CLICK & CLACK : Tailgating Trouble

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband insists on practically pulling into the trunk of cars in front of him. Moving, stopped -- it doesn't matter. At stoplights, not only does he pull to within inches of the car in front, but he insists on moving forward the nanosecond the light turns green. He says he is overcoming "inertia" and that it makes no sense to wait until everyone has started moving before he starts moving. He claims "study after study has proven this." I have yet to figure out what is supposedly proven and where these so-called studies have been published. I have tried to point out that tailgating is dangerous and that he is not allowing for the fact that the person in front of him might be an even bigger knucklehead than he is. What is this "overcoming inertia" thing? What purpose does it serve? -- Lois

RAY: Unfortunately, your husband is correct about the whole "inertia" thing. But the way he's trying to address the problem is reminiscent of the way Don Quixote goes after his windmills.

TOM: Traffic studies have shown that when traffic stops and starts, it moves slower than if it never stops. Think about it. Each driver (at least, each non-knucklehead driver) has to wait for the driver in front of him to start moving again before HE can start moving. Multiply those delays by the number of cars, and you get slow-moving traffic.

RAY: You may have seen highway entrances where you wait at the ramp for a green light. That's an attempt to keep traffic on that roadway from becoming so dense that it stops and starts.

TOM: But your husband can't address this problem by himself. He's one drop of water, and he's trying to stop Niagara Falls.

RAY: By being impatient and trying to "keep the traffic moving" himself, he's only going to bang into another driver.

TOM: When the other guy gets out of his car and comes back to angrily ask your husband what he was doing tailgating like that, you can say, "Tell him about the studies, Frank."

RAY: Tell him he's right in order to soothe his ego, but plead with him to stop his silly and dangerous behavior before somebody gets hurt.

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