Rosalie Gindes Writes: "I used to think that truck drivers were the most courteous and the safest drivers on the road. But things are different now.
"One who tries to keep to the speed limit on the Beltway usually driver's game called Who Can Tailgate the Closest and Blow His Horn the Loudest?
"On more than one occasion, I have seen these drivers, in the biggest and most overpowering of trucks, tailgate as if it were a game.
"Just yesterday, I saw one approaching in my rear view mirror from over 500 feet away. Although I was moving at the maximum legal speed of 55 at the time, the truck approached at a rapid pace until it appeared to be about six inches from my rear bumper.
"I considered pulling over to the shoulder of the road to let him pass, or speeding up to get him off my tailpipe.
"While I was deciding, he pulled out, passed me, and then cut in abruptly. I had to slow down rapidly to avoid being hit or run off the road. I have seen similar incidents many times. The safe courteous truck driver is now the exception, not the rule. What is one supposed to do under these circumstances - speed up, get off the road, or what?"
Rosalie, you were right when you thought truckers were the best, and you are right now that you have decided they are the worst. They are indeed both.
So are doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs and newspapermen. Also men. And women. And Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Confucians, Hindus, Moslems, Druids, agnostics and atheists.
In every large group, you will find civilized human beings who drive as if your life and theirs depended on their actions. You will also find stupid jerks who are a danger to everybody on the roadway.
You may be interested in an article that appears in the current issue of Traffic Safety, a publication of the National Safety Council. The masthead of the magazine says that the views expressed in it are not necessarily those of the National Safety Coucil, "but they are presented in the conviction that the pressing social problem of traffic accidents can best be resolved through freedom of expression and open debate." I like that.
The article is titled, "Police and Truckers Cooperate to Cut Driver Violations."
It says the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Motor Truck Association have jointly initiated a program under which truck owners are notified when their drivers get tickets for moving violations.
Some owners drive their own trucks, and don't need to be told when they've been ticketed for bad driving. But NJMTA's president explains that the program is designed for owners who hire others to drive for them. He says that heretofore a driver could pile up many tickets for dangerous driving while his boss "remained in blissful ignorance" of what was going on.
Any way you look at it, the new program should help curb dangerous driving by truckers.
But you can be sure it will be no cure-all. When truck drivers complain about the foolish things done by many automobile drivers, they usually say things like, "I can't stop a big rig like mine on a dime, you know."
Yes, we know. And they know. But some of them drive as if they didn't know. Especially the tailgaters who try to intimidate people in automobiles, and then cut abruptly in front of them to express their displeasure with the 55-mile speed limit.
How should one deal with idiots who are in charge of huge tractor-trailers?
Carefully. Very carefully.
I can tell you what I do, but I make no claim that what I do is best or even sensible.
When a truck really appears to be on the verge of running up my tailpipe, I turn on my four-way flashers. In some states it is illegal for a moving vehicle to display four-way flashers, but I consider it the lesser of evils because it often causes the trucker to fail back a few feet in confusion.
If the flashers fail to produce the desired result, I gently begin to decelerate - first to 50, then to 45, then to 40 - always on the alert for what I know is coming. Eventually the Neanderthal Man behind me will pull out, pass me, and then cut in front of me with the intention of missing me by one foot.As he begins to cut in, I slow down and make the margin 40 feet. I'm a devout coward.
How should you? I don't know.The only recommendation I can make to you in good conscience is this: Once a trucker has given you a clue to his IQ by tailgating you, do not expect courtesy or reasonable conduct from him thereafter. If you do, you're as big a fool as he is.