A safe following distance, you inconsiderate ass!

Alright, Stefan. You and your lovely wife Devon each drive an expensive gas-guzzling car to work because you each have really high paying jobs in this city; I don’t mind that you don’t take public transit, or carpool, or make any effort whatsoever to reduce your impact on the morning crush of traffic. I don’t even mind that your car, Stefan, is an “Ess You Vee”. Really! I’ve heard the rants, but you’re an adult, you can make your own decisions, and you’ve got your own insecurities to compensate for. I’m sure Devon appreciates knowing that at least your car is bigger than mine. And who knows? Maybe you are safer up there where you can look down on the masses.

And as for you, Bubba, I understand why you still take the Jimmy. Alright, I’ll leave your sex life out of this–but you still commute to and from work. You’re the only person riding those four miles in your seven-seat “truck” which is really a thinly disguised minivan. I won’t tell your wife. I don’t care what you drive.

I’m not all that mad about your completely self-centered approach to commuting. I know that with pro sports, the wacky morning DJs you love to listen to between commercials, softcore porn on MTV, that guy you’re talking to on your cell phone, the stock market, the latest rap video on VH1, and that exciting war overseas, you probably haven’t taken the time to realize that the Beltway* is a shared resource, or that we all have to use it. I don’t mind that your vehicle’s stopping distance completely sucks.

Actually, I do mind, but it gets me all worked up, so I won’t bug you about it just now.

What I want to discuss is a compromise. I drive a Honda Accord when I’m not riding the bus to and from work, so I’m going to dictate terms from the moral high ground here. Don’t worry if I use a bunch of polysyllabic words; I’ll break it down real simple for you at the end, just like O’Reilly and Rush do, only with a little more vitriol and a little more logic.

Here’s what I want you to do. Go down this list, and count up the items that apply to you on your daily commute:

  1. For every 1000 pounds your car (with you in it) weighs over the first 1500, one point.
  2. For talking on your cell phone while driving, two points.
  3. For a front bumper that is significantly higher than the car in front of you, one point. Two points if you’re driving an H2.
  4. For a driver in front of you who uses his brakes more than once a minute in normal highway driving, one point. Two points if the brake lights are illuminated for more than 20 seconds of that minute.
    Add those “points” up and try to keep that number in your head. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to, just remember the number “six”.
    See the car in front of you? Of course you don’t. Let me introduce you to the other cars on the road. You can’t occupy the same space on the road as those cars at the same time–without crashing–so you need to have some space in between your front bumper and their rear bumper. This is called following distance. It’s going to help you get to work faster. It’s going to help you wipe out traffic jams. It’s going to put an intelligent, thoughtful person committed to the preservation of our liberties in the White House.**

For every point you scored above, you need to add one second to your following distance. Keep that gap between you and the car in front of you. I promise, your dick won’t shrivel and fall off just because a Dodge Neon zips into the space. If it does, let it go. Your dick is going to shrivel and fall off anyway, because of the curse I put on all SUV drivers. Now, maintain that following distance with whatever car happens to be in front of you, but don’t do it with the brake pedal.

“But how am I supposed to slow down without my brake pedal?” you’d ask, if you were even remotely articulate. I just asked for you. And now I’ll answer:

You see, even if you drive automatic (you pussified technology-reliant city boy) there’s a setting between “GO GO GO” and “OH CRAP STOP” where you’re not actually pushing on either pedal. Yes, the car will actually keep running even if you don’t have either pedal pushed to the floor. It feels like drifting, and it is, sort of. It allows you to slow down gradually.

“But I want to go FASTER, not–” would be about where I’d bitch-slap you for not listening when I said that this would get you to work faster. Have faith, you cookie-cutter conformist asshat, and stop being a drone. Try to approach driving as an interactive skill where you work with everyone else on the road to avoid stopping the flow of traffic. I know your brother works in a brake shop and you want to keep him in business. Do it on your own time, on your own street–the Beltway* is my road, because I know how to use it. I’m only loaning you your piece temporarily, because I’ve grown soft and begun to believe that you can learn to use it responsibly. So, no brakes. Drift, you hamster-fart. Pretend it’s NASCAR and you’ve been paid to throw the race so the DUREX car won’t beat the TROJAN car again.

