Tailgater Haters
June 11, 2016 5:44 PM   Subscribe

I don't tailgate though I am tailgated a lot. Sometimes they're so close that I can't see the hood ornament.

But I don't torture them by slowing down. Most times, I'm either at the speed limit or a little over. What I always eventually do is pull over somewhere and let them pass. And almost every time, they throw me the finger or say something nasty as they go by. Why? With all of the road rage going on, isn't pulling over the most inoffensive thing to do?
posted by CollectiveMind to Travel & Transportation (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're doing the right thing and I think it's impossible to figure out why other people do unfriendly things and frustrating to try. Just keep tidying the place (as you are), and know that the place is tidier for everyone, friendly and unfriendly both.
posted by notyou at 5:52 PM on June 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

It's not about you, and you can't expect rational behavior from somebody who's already doing such a pointlessly aggressive thing as tailgating. The anger is all about whatever angst the tailgater is failing to deal with in their life, and you're just a convenient target.

You offended them by driving slower than they feel entitled to go (a microscopically trivial offense even if we accept that their feelings of entitlement are justified, which of course they aren't) and pulling over doesn't make them feel better because you were never the true cause of their frustration to begin with. Flipping the bird on the way by is just their parting shot at you. They will undoubtedly fix their permanently-unresolved feelings on whatever hapless target next wanders across their path.

Don't think about it more than you have to. The problem is entirely on their end.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:53 PM on June 11, 2016 [20 favorites]

Because lots of people are shitheads.

The venn diagram of people who endanger the well being of others by driving recklessly and people who are shitheads is a circle.
posted by phunniemee at 5:53 PM on June 11, 2016 [38 favorites]

I'm going to take a different approach and make sure you're not doing anything unusual, since you say the road rage happens often. I get tailgated but I've never been yelled at/flipped off. Speeding is a fact of life and we just have to manage those who want to drive faster or slower than ourselves. If you already do this, maybe you're just encountering a disproportionate number of assholes.

For highway/freeway driving:
Are you driving in the leftmost lane when you could be driving in the next lane over? The leftmost lane should be reserved for those passing. This means that if I'm cruising at the speed limit (or 5 over) that I stay out of the left lane. I'll move into it to pass and then get back out.

If I feel like going 10 over, I'll stay in the left lane and move over if somebody wants to go faster than that.

For 2-lane roads:
General etiquette is to let people pass by pulling over into a turn-out. Is it possible that by the time you notice they're tail-gating you it's been 5-15 minutes for them? If it's curvy you might be going slower than you think by braking extra in corners (which is your right for safety, but be aware it could be slowing down normal traffic).

It seems like the strategy for trucks and RVs is to wait until 4-6 cars have piled up behind them before moving over, which seems reasonable because otherwise they're pulling over nonstop.
posted by just.good.enough at 6:00 PM on June 11, 2016 [24 favorites]

Are you in the left lane? If so, this will annoy people who are trying to go faster than you. Many people prefer to camp out in the left lane even when others want to pass, and forcing them to pass on the right gets people annoyed. Often, because the cars in the right lane are keeping pace, it can be difficult to pass at all and people end up stuck behind you. The fact that you're going the speed limit or slightly higher doesn't really change anything. if you're going slower than the people who want to pass, they will get annoyed.
posted by skewed at 6:05 PM on June 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


If they're already that close, and then you're eventually getting over, you have delayed that person. Should they be mad at you for that? Probably not, but that's why they are.
posted by Etrigan at 6:29 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I do slow down for tailgaters because I am an asshole that way but I don't really recommend it as an strategy.

You are doing the right thing, but it does seem odd that it is always happening. Are you in a place where the norm is to drive well over the speed limit, so your driving seems slow in comparison? Or are you speeding up, slowing down, speeding up, etc so no one can pass easily? If not, and you are driving safely and considerately, then just keep doing what you are doing.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:31 PM on June 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

For the past fourteen months, I've been driving around the U.S. in an RV. During that time, I've learned that there are just a lot of drivers out there who are assholes. It's all about them, and they never bother to think about the drivers around them.

Common recurring example: On a four-lane highway, a semi or an RV (or some other slow vehicle) uses the left lane to pass an even slower vehicle. Or is forced to move to the left lane because merging traffic from an on-ramp isn't properly yielding. About 25% of the time, some impatient dickhead behind the slow passing vehicle will whip around into the right lane, preventing the passer from getting back over. This sometimes leads to a cascade effect, trapping the slow-moving vehicle in the left lane, which just pisses everybody off. And it's because the slow vehicle was trying to be polite and/or safe! Seriously, happens way too often, and it's because some drivers are self-centered and fail to see the Big Picture.

