I BRAKE FOR TAILGATERS: the bumper sticker I’ve always wanted

Dear Canberra Drivers,

It would really help lower my blood pressure if you could all please leave a safe following distance when driving behind me. I find myself more than a little unnerved when I’m driving 80 kph (that’s 50 mph for you US drivers) and look behind me and see one of you following barely a car length behind me. I don’t even particularly care that the actual speed limit is in fact 80 kph and you want to go faster than that. Fine with me — but that’s what the overtaking lane on the right is for. You’re even welcome to crash your car and crunch the front all in — it’s a free country and a liberal democracy, that is totally cool by me. I would just really really like it if the object you used to destroy the front of your car was not, in fact, the rear of my own car.

See, when you follow me that closely, it means I have to look that much farther ahead and leave extra stopping distance in front of me in case I have to stop — so that you have enough reaction time to stop in what would otherwise be an impossibly short distance. So in point of fact, we get to our respective destinations slower, and we probably both feel more stressed out, than the somewhat happier parallel universe in which we all respect each other’s (driving) boundaries.

Today I got sick of it and pulled over so you could pass. I don’t feel like I should have had to do that. However, I’m likely to do it again in the future because the rest of my journey this morning was blissfully stress-free.

Polemically yours,

p.s. What really blows my mind is that you seem to do this even when it is raining. High school physics (remember coefficients of static and dynamic friction?) dictates that when the road surface is slick, you need to leave more stopping distance, not less.


About Richard

I'm an American scientist who is building a new life in Australia. This space will contain words about science and math, but also philosophy, policy, literature, my travels, occasional rants, all sorts of things I find strange and awesome. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer at the time (currently University of Sydney), though personally, I think they should.
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One Response to I BRAKE FOR TAILGATERS: the bumper sticker I’ve always wanted

  1. Christine says:

    Welcome to Canberra. Just about everyone seems to tailgate here, unfortunately.

    The first few years it used to really piss me off, but I’m used to it now. Either I slow down, or don’t keep a constant speed, or just make myself smile by imagining how annoyed the tailgater is getting that I’m driving the speed limit, and they can’t get past :)

    Vindictive, who me??

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