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How to reduce the dangers of tailgating

April 12, 2019

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, April 12th 2019

Tailgating at highway speeds is a serious offence and exceptionally dangerous. But there are tactics drivers can use to reduce the risks, Steve Wallace writes.

 

If the most common crash is the rear-end collision, why are so many drivers tailgating?
Linda had the most logical explanation: She believes the keep-right-except-to-pass rule on the highway is partly to blame.
There seems to be a group of drivers who believe that travelling close behind, at high speed, in the supposed passing lane, will intimidate the other drivers into returning quickly to the right lane.

This is a misguided belief. Drivers are permitted to be in the left lane when overtaking others on the highway.
Once they have completed their passing move, they are then obligated to return to the right lane.
They are permitted to pass several vehicles before returning.
Aggressive drivers will often tailgate to encourage an immediate return to the right lane, when a legitimate pass is underway.

This aggressive driving is an offence and carries a severe penalty.
The enforcement for the highway patrol is a bit tricky. They have a much better chance of catching offenders by using unmarked “ghost” cars than the identifiable general-duty patrol cars.
Police do take complaints very seriously.

(I know this from personal experience when teaching highway lessons to beginners, while being tailgated.)

What should a driver do in this situation? It is best to not antagonize the tailgater.
Retuning to the right lane in a timely fashion is recommended.
The use of the four-way flashers is a good wakeup call for the absentminded follower.
Most drivers will acknowledge their indiscretion and simply back off.
The intimidator can be appeased by an early signal of the intention to return to the right-hand lane, after overtaking the desired vehicles.

(It is disappointing, though, to see the tailgater then continue the behaviour with the next vehicle ahead in the passing lane.)

There are some not-so-obvious situations to consider when things don’t always seem logical on the highway.
Consider the time I was tailgated by a very aggressive driver. He was tooting his horn and flashing his lights.
I was intimidated and decided to follow the seemingly agitated driver, only to arrive at the hospital, having followed an expectant mother chauffeured by a distraught father-to-be.

Things are not always as they seem.

Robin asked me what I thought of the planned installation of the scramble crosswalk at the busy tourist-frequented intersection at the Victoria Harbour.
I think it is a great move by the city.
There will be no doubt about the right-of-way.
All vehicular traffic will be obligated to stop while pedestrians are permitted to walk in every direction.

This will be a much more efficient way of moving both pedestrians and vehicles, by a process of degrees of separation.
Vehicles will be governed by a dual-cycle traffic light.
Bicycles will be treated as vehicles.
It will be intimidating to those who are not familiar with this type of right-of-way segmented priority movement, which works well in other countries.

It will be the same as the introduction of the “spaghetti junction” traffic circles at the McTavish interchange close to the Victoria Airport.
At first it was a bit confusing, but the likelihood of a good result was very strong.
The crash rate has been dramatically reduced despite the increase in traffic movements.
We don’t have to be original every time we wish to make a change in the traffic system.

The best practices of other jurisdictions can be a guide to successful outcomes.

I have recently returned from the Washington State Driver Education Conference, and learned all sorts of things pertaining to the successful implementation of not only novel traffic systems, but also reasonable regulatory regimes.

More on both topics will be addressed soon.

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