Anyhow, if you're in the proper lane, going the speed limit, and using turnouts when traffic piles up behind you, don't sweat it. It's not your fault.

(Worst drivers I've seen on this trip? Nashville, Tennessee. Fucking-A, Nashville drivers suck. It's like they're pathologically incapable of staying in their lanes. Six months in Savannah taught me Georgia drivers aren't much better. But various stats -- insurance company and U.S. government -- show Orlando drivers are objectively the most dangerous.)
posted by jdroth at 6:42 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it's curvy you might be going slower than you think by braking extra in corners (which is your right for safety, but be aware it could be slowing down normal traffic).

Yeah I can space out sometimes when I drive on the eight mile curvy road between my house and the next town. And when I do I may be going a mile or two under. Which is no big deal but for people who drive that road every day of their lives and are maybe expecting it to be empty and expecting to go 10-15 miles over (and so maybe they are late or who knows) they can get agitated. So part of it may be thinking about whether you're doing anything that reads as either not normal (i.e. going a little slow and not paying attention that someone wants to pass you, in which case you'd go even slower and pull over on to the shoulder where I live) or as aggressive (like going a mile or two over in the passing lane and holding people up who want to speed). And I know some timid drivers where I live who really do brake going into every curve and you hope you don't get stuck behind them going five or ten under because it's a long road without a lot of opportunities to pass people.

To be very clear, people who flip you off are being aggressive jerks. But sometimes they're trying to say "Gee you are not from around here are you buddy?!" in an exasperated way and not "You jerk I hate you and want to harm you" If it's the former, there might be something you could do.
posted by jessamyn at 6:58 PM on June 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

First, I need to say that the other drivers are wrong to tailgate you. They shouldn't do that; it's unsafe.

I am wondering, though, what lane you're in when this is happening. A lot of people (myself included) exceed the speed limit on the highway. If you're doing exactly the speed limit in the left lane, you are going to frustrate people who want to go faster. Unless you're passing someone, you should not be in the leftmost lane.
posted by epj at 7:15 PM on June 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Many people here are assuming that OP's talking about driving on freeways, where there's more than one lane in each direction. In that case, the answers of "get out of the fast lane" make sense. But because they mention "pulling over" to let the tailgaters pass, it's more likely they're talking about smaller highways where there's just one lane in each direction – and often no safe space to pull over for miles on end, until there's a designated pullout spot.

In situations like that – yeah, it's frustrating and baffling that people tailgate even once it's clear that you're not going to speed up. It's very dangerous, and it's not like it's going to get them to their destination any faster. In some cases, maybe they're waiting for a straight stretch of highway where they can go into the opposing lane and pass you, and they want to be as close as possible before that happens. In other cases, they're likely just angry/tense people, or they're actually having fun intimidating you. Or they're simply imitating the way they saw their parents drive and aren't really aware of how stupid it is. In any case, you probably shouldn't do anything to further agitate them (tapping brake lights, etc.) – just keep driving as carefully as you can, as close to the speed limit as you can, and pull over when you can.
posted by lisa g at 7:32 PM on June 11, 2016

Unless you're passing someone, you should not be in the leftmost lane.

This. I consider myself a friendly and reasonable driver, but am someone that exceeds the speed limit on the highway, particularly in my local metropolis where the highway speed for our 4-7 lane freeway is something like 55. 90% of the drivers on the road are exceeding the speed limit - except those guys poking along in the far left hand lane going 55 or even 45-50.

Interestingly, they're also the people that flip ME off when I pass them on the right (many of these left-hand lane denizens are firmly of the opinion that you pass on the left, even though they're squatting in the left hand lane).

Many states in the U.S. have a law that requires drivers to pull over once a certain number of cars are following them (I think this is usually in the range of 3-5). For me, if I am on a road with more than one lane, I only get in the left lane to pass. If someone comes up behind me, I immediately move to the right to allow them to pass. If it is a road with one lane, I'd probably wait until I had a tail of 3-5 folks or five minutes, but yield or pull over if there was a turnout.

The close tailgating and flipping off is dangerous and rude. I would also refrain from responding in kind, after reading about the frightening road rage incidents that have escalated into violence in the past years. Sorry you're experiencing it.
posted by arnicae at 7:34 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's true that the left lane is for passing. But a speed limit is just that: a limit. Being in a passing lane does not entitle anyone to drive faster than the speed limit. If the OP is doing the speed limit in the left lane and you want him to drive faster, you're the problem, not the OP.

