Ban Dolphin-Killing Sonar Weapons.

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Help Save Elephants From Extinction.

Why Snow-Belt Winters Are Colder With CURRENT Global Warming.  

Parties Are The Only Place You Should Tailgate.

(Revised 6/9/20)

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Ban Dolphin-Killing Sonar Weapons.

Some links have not been updated after they changed.

(Revised 3/3/20)  With the rarer exceptions of undersea volcanos, huge earthquakes, and man-made explosions, mass whale and dolphin beachings (suicides) are caused by new sonar weapons that both the US & GB navies, for example, are developing. As far as we know, they’re not only intended to find quieter enemy subs but also to disrupt their sonar systems and torpedoes. Unfortunately, they have some horrible side effects.

Scientists believe that sonar weapons caused the hemorrhaging from (and cancerous lesions in) the ears of many beached dolphins & whales, probably also from diving or surfacing too quickly trying to avoid the noise, causing a cetacean equivalent of the bends. (SHARKS haven’t been amongst the beachings probably because their gills mean they don’t have to hold their breath so they don’t get the bends.  With fewer whales & dolphins, that will probably lead to a shark population boom – more on that below – just from having more fish to eat.) The only reason they intentionally beach themselves is to die. When a blight like the morbilli virus causes beachings, they are sporadic and spread out over time, not happening simultaneously to dozens of dolphins & whales in a small area.

The US Navy, when confronted with undeniable proof linking military sonar to mass beachings, finally admitted that they knew about the problem and are trying to keep testing to a minimum. They also said they must keep testing these weapons, but that’s a half-truth. The testing, use, and/or production of offensive sonar weaponry can be banned by international treaty. We might not be able to get them never to use a defensive version that would protect a ship or submarine when a sound-seeking torpedo is fired at it, but we should be able to restrict testing to specific areas. Those areas might have ear-irritating underwater sirens and/or sea nets installed to chase whales & dolphins away and/or prevent them from entering.

If a foreign power were to ignore an international treaty and develop sonar weapons to incapacitate and/or destroy, for example, some of our subs, not only should the US, NATO, etc be able to prove that in advance of any concerted hostile use, but we would also have plenty to fall back on, including Mutual Assured Destruction. No such nation would want to follow in Iraq’s footsteps, either. SINCE THE SUPERPOWERS BANNED THE USE OF BIOLOGICAL & CHEMICAL WEAPONS, BANNED ABOVE-GROUND NUCLEAR TESTING, AND LIMITED THE PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS, THERE’S NO REASON TO THINK THEY CAN’T BAN THE USE OF OFFENSIVE SONAR WEAPONRY AND RESTRICT & SAFEN THE TESTING.  This list isn’t complete, of course, but the UN also managed to ban weather modification worldwide,¹¹ something that was far less necessary.

By the Navy’s own latest estimates, more than 33 million marine mammals will be harmed over the next five years.¹ A dolphin or whale cannot live without its hearing which not only lets them locate threats, friends, and family, but food as well. They know that and that’s part of why they beach themselves, also to get away from the ear-splitting noise.

Killing or alienating dolphins is like doing the same to domesticated dogs since they’ve proven countless times that they are man’s best friend in the sea and have even protected Navy Seals from sharks. They’re also known to help fishermen by driving fish into the nets, for which they respond by throwing back some of the catch to the dolphins.

A scientist broke the sonar weapon story by videotaping full grown orcas porpoising for their lives directly away from a Navy destroyer 3 miles offshore. (I saw that video years ago, but have been unable to find it online.) To have called them frantic would have been an understatement. To see such unprecedented behavior from one of the ocean’s most stoic creatures would tell anyone that something extremely dangerous is going on. That behavior isn’t caused by a single sonar “ping” designed to locate enemy vessels, but by a continuous sonar blast that destroys the ears of mammalian marine life.

