Thank you for not tailgating
(Editor’s Note: Scott Anthony is substituting for Jerry Robinson this week.)
Is it me or are people on the road becoming more aggressive all the time?
Maybe it's full moon syndrome or spring fever. Tax time is nearing and that tends to make people cranky.
Or maybe it's gas prices. But whatever the reason, I think I've had more tailgaters and rude, abrupt lane changers lately than ever before.
Typically for me, it goes like this; I'm on the freeway in the far left, fast lane when somebody in my rear view mirror appears moving well above the limit. I can see that they will be on my bumper in mere seconds, and I'm already nudging the speed limit by five mph myself.
Now my new friend is so close to my van that I can see he's alone and so he cannot go to the left for the HOV lane. Also, he's on the phone.
As I slow to the exact speed limit, my mind naturally tries to make sense of the situation:
They have a loved one in the hospital and must get there before the afflicted one expires.
They're having a bad day and their anger is seeping into their gas pedal foot.
They're late for work, again.
None of the above reasons is worth a car crash, however, so if the lane is clear to my right, I move over and let them pass.
If it's not, and I am forced to stay put because there is also a car in front of me, I lightly tap the brakes to let them know that they're too close.
Sometimes this works and the jet pilot backs off, but other times they don't seem to get the clue.
Either they will zoom into the HOV lane and glare at me as they roar past, illegally, or they will just stick to my tail like Richard Petty on the last lap of a NASCAR race.
What can we do about this annoyance? Most of us have been in both seats on this issue.
I know I've annoyed cars in front of me when I've been late for an appointment, shouting through the windshield words that are not nice.
I know I'm doing it, and that it is patently silly, but I still do it.
If Mrs. Anthony is with me, she will say, 'What's the big hurry', or 'Not a good idea...you don't know if that guy has a gun.'
This is sad, of course, that we as a society have to fear each other this much.
A common occurrence on highways and autobahns in Europe when a driver wishes to pass is to flash one's lights.
At least, this way, the driver in front understands that the person behind them needs to get through in a hurry.
But here in the land of the unsynchronized traffic light, if someone flashes their headlights, you could get shot.
One way we might be able to mitigate the situation is to communicate better. We're all familiar with the hand signals that usually follow a rude encounter on the highway, but I think maybe a more subtle solution is to have an appropriate bumper sticker to nip the problem in the bud.
Here are some suggestions:
'Don't Rush Me--I'm Saving Gas Here!'
'If you are in that much of a hurry, you should have left earlier.'
'Do Not Tailgate--No Insurance.'
and the simple 'Thank You for Not Tailgating.'
I'm open to suggestion here, as long as it's not rude or dangerous.
Go ahead, make my day.
Scott Anthony can be reached care of firstname.lastname@example.org
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