“That’s HARD, man. The guy in front of me keeps slamming on his brakes,” you would protest, if you bothered to try it for even a moment or two before being distracted by the ads on the radio. Well, I guess the sub-moron in front of you hasn’t learned his lesson yet. You’d better add another point, or pass that idiot. He’s dumber than you, which is saying something. Strangely enough, because you’re behind him, some people would claim that you are responsible for keeping an eye on him. You! Who barely knows how full your tank is, where the speed traps are on your route, how to spell Metro… but nonetheless, you’re going to have to learn if you want to get to work faster. Also: try not to hit your brakes just because there’s a curve. You saw it coming a mile ago. If you didn’t slow down then, it’s your own fault. Just roll your stupid top-heavy car–wait, don’t. All the idiots will rubberneck and hit their brakes. See the pattern? Don’t use your brakes when you can eat up following distance instead. That’s the basic rule.

Do you have it yet? No? Keep practicing. I know you may find it difficult to believe, but your following distance is actually absorbing people’s mistakes in front of you! The people driving behind you are having a more pleasant, efficient, and faster drive to work! If you could understand matter and anti-matter, I’d explain to you that creating a following distance is like charging up an anti-traffic buffer. I’d explain that if even four or five people would do this, the random standing-wave traffic jams at turns on the Beltway* would be absorbed. As it is, I’ll say “you’re eliminating traffic jams faster than John Ashcroft can eliminate my civil liberties…”
“…you self-centered slovenly insecure stressed-out consumer whore.”

*West Coast Dopers substitute “The Five” or “The Four-Oh-Five”. British Dopers subsitute “The M11 Motorway” or what-have-you.
**Not fucking likely.

Good lord you’d better hope lucwarm doesn’t see this thread.

[sub]For reference[/sub]

Yet another lame anti-SUV rant. What the hell do you want, a law passed so that everyone else has to be off the streets when you drive? Maybe you can take your own advice and let it go.

lucwarm is welcome to join me down here in the Pit, as are you, Shayna, but I was mostly just ranting. To clarify, I don’t care if you tailgate on a long stretch of country road; I care about tailgaters and other soft-skulled mental midgets causing traffic jams by reflexively braking whenever they see someone else doing it. If you’re interested in debating the point, please include a short list of

what you drive,
whether it’s stick or auto,
whether you take mass transit (if possible),
and what you do when you see brake lights ahead of you on the highway.

Hijacks regarding:

rural roads
curved roads
long stretches of empty roads
rocky roads
traffic jams where the highway is no longer serving as a high-speed road because someone has already screwed up
high beams
Jim Beam
drag queens

will be disregarded.

The Mgmt.

adam yax, I know it’s fun to dismiss anti-SUV rants out of hand. I was hoping I’d find a pigeon to rise to the bait, but if you read carefully–I know, I know, not your strong suit–you’ll see that the above rant is actually about following distance.

I’ll concede that when I discuss SUVs, I get irrationally angry at their selfish overuse of shared resources, but I’m a libertarian at heart, and they’re welcome to drive what they want. I’ll sum up that long, boring rant for you in monosyllables:

“Drive what you want but learn to drive it well.”


You need a taller vehicle to assume the moral high ground. Ever consider riding a giraffe to work?

Heh heh heh…he said dictate…

Thanks!! And for what it’s worth, I don’t care for folks who don’t maintain a safe following distance, particularly those who drive larger vehicles.

Great OP - but let’s not forget to add all the women driving Lincoln Navigators who similarly seem to think their breast implants will shrivel and fall out.:smiley:

But Jurph, that isn’t really what you said. That seems rather O’Reilly/Rush of you.

[ul]You poked fun at Yuppie type names. FYI, people have little control over what they are named.
You made a point that the vehicle was Expensive. I kinda read that as disdain for anyone making more than you.
You implied that people who drive SUVs have some insecurities to compensate for.
I just don’t get the Bubba line. You seemed to have wanted to insult someone, but clarity is not your strong suit here.
In one quick paragraph, you look down your nose at:
*Pro Sports
*The Radio Industry
(I’m still trying to figure out the psychology behind the softcore/MTV line)
*Counter-culture entertainment
*World events
Then you take a stab at O’Reilly and Rush, not that there is anything wrong with that.
You imply that republicans are stupid, not that there is anything wrong with that.
Then you point out your moral superiority
As an aside, you mention your fuel efficient vehicle and your mass transit usage, to further buttress your moral superiority
You bash Bush. Again, not that there’s…
[/ul]Finally, you reach a point where you discuss the driving skills of those who share your morning commute. But even then:[ul]You imply all aggressive drivers are men.
You take a stab at dodge Neons, which seems rather odd considering they are rather sensible vehicles.
You mention your vitriol towards SUV drivers, even though you earlier claimed there was none.
You claim ownership of the road due to your moral superiority.
You disparage rodentia flatulence. Not that there’s…
You imply improprieties in motor sports
You take a parting shot at Ashcroft. Not that there’s…[/ul]
So really, how I read your rant could be summed up in monosyllables. “I am better than you”. (sorry about the non-monosyllabic “better”)

Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a WINNER!