Orcas are also known as killer whales. That may be a misnomer since orcas, despite the claim attempts of a few online videos to get you to watch, won’t attack people² except to protect their young. They’re smart enough to know better, they’re a member of the dolphin-porpoise family, and they aren’t afraid of any sea life unless it’s poisonous, like sea snakes. It was recently proven in a PBS documentary that great white sharks (one of man’s biggest nemeses) are easy prey for adult orcas, are afraid of them, and disappear whenever they know that orcas are in the area.³ That might apply to all sharks, so it’s always a welcome sight to see orcas and/or dolphins near, for example, swimming areas.²  Orcas inhabit every ocean on Earth.

The great white shark population, e.g., has increased forty-two percent since 1997, an immense population increase that has surpassed even mankind’s, percentage-wise. Great whites became a protected species around the time sonar weapons started to become a problem – coincidental if you don’t fully understand military thinking – and who but those with a vested interest would really want to save that particular eating machine? (It makes it look like conservation is the main cause, not the diminishing dolphin & whale populations.) Their favorite food – seals – aren’t killed by sonar weapons either.

The authorities, as implied by the video, probably won’t be able to track enough great whites to keep us safe from them, not to mention other man-eating shark species. (Even if they do manage to tag most of the man-eating sharks, how long before beach closings cut into your vacations?) There are well over 500 shark species that don’t attack mankind, but they do compete with us for often-diminishing ocean food supplies.

A PBS show calledWhy Sharks Attackclaims that in two recent seasons, a local researcher tagged 34 great whites in Cape Cod waters. He said that if you’d told him in 2005 that he’d tag that many, he’d have told you you′re out of your mind. (Of course, the oceans have warmed since then, causing some species to migrate farther north, but Global Warming is denied almost exclusively by get-richers like President Donald Trump. If the next article/blog doesn’t convince the naysayers that carbon gases from fossil fuel use are warming the planet, what will? Scroll down for that.)  Back when the movie Jaws was filmed in those waters, great whites were almost never seen there, which added to the film’s terror by saying that a rare rogue shark had staked a feeding claim around Amity Island which most New Englanders knew was actually Martha’s Vineyard. With all the seals on Cape Cod, how long before the number of great white attacks on New Englanders rival Australian waters?

Even if you don’t respect animals, how can you justify the harming, decimation, and possible extinction of a valuable ocean mammal (or, if you’re cold-blooded, “a valuable ocean resource”)? What sense does it make, for example, to hunt such a species to extinction? There wouldn’t be any left for you and/or your descendants to hunt. Do a search on “dolphin-killing” or “dolphin-killing virus” and you’ll discover that dolphin populations are already in jeopardy, as are many marine species (thanks to overfishing). As children, we all thought the oceans were so vast that couldn’t happen, but since the human race has doubled in population over the last 40 years, it now seems obvious that the population growth mankind most needs to limit is our own.

A California judge temporarily put a stop to the testing, but it resumed aftethe US Supreme Court overturned that decision. The Navy was required to limit the decibel level when sea mammals are within 1.25 miles, but some of their sea life detection methods are less advanced than their sonar weaponry. The US outspends the world’s next seven nations COMBINED on defense, but our internal safety expenditures suffer as a result (e.g., public school tornado shelters and making drivers safer – 2/3rds as many Americans die on US roads each year as died in the entire Vietnam war).  What makes us think that sonar weaponry isn’t mainly another attempt at empire-building by industrial tychoons trying to get absurdly richer?

Allegedly, other efforts have been put into obscuring the facts by the Military Industrial Complex. For example, there’s a site that claims whales can protect their hearing from loud noises, but it says nothing about being able to do so against sonar weapons. They also closed the site to further comments, so just dismiss it.

