Ms. Geek Speaks: Highway High Pressure Tactics on I-40 to Flagstaff

Traveling from Gallup, NM to Flagstaff, three drivers made sure I knew they were angry with my driving on the I-40. I was averaging the speed limit. They wished to go faster. One nearly ran me off the two-lane freeway.

Late afternoon to early evening traffic in the record heat was passenger cars punctuating big rigs. The speed limit is 75. As an out-of-state driver, I don’t want to get a speeding violation. I try to keep to an average of the speed limit. You can still pass up the big rig truck who mostly remain in the right lane, but you have to do it slowly.

Early on, a black pickup truck with a enclosed shell began to tailgate me. I tried not to be pressured to go faster. Trying to pass a big rig, I would edge up, trying to stay out of the blind spot. Yet when I look ahead and see other big rigs chancing into the left lane to pass a slower vehicle, I slowed down to allow the big rig next to me to change lanes. That would seem to be just common courtesy.

This didn’t sit well with the black pickup truck. Eventually, after I passed the big rig, the black pickup truck was able to pass me, but then pulled sharply in front of me and slammed on the brakes before speeding up to the next vehicle in the lefthand lane. That is a big rig  and the black pickup truck, decided to tailgate that vehicle as well. The big rig then moved to the side to allow the black truck to pass. I slowed down. I didn’t want to be too close to the dangerous maneuvers of the black truck.

Soon enough, a shiny red pickup was behind me. The driver became agitated that I wasn’t speeding fast enough to easily pass another big rig. One time, when I slowed down to allow the big rig to change into the left lane, the red truck attempted to aggressively get in front of me, not thinking of how much I would have to slow down to let it in. When you let a big rig in, it’s basically like letting 3-5 cars get in front of you. Slowing down enough to let an additional vehicle in with proper clearance isn’t actually that safe, but my safety wasn’t a priority of the red pickup truck driver.

That driver finally passed me and let me know he/she was angry. All through this, the drivers of the big rigs didn’t seem annoyed at me and you might think that those drivers have better things to do and that they are professionals.

Finally, just an hour outside of Flagstaff, this white covered pickup truck was behind me. When I slowed down for the big rig, the white truck quickly changed lanes and then tried to squeeze into my lane. I had to veer slightly to the left and honk my horn. It was either that or slam on my brakes.

After the white truck, I saw the black truck again. You might wonder, “How is that possible?” I was going the speed limit of just a little over and that driver wanted to clock in at well over 80 mph. I wasn’t sure it was the same driver until I saw it change lanes. It had been behind a big rig truck. Just as soon as that black truck changed lanes, the big rig veered in front of the black truck. The black truck eventually slowed down and let me and other vehicles pass it up.

When the black truck was tailgating me, I remembered one of those hokey educational films we were shown during Drivers Ed class. The driver and his son end up dying because the father felt pressured to do something illegal. I admit that I had doubt about myself, even after the red truck and the white truck. Yet when I saw the black truck again, I felt reassured and reminded myself that I wasn’t getting honked at by the big rig drivers. I also wasn’t likely to get a speeding ticket.

Cursing and expressing road rage at drivers who are attempting to be courteous to others or obeying the law seems perverse. Pressuring people to move aside with aggressive driving moves is dangerous. It’s worrisome that in the same aggressiveness should be displayed by three different drivers (who were basically driving the same type of vehicle) on the same strip of freeway. At 75-80 mph, vehicles are traveling fast, so you have to wonder why it isn’t fast enough for these drivers and, particularly, for drivers who try to intimidate big rig drivers, you have to wonder when two egos will collide and tragedies will result.

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