Doper Defensive Drivers: What could I have done differently?

I have had to drive the crazy expressways of Chicago, Houston, DFW and others where all I can do it pray that there is not a pile up. On roads as described in the OP, I put more distance between me and the other guy.

I get the feeling, and I could very well be wrong, that the OP does not make the difference between daylight driving ion rush hour traffic and night driving on semi deserted two lane roads.

Allowing the guy behind you to make you tailgate or over drive your own lights is very seldom impossible to get out of. I routinely pull far enough off the road in a manner that I am across the drive way to someones house so that people who are in a hurry can pass on curvy or dangerous roads.

I also feel that the OP was probably a lot farther away then 30-40 feet. That is a hard distance to judge and the 2 second rule is much better and easier to maintain.

At even 3 car lengths, (18 X 3 ) I am way to much on edge to be singing with the music.


GorillaMan’s cite gives standard distances.

I won’t dispute what you’re saying generally, but 0.3 seconds seems a very optimistic amount of time for the brain to react, send the signal to the leg and foot, and actually move that leg and foot. If my calculations are correct, the British Highway Code indicates >0.5 seconds “thinking time” before the actual braking time.

As already noted by GorillaMan and conceded by me.

But I think we’ll both agree that the majority of vehicles are somewhat less than 80 feet long, thus 2 car lengths is a trifle small…

If you’re that tired, you’re a danger to everyone on the road, and should not be driving.

Agreed on this, or put your flashers on, slow way down and wave him by if he won’t get off your ass. He’ll just figure you’re having car trouble or whatever.

Any chance of finding a route that doesn’t involve 2 lane roads? I swear those are the worst for crazy drivers.

I think it’s unwise to let someone behind you decide how you’re going to drive. The last thing you need is to drive faster than you should because of someone tailgating. If the guy in front of you has to stop, there are TWO cars following too closely - you and the idiot behind you. Guess who gets jammed in the middle?

I do try to make it easy for someone in a hurry behind me to get around me. But if someone is riding my ass, I just take my foot off the accelerator. I leave it off until they back off or go around, at which point I accelerate right back up to speed (but not so as to prevent their passing on a two-lane road).

Anyway, back to the OP, it sounds like the person in front of you was some kind of idiot/jerk. But you get no sympathy from me for letting the a-hole jerk behind you prevent you from driving as safely as you think you should.

Car length is not an adequate measurement for following safely. As your speed increases the car length distance remains the same, greatly increasing the risk of collision.

The current rule of thumb, regardless of speed, is the three-second rule.

120 feet is in ideal conditions. If your tyres are worn, bumps in the road, worn suspension or even additional weight in the car it can be longer. Also, by definition, if the car in front hits something he is going to be stopping in a much shorter distance than normal. So given that I would tend to take the old figures as a good guide.

To the OP. I would say that first off, it sounds like you had an opportunity to pass but didn’t. As a driver this makes me very nervous, particularly if it goes on for some time. Secondly you were following way too close for the speed you were doing. In similiar conditions I would allow a minimum of two seconds - if not more. Thirdly, if the third car had to pass you both at the same time, you were waaay too close - this would also have annoyed me if I was the lead car.

Why not just back off to a comfortable 4-5 seconds back? You know the road, and had no interest in passing so take all pressure off and just cruise.

I’m going to disagree with most of the posters and say the OP did nothing wrong, and the guy in the first car was drunk or a psycho. Sorry, four carlengths back is not tailgating, whether or not it is optimal distance. Having once driven on a two lane road with lots of deer around, I can see the desire not to pass. If the driver of the first car had a problem, he should have slowed down to make it easier for the OP to pass - that’s what I do if for some reason I need to go more slowly than the speed limit on this type of road.

There is also no excuse for anyone to be weaving. I suspect if the OP had slowed down a lot, the first driver might have also. There’s no telling with bozos.

Getting the hell out of there was the best thing to do.

