VIEWPOINT - Saw a preventable crash today

SoapboxWell, most crashes are preventable, even mechanical failure to some degree.

This rainy morning, as I was descending down a 10% grade coming up on an intersection, I observed two cars: grey Pontiac G5 being followed at about 3 feet distance by a large black Dodge Ram 1500.

Both vehicles were in the middle lane of a 3 lane street, where traffic 'typically' travels around 60km/h.

I saw the developing situation from afar. Leading driver was driving with brakes on, about 45km/h, coming up on the intersection. Dodge RAM was riding Pontiac's bumper like there is no tomorrow. The light was green, and the Pontiac was braking. As the Pontiac got 6 feet away from the intersection, the light turned yellow, and the Pontiac locked their brakes and stopped about 6 feet past the stop line into the intersection - and got immediately rear-ended by the Dodge.

It was pretty obvious that Dodge expected the driver of the Pontiac to clear the light, and was not expecting a sudden stop, as 95% of the drivers would have decided to proceed.

The driver of the Pontiac turned out to be an elderly gentleman of 70+, and the pick-up driver was an Addidas sports-wear clad 50+ male.

Pontiac's actions were not impartial to the reasons the accident happened.

Pontiac was not behaving with expectations. Pontiac was "standing out" as I would call it - because my eyes were attracted to that vehicle 40 seconds prior to the accident in the sense of "what is this guy dooooin?".

But unlike the Dodge, I decided to tread with caution (I had to switch behind both vehicles to take an on-ramp), and allowed myself distance, and although I fully expected that all three of us would have cleared that light I managed to brake comfortably and with little stress, as the Dodge demolished the entire back of the G5 in front of my eyes.

In this situation, Pontiac failed to consider that a heavy pick-up truck, on a rainy morning, following at 3 feet close, expecting to clear the light, would not have enough distance to stop in time. And although the legal, liability, insurance situation is very clear - 100% Dodge's fault; for the purposes of 100% accident avoidance, I would like to remind people that laws of physics do not comply with any human made rules, expectations and emotions, and I would like to point out that getting into an accident is in no-ones interest, it is always better to be mindful of laws of physics (and your rear-view mirror), on top of the rules of the road.

P.S. Trucks do like to tailgate, big black pick-up trucks, always in a hurry. That's because they sit up high, and get a clearer view of the road, which in turn makes their drivers feel safer at higher speeds and closer distances as opposed to low sitting cars.

P.P.S. If your bumper is getting ridden, speed up or get out of the way - any other action is likely to cause an accident. Regardless of your feelings, emotions, complexes and perceptions. Drivers who don't allow to be tailgated don't get rear-ended in a passive-aggressive tit-for-tat.


Speeding up won't work

Hi, interesting story there, and I would agree with your point of view almost entirely ... however, I gotta take issue with your P.P.S.

For sure, if you're in multi laned traffic and being tail-gated, then switching lanes may get rid of the problem; particularly if you're hogging the 'fast lane' (which only applies on freeways where there are signs directing slower traffic to keep right, not on multi-lane urban arterials).  But speeding up?  NO WAY!  You can't let the driver behind you dictate your speed, and besides, nobody can run away from a tailgater as they will just speed up in response.

Braking suddenly (however tempting) is illegal and stupid, as it is likely to cause a collision that may even affect innocent bystanders or oncoming vehicles.

So what to do?  Gently ease off the gas, so that your following distance increases.  That way, if traffic ahead slows abruptly, you will be able to reduce speed or stop in a gradual, gentle way, compensating for the moron's unsafe following distance by giving them the time and space they need to do the same.  What else?  Anticipate traffic light changes, and figure out whether you have reached the point of no return before the light even turns yellow; and keep in mind that the yellow light only means you should stop before the intersection if it can be done safely.

Also, in multi-lane traffic situations, if the twit behind you is trying to intimidate you into going faster, then carefully doing the opposite will usually encourage them to switch lanes, and get more quickly to the scene of their accident ... 

