Musing, Ok here's what were gonna do

Safe Following Distance


In other words, the least understood and more poorly applied rule of the road. I’ve got a longer commute now, and more importantly, this one takes me up on the interstate highway for a good portion of my trip. I’ve begun to realize I find myself muttering the mantra, safe following distance. SFD! Do you know it, you miscreant? when I am being cut off, or tailgated, or… Last night my usual half-hour (roughly, it’s closer to 35 minutes most good days) trip home doubled into an hour. When I got out of work into the parking lot I realized there were at least two inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground, and more falling fast. The roads taking me to the interstate were ugly, and I wasn’t the only one sliding around trying to make slow, smooth turns. The drivers I encountered were being at least as cautious as I was. On the highway, despite my concerns over the usual rash of maniacs who drive as though snow doesn’t exist in their reality, it was wet surface, sloppy slush at the edges, and everyone was about 20 mph slower than normal. 

It wasn’t until I got off the highway and out of town that I found the pair of amusing-in-a-scary-way drivers. I was very glad to be behind these two fools. That way, I could hang back – way back – and appreciate their antics without becoming involved when it all went sideways. Which it did, although maybe not in the way you are thinking. To set the scene, this is a two lane road, top speed limit 55 mph (and that varies on the length I drive). That’s on a good day. This was not a good day, it was dark, and the yokels were out for some ungodly reason. There was a sedan, which I couldn’t see clearly, and behind him directly in front of me, a minivan. 

The first indication of trouble was that we kept slowing to a stop or near stop. The first time, I thought the car in front was going to make a turn. Common enough, I’ll just brake softly and hang back a few lengths so I can come to a stop without sliding into anyone – mind you, I’m driving the F150 because the First Reader has my little scooter SUV – but no. No, this dude wasn’t making a turn. He was nervous about hills. Any hills, even dips that wouldn’t entice a child with a sled into taking a try on it. Alrighty then. I’m just going to hang back even further, grateful there are no headlights in my rear view mirror. It was just the three of us on the road. 

And that’s when it went sideways. See, the road is white with snow/slush – did I mention the big fluffy flakes were still falling, but now they were also rapping on my windows with authority? – and up far enough ahead of the sedan you can see that maybe only one or two cars have been through on it. However, in the other lane, there are nice dark, er, ruts in the slush. There’s more traffic headed in that direction, as usual. No, that lane isn’t also going in my direction. Which you wouldn’t have known the way the sedan drifted casually over into it and started driving up the road. The minivan, in the only sensible move I saw it make all night, stayed in the correct lane. I stayed back, waaaaay back here, gaping at my commuting entertainment. 

We drove down the road that way for a half mile, before sedan-boy saw oncoming traffic and decided he’d best get back in his lane. Now, here’s where it got squirrely. The minivan had been practically tailgating the sedan this entire time. Which was part of the reason I wanted to stay way back, in case they got better acquainted than they wanted to. The sedan came over, and over, and…. fishtailed out on the shoulder before managing to return safely to his locked and upright position in the lane he was supposed to be in. The minivan was left braking and swishing his own bustle a bit in order to keep out of trouble. 

Did he learn and back off to a safe following distance? 

What do you think? I got home safely, without undue incident, that’s all I can say on that matter. 


16 thoughts on “Safe Following Distance

  1. Whew. I’m glad you made it home safely. And even though I’m nowhere near you, thank you for being one of the sane drivers. I did five years of being a road-warrior in Michigan, and winter time roads there are bad enough without all the insane drivers making the drive time worse. This morning in SW Missouri, we have reports of black ice. When commute time hits, I predict we’ll have reports of many accidents. Lucky for me, I don’t commute. I did all my errands ahead of the weather and now I’m in my hermit hole for the duration.

    Stay safe up there.

    1. I do my best to drive safely, I have people at home I want to see again! Also, books to write. I dictated part of a chapter in the morning, but didn’t even set up the rig to use as I went home. No distractions necessary in that mess.

  2. Safe Following Distance is one of my biggest pet peeves on the road, too, and one of the reasons I hate city driving/rush hour on the interstates near a city. Many accidents could be prevented if drivers would just leave a little more space between vehicles, but no! They have to get โ€˜thereโ€™ thirty seconds faster! Sometimes they reach their ultimate final destination, instead.

    I knew someone who worked at an insurance office. She told me that the two leading causes of accidents were left turns, and following too close.

  3. I get tailgated driving around town all the time, and I don’t drive particularly slowly. I’m one of those folks who routinely drives 10 MPH above the speed limit — unless someone is so close to me I can’t read their license plate in my rear-view. Then, I take my foot off the gas pedal until I’m right on the speed limit. If they get closer, I’ll gently brake-check them and give them a pointed look in the rear-view. Most times that works. They back off. Sometimes they don’t. No worries. I can always take my time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I know it as A.C.D. but that’s mainly because that’s short hand for how it is listed in the O.R.C. – – as in, Failure to Maintain Assured Clear Distance – commonly used in rear enders.

    I remember driving I-75 in and around the 75 / 4 exchange and the 75 / 35 exchange. Not fun.

    Nice to know there are a few safe drivers out there. Wish I could say the same for here.

  5. Ouch. I now recall driving in Florida (Orlando area?) and trying to keep safely back… but every time I got to a sane distance, some nut figured, “Hey, a space to occupy!” and NASCAR’d itself in. I’m still amazed I made it out intact.

  6. Which is why I’m okay with the fact that Austin shuts down when there’s half an inch of snow on the roads. We may look silly to people who are used to that cold white stuff falling out of the sky, but we don’t know how to drive on it and we’re better off not attempting it.

    1. Fellow I know who resides in Michigan has a story of his family driving through Florida and it had just snowed a tiny bit there. Cops were waving people away from one ramp or road or such… and they got there… *pause* *look at MI plates* and they got waved through instead of waved off. Or so his story goes.

  7. I once read, cannot recall where or when, that some extremely large fraction of accidents (50%?) are caused when one or both of the vehicles involved started to change lanes. So, I always double-check whenever I need to make one, and try to make as few as possible. That, and I imagine everyone else on the road has been paid to kill me.

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