In a hurry to go absolutely nowhere

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Recently I have been quite disturbed by a trend that is seriously undermining the safety of Canadian highways, and some of the worst offenders are ‘so-called’ professionals themselves.

Tailgating is a very serious safety infraction. It is not only unsafe, unprofessional and does nothing to get you ahead, it’s also stressful for both parties involved and is highly illegal.

I am not going to bother to talk about a bunch of fancy numbers concerning the momentum a loaded truck has travelling down the highway. Rather I will attempt to appeal to the “common sense” of a driver. Anyone that has ever driven or ridden in a large lumbering truck realizes that indeed it takes a considerable amount of time to stop. So why than are many of my fellow professional drivers forgetting or choosing to ignore this very important fact?

Impatience; this lack of calmness is the number one killer on Canada’s roads. Excessive speed, abrupt unannounced lane changes, and tailgating, to name only a few unsafe procedures, are all ultimately caused by impatience.

We all experience it, especially truck drivers, however it is what we do with that impatience that separates the professionals from the cowboys.

Now I am not going to sit here and pretend that I myself have never tailgated and in turn am lecturing my fellow drivers. I have tailgated and have regretted every occasion in which I have done so. I will even go so far as to apologize to the people I have either aggressively, or absent-mindedly tailgated for jeopardizing their lives with my carelessness.

I would ask my fellow drivers to very seriously think about how close you are to the vehicle in front of you. If that car, or truck were to blow a tire, hit a deer, or even jounce the driver into spilling hot coffee, do you honestly think you have time enough to avert disaster?

You may not, especially if you are tailgating. A “buffer zone” of at least 100 metres minimum in heavy traffic and 400 metres or more on the open road should be maintained at all times. More at night and much more in poor weather. Simply put, you as a professional are expected to demonstrate extreme amounts of patience even when you don’t have an ounce of it in your body, after all that is what makes you professional.

Tailgating is also a very useless practice; I personally have been tailgated incessantly in an attempt, I am sure, to “push” me down the road. This is ludicrous … If a vehicle is travelling the speed limit you have no legal right whatsoever to pass them. And you certainly have no right to sit 40 feet from their back bumper, at 100km-h.

If you want to pass don’t tailgate and do it in such a fashion as not to jeopardize the safety of the person you’re passing. The person you are driving behind will be much more impressed with your patience, professionalism and courtesy than they would ever be by getting a close view of your rock-pitted chrome bumper. It should also be noted that just because you are in a “hurry,” the vehicle you are tailgating and/or passing is under no obligation to speed up, slow down, move over or anything else. Remember, you’re the one driving unsafely, don’t blame your impatience on somebody else. Drive, and react like the professional you are or get off the road.

Tailgating is also very stressful for both the tailgater and the tailgatee. The tailgatee is very concerned that he/she is going to get run over by a vehicle that is possibly much larger than they. (Is it any small wonder why trucker drivers are considered a menace to society?)

And the tailgater is as stressed because that bleeping car, or truck in front doesn’t realize that I, the tailgater have to get there before they do.

It is in situations such as these that the true professionals are separated from the other idiots simply steering trucks for a living.

I would also encourage my fellow drivers to not only hold me accountable for my actions, but also one another. If you see a fellow truck driver driving in an unsafe manner, key up the mike and tell them politely (if possible) that you don’t appreciate their actions.

Most drivers, and I’m speaking from experience, will in turn respond politely, apologize for their ignorance or lack of attention and correct their driving.

Even if a driver responds belligerently, many times their driving will still improve.

If it does not, report them to their company, and if they are driving really unsafe and are a clear and present danger to the vehicle in front of them, to the police.

There is never an excuse for tailgating.

Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator and a monthly contributor to Truck News.

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