Re: Speeding up

"Speeding up" was a tongue-in-cheek response to the exact situation I've observed,
where the driver of G5 was driving outside of the typical range of 95% of road users in this particular section at that particular time (25% below the flow of traffic). This specific situation highlights that going below the speed-limit for "safety sake" has to be coupled with heightened awareness of your rear-view mirror to actually not get into an accident.
Had the G5 driver been going the "unsafe" 60km/h, the Dodge would have kept the unsafe following distance of 2 cars (instead of 3 feet), and both cars would have cleared the intersection, and neither would have collided with each other. (Which of them would get in to an accident further down the road? I put my bet on the G5... although it'll be a "toss up" - since both drivers are not looking to avoid an accident 100%)

Another tongue-in-cheek remark: Speeding up could physically work, provided that the power to weight ratio, center of gravity and tires of the leading car are better than the tailgater's. As this case involved a Dodge pick-up and a G5, I would guesstimate that the G5 would get a better lap time, purely because of the smaller weight and the lower center of gravity, both vehicles driving on average all-season tires. (Legal speed-limits aside for the sake of the argument)

However, the correct defensive response, as you already stated: leave proper following distance to account for the danger on your bumper. And in most cases where I get tailgated (not often at all) - it is during heavy traffic and when there is another vehicle in-front of me. In which case I increase the following distance, and shift over to the right a little - to show the tailgater that there isn't any way forward. If they back off, I'll cut my following distance, if they stay on my bumper, I'll keep the extra front distance, until I'm able to clear the obstruction in-front of me.

The Ministry Of Transportation of BC has a goal of "zero traffic fatalities and zero serious injuries."
However this is not attainable with-out a 100% accident avoidance commitment from Agencies and road participants.
If accidents are not investigated, and true errors are not addressed, the well-meaning goal becomes a chaotic tangle of pushes and pulls into every-which direction (often not the direction that serves as true preventative measures).

I don't believe that there should be a place for scared, indecisive or untrained drivers on public roads. The fact that the majority of drivers are not trained for and therefore are not able to handle their vehicles at the speeds those vehicles are capable of is a screaming hole in the driving system and culture.

And although going 200km/h all of the time is unlikely to end-up in effective transportation, driving together with drivers who have the training to go 200km/h if the situation so dictates is a whole different ball-park compared to public roads. I dream of the gap between the two worlds to get smaller; unfortunately lots of people envision it bigger.

More information, please!

From interest, where did this collision occur? 

I would be interested in finding it on Giggle Earth, so if you could provide the hundred block and name of the street/road/highway you all were driving on, direction of travel, name of intersecting road, etc it would be appreciated. smiley


While I agree that what the elderly driver did was wrong. However it someone is tailgating me because they want to go like 20+ over the speed limit then I'm NOT speeding up. They can either pass me (when it's safe) or back the hell off. I'll also remind people that tailgating IS illegal.  

What about the accident avoidance?

Aside from passing or backing off they can also... 
Slam in your behind, damaging your property, potentially causing injury or death to you, your passengers and the by-standers. The physical possibility is there, regardless of your comfort level or legality of the issue. But you alone have the power to make it impossible, by either not being in the path of their travel, or by having a higher velocity. Unless your car can hop, there are no other ways known to me on how to avoid an impeding collision. I hope you can reconsider your position with a little more thought, as the only good news in the alternative is that your head stone inscription text is decided upon: "He/She was right".

Also please consider that a good driver takes responsibility to minimize the damages even in the accidents they couldn't avoid, i.e. a choice between a lamp post or a bus stop full of people. You can't make a specific law to ensure people make the best choices in situations like these. Decisions that drivers make in milliseconds under extreme conditions can only be improved with practice and theory, pondering and understanding.

Not a valid excuse

THEY SHOULD NOT BE FOLLOWING THAT CLOSELY BEHIND. PERIOD. Often times they tailgate because they are unable to pass at that time and instead of slowing down and increasing the distance between them and the car in front of them they decide to ride their bumper. They can't just back off for a little bit (perhaps just a moment) while they wait for the passing lane to be safe. Also I've been tailgated in the right lane while the left lane WAS free. What sort of bs is that? Or maybe the right lane is congested and I'm trying to pass cars and find a safer area with more space but because it is so congested it may take a moment to do so. I'm not driving slowly but the person behind me wants to be doing 140km/h. Screw them. Really. They are impatient, ignorant, a nuisance and a danger to everyone around them. I'll deal with them by showing them a hand of appreciation out my window. I'm not talking about someone following someone who is going under the speed limit (which is also illegal if it's impeding or blocking the normal and reasonable flow of traffic. If you see a driver you think is driving dangerously slow then take down their license plate and report them). I'm talking about a driver following someone who is going the speed limit or perhaps even over. I'm not talking about extreme conditions such as someone stopping in the middle of an intersection. I'm talking about every day normal asses that make me wonder how in the world did they ever get their license.  

Not a valid excuse?

