Eric Thompson: Bogey at 6 o'clock

By Eric Thompson

Driving into Auckland from the northern reaches of Rodney every day, I unfortunately get to see some of the most appalling driving imaginable. The decision making and lack of skill exhibited is truly frightening, and none more so than tailgaters.

There have been times when I've looked in the rear-vision mirror and can't even see the headlights of the car behind, it's that close.

However, trying to get the driver behind to move back without causing undue havoc or chaos in itself is an art form. Below are a few ideas and tips to encourage the following driver to back off or pass. But before you start getting annoyed with the tailgater, make sure you're not hogging the outside lane doing 70km/h and, if you're on a country lane and want to drive at 50km/h in a 100km/h zone, pull over occasionally to let following traffic pass.

* Touch the brake pedal lightly to bring on the brake lights as a signal to the driver behind you that they are too close to your vehicle. This will usually cause the person behind you to pull back.

* Speed up if you feel that it is safe to do so as long as it's within the speed limit. Sometimes motorists get frustrated about a vehicle travelling far below the speed limit. If it's safe and legal, speed up.

* Move to the inside lane (not the shoulder) and allow faster traffic to pass.

In most places, faster traffic moves in the outer lanes (the "fast lanes") and slower traffic in the inner lanes (the "slow lanes"). Moving to this lane will also give you a chance to pull off on to the shoulder (if one is available) in case you need to pull out of traffic completely.

* Find alternate routes. If you notice that the route you take to get wherever you're going is a constant source of tailgating or other road rage, it might be safer to find another way to go, not to mention much less stressful.

* If you are on a two-lane road where passing is permissible and you're already going as fast as you are comfortable going, slow down and encourage the tailgater to pass. Waving someone forward is generally considered acceptable on country roads.

* If someone is really tailgating you and you feel unsafe, take the first left turn you can. Resume your route when the impatient motorist has passed.

* Avoid using highways, interstates, or other high-speed thoroughfares for short trips. Tailgating often happens on roads with high speed limits.

* Avoid driving during rush hours, typically 6am to 9am (morning rush), 11am to 2pm (lunch rush), and 4pm to 7pm (evening rush). Rush hours typically happen during the weekdays. While this may not leave a lot of room for daily business, particularly if you stay at home during the day, these are times when motorists are on the roads and not at their best.

* Always drive defensively. Remember, your safety depends mostly on your actions and not the actions of other motorists.

There are some safety concerns when trying to do the right thing in either discouraging someone from tailgating or letting them pass.

Be aware that if you do wave someone past, there is not a side road or driveway where another car may be pulling out where you might cause the passing driver to have an accident. You may be liable for any accidents.

It is not recommended to slow down while someone is passing you. If another car suddenly approaches, the other driver needs to make his/her own decision. Don't complicate things by slowing down, because they may also decide to slow down and fall back behind you.

Do not make the situation worse by offending the other driver. Shouting or rude hand gestures will probably make the other driver more irate.

If you pull off the road and the tailgater does the same, pull back on the road and find a populated area (like a shopping centre or garage) to pull off at. People have been robbed because they were hit by a tailgater and pulled off in the middle of nowhere.

Do not spray windshield wiper fluid. The wind will blow it behind you and on to the tailgater's window. This tends to annoy the tailgater.

- NZ Herald

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