OP: the reason this happens is because these drivers are aggressive bullies, and you're resisting (however temporarily) their bullying. They're too self-centered to acknowledge the existence of other drivers, and they're inconvenienced when you force them to think about someone other than themselves. Unfortunately, we live in a selfish world. You don't seem to be doing anything wrong. Keep driving responsibly and leave them to their own miserable lives.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:14 PM on June 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I used to have this problem and solved it by knocking 10mph off my own speed (so I don't use the leftmost lane nearly so much) and choosing to slow down by a few mph rather than overtake an only slightly slower car (so I don't spend a long time overtaking). I now find myself interacting with an entirely different, gentler set of motorists (in less fancy cars). I am calmer, feel safer, and the impact on journey times is tiny.
posted by beniamino at 8:27 PM on June 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

It's true that the left lane is for passing. But a speed limit is just that: a limit. Being in a passing lane does not entitle anyone to drive faster than the speed limit. If the OP is doing the speed limit in the left lane and you want him to drive faster, you're the problem, not the OP.
In California, this is objectively wrong. Specifically, see CVC 21654(a):
(a) Notwithstanding the prima facie speed limits, any
vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a speed less than the normal
speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time shall be
driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable
to the right-hand edge or curb, except when overtaking and passing
another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing
for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or
(emphasis added)

If CollectiveMind is driving on a twisty mountain road out here, there are a bunch of things that they could be doing that would draw the ire of other road users: braking mid-corner, slowing down far beyond what is necessary for a turn, braking suddenly, drifting across the center line, etc.

I'm not intending to cast aspersions here, but if the OP is regularly making other drivers angry enough for them to cuss and make rude gestures, there is in my opinion a very good chance that they are not situationally aware enough or skilled enough to know that they're even doing anything wrong. Dunning-Kruger and such.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:35 PM on June 11, 2016 [27 favorites]

FWIW, I have seen a handful of cases where people being tailgated VERY closely while trying to pass a truck have first put on their right turn signal and then slowed so they can get behind the truck, aborting the attempt to pass. This undoubtedly makes the tailgater even angrier and creates a situation where the first driver has to wait for someone to let them get back behind the truck again.

When I first saw it, it seemed like a drastic solution. But depending on whether the tractor trailer had sped up since they started to pass and/or traffic in front of the truck had slowed down, the driver may have seen that there was no likely relief in sight and taken this as the safer of two unsafe situations. If they sped up to try to pass the truck and all future cars I think we could be certain that the tailgater would have sped up the exact same amount.

Driving in the Philadelphia area highway traffic is often unpredictable. For instance, the tailgater may have shown up at high speed around a bend or just entered at high speed from an on ramp and jumped to the left lane.

I also agree with beniamino that driving (for instance) 65 in a 70 in the right or middle lanes allows you to legally complete passing much faster when the car in front goes to 60. Of course you have to allow for the possibility that many cars will also be passing both of you, but if traffic is that heavy then chances are changing lanes probably won't make a big difference.

And, as was stated above, this comment addresses highway situations, not secondary roads.
posted by forthright at 8:37 PM on June 11, 2016

Oh, and the equivalent strategy on single lane roads is to use your indicator straight away, so the tailgater knows you are trying to move over. Then slow to a speed that allows you to stop wherever possible. At the speed limit, it can be hard to find a safe place. Then pull over at the first opportunity. Shake your head as the tailgater roars on to Stressville.
posted by beniamino at 8:48 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just throw on my hazards until they back off.

If I'm going the speed limit or slightly faster, and I can't see your front end from the driver's perspective in an SUV... You get what you asked for. I HATE tailgaters. Throw on your hazards if it feels unsafe, works for me!
posted by jbenben at 9:03 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Most states that have a keep right except to pass/slower traffic keep right law (and if there is black on white signage advising such, it is the law whether or not there is a specific provision of the highway code requiring it, since you are required to obey regulatory signs) make no reference whatsoever to the speed limit in that requirement. I believe there are a couple that do, but it is the exception, not the rule

If you are having a problem on two lane (one lane each way) roads, do be sure you aren't doing that thing where you drive at/under the speed limit through all the no-passing zones but then speed up as soon as there is a passing zone. It can be a real pain for those who want to drive faster but drive vehicles that don't have the horsepower to pass safely in a short passing zone. Incidentally, that situation is the precise reason I think people who say no cars should have more than 120hp or whatever are on crack. Most of the time the extra isn't necessary, but if you can overtake quickly on those two lane roads rather than taking a half mile or more to make it around someone it's safer for everybody.
posted by wierdo at 9:21 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another hazard light aficionado, just a few cycles so they at least know.

