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MPP Jim Watson,
& The Honourable Harinder S. Takhar,
Ontario Minister of Transport;

Regarding: Speed Limits & Tailgating vehicles.


MPP Jim Watsonís recent suggestion that Ontario speed limits on 400 series highways should be raised to 110 Kph makes great sense to me, in fact on many more than just 400 series, but only on the condition that a serious program of charging tailgaters would be adopted. But even before charging tailgaters can begin in a serious fashion there should be a powerful program to educate drivers as to what exactly qualifies as tailgating. Most seem oblivious of what it is.
I have gone to the trouble of acquiring an Ottawa Citizen photo, taken by their photographer Wayne Cuddington in February of 2005 to illustrate an article by a Winnipeg police officer discussing the hogging of the left lane on multi lane highways, but I can think of no other photo IĎve seen which illustrates tailgating so well. You will find it at the end of this letter and marked to illustrate my points on tailgating elucidated just before it.
The Ontario Drivers handbook tells you to use a cumbersome method of checking to see if you are adequately far behind the vehicle in front of you and never points out what is a considerably more obvious method by stating how many car lengths that distance is. Even the employee at my local license office blinked when I pointed out that at 80 Kph you should be 9 car lengths behind the car in front of you. Who does follow that far away, and how many are aware that is a 2 second distance?
The measures: Each car is about 4.9 meters long (16 feet).
At 30 Kph you travel 8.3 meters per second or 16.9 in 2 seconds.
At 80 Kph you travel 22.2 meters per second or 44.4 in 2 seconds.
At 90 Kph you travel 25.0 meters per second or 50 .0 in 2 seconds.
At 100 Kph you travel 27.7 meters per second or 55.4 in 2 seconds.
At 110 Kph you travel 30.5 meters per second or 61.0 in 2 seconds.

So to accommodate the 2 second following rule:
At 30 Kph you should be a distance of 3.4 car lengths behind. That is the distance most drivers follow at all speeds.
At 80 Kph you should be a distance of 9 car lengths behind.
At 90 Kph you should be a distance of 10.2 car lengths behind.
At 100 Kph you should be a distance of 11.3 car lengths behind.
At 110 Kph you should be a distance of 12.4 car lengths behind.

A light weight (3,000 lbs.) high performance sports car in optimum conditions at 96.5 Kph (60 Mph) will take 38.7 meters (127 feet), or 7.9 car lengths, to come to a full stop with the best brakes. And then thereís 18 wheeler trucks, never mind ordinary cars driven in seldom optimum conditions.
In my years of driving (Iím 73) Iíve noted that most drivers follow at a distance of about 3 car lengths regardless of their speed. In fact, in the Ottawa area when entering the city via the 417 the cars tend to get closer than 3 car lengths at the legal 100 Kph, but often faster. If you leave more space someone will jump in.
How it is determined that speed is a factor in crashes I do not know, but if tailgating is not a huge factor Iíd be surprised. On a two lane road a car crossing the centre line and hitting a car which is followed by another car, or several cars, each at 3 car lengths behind, is sure to create a huge mess and no one dying would be a miracle. Sudden fog is equal or worse.
Recently the State of Connecticut passed a tailgating law and on the first day of implementing it they charged 144 offenders. It is a difficult and challenging thing to catch tailgaters but obviously if you go after it you can do it.
So to raising speed limits - I say yes - to me it is obvious that most highways, not just 400ís, are good enough for much higher speeds and most cars now seem to run best at 100 Kph; but the speed limits we now have may be too high already when the tailgating factor is considered. I have experienced a police officer following me at 3 car lengths who I tried to get space between by speeding up for a few moments only to have him close the distance. There was not another car behind or in front or on the opposing lane, and when I stopped out of anger, he too stopped and he stated he did not think he was tailgating.
Stop tailgating and then raise the limits. But, considering the stubbornness or stupidity of drivers at large I sadly doubt this will ever happen.
In the photo included here, note first that the second car on the right is a police car and the driver appears to have his head resting in his left hand while he steers with his right - unlawful at any speed, tailgating or not. Note too, that he appears, with tele lens foreshortening taken into consideration, to be only one car length behind the lead car in the picture. I have marked beside his car with a green P in a circle and placed a blue circle with a p at the approximate point his car should be were he driving at 100 Kph - the speed limit there. It has been pointed out that the traffic at busy times only moves about 30 Kph which means his car would then be at the red circle with a 30 in it - a distance of 3.4 car lengths.
Despite foreshortening due to the tele lens shot which makes things look shorter or closer together than they really are, it would appear that few of the vehicles in this picture are at a recommended distance. The truck at the left rear is almost the only vehicle at a certain proper distance or more and a truck (the red circle) is about to pull in front of it. All the other vehicles appear to be closing the distances in front of them, with cars moving from the right lanes to extreme left.
Is there any hope of civilian driver sanity when even police drive dangerously in this relaxed manner? And no one does anything about it.

Edward Hugh Petrie

CC to:
John Yakabuski, MPP RNP
John Major, Photo editor The Ottawa Citizen