Last week, as I was driving to work along the freeway, I noticed that the car behind me was driving quite close. So close, in fact, that there’s almost no doubt they were intentionally tailgating. I could even see the driver’s impassive face clearly in my rearview mirror.
Maybe they were in a hurry to go somewhere important, for something important, that they only had short notice about, or were late for some other reason, but they were tailgating on a freeway, and that is dangerous driving.
I was already driving at the speed limit, so I don’t know what they wanted me to do. Exceed the speed limit and tailgate the car in front of me? I glanced at the lanes beside me — the other driver was probably avoiding those because they weren’t any faster.
It wasn’t long before we approached the section of the freeway where there’s an on-ramp and the speed limit is reduced by 10km/hr. The car ahead of me slowed accordingly, and I did the same. In fact, it is at this stretch of freeway that I tend to slow a bit more because of all the traffic entering, usually with a bus or two that needs to change lanes.
So I slowed down further, as I’m wont to do, to allow smooth passage for other cars around me. That day, I was afforded further satisfaction by the knowledge that the tailgater had no choice but to slow down too. It’s this kind of aggressive and dangerous driving that leaves me shaking my head, so any comeuppance is like a kind of justice.
Last week, I also saw quite a few cars abruptly cut across one or two lanes on the freeway because they presumably only just realised that they needed to exit at that exact moment. Let’s just say that it’s lucky that the roads have been pretty empty these days…
Although more dangerous and reckless, I think I am actually more empathetic to the quick lane changers than the tailgaters. And I think this is because I remember one time, long ago, when I had to do a sudden freeway exit somewhere on the way to the coast. This was back when I was not a very experienced driver, and I had to do a drive somewhere unfamiliar. (I kind of panicked and didn’t think, but I’m better now, I swear!)
On the other hand, I have never deliberately tailgated another driver. Sure, sometimes I get exasperated by slow drivers, but then I just change lanes, and overtake safely. Otherwise I just follow along. Why rush? I keep thinking back to the statistic about speeding only saving one minute per drive. What is an extra minute to me if it means I arrive safely at my destination?
But maybe tailgaters are just anxious about something. Someone ought to tell these people that they should be more concerned about the dangers of tailgating.
Not sure why I’m suddenly noticing all these instances of poor driving. There was also one time, quite recently, when someone turned onto the road I was driving on without even slowing down or checking for other cars (it was a T-intersection, and they were turning from the tributary street onto the main street). They were going pretty fast too, considering it was a small street. And guess what? We ended up at the same red light further along. They didn’t get anywhere faster by cutting me off.
All these things made me wonder if maybe there are more people who are out of practice with driving, either because they don’t usually drive but now they have to; or because they do usually drive but have not driven for a long time due to staying at home a lot, and getting everything delivered to them.
Anyway, I wouldn’t say that I’m, like, an expert driver, but I’d like to think I’m a good driver now. Probably wasn’t always a good driver, but I never used to drive very much. Experience and practice helps a lot. And paying attention.
The vast majority of my driving is on routes that I have driven innumerable times before. If asked, I tell people that my most frequently travelled routes are the commute to and from work, and to and from the airport (to pick someone up or drop them off).
Now and then I have to drive somewhere unfamiliar or that I’ve only been to a couple of times before. The most important thing I’ve learnt is that every missed turn or wrong turn is fixable — just continue along until you can do a u-turn, or take the next turn and circle back. Anyone who’s ever misunderstood a GPS (or just simply didn’t listen to it) will know that it always recalculates the route for you. It never just shuts down and says, “Well, you’re stuffed. There’s no way to get to your destination now.”
There’s always a way back. Just have to keep calm and stay safe.
And in the words of my wise friend MT: It’s better to be late and alive than dead on time.