Let’s have a round of applause for NurseCarmen and this concise recap of the OP, shall we? :smiley:


I know what you wrote and it seems like a rant against bad following distance as much as a rant against SUV’s:

Now, if I have taken any of these things out of context please let me know, but they sure as hell seem to be slams at SUV’s and have little if nothing to do with safe following distance.

FTR, I drive a Nissian X-Terra and I allow safe stopping distance between me and the car infront of me, and I manage to do that while keeping up with the flow of traffic. Also, I hate it when a car is so close to my rear that they could either smell my farts, or I can’t see their headlights in my rear view mirror (especially unnerving at freeway speeds),

It’s a Dodge for fuck’s sake - if you can’t take a stab at them then what can you take a stab at?

For everyone above who jumped at the chance to point out that, yes, there is a very thinly disguised anti-SUV rant (and in fact, several other types of rant) hidden in the meandering OP, congratulations on deciphering my incredibly cleverly hidden subtext. Want a cookie?

<WACKO>Hell-oooo, Nurse!</WACKO>

Actually, if all I managed to do was “imply” that Republicans are stupid, let me rather assert that a large percentage of all people are stupid, and because a great many people are Republican, I therefore assert that a great many Republicans are stupid.* But there are a lot of stupid Democrats, too.

While we’re on the “people are stupid” theme, that’s what my stab at Dodge Neons was about. I did state that the driver should not worry when a “Dodge Neon zips in front of” his vehicle; this was actually a stab at all reckless drivers who cut people off, and was not part of the main theme. The vehicles I chose to insult the owners of is really pretty much unrelated to my actual beef, which was (in case I failed to bold it in the OP or put it in the title of the thread or anything) “a safe following distance”.

But I’d also like to think that any of the Teeming Millions with a working frontal lobe can see past the caricatures in this little fairy-tale and take home a valuable lesson. I think we can all admit that manly Neanderthal jock-men driving SUVs aren’t all unsafe self-centered daydreaming assholes (e.g. adam yax, who gives me hope for the future, even if his X-Terra is that godawful yellow, which I hope it isn’t but we’ll save that for later**). And I’ll be the first to admit that driving an Accord (or a Neon, or a Mini, or a fucking Vespa) doesn’t make you a better driver.

No, the only assertions in my OP that I’m really all that bound and determined to stick with are that

  1. People who drive on the D.C. Beltway (and many other high-volume commuter freeways) don’t know how to maximize the flow of traffic, and end up using our shared resources inefficiently.
  2. With a little careful observation, they could not only make the trip better for themselves, but for a few other fellow-commuters as well.
  3. Their indifference to leaving (once more, with feeling!) a safe following distance leads me to believe they are either willfully selfish or shamefully ignorant, or both.

originally posted by NurseCarmen
So really, how I read your rant could be summed up in monosyllables. “I am better than you”.

Well I am… This is the Pit, right?
*NurseCarmen, re: your shockingly blatant and partisan asides about Republicans (honestly! …and in the Pit, too! I’m shocked–shocked and appalled!) I bet you’re one of those knee-jerk liberals. I don’t mind that, really. But when your knee jerks, do me a favor and make sure your foot isn’t on the brake pedal.

** adam yax, I certainly don’t mean to imply (nor would I dare assert) that you’re Neanderthal, jockish, a knee-jerk liberal, or manly (if you happen to object to that). I only imply (as your name seems to) that you are male, and drive an SUV (which you pretty much admitted). Feel free to correct me, and a thousand apologies if I’ve offended you by confusing your gender. I couldn’t care less what color your X-Terra is.

