The Danger That Lurks - Real World Traffic Case Studies

Discussion in 'Traffic and Safety' started by xcel, Dec 16, 2011.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    [​IMG]One person’s daily experiences.

    [fimg=right][/fimg]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Dec. 16, 2011

    A single unit Class B truck and a School Van tailgating at 65 + mph on I-91 southbound, south of Hartford, CT. Both were called in.

    Tailgating is one of the leading causes of accidents in the United States contributing to more than one third of collisions on American roadways with large commercial trucks following too closely contributing to some of the most horrific accidents.

    A tractor-trailer traveling at 60 mph takes well over a football field to stop. Adding in perception and reaction time, 450 feet is a good “best-case” scenario in dry weather.

    While a car can safely use a two second following distance in dry weather, large commercial trucks or tractor trailer needs at least 4 seconds of following distance to stop while traveling at the same speed. On a rain soaked highway, braking distance more than doubles and following times should be increased accordingly.

    One of our members drives a tractor trailer for a living and is the first to recognize that a safe following distance is more than just important, it is mandatory. Unfortunately many commercial big rig and light duty vehicle drivers along with the vast majority of light duty vehicle owners on the road today do not know or care. Many drivers observed are simply following far too closely with a one second or less distance between them and the morgue. This is absolutely the bare minimum amount of time needed to react to a “situation” on the road ahead.

    Even worse, some drivers observed are following at as little as one tenth of a second even in the worst conditions. Sadly in our driver’s experience, one half of a second or 40-50 feet is commonplace and as we all know, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Trucking company dispatchers and safety personnel cannot see the roads ahead of their drivers from their offices so some citizens have taken it upon themselves to phone in tailgaters to the offender’s respective company. Many companies have their phone number clearly displayed on the cab or trailer or “How’s my driving” sticker located on the rear of the trailer with phone number in clear view. There are cases where only the company name is visible and a smartphone can then be “voice-googled” with a number to call within 15 seconds.

    Most companies seem to take the call seriously and presumably take action to correct the problem as quickly as possible. When he calls in an offender, it is made crystal clear that his goal is to simply correct the bad habits of the offending driver and make the roads safer for all, not to punish the driver.

    Occasionally, our driver receives a call back from the dispatch office with a thank you.

    A Case Study – The Good

    One case clearly stands out in which a tractor trailer driver was viciously tailgating our drivers vehicle in the middle lane of I-90 west in MA. By CB, he politely requested that the big rig driver back off a few seconds since traffic ahead was already spaced correctly with 2 to 3 second following distances directly ahead.

    The big rig driver backed off at once and apologized for the encroachment.

    A Case Study – The Far More Common Bad

    Unfortunately there are far more instances when the drivers being contacted are downright belligerent. A recent example was on I-95 north in MA. Our driver was in his car accelerating out of a construction zone in the middle lane in heavy traffic. A big rig behind him was following at less than a second and he asked that the driver increase his following distance a few seconds. The big rig driver rudely told him to either speed up (all lanes were filled with heavy traffic and there was no open lane to move into) or get the “f*** out of the way”.

    Our driver gave this aggressive driver another chance to stop tailgating with a friendly radio call and was replied to with more of the same. He was immediately reported to the company. In this case, Central Maine Transport.

    The Road Ahead

    Beginning last summer, our driver took it up a notch in preps for a real world expose of sorts. With smartphone in hand, he is now snapping photos of unsafe driving practices so the companies and you can see firsthand what he sees on the road ahead.

    It Works!

    In some instances after a reporting call, our driver has witnessed said offending drivers slow down, increase his or her following distances or stop erratic lane changing within seconds after hanging up.

    It is by no means just Big Rigs

    A car tailgating a school bus on I-95 S after the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey.​

    All drivers whether they are driving an 80,000 pound big rig or a 2,500 pound fuel miser need to understand that following too closely saves no time yet can cost them not only their job or livelihood but also their life! While tailgating is usually unintentional, many times it occurs because of distracted driving including texting or talking on a cell phone. Some of which we are all guilty of including smartphone use but if handled with voice activated care, most rear end collisions could be prevented simply my allowing more following distance. The following pics and even videos are meant to show exactly how dangerous the roads ahead are today and with a little forethought; maybe this practice will be a thing of the past making the roads a safer place for all.

    Asking for Trouble

    A CEVA trailered rig on I-95 Southbound near New Rochelle, NY at 55 to 60 mph.​

    I will periodically update the thread with new pics and new locations including the possible good outcomes after a report if one was made.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011
  2. herm

    herm Well-Known Member

    Wayne, I like this safety campaign that you are starting up, it will fight the misconception that tailgating is a valid hypermiler technique.

    Its also time to slow down ALL trucks.
  3. FSUspectra

    FSUspectra Practicing true conservatism!

    I be traveling in the next week. I plan to also document any unsafe practices I see along the way!
  4. 08EscapeHybrid

    08EscapeHybrid Moderator

    I wish people would give me the room that is shown in these pictures. Often times people will be following so closely I can't see their headlights in my rear view mirror.
  5. bullwinkle428

    bullwinkle428 Well-Known Member

    It's particularly infuriating when you're in the far right lane of the highway under relatively light traffic conditions, and the driver behind you chooses to follow way too closely for several miles.