(then what I dream about but have not actually managed is when they rush to a long light and I slowly pull alongside, open the window and with the craziest eyes look straight at them and suggest that if they are going to road rage they should be sure the other driver isn't even more crazy, then grin deep and scary) (whew, got that out, thanks :-)
posted by sammyo at 10:19 PM on June 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

I know how fast your speedometer says you're going, but how fast are you driving relative to other traffic? I ask, because speedometers can get out of calibration. My mother got two speeding tickets in the same spot on a 2-lane highway in two successive weeks before she figured out with the help of the police officer who was ticketing her that her speedometer was simply wrong. Is it possible you're actually driving slower than you think you are?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:51 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Lots to respond to ...
I don't cruise in the left lane. I use it for just passing. As far as waiting too long before I notice them, I notice them right away because I can see them coming up on me fast and I'm looking for a way to get out of their way. But I don't know they're going to TG. Sometimes, they realize they're speeding and slow down and don't end up too close. Not always, though. It doesn't seem to happen so much on city streets, but more on interstates and especially on back roads where there are no turn arounds or pull-offs, but lots of ditches. And the rural two lane roads I do travel are have a lot of sheriff deputies on them catching people for speeding, so I tend to trust my speedometer. And yes, I do use signals when I see a place where I can pull over. Thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate it.
posted by CollectiveMind at 12:14 AM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

To be honest, it sounds like you're being TOO considerate?

The area I drive is all country roads, one-lane-each-direction and wiggly. I drive these roads every single day and know them well, I do not drive slowly or brake for bends, and go at the limit or 5 over if it's not busy. I know I'm not driving irritatingly or badly. So if someone comes screaming up my ass and tailgates I do exactly what I would ordinarily do: drive at the limit if there's nothing ahead, or, if there's traffic in front, drive with a good safety gap while keeping up with the pace. If someone is really egregiously close to my bumper I will slow down to five under the limit to encourage them to back off, or to give them more opportunity to overtake if that's what they're gunning to do. I wouldn't consider getting out of their way by turning off or going into a lay-by or anything! They're not an emergency vehicle with a right to make other drivers get out of their way! It's not my responsibility to make way for insane assholes who want to endanger their own and other people's lives!

Maybe this is a cultural difference or something but I've never seen or heard of any driver doing that, unless they're pulling a trailer or driving a tractor or something and going at 40. Then it makes sense to pull over to let the tail of traffic behind them pass.

With asshole drivers the more you seem like a pushover the more entitled to be aggressive they will feel- hence abusive gestures when you pull over for them. They see it as weakness.
(Source: I am a young blonde woman and drive a make of car that gives off "little old man/over-cautious mother" vibes which is like a red rag to a bull for aggressive drivers. I have to drive assertively to discourage the asshole behaviour.)
posted by mymbleth at 2:00 AM on June 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

CollectiveMind, my gentle advice for you here is to be mindful of an old adage that applies very well to many social situations.

If you encounter an asshole every once in a while... that's life, it happens. They must be jerks- do your best to distance yourself from them quickly, and move on with your life.

But if you're encountering assholes all the time... you may need to look in the mirror and think about what you need to do differently.

In no way is it acceptable for other drivers to tailgate you dangerously, or to flip you off, or make rude gestures. But that doesn't mean it's ok for you to habitually drive too slowly in a way that impedes the flow of traffic- that sounds like what may be occurring here, if you're truly running into these situations as often as you seem to say.

Consider taking some driving courses to get even more comfortable behind the wheel, and in the meantime, if this really is happening that often- recognize that you are a slower driver. That's not in and of itself a bad thing! You just need to realize that you need to take more steps to avoid causing dangerous situations by interfering with the flow of traffic. Do your very best to not slow others down, or force them to maneuver to deal with your slower driving. Stay in the slow lane more often, and be more ready to pull over and let others pass on country roads.

The same idea applies to me- I am on the other end of the spectrum as a faster driver. I need to be aware of not interfering with the flow of traffic by zipping around people, cutting them off, etc. I have to do my very best not to force others to maneuver to deal with my faster driving.

I do slow down for tailgaters because I am an asshole that way but I don't really recommend it as an strategy.

Also, I know it's normally not apropos to respond to other answers directly. But in this case, I have to note that the answers suggesting you do things like slowing down or putting on your hazards are very dangerous. Actions like this can quite literally put lives at risk.

