These writers want to talk about tailgating, and they’re quite passionate about it.
Dear Dr. Gridlock.
Jeers for failing to point out to your indignant tailgating victim [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 29] that plodding along in the left lane is as dangerous and illegal as speeding. It is very simple: “drive right, pass left.”
You letter writer is a passive-aggressive road-rage baiter.
— Dan Carney,
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
A letter writer [the same one referred to above], and you in a reply, justify being in the left lane at the speed limit. To begin with, it would be proper to not be in the left lane at the speed limit. Although it is legal and perhaps gives a feeling of safety because no one is ahead, it creates a common dangerous situation, as you both note.
In many cases, a slow/legal driver should be aware of a fast-approaching car and have enough time to get out of its way. Tailgating occurs when the slow/legal driver delays acting.
Your suggestion to stay in the left lane until the tailgater moves to the right and goes on is good, if there isn’t another vehicle in the right lane. But often there is another vehicle in this right lane, and the tailgater — desperate to pass — tailgates this second vehicle to swerve back in front of the slow/legal driver, a dangerous situation.
Or in your scenario, the slower/legal driver wants to move out of the way but can’t because another vehicle is there going just a little bit slower. It will take some time for the slow/legal vehicle to pass. Two slow/legal cars in the two left lanes are not uncommon and create a knot of traffic.
So the answer could be: Stay out of the left lane. Be aware of what’s happening behind and act early. If tailgated, immediately signal a lane change, slowing down if necessary to fall in behind an adjacent vehicle.
— John Christian,
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am afraid you miss the forest for the trees regarding Richard C. Kreutzberg [the same letter writer] and tailgating. Yes, there are instances when a driver is in the left lane after passing a car and is now signaling to move over, and some yahoo blows past said driver in the right lane.
That is just an aggressive speeder, and you will always have a few of those. What Mr. Kreutzberg describes is the case where the driver is cruising in the left lane, self-righteous to the max because said driver is doing the speed limit. So he proposes that rather than moving to the right when not passing, we erect thousands of more speed cameras throughout the land to trap these tailgaters.
Here are the problems with your and Mr. Kreutzberg’s thinking.
1) Folks who try to enforce the law on the road often create road rage.
2) By staying in the left lane when not passing, drivers are themselves often breaking the spirit if not the letter of the law in many states.
3) If being bothered by tailgating while cruising in the left lane is the problem, speed cameras are definitely not the solution.
4) In the real world, drivers gently cruising in the left lane generally cause small and sometimes large pockets of congestion.
5) It is exceedingly rare on major highways that traffic is going the speed limit except possibly the lane furthest right. By self-enforcing the speed limit onto the drivers behind, a driver creates dangerous situations as faster cars come up from behind.
I write this as a driver who abhors tailgating and tailgaters and wish the police every success in curbing this behavior.
— Barry Wind,
Chevy Chase, Md.
Note these things about the original letter writer: In his two letters, he never said he had appointed himself to enforce traffic law. He said he wanted the police to do it, and called for more traffic cameras.
He did not say he cruised in the left lane. His purpose in writing was to say that the widespread practice of tailgating is dangerous. In describing one such dangerous scenario with a tailgater, he used the phrase, “Let’s say you are doing the speed limit in the left lane . . .”
With that in mind, look again at the outrage his comments inspired.
Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or email drgridlock@ washpost.com.