Why? Why, you may ask, am I referring to myself in such a deprecating manner? Well, it appears that after nearly 38 years of driving (with only a few traffic citations, and a couple of less or more tragic accidents), I have lost all ability to drive on America's Interstate Highway System. And this tragedy occurred between the time I left Richmond on Wednesday the last to drive to Ohio to visit family for Thanksgiving, and the time I left Ohio this morning to drive back. Apparently tryptophan causes people (read: me, though in this case I think it applies to everyone-bloody-else!) to forget the rules of the road, how to drive safely, and why and when you should slow down to 20MPH on a 70MPH speed limit highway.
the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the
country from coast to coast without seeing anything."
-- Charles Kuralt
I left Huntington after a late (long) breakfast with a friend, and headed east on I-64. Traffic on the first section, from Huntington to Charleston, was reasonably light, something I hoped would continue. But alas, it was not to be. I-64E merges with I-77S at Charleston, and to make it more complicated, it isn't really an Interstate since it is officially the West Virginia Turnpike, a very expensive tollroad with horrible curves and ridiculously steep mountains. The traffic levels picked up when I got past Charleston and the driving began to get crazy. I remember that when I took Drivers Education way back in 1977, one thing we learned was that signs like this...
The other followers are the idjits are the ones who zoom up on my rear bumper when I'm in the LEFT lane, passing other cars in the right lane. I'm not getting out of their way. I'm moving with left lane traffic, passing cars on the right. So they pick a slight opening and zip into the right lane, and then cram themselves back in the left lane right in front of me. So whatever safe space I had is now gone. And what exactly have they gained? ZIPPO!
All of this is tailgating, and not the kind you do at the football game (or NASCAR race). It's fricking dangerous! I saw clumps of 2 dozen cars (I counted once) all less than a few feet apart! It's NOT NASCAR! These people do not understand that "crumple zones" and "Antilock Brakes" and "Airbags" do not make up for a SAFE STOPPING DISTANCE! While these safety "brake-throughs" might keep you alive, they do not prevent the crumple factor that means hours of delay on your trip, and all the inconvenience involved when your car is smashed up, not to mention the citation from a Virginia State Trooper that will probably cost you $200 or more. Back in the day, a safe stopping distance was one car length per 10MPH of speed. But that's hard to judge. So sometime later on, I learned that a better way to judge is to put TWO SECONDS between you and the car in front of you. That's easy to figure almost exactly. Pick a spot...a line on the pavement, a signpost, and when the rear bumper of the car in front of you passes that point, start counting one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, and if your front bumper passes that point before you hit -two, back off. No one else seems to get this. If you are too close to me, you will see me slow down (see above). But I can always get more room.
I actually think that some of these clowns think they are drafting the other cars by following so closely. It's pretty humorous. That is because drafting only works with vehicles that are designed for it.