When someone tailgates you, please don't ever brake check them. Don't ever antagonize them intentionally by slowing down. Don't put on your hazards to troll them, as a number of answers are suggesting you do. Taking steps like this escalates a dangerous situation, and here's a real-life video example of why you should never do that: when you antagonize or troll the other driver, you put yourself, the other driver, and other people on the roadway at risk.

Cars are not toys- dangerous situations like aggressive tailgating can lead to serious injuries or fatalities (not to mention road rage). Why would you want to deliberately make these situations even more dangerous?

If you're getting tailgated, just do your best to move over into a slower lane as quickly as you safely can, or pull over and let them on their merry way. If they threaten you, make gestures at you, or drive erratically, get on your phone, dial 911, and report them to the police immediately for reckless driving. That's how you can get some justice in the situation.

Best wishes, CollectiveMind. Safe driving to you!
posted by Old Man McKay at 3:19 AM on June 12, 2016 [10 favorites]

On local windy roads in more rural areas people who live there tend to completely ignore the speed limit - they've been driving down John Gooley Road at 50 for their entire life and they're not going to start paying attention to those signs telling them that they should go 35. The side effect is that you're driving down the road at a speed that makes no sense to them and since you're doing the posted speed limit, you're automatically identified as a non-local. This is a nice combination for the opportunity for them to tailgate you and then flip you off.

Are they right? Heck, no.
Is this going to continue to happen? Heck, yeah.

I can think of two stretches of road in the city where I live where people completely ignore the speed limit - it is 30 in both cases and people tend to go 40-50mph on both of them.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:33 AM on June 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I commute 25 flat miles each way five days a week. All but 2 miles of that are rural. There is 5 mile stretch that's just two lanes. I am tailgated almost daily on that stretch even though I am going the posted speed limit of 55 and I use cruise control so I am sure I'm sticking to the speed limit. It's a highly trafficked stretch of road, many big trucks, and there are frequent, sometimes fatal, accidents. I do not pull over, nor do I slow down. The trucks don't tailgate, it's often guys in big pickups or giant SUVs or women and men in sporty fast cars.

I'm the one who gives them the finger when they pass. I also amuse myself by thinking of bumper stickers: stop trying to crawl up my tailpipe, asshole; back off, motherfucker; grandmas hate tailgaters; aggressive drivers die young; if you can read this slow the fuck down; tailgaters are bullies. You get the drift. (By the way, this happens both when I have lefty or progressive bumper stickers and when I have none.)

I wonder if there are parts of the country in which this is more common. I wonder if any of the tailgaters took driver's ed. I wonder why the tailgaters are always white even though it's an area with a high African American and Hispanic population. Maybe we could crowdsource a sociological study of tailgaters.

Don't give in by pulling over and just ignore their nasty gestures.
posted by mareli at 4:30 AM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ugh. This is so fraught.

I used to be with someone whose road rage was so intense he sought out opportunities to pull over and confront random people. WHY GOD WHY???? Recalling how I cowered in tears in the passenger seat, hoping the other guy would not pull a weapon, out on some lonely BFE off-ramp. Anyway.

We all share the roads, and we are all driving potentially lethal machines at vastly different levels of experience and tolerance. But we must balance our preferences/fears with a healthy dose of reality. Yes, you want to follow the law and feel comfortable in your own vehicle. But the worst case in any situation would be an unsafe outcome for you and also others. Like serious injury or even death on the roads. NOT just getting a speeding ticket or warning. (Just my opinion!! YMMV- literally, in this case.)

You seem overly apprehensive about lurking speed traps. If you're slow, your likelihood of incurring a serious speeding offense seems pretty low. So maybe examine that fear? Is that really your worst case?

Coming up over a hill or around a blind curve behind someone driving much slower than expected? May cause a wreck. Someone choosing to pass on the right on a 2-lane road out of frustration over someone's slower-than-normal driving? May cause a wreck. Wrecks are WAY worse than a 5 or 10-mph ticket. Even if no one is injured, there is huge life-hassle over a damaged or undriveable car. (again- MY OPINION.)

The key here is the frequency with which you report this occurring. So it must happen a lot, and bug you enough, or you would not have posted this question. If you are the exception, you cannot expect others to accommodate you. And here, it sounds like you are the exception in your local traffic universe.

I won't advise you on how to change your own behavior, because that's up to you. I will just say that the short answer here is to figure out how you can do that. Otherwise, simply accept it and own the consequences.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:35 AM on June 12, 2016

a lot of sheriff deputies on them catching people for speeding, so I tend to trust my speedometer.

