Toyed With From Behind: Hitting Back

Thomas Kreutzer
by Thomas Kreutzer

A tailgater is a bully par excellence and his weapon is the “I’m not touching you” game. You remember that game, don’t you? It’s the one where your older brother tries to hit you as hard as he can but always manages to miss by a fraction of an inch. When you flinch or complain to your mom the refrain is always the same: “I never even touched you.” Of course, to keep things interesting, sometimes he does actually hit you – if he always missed you’d have nothing to fear, right? On the road the game is almost exactly the same and nine times out of ten the bully never hits you. But once in a while – once in a great while – it’s “metal up your ass.”

We all know how it feels when a tailgater slides up behind. It starts innocently enough when he is just another car running with traffic but soon he has eased up onto your bumper until he is mere inches away. Your heart begins to beat faster as you look in the rearview and see him sitting back there, his unblinking, angry eyes boring into your own via the mirror. You look away and accelerate slightly to add some distance but he matches your move and slips slightly to the left where he fills your side-view mirror with light from his driver’s side headlight. The pressure builds.

toyed with from behind hitting back

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As it is with physical bullying, being the victim of a tailgater can cause you a great deal of mental stress. No matter how strong or self-assured you might be in real life, you feel the powerless before a tailgater and short of pulling over and challenging them to a fist fight you have few real options other than surrender. Hitting your brakes might lead to an accident. Gradually dropping your speed might net you a pass on the right and a close call when the other driver purposefully cuts you off as he swerves back into your lane.

My favorite tactics are more passive aggressive. If it is raining, I slide over onto the wettest part of the road and kick up as much spray as possible. It helps if there are pebbles and small debris there as well and anything my tires can kick up becomes a weapon in my private little war, tiny missiles that stick to his windshield or impinge upon his paint. Eventually I will tire of the game and move right but if the tailgater has been especially annoying I do it as slowly as possible. I may even let off the gas to drop my speed as I change lanes, causing the other driver some discomfort as I unexpectedly slow mid-lane change.

Of course all these kinds of things are quite petty, aren’t they? How much more simple life would be if people stayed right except to pass or to allow others onto the freeway. How much more simple things would be if our egos weren’t all wrapped up in huge pieces of steel running down the highway at speeds exceeding a mile a minute. We should all live and let live and love our neighbors as ourselves, right? Riiight…

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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  • -Nate -Nate on Nov 11, 2013

    I'm loving all the comments . The last two days I've been out on a Road Rally , even in the middle of nowhere I had tailgater and road hogger problems ~ I was driving my old Mercedes Diesel Coupe and keeping the throttle pinned as much as I could because it takes time to wind it up to what I consider proper road speeds . One @$$hat on The Sunrise Highway in his spiffy new white Pickup Truck , I saw him coming a long ways behind and moved to the right , he followed me quite a while about 8 car lengths back before suddenly passing me on a blind corner to the right , just after a miles long straight passing lane , what an @$$hole . Other @$$hats parked two left wheels on the yellow line and went slightly below the posted speed limit in the curvy bits , this blocks the view so even when a passing lane came up I couldn't accelerate fast enough to make use of it 1/2 the time . I knew two different guys in the 1970's who installed small tanks of waste oil and electric pumps into their vans , plumbed the tank to the exhaust so when anyone tailgated , they got blasted with dense stinky oil smoke and droplets . it turns out the used ATF works best for this , a bit too aggressive for my taste . The 4" loading light mounted underneath the bed of any pickup truck works very well indeed , just remember to also install a tattle tale dash lamp or use an illuminated switch sop you don't forget and leave it on . -Nate

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Nov 11, 2013

    If you're being tailgated, you can take a picture with your phone and then call the police. The sad part is, you not only can't see the license plate when he's too close, you'll be ticketed for using the phone while driving.

  • Zach.attach Here in Seattle proper, the drivers tend to be passive or slow-speed aggressive. The scene itself is crazy -- with the complicated intersections, narrow two-way-streets, broken concrete, inlaid track, potholes, bikes, ebikes, rental scooters, all-way stops, etc. But I get the sense that most people want to get along. Based on the news reports -- I-5, the north and south suburbs, and the hours of midnight-6am are the exception.
  • El scotto -shuddering- An EV Brit vehicle? What could possibly go wrong?
  • El scotto Subway or non-subway city? There is a difference.
  • MaintenanceCosts Most of our drivers actually aren't that bad, except that they're a little slow-witted. But there is a group that, post-pandemic, has decided they've had it with the rules, and they're scary.Recently I've seen a regular drumbeat of people blowing through red lights and stop signs without a care in the world; several drivers drive the wrong way (despite honking and yelling) down one-way streets; one driver driving on the wrong side of the street past a line of cars waiting for a red light, forcing an innocent oncoming driver to take evasive action; and one pickup driver deliberately ramming all the planters (used to separate a bike lane) he could see.And no one can park. There's always someone parked blocking the crosswalk, blocking the fire hydrant, blocking the bike lane, blocking the bus stop, you name it.But mostly it's OK.
  • ChristianWimmer Sunak has apparently done this because his political party has lost so much support. Once the brainless masses flock to his political party again the trap will spring shut and bam - the ICE ban will be attempted to get pushed through even quicker.Honestly, Europe right now is a complete CR** HOLE thanks to the EU.Did anyone hear of the EU’s plans to make driving even more unattractive? A French Green Party politician introduced some really perverted ideas under the guise of “Vision Zero” (Zero deaths from driving in the EU) and of course the climate hysteria…1) If you just received your driver’s license you can not drive faster than 90 km/h - basically you’re stuck behind trucks on highways or can’t even overtake them on normal roads.2) If you are 60 years old, your license is only valid for 7 more years. If you are 70 years old, 5 years. If you’re 80 years old, 2 years. You are required to “renew” your license (and pay for it yourself) which will also determine if you are still fit to drive.3) The standard B driver’s license here allows you to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tons in weight. Under this idiotic proposal from that French nutjob, those 3.5 tons will decrease to 1.8 tons meaning that you can’t legally even drive a Tesla Model 3…