Kathy Teruya's Report 1 on Tailgating Behavior: Fair or Unfair

Report 1
Tailgating Behavior
Fair or Unfair

Table of Contents


Ok, bust out the beer and pupus, we're going to the UH game. OOPS, sorry wrong tailgating. This type of tailgating is a nasty little driving habit that most people (including myself I'm sorry to say) participate in. So what exactly do I mean by tailgating? Well, some say it's following less than one car length for every 10 m.p.h.. Dr. James says that tailgating is following too close with the intention to coerce or punish another driver when you think you've been wronged. I say it's some jerk riding me so close I feel like they are in my back seat! But that's just me.

Any behavior can be broken down into three domains, (a)affective (feelings, emotions), (c)cognitive (thoughts), and (s)sensorimotor (actions). With these three principles in mind I intend to interpret this tailgating behavior by taking a look at self-witnessing reports of previous students and myself (the horrors). I will also try to relate my personal opinions in a non-bashing type of way (yeah right).

Tailgating Behaviors

Reinforcing Tailgating Behavior

Why do people tailgate? What is their intent? Is it to pressure the driver infront? Retaliate against a driver who has wronged you? Maybe both? It's a dangerous and reckless behavior that can lead to death, so why risk it? There is a theory in psychology that tailgating is the attempt to force your will over another driver. All of us Nazi drivers seem to feel that if you do not drive like we do then you do not belong on the road. Does this justify the risk?

While going over past generation reports I came across the report done by Denise Tanaka. In her report she admits to being a tailgator. She believes that people tailgate because the rewards greatly outweigh any punishment. She says that although many tailgaters come close, most do not get into accidents. Denise feels success even if she simply makes the driver uncomfortable. By doing this and getting away with it this becomes a big reinforcer for her. Denise acknowledges the fact that tailgating violates the rights of others and says in the future she will try relax and not let things bother her as much, I wish her luck.

I believe she points out a serious problem that occurs with tailgating behaviors. If someone tailgates and succedes in getting their way, it rewards this unfortunate habit. By doing so it reinforces their behavior and they continue on their self destructive path. Granted, they may also recieve some negative reinforcement which might deter them from their actions, but the desire to get your way, I would imagine, would overrule any minor negative reinforcement. However, powerful negative experiences (ie: crashes, someone pulling out a gun) may have a more lasting effect. But, like Denise says, many of the people who do tailgate may never get this intense negative reinforcement. And like she says the rewards greatly outweigh any punishment. Denise feels anger when someone wrongs her on the road. Therefor she thinks that she is justified in her actions. She tailgates knowing that it is wrong, however I suppose in the heat of the moment vengeance outweighs logic. But what type of circumstance would provoke such hostility?

Sucking In Effect

Aaron Takahashi made an interesting point about tailgating. In his self witnessing report he recalled a day driving home from UH when he was following the car in front closer than normal. He didn't want to hold up traffic, but that wasn't his only reason. Aaron was following closely because he didn't want someone to cut in front of him. He was there first so why should another driver get ahead. Aaron seemed to be (a)feeling upset about those drivers trying to get ahead. He may be (c)thinking that they are wrong and deserve to be shut out, which led him to (s)act as he did. This behavior of tailgating to keep other drivers from entering your lane is called the "sucking in effect".

After looking closely at this behavior and my own, I can see where Aaron was coming from. In fact, this is the only situation I can think of where I would purposely tailgate someone. I am ashamed of this because the person I am tailgating is not the one I am trying to punish but the idiots who refuse to wait in line. They go into the fast lane to get ahead then try to cut in line. That is exactly what it is, simple lack in manners. Wait your turn, what's the big rush. While driving one day I realized there is a location in town where I am constantly doing this. When driving down Piikoi, trying to get onto the freeway from Liholiho everyone tries to cut in line. I feel as though I am being cheated and violated when they do that. It becomes my judgment that if they can't wait like the rest of us then they can just miss the on ramp. Coming to this conclusion brings me to my actions (how awful of me).