In another regard, they might not need to obscure the facts or they might already be doing so, depending on your point-of-view. In some of the online articles about sonar weapons, there are creature references  that claim they aren’t just maritime folklore, but living beings who have also been discovered amongst the whale & dolphin beachings. There are marine biologists (and a few videos including one shot by two boys – the Navy allegedly failed to fully secure the affected beach when testing nearby) who support these claims, but it has yet to become generally-accepted scientific fact. Some claim that’s because the world’s governments are being secretive about it since it would sway public opinion even further against sonar weapons and/or it supports the theory of evolution which, ironically, doesn’t contradict creationism since it could be both. As a result, it can also be used as a smear campaign to make the entire save-the-whales issue seem like it’s supported mostly by people who don’t have full command of their own faculties and fantasies.

The danger to dolphins & whales, however, is very provable.  Unlike seals, walruses, etc, they can’t survive on land. Why not help us help them? At the very least, you could sign a petition (click below on Pierce Brosnan). Nevertheless, just because you’ve written your elected officials in the past without success doesn’t mean anything beyond the possibility that the other side of the issue received more support. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE NEEDS THE PEOPLE TO GOVERN BY AT LEAST VOICING THEIR OBJECTIONS, SO HOW ABOUT IT? You can write your elected officials at www.USA.gov/elected-officials/ to tell them you won’t vote for anyone who doesn’t fully support limiting the use of sonar weaponry as much as possible.   Demand that the Navy divulge all the reasons behind their “we-have-no-choice” assertions so all the facts can be on the table for legislative and (maybe) public debate. Also, please email or snail mail this site’s address ASAP to friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone you think might care (near & far). If you maintain a website, please suggest to your readers that they visit this site.

One thing we’d like you to do locally is put 1 to 3 signs like “HELP SAVE DOLPHINS AT WWW.SONARWEAPONS.INFO” in your car’s rear windows that don’t really block your view. Feel free to put that message on T-shirts and/or bumper stickers, too. (This site is now fully prepaid through 2022 so the notifications won’t accidentally get lost in my spam filter again.) This cause needs more than just petitions, signs, and email, however, so if you have what it takes to champion it, please do so. Listen to Pierce Brosnan speak on the subject and/or send a message to Charles “Chuck” Hagel, U.S. Secretary of Defense. This site is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with NRDC, but I believe in what they’re doing and so does the Better Business Bureau. You can do even more to protect whales and other marine mammals by making a tax-deductible donation today. Your gift will help NRDC fight in federal court to stop the Navy’s senseless assault on whales and protect our environment in the most effective way possible.”

Best wishes,

A friend

¹ The statistic in the policy report refers to 33 million instances of harm ranging from a significant behavioral impact (like habitat abandonment) to death. That 33 million includes more than 5 million instances of temporary hearing loss, more than 15,000 instances of permanent hearing loss, almost 9,000 lung injuries, and more than 1,800 deaths from the use of sonar and explosives over the five-year period.

² Personally, however, I wouldn’t put orcas to the test by swimming with them. Wild animals can be expected to be wild if they get hungry enough, a lesson Timothy Treadwell learned the hard way after over a decade’s work living with grizzlies.

³You might think all we have to do is record orca calls and play them on underwater speakers near popular swimming sites, but sharks would wise up to that quickly because the calls would always originate from the same location. That would, at the very least, spark their curiosity wondering if the orcas were confined and/or incapacitated in some way. Not only that, they would start to wonder why the calls don’t continue to change as they would in the wild. Probably all marine life is very intent on listening for and analyzing threats.

¹¹Not only could weather modification reduce the severity of major hurricanes by seeding the clouds in the feeder bands making them rain harder thus releasing heat farther from the eye (that prevents the core from intensifying as much), it could help with some forest fires depending on the amount of moisture in the clouds. Silver iodide is not the only means for doing so, after researchers discovered that a certain region in India produced the world’s greatest number of days per year of hail.  It was due to thousands of workers picking tea leaves kicking trillions of tea leaf nuclei into the air which turned out to be ideal particles for raindrops to form around, and it’s much cheaper than silver iodide.  The United Nations, however, passed an international law against all types of weather modification.  The rationale the majority of the nations came up with was that they didn’t want the advanced nations inadvertently or deliberately affecting their weather.  As a result, global-warmed hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones have had a greater impact around the globe than they would have.

