I suspect most of us have been there at some point or other.
You’re running late for work and stuck behind the slowest driver since the Ford Model-T was the hottest rage.
You edge closer; maybe they’ll realize you’re in a hurry and speed up a bit.
So you edge a little closer.
Still no dice.
Some long-forgotten mantra of, “Keep three car lengths between your car and the one in front of you,” flits briefly through your mind.
And then it’s gone; you’re too busy trying to peer around the car to see if you can pass.
I think tailgating is one of those things that all of us bemoan when we’re the ones being drafted by Jeff Gordon wannabes, but we never realize when we’re the culprits.
We’re just in a hurry.
I’ve been accused of tailgating at times, much as I hate to admit it.
But I’ve actually been trying to be more aware of when I’m doing it so I can stop.
I’ve covered enough wrecks during the course of my career to know the dangers of tailgating, but like in most things, the best lessons are those that impact you directly.
I managed to get one of those lessons recently.
When I was driving into work Thursday, I was at a stoplight behind a pickup truck hauling a load of what looked like scrap metal. When we started to go as the light turned green, I stayed back a little bit.
I always get nervous when I’m behind vehicles hauling anything; I’ve heard too many horror stories.
Well, I had just started easing on the gas when I watched the load start to slide.
It took me a second to register that the slide wasn’t stopping. I hit the brakes just as the metal landed in a pile in the lane in front of my car. I think I was about 4 feet from it.
I hit my emergency flashers and was ultimately able to ease around the pile (yes, I called the police so they could safely block the lane to get it cleaned up).
But as I continued on the rest of the way to work, I shuddered to think what would have happened had I been tailgating at the time.
I wasn’t going fast enough for it to have caused a serious wreck, but I probably would’ve shredded my car’s undercarriage and my new-ish set of Michelins.
That could’ve been a very pricey lesson.
Thank goodness for random paranoia.
So courtesy of my latest close call, I’ve added another New Year’s Resolution to my list: I think I’m going to leave the tailgating for the real Jeff Gordon this year.