Well, but my point is, your speedometer might cause you to drive too slowly. It seems unlikely a deputy would pull you over to tell you you're driving a few miles an hour under the speed limit.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:35 AM on June 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

About a thousand years ago in a defensive driving class I was taking for the discount on my insurance rates, the instructor -- who really was sane, logical, thoughtful -- he instructed us never, ever to slow down, absolutely do not stomp onto the brakes, maybe speed up a bit and see if that helps at all, get out of their way if not in the slow lane. All sound advice.

But then he gave what I have found to be really effective over the years -- keep moving at least the speed limit, no aggressive stuff at all toward the person behind, but to turn on the hazard lights, the four-way flashers. This instructor said -- and he's pretty much been right, in my experience -- people driving as you're describing are not using logic at all, they are driving pretty much in an emotional state. The yellow "caution" flashers snap them out of that it seems; they see the flashers, they see themselves, they back off a bit and then go around. (I don't know, mostly, if they're making funny faces or flipping me off or whatever because I'm not looking at them, I'm watching the road.)

I've had good luck with it, you might want to give it a shot.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:11 AM on June 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

I haven't made eye contact with another driver for years now. Not at crossings, junctions; no headlight flashing (signalling in that way is not legally approved in the UK anyway), nothing. It saves me so much emotional engagement. Sometimes a large piece of metal will come dangerously close to me from behind so I put on the hazard lights, as others have recommended.
posted by Coda Tronca at 6:00 AM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I do slow down for tailgaters because I am an asshole that way but I don't really recommend it as an strategy.

Oh, I do.

If that fucker isn't going to stay two seconds behind me of his own free will, he is eventually going to be two seconds back because we're both moving at 2mph, or he is going to pass me and flip me a well-deserved bird. Which I just might find distracting enough that oh dear I seem to have forgotten to dip my high beams.

Then again, I live in a country where the general expectation is that the fucker behind me won't be armed. So pinch of salt, YMMV etc.
posted by flabdablet at 6:03 AM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you drive a new red Corvette? Because I passed and flipped one the bird just yesterday (I'm not proud of it, but I couldn't stop myself). I was driving down a 10 mile stretch of road where no passing is allowed and the speed limit is a mind-numbing 35 mph. I'm cool with going the speed limit or, even better, a little over. This guy was doing 27. TWENTY-SEVEN. With 6 cars behind him all tailgating each other, me in the last spot. For TEN MILES. He had opportunities to pull over and let people pass, but didn't. When he finally decided to park at a small beach area, he took his sweet time getting out of traffic causing my finger to lash out when I finally got around him.

One thing I learned about my newish car is that the speedometer is purposely set lower than actuality (2 mph in my case) so the car's speedometer can't be blamed for one's speeding. Maybe you think you're doing the speed limit but aren't?
posted by cecic at 6:25 AM on June 12, 2016

I do use signals when I see a place where I can pull over.

One of my kids learned in a defensive driving class to put on your signal the second you see someone climbing up your ass. It indicates that you see them and you'll pull over as soon as you can.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:26 AM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

In my neck of the woods, no one pulls over to let others pass, but they will sometimes move over onto the shoulder while they drive, to give more room for someone to pass. However, this is definitely not advisable and the local traffic authorities don't support it either - the shoulder is where all the road debris collects, so you could have glass or nails or whatever that can puncture tires, and cause damage to your car.
posted by lizbunny at 6:36 AM on June 12, 2016

CollectiveMind, it sounds as if you're genuinely interested in avoiding these people who make you uncomfortable. That's great and I (as someone who regularly uses rural mountain roads) appreciate it! So here are my specific suggestions, based on the things I see that make me go "oh yay! thank you!" instead of "what the fuck is wrong with you" when I'm out riding.

* Turn on your signal as soon as the person behind you settles in and matches your speed (at whatever distance). This says, "I see you, and I know you want to get past, but I need a moment".
* Don't speed up for straight sections of road. At the least, maintain a constant speed exiting the turn. At best, slow down a bit to give extra opportunity for passing. But make it about consideration, not passive-aggressiveness, please.
* Roll down your window and wave 'em on by if the road ahead is clear and you think passing would be safe enough*. Clearly they want to pass you, and clearly you want them off your bumper. You've got the best sight lines for oncoming traffic, especially since they're now blocking their view with your vehicle (usually in the interest of minimizing passing time).
* Be aware of your lane position. Even just a few inches to the right can communicate "I'd like you to pass me". Drifting left communicates "Don't even try", and makes passing uncomfortable for everyone.

These suggestions, btw, aren't unusual or atypical for rural roads. It's what the locals do for each other. They definitely don't attempt to "teach" anything to anyone.