Look, sticking your head in the sand, digging your heels in the ground and grand standing on the road when an accident is at stake will likely to lead to that accident. You are arguing that "THEY SHOULDN NOT... PERIOD". Then you present evidence that they DO, despite that they SHOULDN'T. You are the better person for understanding it, but you are a worse driver for unwilling to take on the responsibilities others so carelessly disclaim.

Showing a "hand of appreciation" is a way into conflict. Why not pull over? Because you DON'T HAVE to?

You my friend are misguided by the SHOULD and WILL, and when your life is at stake, it's best to operate by WILL rather than to rely on SHOULD.

People SHOULDN'T shoot other people, and yes in most cases doing so is also illegal, but none the less you wouldn't be fingering a person holding you in the cross-hairs with a pistol, so why do you think its any different when they are using their car in way that may be detrimental to your life?

My head is in the clouds not the sand thank you

 If I truly felt an accident was going to happen I would do something. I'm saying people shouldn't tailgate. Yes they do, but they shouldn't. They don't own the roads yet they act like it. They are bullies that need to be stood up to. Their license plates need to be taken down and they need to be reported. Of course that isn't always feasible when trying to look at it behind you and keep you eyes on the road ahead of you. 

There are circumstances and areas where pulling over is impossible or dangerous. Or it will be too difficult/ dangerous to merge back into traffic. There are some parts of one lane traffic on the Malahat that you absolutely can't pull over because there is a barricade on both sides of you. And even if you could pull over then getting back into the highway could be next to impossible depending on how heavy traffic was. So pulling over isn't always an option. If I'm on some regular suburban or back road fine. Not on the highway. 

What good does speeding up do if I get caught in a speed trap? So I sped up to appease the guy behind me but now I'm out hundreds of dollars. All because he wouldn't stop being a jerk. What do I say, "I'm sorry officer I had to speed because I was being tailgated". That isn't going to matter. I'm going to get the ticket anyway. And I don't have money to just throw away all because the person behind me was all gung ho. 


Your concerns are well founded


It's doubtful that you can feel the accident coming in time to react to with the least damages caused if you have not maintained your margins, on all 360 degrees around your car. Accidents have a habbit of springing up on you, best thing you can do is not be there when it happens.

We all "collectively" own the roads and accidents still happen when drivers follow the textbook rules, but not the laws of physics. (Such cases are rare and far apart - indicator that our driving system is functioning well).

You shouldn't perform a more dangerous action to amend the other driver's mistake, driving is a balancing act - at any time you have to know is it safer to pull over?, speed up?, or to continue traveling?
In 99.999% of cases of inescapable tailgating - all you have to do is to increase your own following distance (by gradually slowing down - not braking), so that the driver behind you does not slam into your back when you actually need to use the brakes.

You don't need to "appease" other drivers, you just have to not collide with them. Receiving a speeding ticket is not the end of all, getting into a fatal accident is. And when the choice is strictly between losing your life and getting a ticket, take the ticket, bring it to court, and see the Justice throw it out - "no legal way out". Please note - cases of speeding charge being dismissed due to "no legal way out" are very few , on the other hand there are also cases of deaths from people being caught in the clouds while driving - as "a captain at sea" it's your prerogative to make the correct decisions in very limited time. Please remember, emotions have no place on the road, clear mind and foresight do.

Have you ever been caught speeding?

Also please note, unless you follow up on your reports, and promise to appear in court to take a stand against the offending driver, your time dialing and ranting will be wasted - no charges or tick-marks will come out of it.

In order to take the stand, you need to have a good understanding of evidence and laws - i.e. describe who exactly was doing what exactly, when exactly and where exactly - it would help if you knew the section/paragraph of the article of laws or regulations that the offender is breaking - but is not necessary. You still have to sound like a person who could win the case for the Crown as their star witness and I am pretty certain only the very few such cases ever get looked into per year, and only in the most egregious circumstances - typically when damages or injury resulted.


FYI the head in the clouds bit wasn't serious. 

Increasing my following distance is typically what I do. It sometimes annoys people, though it usually isn't very long until they can get by me. Though I've been in situations before where I'm in the right lane, the left is completely free and someone is right on my behind. It happened one time that a guy did that for a good 10 minutes. I don't really understand what the issue is there. If the passing lane is free why don't they pass me. And I'm not a slow driver either.

"Following too closely" in under section 162 of he Motor Vehicle Act. I know this. Well no nothing may happen if the reports aren't followed up. But maybe a warning will scare some drivers into being more responsible. I had a friend who received a warning in the mail. That isn't to say it would work (or maybe it would for a bit then they would go back to old habits) though maybe some drivers aren't even aware it is illegal. 

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