The first recorded incident of following at an unsafe distance occurred about an hour after the invention of the automobile.
Understandably, that wouldn‚Äôt have been possible, but it probably didn‚Äôt take long after automobiles were first on the roads in America before one driver tailgated another driver.
In the 21st century, following too closely is inevitable, likely, honored, addictive and routine.
There are tailgating associations and clubs and cults.
I am not a member, but I suffer the consequences of their missions nevertheless.
Their mission statements all start with the same mantra: ‚ÄúTrust your brakes.‚ÄĚ
I despise tailgaters.
I have no recourse. Agitating a tailgater, who has zero sense of road intelligence to begin with, furthers the problem, solves nothing, and leads to unwanted consequences.
The opposition to this thinking is that I am an elderly, overly conservative driver who forgets to turn off his turn signal, and loiters in the left lane.
It‚Äôs not true. I am ‚ÄĒ still ‚ÄĒ a conscientious driver.
Conscientious drivers make up less than half of the drivers on I-25.
Everyone is in a hurry.
Would that everyone left for work five or 10 minutes earlier and didn‚Äôt mash the gas pedal, but it doesn‚Äôt work that way.
We are stimulated to speed by glamorizing advertisements and glamorizing films.
Have you ever seen Steve McQueen in ‚ÄúBullitt‚ÄĚ?
Varoom with a view.
In 1966, my father bought a second car for my sister and me. It was a midnight blue Mustang.
There was a small plate on the side of the car that said ‚Äú289.‚ÄĚ
That meant nothing to me, but it seemed to mean something to my friends.
One asked, ‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs your zero to 60?‚ÄĚ
People change in their automobiles. A demure secretary the size of a Pimlico jockey becomes Danica.
I have never watched or attended an automobile race. Complete waste of time. Millions of others don‚Äôt see it that way.
There have been auto races as long as there have been autos. Starting in the 1950s, drag races were popular and popularized in films like ‚ÄúRebel Without a Cause‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúAmerican Graffiti.‚ÄĚ
It wasn‚Äôt a coincidence that a slew of car-related songs came out not long afterwards. The most prominent ones were recorded by the Beach Boys, but there were others by Jan and Dean, the Rip Cords, and Ronnie and the Daytonas.
Life imitated art in 1966, when Jan Berry suffered a severe head injury in a road accident not far from ‚ÄúDead Man‚Äôs Curve.‚ÄĚ
(Berry died in 2014; Dean Torrence is 78.)
Nothing good happens when someone is tailgated, and many bad things can happen.
Road rage, accidents, injuries, inconvenience, rental cars, insurance rates. Oh, and death.
It doesn‚Äôt seem to matter.
I know, I know. There‚Äôs a warning on a pack of cigarettes, but close to 400 billion cigarettes are smoked in America every year.
Alcohol comes with many of the same warnings, and similar consequences, but we continue to drink.
Here‚Äôs the difference, unless you drink and drive, you‚Äôre only affecting your own health.
If you tailgate me, you‚Äôre affecting my health, and Jennifer‚Äôs and Harry‚Äôs.
This little dab of words won‚Äôt change anyone‚Äôs behavior. I know that. We‚Äôre simply not that smart.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.