SOME THOUGHTS ON “BAN DOLPHIN-KILLING OFFENSIVE SONAR WEAPONS!”  More can be seen by following the COMMENTS directions at the top of this page.

  1. Nelly

FEBRUARY 18, 2014 AT 5:28 AM

We’re a gaggle of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with useful information to work on. You’ve done an impressive process and our whole group can be thankful to you.

  1. Robert Miller

FEBRUARY 28, 2014 AT 5:06 AM

We need a strong NAVY. There is no milk without some manure. A little disturbance is the price of progress. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

  1. admin

MARCH 3, 2014 AT 4:50 PM

33 million marine mammals affected is what you call “a little disturbance?” To serve liberty, would you also suggest we lift the worldwide ban on chemical and biological weapons?

  1. Miles Eston

JULY 5, 2014 AT 9:43 PM

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I always wondered why do whales beach themselves and now it makes perfect sad sense. I work as a paramedic and have done this work for 12 years and could never do this work on animals because they are too innocent and pure. It is only a shame that so very few of us know, and even sadder that some who know don’t care or do anything about it because “our Navy’s need to test this way to protect our liberties.”

  1. Leslie

JULY 7, 2014 AT 6:36 PM

You are so cool! I don’t suppose I’ve read a single thing like that before. So nice to find someone with some genuine thoughts on this subject. Really… many thanks for starting this up. This website is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

Help Save Elephants From Extinction.

(Added 4/22/20)  96 elephants are killed around the world every day to support the ivory trade. Only one land creature on Earth needs ivory, that’s an ele­phant, and similar-quality carvings can be made from teak wood instead. Do you want our gen­eration to be remembered as the one that let them go extinct? Join the effort to help stop the useless slaughter at www.96elephants.org, www.wcs.org, or www.awf.orgNow that you know, if you buy ivory for ivory’s sake (not, e.g., on a used pi­ano’s keys), you’re just as guilty as the poachers who should consider the following “If you can’t stand the idea of an elephant roaming free, then get an expert to show you how to gain & keep his/her trust, then put them to work for you. Most of them will work for pea­nuts & food and, if you treat them well, allow them a mate or snip them, take them out for a drive regularly, etc, you might like another role they play, that of super­sized guard dog. Would you mess with an elephant owner?”

We should also be more concerned with protecting our en­vi­ronment, wildlife, seas, dolphins, whales, honeybees,* etc, from other man­ageable threats like those al­ready demon­strated by greenhouse gases, sonar weapons, plastic waste, and in­secticide com­panies.   *(China is now forced to pay people to pollinate many plants due to overuse of insecticides in some areas.)

Why Snow-Belt Winters Are Colder With Current Global Warming.  

(Revised 6/9/20)  This is just a supplement on the climate change issue, but the following facts might help convince naysayers that greenhouse gases, not energy use, need to be curtailed.  Some of the arguments against long-term global warming reflect a layman’s understanding of weather.  It reminds me of the man on nationwide TV who stated unequivocally that since it almost always rained up & down the East coast shortly after the Space Shuttle launched, the launches caused all that rain instead of realizing the truth that NASA often tries to launch before an approaching weather front to stay on schedule.

For those like President Trump (who tweeted as such), believing the hoax side of the issue because recent colder winters up north seem to disprove global warming, this should improve their under­stand­­ing of weather.  Because heat absorption & radiation rates are far quicker in solids than liquids which, in turn, are far quicker than gases, the average polar land regions’ temperature is always colder than the average polar oceans’ at the same latitude, which helps explain why Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth.  (After dark, land cools faster than bodies of water ask any pilot.)  Melting glaciers, e.g., are always near oceans, seas, or large bodies of water and the same goes for ice melting near the North pole, which is simply a huge island of ice floating on the Arctic ocean.  Humid air, found in the greatest quantities over large bodies of water in the tropics, is less dense than dry air of equivalent temperature.