The people guilty of this act of cutting in our unofficial line may have some excuses for their acts. Some people may say,"So what? It's not illegal, and it saves me time, so what's the problem?" I can understand their position. I can either wait in this long line or I can take the fast lane to the front then cut in...hmmm...I think I'll take the fast lane. So where's the problem? The problem is, if you try to merge in front someone who doesn't share your feelings on the topic they may not let you in. However, this wouldn't be a problem if you were a patient person. For some reason I feel that if you wouldn't wait in the line the chances are that patience is not one of your strong virtues. This is where the problem occurs. (Of course, this is aside from the long line of "stink-eye" you will be getting from all the other drivers.) Let's say this person doesn't let you in, what do you do? From what I have seen on the roads you will probably force your way into the lane, thus recklessly endangering the lives of others. I will grant you that we all should have a pro-social attitude and graciously allow you in before this happens, but it not everyone, including yourself, has this concern for others. So, I suppose I wouldn't have a problem if you would wait until one of these driving saints comes along, but don't hold your breath.

What other occasions cause people to tailgate? Well, in Nancee Aki's self witnessing report she found herself tailgating others on three occasions. The first instance would be if she were late, the second if someone cut her off or looked at her the wrong way, the last reason would be if she were daydreaming. Under the first two circumstances if the cars don't get out of her way she pushes them to go faster. Nancee says this usually works and she gains a feeling of control. She truly believes that it gives her a sense of power and control, to hold the fate of others in your hand. Unfortunately Nancee learned her lesson the hard way. She, thankfully, was not injured, however her Volkswagen Rabbit can't say the same.

It really is a shame that some people learn the hard way how dangerous tailgating can be. In Nancee's case I believe it is fair to say that she was attempting to force her will over another driver. She wanted to go fast but if the person in front of her did not want to do the same she would push them until they either saw it her way, or just get out of her way. She (a) felt upset that they were not going at the speed she (c)thought was acceptable, so she (s)tailgated them. This, to me seems to be the perfect example of our Nazi way of thinking, do things my way or else. Our attitudes on the road are often anything but pro social. Our beliefs do not leave room for a diversity of drivers. I believe it is a type of discrimination. For some it is, "Those of you who drive too slow stay off my road!" Others may say, "Anyone who drives over the speed limit shouldn't be driving!" I know it's clichˇ' but, "Can't we all just get along?"

Alternatives To Tailgating

There are some people who feel any type of tailgating is wrong. Take Jae Isa for instance. He feels that tailgating is wrong and is an invasion of your personal space which is disrespectful of the driver. Jae believes that tailgating is an act of aggression that has malicious intent to hurt another driver. No reason is good enough to put another's life in danger. Jae apparently feels a great deal of anger towards tailgaters. He thinks that tailgaters are a nuisance to society which leads towards his hostile attitude towards their behavior.

There is also a report by Aaron Reisner who feels that the best approach is to simply allow the tailgaters to pass. He feels that the majority of the people who tailgate do it because they are in a rush. Aaron says that it's all about safety. What's the point? Why make them mad? The more upset they get the more reckless they will become. Is it worth the accident? No, it's not. At least I don't think so. Aaron has a point. He (a)feels no anger towards the tailgaters, instead he tries to take into (c)consideration that they may have some ulterior motives and not just to be a jerk. He lets his better judgment guide his (s)action, I admire that. But on the flip side if you don't agree with Aaron's pro social view or if you just need a laugh go and check out his list of ten ways to piss off a tailgater.

Moral Implications To Tailgating

After all is said and done, I suppose it comes down to a simple question. Is tailgating fair? After looking at people's opinion including my own I would have to say no. It is not fair. Again it points to that Nazi mode of thought. Drive my way or no way! This is America, land of the free, home of the brave, but not on my road. The average American should be able to drive on our streets without feeling threatened. Why should they be punished for obeying the law? I believe this country is great because it allows for diversity, especially here in Hawaii, the great melting pot. What happens to us when we get behind the wheel?