Oh, what the hell, I’ll take this one. My husband drives an extended-cab truck with an 8-foot bed. It seats six. Sure, if you saw him on his morning commute, he’d be the only one in it, and I’m sure you’d think, “What a waste, one guy in a six passenger truck? What does he need that for?”
He’s a salesman. Sure, during the day, he’s out driving around all alone in his big truck, but sometimes he makes deliveries of big giant things like water heaters and boilers and industrial sinks.
Also, we have two kids. If we want to go somewhere in his vehicle, we need the extended cab. We go camping a lot. It’s easier to pack all the camping equipment (tent, propane stove, sleeping bags, tarps, food, etc.) in a truck rather than the trunk of a car. We need a truck. We take a vacation at a cabin every year between Christmas and New Year’s and in the summer where we have to take everything; food, sheets, a VCR for the TV that gets no reception, a small heater, sleds, lots of warm clothes. We need a truck.

Don’t be so quick to judge just based on someone driving by you.

5-speed, 1997 Saturn

I kinda liked it. A lotta work and frustration and anger went into it.

Well, y’know, I tend to read the OPs in these parts as a whole, before breaking them down into little bits and hunting for shit to get offended about.

What I saw – as a whole – was not a rant about SUVs.

What I saw – as a whole – was a remarkably pissed off person who has spent more time than necessary with some fool in a large vehicle behind them, climbin’ their back bumper.

Now, it’s true, there may have been some slaps at other things and people in that OP. True.

But I spend a fair amount of my day on the road, too. Sometimes, I encounter stupid people who have somehow managed to obtain driver’s licenses.

Sometimes I encounter indifferent people who very obviously don’t give a damn about the other people on the road.

Sometimes I encounter crazy people who take chances with their own safety and with mine, for reasons I will never know or understand.

…and I am here to tell you that after driving a ways with two or more of these archetypes, or, ghod help us, multiple examples of All Of The Above, I get pretty steamed, too. I say all kinds of venomous, overheated things, in the safety of my car, that I’d think good and hard about saying to a human, face to face.

Fortunately, we have the internet to vent on… a tremendous communication resource, the culmination of centuries of technology, the pinnacle of human achievement.

And we can all scream and curse at each other until we feel better. Thanks for listening!


Jurph, just one argument. It’s morally high-ground to take the bus or drive a shitty rice-burner? As stated in other posts, I live in North Dakota, 4WD is almost required by law. Though I’ve always said it’s a low-self-ego thing for people in, say, SoCal.

Otherwise GREAT OP!!! It had me laughing picturing you in a situation I’ve seen all too often. I sympathize brother. And congrats on avoiding the road rage, you’re a better man than I.

I mean, I guess there are other things besides roads in North Dakota, like an ex-girlfriend of mine, for one. But I’m aghast at the implication that there are enough vehicles in North Dakota for my OP to apply to your unique situation. Just like Bibliocat, you have a reason for your large vehicle. And I’ve already begrudgingly said that, yes, there is a reason for some people to drive them.

I suspect, however, that most of the pristine Lincoln Intimidators (Eddie Bauer / Walt Disney Widescreen DVD Edition) on the D.C. Beltway, however, haven’t seen dirt since the last time the wife went by the home & garden center to pick up potted cacti for party centerpieces.

To be fair, when I see an SUV on the Beltway, I wait for the driver to do something stupid before I cut loose with scalding invective. In D.C., I usually don’t have to wait long, and often that stupidity involves the driver’s cluelessness about safe following distance (I feel like there’s almost a theme going on here).

Master Wang-Ka, I don’t care if they’re tailgating me , because I don’t use my brakes on the freeway if I can avoid it, so I’m eating up traffic for them; they won’t have the opportunity to create a logjam as long as I’m directly in front of them. After they catch themselves accelerating to within a foot of my bumper–having not yet seen my brake lights, their signal to let off the gas and stomp on their own brakes–they either get fed up with me because suddenly I’m “driving too slowly” (their perception) or realize that they’re driving badly (not fucking likely). What really burns my ass is when three or four asshats in a row manage to cascade the gas-then-brakes effect so that they create a standing wave of 30mph traffic in a flow of 70mph traffic. Long after they’ve forgotten what they overreacted to, that standing wave is still fucking up my commute.

My many tangents about SUVs mostly relate to the fact that their stopping distance sucks, so someone driving an SUV needs to be even more alert to this problem. Some are, but many are not.

And “shitty rice-burner”? Well, it is eleven years old with a couple hundred thousand miles on it, so it’s definitely a beater, but I’ve never had to resort to fueling it with sake (yet), and I don’t think anyone ever shat in or on it.