Most weather-savvy North Americans know that colder winters up North coincide with more active (hotter) hurricane seasons.  Why?  The coldest & driest polar air masses are the most dense and they organize over land.  They also push the farthest South (North down-under) due to their greater differential density over warm air masses.  (This was evidenced recently by the remnants of a cold front in the Gulf of Mexico preventing hurricane Dorian from crossing South Florida during the warmest time of the year the timing was pure luck for Florida, since cold fronts rarely push that far south in early September.)  Since heat causes (and tends to flow toward) lower pressure areas, when Earth’s average temperature goes up, the atmosphere expands & bulges above the tropics (which harbor most of the extra heat) and con­tracts & dips around the poles (ask NOAA or NASA if you don’t believe it).  The same thing hap­pens during every hot cycle, El Nino, or La Nina.  The hotter and more humid the tropics, the less dense the tropical air which allows (probably up to a limiting world average heat point and hot/cold differential) those denser cold air masses to push even farther toward (and moving the southern or northern cold/warm boundaries closer to) the equator.

2018’s Hurricane Michael was the first recorded category 4 storm (nearly a category 5) to make landfall on the Florida panhandle, unprecedented since the US began keeping hurricane records in 1851.  It also held category 4 status most of the way through the panhandle. Where most hurricanes drop a category  shortly before landfall  Michael continued to strength­en.  The scienti­fic com­munity proved the Earth is warming slowly over the long-term (caused mostly by mankind) by even analyzing tree ring samples farther back than the eighteenth century when the Industrial Revo­lution began the present trend.  The amount of energy that Mankind consumes, however, is next to nothing com­pared to what reaches the Earth every day from our star (17-18 terawatts vs 100,000 terawatts [that’s .00018 = 2% of 1% = a drop in the bucket simply incapable of causing the increase in global temper­a­tures] PBS Nova’s “Treasures of the Earth: Power”) so it’s not increased energy use causing the long-term trend.  Because the US, e.g., has 5% of the world’s population but uses 20% of its energy production, I among other scientists shudder to think of the damage that future hot-cycle hurri­canes and sea level rise will do if/when Second & Third World countries start using greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels to the extent leading countries are now.

Germany, one of the world’s biggest consumers of coal, will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change. President Trump, by pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement and rekindling coal sales is in denial on global warming.*  If we ever get him to wise up on that, we shouldn’t move too fast and should sufficiently mitigate the impact on coun­tries, companies, and workers with a gradual phased withdrawal of fossil fuels over a few decades.    *(So are the Koch Brothers  oil tychoons who contributed $900 million to political campaigns in 2016.  Due probably to external pressures, Koch Industries’ Discovery newsletter recently wrote the most realistic comment I’ve seen them make on the issue “Curbing global greenhouse gases is worthy in its intent, but a system that will tax and penalize American families and businesses during these uniquely tough economic times is simply not the right ap­proach.”  thinkprogress.org.  Was it a warning and/or a Freudian slip that they pointed out penaliz­ing families before busi­ness­es?  Tough economic times are usually something that the super-rich are insulated from in their ivory towers.  If they’re unique, it’s due mostly to the proliferation of mis­erly leaders who would pass on their increased costs mainly or solely to employees & customers.)

Why can’t the world’s energy producers be expected to gradually shift their investments to geothermal, solar, water,* and wind power renewables, all of which take energy out of the atmosphere and water, and why can’t their workers be mostly subsidized (also by government) to get schooling and/or jobs in those newer industries or others?  Nuclear power plants, e.g., generate heat but not greenhouse gases.  Lessons learned from the Fukushima, Chernobyl, and 3-mile Island accidents have produced safety improvements that should make such accidents a thing of the past and will help us transition off fossil fuels a lot sooner than using renewables alone, probably preventing polar ice meltdown and extreme sea level rise.  

