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Random Thoughts

Give me a brake

Hudson Cooper
Posted 3/11/22

We have many beautiful roads with scenic vistas in Sullivan County. I enjoy going for a drive to enjoy the views and distancing myself from the depressing reports about crime, covid and the conflict …

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Random Thoughts

Give me a brake


We have many beautiful roads with scenic vistas in Sullivan County. I enjoy going for a drive to enjoy the views and distancing myself from the depressing reports about crime, covid and the conflict in Europe. But lately distancing while driving is sometimes difficult.

It seems that tailgating has become a big problem. I am not referring to the tailgating that occurs in parking lots at sporting events. With covid on the decline, those pre-game tailgating parties could resume allowing fans to drink and eat prior to a game, thereby avoiding paying $25 for a beer and a hotdog in the stadium.

Given the title of this column, “Give Me A Brake,” you might have incorrectly guessed that it was about a Kit-Kat bar. Instead, it refers to the hope that an aggressive driver will hit their brake and remove the threat.

Many of us had our first experiences of the consequences of tailgating when we drove bumper cars at amusement parks. I still remember the whiplash felt in my neck when someone smacked into my tiny car that always seemed to be a target.

Adults should not be playing bumper cars on our roads. Speaking with friends in the county, there seems to be an increase in the number of drivers who tailgate the car in front of them. It is puzzling why so many drivers are being aggressive. I constantly check my rearview mirror to see if someone is within ten feet or less to my bumper.

When I see one, I think about what James Bond did in that situation. His car was equipped with a button that would release hundreds of tire-shredding sharp objects to thwart the tailgater. But in the real world, that action is undoubtedly illegal. As an aside, I do not remember the last time I ever used the word “thwart.” It derives from the Middle English thwerten which means “to oppose.” Thwart is also one of those words, like bamboozle, that is fun to say. Try saying either word aloud and see if you agree.

So, I did some research to see if there is a legal way to thwart a tailgater. Initially, you must try to remain calm. Besides driving too close to your car, the tailgater may resort to horn honking, flashing their headlights and gesturing with their fist. Eventually, it would be wise to try to find a place to let the aggressor pass.

A maneuver to diffuse the situation that should never be used is called “Brake Checking.” That is where you step on your brakes to force the driver to slow down. That causes many rear-end collisions and might make you liable for the damage and any personal injury to the occupants in the tailgating car.

Tailgating is the leading cause of rear-end collisions. The lead driver having to deal with the aggressor is not paying enough attention to the road ahead. Because of that lack of attention, they often do not have enough time to react to changes or obstacles in the road.

Recently, a friend of mine experienced a tailgater who showed signs of road rage. As my friend pulled over to let him pass, the aggressor pulled in front and then slammed on his brakes seemingly inviting a rear-end collision. Somehow my friend avoided it by swerving out of the way. If there had been a passenger with my friend, it would have been advisable to use a cell phone to take a picture of the other car or call the police. Since he was alone, he drove towards the nearest police station. As he pulled into the lot, the tailgater disengaged, performed an illegal u-turn and took off in the other direction.

So, to all those drivers who have no qualms about being an aggressive tailgater, please relax. These are stressful times for many of us. Let’s not add to the stress level by deciding to play bumper cars at 55 miles per hour on our county roads.


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