::shrug:: I learned to drive in Boston- you ever driven through the Callahan Tunnel during rush hour? Nothing phases you after that white-knuckle experience. :smiley:

I had one opportunity, at the beginning of the road, to pass him- I chose not to, because it was dark and it was at a stretch of road where there’s a lot of animals crossing- dogs, deer, turkeys, possums, etc.,- due to the woods. After that there was no chance until the section where the guy in back passed both of us, and he took so much time doing that I didn’t have time to pass as well. As for your point, #3- he had the opportunity to just pass me, as there was a good distance between myself and the weaving guy. He chose to pass us both, as the weaving guy was the one holding all of us up. As I mentioned in one of my subsequent posts, this sort of thing happens all the time- people will pass as many cars as necessary to get to an open stretch. It’s stupid, and dangerous, and especially horrific when they’re passing 2-3 logging trucks at once in the space of about half a mile.
Okay, so In The Interest Of Science,[sup]tm[/sup] I timed the distance last night on the way home rather than estimate it. I’m sure the guy in front of me was wondering what the hell I was doing, but I had the presence of mind to flip my flashers on before I started.

At the closest (1.5-2 carlengths, where I started from when I had no idea how much of an idiot the guy in front of me on Saturday was), beginning the count when the car in front’s back bumper crossed an object and stopping when my front bumper crossed, I was almost exactly at 2 seconds back (counting “one-one-thou-sand pause two-one-thou-sand”). At four carlengths, the greatest distance, I was nearly six seconds behind.

I’m gonna tell you, there is NO WAY 2 seconds = 147 feet. No way. My living room is 40 feet long, my whole house is 75 feet, and there is absolutely no possibility that in two seconds you’re double that distance behind someone. I can say with a great degree of certainty that I would never have been able to get his plate number or probably even identified his car if I was that far back (of course, the whole incident may have been avoided as well, but hindsight and all…)

For hoots and giggles, I also timed the guy who was following me (using my rearview during an open spot in the road). I got “one…” and stopped. So you can imagine how close he was.

I hope I’m not coming off as dismissive or attempting to defend myself… I really, really, really want to avoid this situation in the future and will happily alter whatever I need to, and I genuinely appreciate all your comments. Though I’ve been driving down here for 10 years and this particular situation has never happened before, so perhaps it was just a fluke.

BoBettie, I would love to be able to avoid this particular road, but the only other way to work is via interstate/four-lanes, and that adds 20 miles one way to the commute. You should see the route I have to take to get home from my dance class… ugh.

Thanks again, folks.

The only thing I would’ve done different is get far out of the way of the person who passed both of you…with the guy in front of you perhaps drunk and/or falling asleep, your avoidance time would have been close to zero if the guy passing hit something.

Look, 50mph = 73.3 feet per second 2 seconds is 146.6 feet. Period. If you’re disputing that, you’re claiming that there aren’t 5,280 feet in a mile and 3,600 seconds in an hour. This is not the sort of thing you want to be claiming as false.

Also, if 4 carlengths takes you 6 seconds, that means you’re travelling maximum 80 feet in 6 seconds, that’s only 13 feet per second, or less than 10mph.

What I’m getting at is your “carlength” is actually a whole hell of a lot longer than an actual carlength, and you weren’t tailgating the way many posters assumed you were. It’s difficult to judge distance when you’re going highway speeds, time is a lot better.

I’m with Voyager. I’m not sure why everyone is scolding the OP. I think the guy in the front was a total jackass, weaving all over the road. And when you’re just moseying along you don’t always think about how many seconds/carlengths you’re behind the guy in front of you. Be that as it may, the guy had a better way to tell her - you slow down to let the driver behind you know they’re too close, you don’t swerve all over the road.

The guy was a drunk most likely and probably won’t remember you. I used to drive a country road like that too, for about 35 miles.

If you’re not thinking about it, then you’re not driving defensively. The OP specifically asked for the opinions of “Defensive Drivers”.

IMO if you’re not thinking about it, then you’re actually endangering yourself and the car in front of you, even if that person is a jackass and/or a drunk.

But as noted by Cheesesteak, I suspect the OP’s perception of a “car length” is a great deal longer than the length of an actual car.