Coal miners, e.g., have shorter lifespans, respiratory ailments, etc, due to coal dust inhalation.  I doubt there are more than a few of them who wouldn’t prefer to get free training for a different vocation like building or servicing wind generators.  I think, e.g., Koch Industries is probably too much of a fossil to offer that upgrade & training, but maybe with government persuasion…   Since the leading countries already had the advantage of cheap fossil fuel energy, a few extra decades should be permitted for less-developed countries so they can invest as (or almost as) gradually as the leaders did (or will) in, e.g., proven solar technology and won’t have to pay premium prices for new tech if proven tech is in short supply.     *(If suitable rivers are in short supply, then perhaps you’ve read about ongoing research in harnessing the gulfstream, tidal cur­rents, etc, with under­water sea turbines.)

As people in the U.S. and around the world suffer through the worst public health crisis in a century, Trump’s Interior Department is barreling ahead with dangerous plans to sell off rights to more of our spectacular public lands at rock bottom prices to oil, gas, and coal companies.

Tell Trump’s Interior Department: We Demand a Future Without Fossil Fuels.

Parties Are The Only Place You Should Tailgate.  

(Revised 6/9/20)  This driving advice could save your life someday and will surely save you an accident if you’re not already using it.

In a recent study, 80% of Americans thought they are above-average drivers, so how realistic are we?  Well, e.g., I had hand-eye coordination good enough to win a time-trial sport car Gymkana with 50 entrants all driving the same car, but I didn’t develop quite a few road-wise traits until near middle age which cost me a few accidents, one of which could have been serious. You might be an almost-safe driver like I was, but most young drivers, many middle-age drivers, and even some good older drivers (like my mother) find out about a common accident cause the hard way.  I have nearly 3,000,000 miles driving experience, but I didn’t eliminate this habit completely from my driving until I had two accidents because of it and over 100,000 miles of professional driving.  Even anti-lock brakes (ABS) don’t solve this problem.  Many folks, even those who mistakenly think they’re great drivers, have a risky habit of following the car in front of them too closely, a.k.a. tailgating, so maybe you do, too.  Maybe you’ve been watching too much NASCAR racing, i.e., tri-oval-turns-in-only-one-direction designed, built, & run to thrill the crowds by also producing crashes.

A trick that usually works in getting people to stop tailgating you is to turn on your 4-way flashers for 5 seconds.  In my experience, 9 out of 10 drivers will realize they are tailgating and back off.  At highway speeds, it works better than a Yosemite Sam bumper sticker.

In even the briefest stops with vehicles of similar stopping distances, when the driver in front of you slams on their brakes, their earlier braking continues to narrow the gap between you as you slow down since the lead car is always going slower than the following one.  If you don’t allow enough following distance for reaction time, you will eventually rear-end someone.

Most people who follow too closely on the highway do so because others tend to cut in front of them if they leave “too large” a gap, so it seems you can’t always leave the recommended minimum 2-second gap between you and the car ahead.  I’ve heard people say, “I’m not tailgating, I’m defending my gap.”  However, if you tailgate to prevent a squeeze-in, you sink to the squeezer’s level of risky driving.  Each time you “get away with it” gets you closer to when you won’t.  Sorry to say, but the only way to avoid that risk is never to take it.  When they cut in, back off quickly enough (even if you have to brake, but don’t cause a collision from behind) and you might someday even prevent someone from claiming that you were tailgating them.  Of course, backing off quickly enough is rarely a problem on a single-lane-in-either-direction (2-lane) road with passing zones unless you insist on not checking your mirrors regularly and/or driving below the speed limit where, regardless of the fact that it’s dangerous, people tend to tailgate more.  The speed limit is, after all, set for trucks that take twice as long to stop.