What might these Nazi drivers say? They are right, why should they have to follow slow Sunday drivers? They may feel that they're average Americans too, so why should they be conformed by other drivers to drive slow. I can understand your fustration. I've been there, following those little blue haired old ladies who watch the road through their steering wheels at 10 m.p.h.. I sympathize with your lack of patience, but I cannot agree with your methods. Taking the law into your own hands is not right. You may say it is a form of diffused responsbility, everyone else does it, so it's OK if I do it too. It's not. The laws were put there for a reason and I cannot support vigalantes. We need to gain, what Dr. James calls emotional intellegence. Find alternatives to your agressive driving solutions. Maybe carry a stress ball that you can squeeze your anger into. Don't do something you and others may regret. Are we even aware of what we are doing?

Aaron Reisner says no. He feels that most of the people who tailgate are not aware of their actions so the matter of it being ethical or not is irrelevant. I disagree to a point on this statement. I admit that if someone is daydreaming, like Nancee does, then perhaps they are not aware of their actions. However, I believe a great number of the tailgaters are very much in control of what they are doing so ethics does play a part. I don't believe that the ethics of intentional tailgating is in question. It is wrong to put someone's life in danger for something as petty as cutting you off in traffic, or driving too slow. I think death is pretty heavy punishment for these actions. So, in this light I don't feel that any reason for tailgating is justifiable.

As for the question of tailgating being spiritually wrong I don't quite know how to answer that. I'm not a very religious person but I do know that I feel it to be morally wrong, thus spiritually wrong. But all you tailgaters beware of Jae Isa. He says that if you believe in the Heaven and Hell concept watch out. Tailgating, to him, is morally wrong so everyone who does so should go to hell. Gee, that will make you think twice won't it. But fear not, Jae also believes in redemption so just mend your evil ways and all will be forgiven, I hope.

My Own Behavior

Well, so far you have been given a taste of my opinion on this matter, but what you don't know is that I REALLY hate being tailgated. Because of one bad experience I am extremely paranoid about people driving too close to me. On January 10, 1996 I was driving home from work and I was getting onto the freeway from Liholiho. Now this is one of those retarded on ramp then off ramp deals that proves our government often lacks intelligence. Anyway, traffic was moving slowly with half of the people trying to get on while the other half is trying to get off. As we were merging we didn't leave much space between cars, so when traffic came to a halt there wasn't a whole lot of room to react. Well, I stopped in time (barely), the van in back of me stopped in time (again barely), however the car in back of him wasn't so lucky. BAM, BAM, BAM, a four car accident. $4574.92 in damages, not that I'm bitter. Until this day if I have to make a sudden stop I always check my rear view mirror. I feel invaded and uncomfortable when drivers get too close.

So, I have a reason why I get nervous when people tailgate me. I trust my own reflexes but what about others. They may have the reflexes of a slug for all I know. On the other hand tailgating others is a different story. I know, I know, what a hypocrite, but now I think that I am a little more self aware than I used to be. I would be (a)offended and angry when people would try to cut in front of me. I used to (c)think that I was justified in maintaining lane integrity because I thought I was right. If you can't wait in line then too bad. So, being the hypocrite that I was I (s)tailgated the person in front. I know in the back of my mind that it is illogical and not worth it, but my affective domain seems to get the best of me. It is something I need to work on.


Well, now that I can step back and look at this problem from a more objective point of view I realize that tailgating, in most cases is an attempt to force your will over another driver. If you find yourself tailgating someone think about why you are doing so. Is it because you are trying to make them go faster? Or perhaps you felt they wronged you in some way and now you want revenge? In any case purposely tailgating someone only adds to the problem of Road Rage. It needs to start with the individual. We need to be able to gain emotional control in our cars. So what if someone cuts me off. Let it go. It is not worth the mental strain to fester your feelings of anger. When you do flame your (a)emotions you tend to cloud your better (c)judgments. Even if your cognitive self says, "So, what, it's no big deal" your affective domain may overrule it with anger and feelings of vengeance. This in turn affects your sensorimotor domain and you end up with an action you may regret. Sealed in our steel boxes we feel invincible, we can do as we please, think again.

Future Generations

For you future generations that may be reading this I have one thing to say. Have you ever had something terrible happen and wish to god that you could go back in time and do it differently? Well, here is your chance. Maybe nothing has happened yet, you've been luck so far. That does not mean you will always be so fortunate. So here it is, right here right now, stop it before you destroy your life or the lives of others. Make the choice to be emotionally in control of your future.

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