    I just use the ultra-gradual slow-down (by about 1 mph at a time) until they finally get the message.
  6. I just want to apologize in advance for any and all pictures that may show up of me in the coming week. :p

    But seriously,
    It's not just the tailgaters.

    I can't believe the number of people that see a pick up pulling a camper and cut in front of me(sometimes for no reason). And slow down. I try to give plenty of room in front of me because, even tho they're usually brand new trailers, you never know everything is right. I've had brakes short out on trailers, and not work at all. Trailers that stop fine normally, but hard stop pulls bad to one side. I'm usually going slow enough not to get tailgated but geeez give me a couple car lenghts before you get in front of me.
  7. herm

    herm Well-Known Member

    Perhaps you should report those to a central database.. and then once a month that database mails the registered owner of that car with the complaints.
  8. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    What always comes to mind for me: getting on the 401 eastbound freeway at Boundary one dark/wet night, up to the limit in the right lane (even though conditions warranted going slower). One moment we were alone, the next there is a BIG truck, right behind us, about one car length, close enough you could hear him.

    Stayed right there for at least a minute, then abruptly switched to the left lane and settled in behind his next victim.

    I've got no patience on this issue: these guys should not be on the road.
  9. 44 mpg by 2010

    44 mpg by 2010 Active Member

    Tail gating in NC is not as bad as many places.

    I have decided on a strategy of tapping the brakes a couple of times. IF ... the offending driver does NOT back off ... I turn on the hazard flasher. IF ... they still do NOT back off after a minute or so ... then I slowly decrease my speed ... and pray that the offending driver is not an absolute "nut-case" that is willing to run over me. I doubt that I use this extreme level of response more than once or twice a year ... unless I am driving in the Richmond VA - NY city corridor ... then it could be several times per hour.
  10. herm

    herm Well-Known Member

    Road Rage goes both ways, and you are a bit too aggressive on that tailgater behind you.. just throw a towel over your rearview mirror and ignore him.. hopefully he will stick back there for a lot of miles.. you are forcing him to save fuel and he is helping your aerodynamics. Meanwhile concentrate on keeping a proper buffer in front of you.

    He is also a buffer in case a second tailgater hits him instead of you.

    note: get some NRA bumper stickers, some lurid and loud ones :)
  11. 44 mpg by 2010

    44 mpg by 2010 Active Member

    I try not to be aggressive about it ... but less than 40 feet at 65 is disturbing ... particularly in the right lane. generally it very seldom happens ... except very high density areas.

    I will consider your bumper sticker idea ...
  12. Ophbalance

    Ophbalance Administrator Staff Member

    If I'm alone in the car, I tend to let it go for at least a minute. HOWEVER, if I've got ANY of the kids in the car, I will not stand for it. My first defense is to reach for the washer spray. After a jolt, they usually just bolt for another lane. If they don't get it the first time, they get an even longer spray. If they STILL don't get it, I start to slowly decrease speed.

    Mind you, this is mostly idiots in cars. The truckers don't really bother with me, they just go around. Wait, scratch that. The long haul guys will just go around without fanfare. The short haulers (box trucks, gravel trucks, etc.) will ride your butt like no tomorrow. Those get a picture and call, depending on how bad it is.
  13. herm

    herm Well-Known Member

  14. 08EscapeHybrid

    08EscapeHybrid Moderator

    Yes, I know it. Today I was on I-81 with my cruise set on 70. I had been slowly coming up on a black Suburban, I got in the left lane and overtook him with the cruise on. Once I cleared him by about 30 yards, I got back in the right lane. No sooner than I did this, all of a sudden, the Suburban was passing me, cuts me off, and gets in the lane in front of me, then slows down below what my cruise is set at AGAIN. He didn't want to go 70 (the speed limit), and he didn't want me to pass him either. Luckily my exit came up and I was able to get off the highway. I would hate to be stuck with him for any length of time in traffic.
  15. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    That jibes with the stats I saw in our paper a couple years ago. That story put tailgating as the #1 cause of crashes, which at around 30% put it ahead of the #2 and #3 causes combined. IIRC the 2nd and 3rd most common causes were excessive speed and failure to yield, though I don't recall in which order (both were on the order of 12-15%).

    In other words, when someone tailgates you it is not just a perceived threat. It is a real threat. If tailgaters menaced people similarly with any other deadly weapon besides a motor vehicle, they'd end up in jail.
  16. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    A parade at 70 + mph on I-90 West near Chicopee, MA. Most are between 1/2 and 3/4 a second behind the car in front.

    A little to close…​

    This is very typical of Chicago Interstates even with the 55 mph PSLs in my experience as well.

  17. 08EscapeHybrid

    08EscapeHybrid Moderator

    I tried this for the first time in the hybrid the other day. What I've always done in the past, is maintain my speed, and lightly tap the brake to activate the brake lights with my left foot. Apparently hybrids don't like conflicting input with a foot on each pedal. The truck actually slowed down, when all I wanted to do was maintain speed and flash the brake lights.
  18. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    That's probably a brake-override system that cancels out the throttle if the brake is applied while there is still throttle input. A lot of vehicles with drive by wire throttles have this feature.
  19. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    I'd use the hazard flashers before going to the brakes. Safer and (to me) looks less aggressive to the follower.
  20. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    I hit the hazards first too. That works the majority of the time, though stronger measures are often needed.

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