(Incidentally, truck drivers often complain that many traffic lights aren’t sufficiently long to change from yellow to red which is why you’ll see many of them traveling below the speed limit on secondary roads.  It’s an issue for which they should set a national standard.  Traffic lights on a 45-mph road, e.g., should take six seconds to change from yellow to red.  That would prevent most overcautious drivers from slamming on the brakes when they’re too close to a light that’s turned  yellow, possibly causing a rear-end collision.  Intersections produce more accidents than any other road hazard.  Therefore, they should also set a national standard distance for each & every speed limit to have a yellow line painted across every perpendicular approach to a light-controlled intersection which would guarantee that if you, while doing the speed limit, cross that yellow line before the light turns yellow, you’ll make it past the stop line with room to spare before the light turns red if you maintain speed.  It would do wonders for reducing accidents, believe me.)

One solution is to plan to leave home earlier so you don’t mind if people cut into your carefully-planned gap, or pass you when you’re behind another car on a 2-lane road.  When they cut you off, sometimes all you need to do is ease off the gas until you’re once again 2 seconds behind them.  You measure that gap by watching a stationary object (sign, pavement seam, pothole, etc) go past the car in front of you, then by counting thousand-one, thousand-two.  (To do it accurately and not like most movie countdowns requires a little clock-watching when you’re stationary to stay in practice).  If you cross that point before the end of the thousand-two, then back off a little more.  You might not have to back off as quickly if you have an empty lane next to you with no one speeding toward you from the rear.  I check my mirrors every few seconds so I always know what’s around me and I check my blind spots before lane-changing by turning my head.  It has saved me several accidents over the years.  Trust me, it’s hard to be too alert out there but, of course, if you stay so alert it starts to wear or stress you out, find a rest area and take a break.

You’ll need to back off even more if the vehicle in front of you looks like it can stop harder than yours can.  The “2-second following rule” works with equal vehicles and people with normal reaction times, but not, e.g., in a large SUV following a Ferrari or sportbike with ABS.  (Which vehicles have ABS?  Since you can’t tell, it’s best to assume they all do.  Like many drivers, my foot has its own trained anti-lock system which isn’t as good as ABS but it helps.)  By the same token, sport drivers should also be careful not to follow so closely that they leave themselves no choice but to ram their vehicle’s stopping power down a follower’s throat.  If someone won’t stop tailgating you, increase your following distance to allow for it (you won’t have to stop as hard).  If they accelerate past and take your space, it’s better to have an aggressive driver in front of you anyway.  If you’re driving a semi tractor-trailer or bus, the gap should be 4 seconds or more (more to come on that).  The idea is always to have a way out, so if you’re comfortable checking all your mirrors every few seconds, you might be able to swerve around a hard-stopper, but it’s better not to have to rely on that.  Swerving onto the shoulder should be a last resort since you won’t be able to spot a nail or screw that could get in your tires.

The only time I rear-ended another vehicle was caused by a 4-passenger car with 1 person aboard that was much smaller than the 6-passenger I was driving with 5 people aboard.  I was crossing a causeway with a drawbridge, I saw a boat approaching, and I knew that the gate could start coming down at any time.  I made sure I was 2 seconds behind the car in front, just like some of the safe driving manuals say.  The “gate” was a bit stuck so when it started down, it did so with a lurch. That caused the lady in front of me (who was driving a car half the size & weight of mine) to slam on her brakes thinking the gate was coming down faster than it was.  In her little tin-box 1970s Toyota, it was like catching a cable on an aircraft carrier.  I doubt whether most of the motorcycles I’ve owned could have stopped that hard.  (BTW, ABS is a definite lifesaver for motorcycles and should be required by law.)

Just in case, I’d already been covering the brake with my other foot so my reaction time was quicker than usual.  I took the tires instantly to the verge of lock up (I’d recently practiced in a safe place with no one following).  Since my radio wasn’t too loud, I could hear them howling and I knew that meant they were on the verge of locking up.  (As you probably know from knowing the advantage of ABS, locking up causes the tires to slide and reduces your available traction but there are times, like on a downhill gravel road, when ABS should be turned off – check your car’s operating manual).  However, that did not prevent my big old station wagon with skinny tires from closing on her too quickly.  I could also tell she wasn’t going to be able to stop by the gate, so I started leaning on the horn hoping she would also realize. About a second before impact, she released the brake while at a full stop which helped but it was too late.  I bumped into her at 2 mph causing my radiator to spring a leak and denting both our cars.  The gate came down on top of mine near the back.  The investigating officer listed us both as contributors so at least I didn’t have to pay for her damage, but that’s rarely the case with rear-enders.

