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Getting Together

It’s fun once in a while to study traffic on the road. It’s interesting to see how close together people get with complete strangers as they motivate down the streets and highways of our land. It seems like they are having a family reunion or a get together with old friends.

Maybe they’re planning to get everyone together for a group hug or to sing Kumbaya. Unfortunately they do sometimes get together, but it’s not to sing or hug. Normally it involves crying, wrecked cars and broken bodies as the multi-vehicle pileup creates a sea of bent and twisted metal.

The bottom line is that these drivers get so close to the vehicle ahead of them that it can’t even be called tailgating. It’s more like linking up in a long freight train without the couplers to keep the cars apart. If anyone in the train suddenly lifts their foot off the accelerator, much less hits the brakes, it creates a chain reaction that often causes vehicles further back in the train to physically get together.

"Perhaps people drive so closely together because they feel they will get to their destination sooner."

Why would people drive so closely together? Perhaps it is because they feel they will get to their destination sooner. Maybe they don’t comprehend the increased risk because they just expect everyone to keep going without making any changes in their speed. It could be that they don’t even realize how close they are to the vehicle ahead of them.

Unfortunately some motorcyclists have fallen into the same habit of following the vehicle in front of them almost as closely as possible. Either they believe there will be no problems or changes in the traffic flow or they don’t understand the consequences of their riding behavior. While it is possible that a skilled rider may be able to stop a motorcycle more quickly than a car, will they be able to even reach for the brakes before it’s too late with such little space between vehicles?

To further exasperate the problem, riding in such close proximity often results in limited visibility. Not only does the vehicle ahead hide the motorcycle from approaching drivers, it also obstructs the view of the rider. The motorcyclist’s world becomes limited to the back end of whatever is directly in front of them.

The rider is unable to see beyond that vehicle to know what conditions the drivers ahead of it are facing. They can’t anticipate or prepare for any actions other drivers might have to take so they can only react to what the closest vehicle does. This greatly reduces the time they have to respond to these hidden traffic situations and often results in panic behavior or worse.

The solution to this problem is simple; don’t follow so closely. Leave at least two seconds between you and the vehicle ahead of you. To ensure you have the necessary following distance, simply pick a fixed object. As the vehicle passes the object count, “one motorcycle one, one motorcycle two.” If you finish your count before you arrive at the object, you are at least two seconds behind that vehicle.

Increase this following distance under anything other than ideal conditions. This minimum following distance allows you to better see what’s happening ahead so you can prepare for it and gives you more time to respond to the actions of the driver in front of you. Getting together with family and friends can be fun, but not unexpectedly with strangers on the road. Keep your distance.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!