* given their obvious relative concerns with safety given their distance from the rear of your vehicle
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:50 AM on June 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jerks gonna jerk. Drive safely and ignore them. Odds are good they'll learn by having accident, paying higher premiums and needing blood pressure medication. Well, they won't learn, probably, but you seem a nice person, so keep being nice.

Learn a couple gestures - peace sign, happy wave. There is no universally accepted signal for Sorry, didn't mean to drive that way, which is a shame, cause I felt really bad cutting that guy off the other day. My bad. Road rage can beget more road rage. The only way to win is not to play, and not to let it get to you.
posted by theora55 at 9:08 AM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

dancestoblue had a driving instructor who also recommended using your hazards light and I SWEAR this has always worked safely for me.

You being on rural road is equivalent to the HOV lane in a city, you can't easily make way and about half the folks driving it regularly think it's an excuse to speed. They also think tailgating is the way to let you know you need to right-the-fuck-now-get-out-of-their-way!!!!

Use your hazards just before getting out of their way to signal you "get it" and pull over as often as necessary. They're happy to go 90 on these roads, you're not. It's difficult to slow down to pull over if they don't back off, use your hazards or turn signal as appropriate. That's what I do on rural roads.

On HOV lanes I use my best judgement. I don't jump the line to make way. If it's 65 and I'm going 70 - I let them pass me at the next line break - or I ignore them.

I also never ever use my brake lights. I'm not trolling anybody. Using your hazards is actually really safe minded!!

Yesterday I threw on my hazards briefly when a line of cars stopped short in front of me just to wake up the guy behind me. I didn't want him mistaking my brake lights for anything other than a full unexpected stop. I don't need to get rear ended, y'know?

I was in a multi-car accident once where not leaving car lengths between vehicles was a large factor in the resulting damage. I do whatever is prudent to maintain safe driving distance in front and behind. I have nothing to apologize for and you should feel same.
posted by jbenben at 9:13 AM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Passing only on the left is not a rule for multilane freeways in many states. And why
would it be? It makes no sense for roads with more than two lanes. http://forums.officer.com/t94861/
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:23 AM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

It is generally safer that people travelling at higher speeds keep to the left of people travelling at lower speeds, even on multi-lane highways.

Imagine a three lane highway with a large truck occupying the middle lane. Two cars come up behind it, both intending to pass it. The front one goes to the left, and the slightly faster driver at the rear goes to the right. Now they're both past the truck and both want back into the middle lane. They both want to occupy the same seemingly empty space at the same time and would need to be observing traffic two lanes away and possibly in their blind spot to realize it.

If they had both gone left, the faster driver would have realized the slower driver was moving over because of the turn signal right in front of him, or the faster driver would have moved over first, and the slower driver would have seen him in his shoulder check exactly where he might reasonably expect a faster driver to be. Either way, they're more aware of each other.

There are conditions when a right lane is going to moving faster than a further left lane, so sometimes overtaking won't be avoidable, but at high speeds, everyone is safer if the speed of travel for each lane is more predictable.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:41 AM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Roll down your window and wave 'em on by if the road ahead is clear and you think passing would be safe enough.

This is a really bad idea. Never give signals directing another driver's actions. You are substituting your judgement for the driver's own judgement and may be encouraging them to do something that is unsafe. A common example is stopping and waving someone trying to enter a highway from a side street. They react to your wave and end up getting t-boned by the second lane.

I've driven in long caravans of vehicles for field trips and we instruct all drivers to never give signals such as the "all clear" even to their fellow caravan drivers. Drivers need to assess their own situation.

Waving someone to pass you is unsafe. You can move a little to the right to give them a better view and slow a little if they do decide to pass, but that should be the extent of your assistance.
posted by JackFlash at 10:27 AM on June 12, 2016 [9 favorites]

Most times, I'm either at the speed limit or a little over.

Of course in theory you should be in that general area. But I drive in both a pretty rural area and a largish city, and I know of nearly nowhere this happens -- by school crossing lanes during school opening/closing hours, maybe? In very residential areas full of houses and children and pets? But not on highways or major roads.