You should also leave extra room when pulling in front of trucks or buses since they can take twice as long to stop.  Four seconds was the rule that I had to follow when driving a full-size touring bus since they had customer informants who rode now & then, but it really worked well and made the passengers feel more at ease.  Waiting that long with big vehicles encourages someone tailgating you to cut the big vehicle off, so the solution to that is to start signaling the moment you go past the front of the big vehicle and if the person behind you gets more impatient, start a slow lane change before they try to cut over but be ready to abort the lane change if it appears too risky in your mirrors.  Of course, cutting off semi tractor-trailers or buses could easily take your life someday if & when they can’t stop or swerve before they plow into you.  With older cars, the idiot light can burn out and a person can forget to put oil in the engine.  If the engine seizes while you’re tailgating next to a tractor-trailer, you could go under the wheels of the tractor-trailer.

One situation I’ve seen produce an unexpected number of rear-enders is when following other cars (often a line of cars) on a highway on-ramp.  Any experienced highway driver knows that some people are overcautious about accelerating to highway speed on the ramp.  It’s usually because they don’t know the road.  Another reason is that some states don’t require sufficient room on the ramp to merge.  Some ramps in, e.g., New York, have no warning but a yield sign where there should be a stop sign and a forced, angled merge with no room whatsoever to travel parallel to the lane you’re merging into.  If you’re following a vehicle you can’t see around, you might not realize the problem until it’s too late.  If there would be no way to swerve around the vehicle in front of you, you must allow enough following distance for a sudden unex­pect­ed hard-stopping abort from a driver ahead of you.  Where I live, people almost always follow too closely on one particular ramp that they know turns into a highway lane, but that tourists don’t.  An instant of uncertainty can cause some drivers to panic and slam on the brakes.  If you haven’t allowed enough following room, you’ll be blamed by the law for a rear-ender.  If the person behind you gets impatient and tailgates, increase your following distance even more to allow for that.

Safety is an unwillingness to bend or break proven safety guidelines & rules except maybe in an actual emergency, but good habits aren’t enough.  To avoid accidents, you must also THINK carefully with an open mind no matter how routine a situation seems.  Save any thinking that doesn’t relate to driving until you’re at a safe standstill since even the best drivers can get distracted that way.  After 2,000,000 miles, I finally came to the conclusion that I have never seen it all and will never see it all since people are unpredictable in traffic situations, and so is vehi­cle beha­vior, load­ing, and mainte­nance. Being complacent about something because of the idea that “if that happens, it’ll be the other guy’s fault” is virtually no consolation if you end up crippled for the rest of your life.

You might not have to drive slower than you do to be safe and, in fact, holding up other traffic can trigger accidents when some other driver gets impatient & rash.  (There should be a law that, on a 2-lane road, if there’s no traffic slowing you down, you’re below the speed limit, and you see any number of vehicles hoping to get past you for ˃ 5 minutes, then you must signal to pull over at a safe location and maybe wave them by.  If you’re a slow driver, for safety’s sake you should do that anyway.)  Safety suggests things like “Leave early or drive stupid,” and “Keep thinking far ahead of yourself, also for exits” instead of taking juvenile attitudes like “Are we there yet?” or “Safety is bor­ing, man.”  Most trips seem to go by faster, are less stressful, etc, when you’re not in a hurry nor worried about being late.  Get-there-itis is a big killer.  One big reason in the US is “rush hour” which should be called “slow hour” since it encourages people to rush instead of leaving early enough.  I re­mind myself of those things every time I get be­­hind a wheel or handlebar.  I’d be better off if I had when I was young.

Stay safe and never get complacent out there.  A moment’s inattention or distraction can cost you your life.

 

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