is a double yellow line in the center of the road all the way from bottom to top along this road so there is no safe place to pass.
  • The speed limit is posted as 25 miles per hour.
  • I am pretty much doing 25 miles per hour, going maybe as much as 30 on straighter sections and 15 to 20 on the sharpest curves.
  • Although I can see no cars ahead of me, in general most drivers on this road use the same caution I am using because this is a dangerous road.
  • An SUV, or was it a van, sporting pale yellow New Jersey license plates, pulls up behind me and starts following me at a distance close enough so I could, if I were to take the time, clearly see the expression on the driver's face. One car length would be an exaggeration of the following distance this nut is allowing for our safety.
What am I to do?
Basically, this flaming asshole jerk driver has consumed my "safe space" leaving me with four choices:
  • I can speed up in an attempt to satisfy this prick.
  • I can maintain my speed and ignore the fact that this asshole is forcing me to drive at an unsafe speed even though I am only going the speed limit.
  • I can slow down to the new safe speed which if I judge that he is one car length behind me would be 10 miles per hour.
  • I can stop, although there's no shoulder to pull over on when I do stop, and the driver behind me can figure out how to get past me.
I didn't speed up. Speeding up to please a demanding tailgater is just a stupid thing to do if you ask me.
Sometimes slowing down is all that's needed. The tailgating driver will realize why the car ahead of him has slowed down and he will back off. No such luck with this New Jersey asshole. But I did slow down some.
Unfortunately there wasn't a good place to stop for maybe the first quarter or maybe half mile but as soon as there was a short stretch of relatively straight road ahead, like maybe 50 yards of visible roadway ahead, I slowed and signaled a right turn and gradually came to a stop.
Unbelievably, the guy's first reaction (with an expression of confusion on his face) was to pull over and stop behind me although as soon as he realized that the SUV behind him was going to pass the both of us he changed his mind and finally went by me and went zooming off up the hill. I never saw him again.

I used to think that most tailgaters did their evil deed in order to sort of let the drivers of the cars ahead of them know that they were driving too slowly, you know like hey stupid slow driver, I'm in a hurry and you are causing me an unacceptable delay.
Lately I've had to rethink that theory. Over the past few years I have started noticing that people tailgating me don't pass me even when the passing is good, when the road is clear and the lines indicate a passing zone. There's a highway from Brewer to Ellsworth, US Route 1A, that has several areas where the road widens on the uphill side to two lanes. Such areas are marked with signs saying "Slower traffic keep right" or some such thing. So unless I'm passing slower traffic, I pull over into the right lane leaving the lane to my left absolutely free and clear for anybody to pass me.
The worst of the tailgaters don't pass!
I've even seen this on the Interstate when people come up from behind and tailgate me even when there's no traffic behind them preventing them from changing to the left lane and passing me.
My rational mind is incapable of understanding this behavior. Yet it is starting to become a common occurrence and has been especially noticeable this summer.

But I'll give it a try...
Here's what I think must be going on.
People who tailgate the cars ahead of them but don't seem to realize when it's safe to pass just plain feel more comfortable following the cars ahead of them so closely that they can't see the road ahead.
That doesn't make sense, right?
I mean, why would any driver not want to see the road ahead? Why would anyone prefer to be fixed in a daze staring at the tail lights of the cars ahead of them?

Here's my guess:
Because it doesn't take as much brain work. Such drivers are passing the responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers on to the driver of the car ahead of them. They themselves don't need to pay attention to anything other than the car ahead. So they prefer this kind of driving. It's easier.