Tailgating wreaks havoc on Oregon highways with split speeds

| 2/7/2006

Tailgating – it’s the driving technique that can annoy and anger nearly every trucker on the road, and according to officials in Oregon, it’s also the most dangerous.

On Jan. 24, the Oregon Department of Transportation released a report on the top six driver errors in the state in 2004, with following too closely coming in as No. 1. The other most problematic driver errors were failure to yield when merging, speeding, left turns across lanes of traffic, running red lights and improper lane changes.

The study also points out that rural state highways, as opposed to Interstates, account for about 50 percent of the state’s traffic fatalities.

Rural highways in Oregon were given a split speed limit for four-wheelers and trucks in July 2005, when Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill into law. The new law, previously HB3252, allows for truck speed limits to increase from 55 mph to as much as 65 mph while increasing car speeds from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain sections of rural interstates.

The speed limit rule differs from an earlier proposed version in that a rate lower than 65 mph could be posted for tractor-trailers and other large vehicles if safety conditions warrant a slower speed. The Oregon Transportation Commission has the option of setting a 65, 60 or 55 mph limit for trucks.

According to the report, rear-end collisions caused by tailgating were a factor in about one-third of all crashes in the state in 2004. Out of 41,000 wrecks, 13,000 involved vehicles following too close as a cause. The statistics differ from those that only monitor fatal crashes, where speed, alcohol and a lack of seat belt use are higher on the list.

“Drivers throughout the state are inclined to press speed limits and follow too closely in what seems like a race to get to their destination,” said Steve Vitolo, the Transportation Safety Division’s traffic law enforcement program manager, in a press release. “Unfortunately, tailgaters are not getting where they want to go any faster by pushing the vehicle in front of them. Instead, they are getting into increasingly injury-plagued or fatal crashes.”