Driving Me Crazy!

~ By Catherine Mahrholz ~

During the summer months, the highways and byways in the Pikes Peak region certainly see an increase in traffic.

People from other parts of the country and Colorado residents from the surrounding areas want to take advantage of the recreational opportunities that abound in this part of the United States. This results in a much greater volume of vehicles attempting to travel hither and yon in the pursuit of summertime activities.

We all want to get to our destinations as quickly as possible. However, unsafe driving habits endanger not just that driver and their passengers, but other drivers and their passengers who happen to be in the vicinity. 

Unsafe driving habits like tailgaiting could get someone or anyone in the vicinity, to their final destination.  By that I mean pushing up daisies or as ashes stored in an urn.

For decades, my biggest complaint has been tailgating.  Having a vehicle following too closely behind me turns me into a distracted driver.

And I am an excellent driver. Way back in the 1970s, I was told by a trucker that I “don’t drive like a woman,” at the time, I took it as the ultimate compliment.

More recently, here in Colorado, driving down Hwy 24 in the pre-dawn hours to get to work, I managed to navigate what amounted to a “slalom course” through a herd of elk that had decided to bolt across the highway just as I approached. I pulled over, calmed down and proceeded to go to work.  “Nice driving there Cathy…” was the comment from the guy who was my passenger.

So anyway, driving is something I’m quite good at.

In terms of tailgating and unsafe driving practices both men and women are guilty of this.  At least that has been my observation over the years. And it seems to be a growing problem.

At 68 years old, I have come to the conclusion that I have some sort of ADDHD, an attention deficit disorder. No doubt I’ve always had it. That diagnosis didn’t exist when I was a child. But the result is that I learned to focus on the task at hand. I am most definitely “single task oriented.”

Thus, when I’m driving, that’s what I do. I pay attention to the primary task at hand.

I like to tell people that I’m a good driver because I was conceived in post war Europe when my mother, who worked for the Girl Scouts, was driving an old U.S. Army ambulance around Germany. I think she put about 15,000 miles on the vehicle in one year. In Europe, that’s a lot of miles. So perhaps I learned something about driving when I was still in her womb!  I’m kidding, of course, but it makes a good story.    

Many years ago, I lived in the Bay Area in California, and back then, every two years someone would be unable to stop in time, or wasn’t paying attention and would smash into my vehicle. 

I have been in several automobile accidents over the years and not one of them was my fault. The last time I got a ticket, it was for speeding. The year was 1965 and I was 17 years old.

Careless driving, not paying attention and tailgating have all been to blame for the accidents I’ve been in.

In the 1980s, back in California some guy even backed his pick up truck into my front bumper while we were both stopped at a stoplight. He claimed it was my fault because my sedan was too low and he couldn’t see my vehicle! He left the scene and I followed him while my then six year old son wrote down the license number of his truck. Last I heard he had to post a bond if he wanted to renew his driver’s license in the state of California.

Another time, a driver ploughed into the back end of my car when I was stopped at a light with about seven or eight cars in front of me.  The woman who hit me claimed she didn’t stop because she saw the light was green. It didn’t register with her that cars weren’t moving yet. Wow.  Boggles the mind doesn’t it?

More recently, here in Colorado, I was delivering this very newspaper to a business on Hwy 24 in Lake George. I slowed down gradually, trying to spot the driveway on the right, put on my right turn signal way in advance of the driveway and began to turn into the parking lot. Low and behold, a pickup truck pulling a boat goes flying around the turn next to me!  I watched my right side mirror rocket into the air as we both pulled to a stop in the empty parking lot.

How fortunate that in each of these instances no one was injured.  

I don’t know if this kind of careless driving is still a problem in California, but here in the Pikes Peak region ofColorado, it seems to me that tailgating, following too closely is a HUGE problem.

On a two lane highway, where passing opportunities are few and far between, hugging the rear bumper of the vehicle in front is not going to get anybody to their destination any faster!  Oh, and by the way? I don’t want to be someone else’s new hood ornament either.

I have talked to the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, and if one can immediately report such reckless driving with a vehicle license plate number, the vehicle make and model, and this is crucial: a description of the driver law enforcement can try to catch this driver in the act and issue a citation.

I think if a vehicle is spotted tailgaiting, and it is reported, with perhaps some kind of complaint form filled out, a postcard could be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. While no charges or fines would be imposed, it would just be a campaign to raise awareness.  What’s the cost of a few postcards compared with the potential of perhaps saving lives or preventing injuries? 

One afternoon recently, as a passenger in a vehicle, I used my cell phone to call the Teller County Sheriff’s Office about a tailgater.  Minutes later we saw a Teller County Sheriff’s vehicle racing along the highway, red and blue lights blazing.  I like to think that perhaps the deputy was after the driver of the vehicle I reported.

Drivers simply must pay attention to the fact that for every ten miles per hour, there should be one car length of space between their vehicle and the vehicle in front. If one is going 60 miles an hour, there needs to be six car lengths between vehicles.

It seems to me, that since the advent of ABS, the Antilocking Braking System, the problem of tailgating has risen sharply.  ABS does not help a vehicle stop any faster. It just helps to keep the brakes from locking up.

Here in the Pikes Peak region with winding two lane roads and highways, like Hwy 24 and Hwy 67, with few opportunities to pass other vehicles, people simply must take a moment to realize that they are risking their own lives and the lives of the people in other vehicles by tailgating.

It seems most drivers are aware of this and drive safely. But there are too many drivers out there who just don’t seem to get it.

I wish Colorado would launch a new publicity campaign about the dangers of tailgaiting.  We all know by now about “Click it or Ticket.” Seatbelts are important, of course, but that saying has been around for a very long time. Let’s have a new one like “Tailgaiting is for Football Games.”  I’m tired of people trying to push me down the road or make my vehicle into a hood ornament!