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Those tailgating truckers


UPON READING last week's column about safety tips for driving around big trucks, Columbia's Don Oliver e-mailed that he expected I would hear from many readers about giving trucks room for safety.

He was correct. Most of your comments focused on trucks tailgating.

He did agree, however, that it is in everyone's best interest to give them room. "But, far too often I find myself being tailgated by an 18-wheeled monster, even in the right lane. Truckers endanger drivers by speeding, driving when tired and most importantly, by tailgating," Oliver said. He urged truck drivers to remember the rules of the road and the need for safety because "safety is everybody's responsibility."

He also noted that when he took formal driving classes for his employer, he was reminded to anticipate bad driving and make allowances for it. "Maybe truckers should be reminded that safety begins with their being fully alert and prepared for the unexpected," he said.

Jim Althoff of Phoenix also noted that he has observed truck drivers change from "professionally acting drivers to churlish bullies on the road" in the 45 years he has been a driver.

"No longer will an 18-wheeler acknowledge a car's flashing of the headlights to allow them to move in front as they always did years ago," he said. "They will, however, acknowledge another truck. In fact, a truck will seldom follow the rule of three clicks of the signal and a clear path before they move over. They just do it, often causing the car to break suddenly and dangerously."

He has also observed truckers tailgating, especially on interstates and major highways.

I agree that many truck drivers tailgate dangerously - but I've noticed overall better driving behavior on the part of truckers than drivers of other vehicles. That said, I feared for my family member's lives several weeks ago on Interstate 95. It was early rush hour, and the prevailing speed was moving along about 10 mph slower than the posted speed of 65 mph because of the traffic volume. Sure enough, a truck driver was practically riding in my back seat. I pulled over into the right lane at the first opportunity, which I should have done anyway.

Move to the right

Speaking of yielding to faster drivers, drivers who don't yield - who instead cruise in the left lane while faster drivers are forced to pass on the right really, put a kink in Mike Keith's crankshaft. He noted that he learned at a young age that the best driving practice was to move to the right if you're not the fastest driver on the road.

He recalled that he was 14 when his older brother received his Driver's Education Certificate and that it was a family affair with "bells, whistles and certificates with a large gathering of responsible adults," such as his parents and teachers, including the driving instructor. "My brother asked the instructor; 'What if traffic is moving faster than the speed limit? Am I wrong to keep up?' " he remembered.

"The instructor's answer still rings true today: 'Move right and maintain your speed. You will never be wrong if you are moving slower in the right lane. The left lane should be for passing and emergency vehicles.' There is something inherently wrong in today's attitude that 'I am doing the speed limit, [so it's OK to be] in the left lane,' " Mr. Keith said.

I agree with that wise instructor. If you're in the fast lane and there are faster drivers aching to get around you, move to the right, pronto.

Now I want to hear from you. We've all driven behind - or in front of - drivers who have broken written and unwritten road rules of common sense, safety and courtesy. Let's spell out the unwritten rules of the road for them. What unwritten rules of the road would you like to see all drivers follow?

Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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