The Coastal Post - February, 1998

Stopping Tailgaters Is Key

By Antonio R. Serna

The Highway Patrol authorities give us all kinds of statistics on freeway accidents, but hardly get to the nuts and bolts of what the major causes are. Top of the list, of course, as everyone knows, is speeding. Speeding, however, is open to all kinds of interpretations depending on one's point of view and the prevailing circumstances. Although the speed limit is by law set a 65 mph in most states, no one seems to take it seriously. Even our law enforcers hesitate to enforce it all the time. If they did, 99% of motorists driving on our freeways would be issued a ticket. In other words, the law is a joke. When do we get serious? It is only when our overworked law enforcers are running behind their established "standards of performance"-better known as quotas-do they find time to remind us to be serious. So we get a citation approximately one percent of the time we violate the law. Not a bad batting average, so we are happy. If we are happy, and the cops are happy, why rock the boat? Unfortunately, all of this happiness stops when one gets involved in a fatal vehicular accident. Everything ends.

This is the sad situation that we currently find ourselves in. Everybody is complacent and no one is doing anything to stop the carnage going on. For whatever reason, it is quite evident that our authorities are hesitant to curtail America's rat race instincts. We prefer to pay the high price of our unrestrained indiscretions rather than do what is admittedly wise and prudent.

This is a very costly dilemma we are in. We are paying with our lives and those of our loved ones for it.

If our law enforcers would only be smarter and more diligent in the performance of their duties, we can substantially save lives without the need to change the statutes on the books. If they find it difficult to enforce the mandated speed limits on our freeways, why don't they go after the bigger offenders? These are those who cause serious accidents. These are the ones who convert the fast lanes of our freeways into their exclusive domain for their death-defying antics. They are the ones who intimidate law-abiding, non-aggressive drivers to either join them in their hell-bent rush or get the hell out of their way. I am of course referring to tailgaters. Stop them in their tracks and you stop the speedsters. This may be easier said than done, but it is the smart thing to do and should be a worthy challenge for our law enforcers to grapple with. Without the aggressive tailgaters prodding them to break the law, the law-abiding, passive drivers will set the mood and mode of driving on the freeways.

Here are a few suggestions on how to go about it:

1. Tailgating should be considered a more serious offense than speeding. Offenders should be fined double the amount of the fine for speeding.

2. Three tailgating offenses in one year should call for a one-year suspension of a driver's license. Two suspensions should call for a license revocation.

3. Increase the number of unmarked police cars patrolling the freeways during rush hours.

4. Augment patrol coverage with civilian volunteers to be deputized to issue citations exclusively for tailgating offenses.

5. Civilian patrol deputies would be chosen by a special board that screens recommended candidates based on their proven track records as responsible, civic-spirited, law-abiding members of their community. Deputies should maintain a clean driving record.

As can be gleaned from these ideas which have never even been tried, the efforts of our government to do its best in saving lives is, to say the least, half-hearted and mediocre. Latest statistics show that more Americans lose their lives in vehicular accidents than from any other cause.

I challenge the California Highway Patrol authorities to prove to Californians that their current programs to rid our freeways of speed maniacs are the best money can buy, using the latest technology, and with the best ideas that their collective brilliant minds can come up with. Otherwise, they should realize that the blood of the mounting number of freeway accident victims is totally on their hands.

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