The accepted speed on the 100km/h freeway to the city here seems to be about 117. The accepted speed on the rural highways near my house is about 100; the limit is 80. Once on a beautiful sunny day I was listening to an awesome song, on this rural road I knew like the back of my hand, and was pulled over and only cautioned even though I was (oops) driving at 120, a full 40km over; that I was not ticketed was really telling as to how normal it was for locals to drive like like bats out of hell. I dread driving the two-lane desolate rural highways at night that I'm not familiar with, because everybody else has been "driving down John Gooley Road at 50 for their entire life" (in Canada, at 110ish) with every tiny bend in the road burnt into their subconscious. You can't drive the speed limit without the locals getting pissy at you; nobody drives the speed limit. You will be passed and if people have had to wait a long time to pass you they will be cross. Perhaps pay more attention to the flow of traffic? I'm not advocating going much over the speed limit, but if you are the only car going at that speed -- that's something to change. I've never had a speeding ticket, just that one unofficial warning, and I don't get flipped off -- look for that happy spot where you're neither too fast nor too slow.

So my answer is partially that it is sometimes necessary to be a little bit of a shit yourself, and exceed the limit. And, nothing will always work. A while back I was in the left lane on the freeway to the city, going quite fast, and sticking in the left lane because it was about to turn into an HOV lane that I wanted to be in. Dude comes roaring up on my ass, tailgating intensely -- I sped up even though I did not want to, trying to make clear "I see you, but I am travelling in this lane for a reason." He sped up. I had my kid and my SO in the car and no particularly easy way to move over given a too-high speed with too much traffic; it was scary. I entered the HOV lane with much relief. Dude: pulled over to my right, sped like a bastard and passed me on the right, crossed the solid line to get right in front of me in the HOV lane, and hit his brakes right in front of me -- he didn't come to a stop, but repeated the threat of doing so a few times before taking off. That still blows my mind. Some of these people are presumably for-real suicidal/mentally ill/burdened with youthful underdeveloped brains where death is still an abstract concept.

Given the number of good answers offered here by people who have gone past regular drivers' ed and taken defensive driving classes, I'm wondering if that isn't part of your best answer here, as there is no way to make shits not be shits, but handling your own car well can mitigate some of it.
posted by kmennie at 12:27 PM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

What's all this about driving at the speed limit?

Where I come from (CT), 10-15 mph over is de rigueur.

This "obeying the speed limit" nonsense might be the source of your problem, honestly.
posted by charlemangy at 3:58 PM on June 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I drive a lot of two-lane winding-ish rural roads where passing's not allowed. I get most frustrated at cars in front of me that are varying their speed a lot, because I tend to use cruise control and it's annoying to have to keep tapping the brakes when the car in front of me can't decide if they're going 35 or 55 or 45 or now back down to 35. (I'm not including sharp curves where there are signs suggesting lower speeds. I slow down for those.) And I often end up tailgating those cars unintentionally, because I can't predict their speed, or they'll speed up a bit when I'm behind them and then slow down again until I catch up. I end up having to spend way more energy than usual dealing with their inability to maintain a constant speed, and it makes me cranky. So if you're doing anything like that, stop it.
posted by lazuli at 4:36 PM on June 12, 2016

Couple of reactions: In Los Angeles, there is no passing lane, and fast drivers pass on the right as frequently as on the left.

Los Angeles has truly batshit crazy road-rage maniacs. In this case the instigator was throwing coins at the other car as he "buzzed" them from the back and side.

Some drivers use their windshield wiper fluid to troll tailgaters.

I've known people whose driving habits infuriated passengers within the vehicle as well as other drivers around, on the assertion that it was "safer" or "used less gas."

I agree with the other people who say, "If you run into drama everywhere you go, it's possible that you carry the drama with you."
posted by ohshenandoah at 7:58 PM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's true that the left lane is for passing. But a speed limit is just that: a limit. Being in a passing lane does not entitle anyone to drive faster than the speed limit. If the OP is doing the speed limit in the left lane and you want him to drive faster, you're the problem, not the OP.

I often wonder if this is what the people are thinking while driving exactly the speed limit in the left while traffic backs up behind them. I now have confirmation that at least one person thinks this way.

But why not just move over? If you are driving the speed limit, and someone else comes up behind you going 2 mph faster, you could just move over. Maybe they're late for a job interview or to pick up their kid from daycare. You could be making someone else's day, and you would not be breaking any laws.
posted by glenngulia at 10:05 AM on June 13, 2016

"But why not just move over?"

Because if I'm in the left lane, it's to pass someone (usually a truck, sometimes an elderly person) traveling below the speed limit, and moving over would result in a collision. After successfully passing, I do move back over to the right. Is it really that much of a problem to slow down for 30 seconds?
posted by kevinbelt at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2016

But why not just move over?

The OP is pretty clear that they are getting rage/finger abuse after they move over to let the tailgater pass. This isn't "I want to drive as slow as possible to piss people off, why are they pissed off" this is "I'm doing the best I can and it's still not good enough why."
posted by phunniemee at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2016

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