Back off! How unwanted tagalongs are cramping my style

Cockpit meditation is best attempted when stationary, obviously. Photo: Becky Rushton

Cockpit meditation is best attempted when stationary, obviously. Photo: Becky Rushton - Credit: Becky Rushton

As much as can be said for the convenience of driving these days, it can hardly be called a relaxing affair.

Between roadworks, weather conditions and backseat drivers, there's a lot to play on your mind out on the open road. It's easy enough said that you should always be calm and courteous when in control of a vehicle, and I really do try my best to remember this.

There is one thing that can elevate me from dutiful driver to motoring madwoman faster than any other, however.

It gets my goat, it grinds my gears and it well and truly harshes my driving mellow. No, I don't mean those weird little fog light-type things on the front of new cars that inexplicably come on when you turn a corner. I'm talking about tailgating.

We all get irked by other road users from time to time, some of us more than others. I'm not above it myself. But what you choose to do about it is important.

Say somebody has pulled out ahead of you in a 50mph zone and... how should I put it? They're certainly taking it at a leisurely pace. You're gaining ground fast and they don't seem quite ready to hit the dizzy heights of fifth gear.

By some leap of logic, some people decide that the best course of action at this point is to... drive your vehicle as close to theirs as possible without hitting it. That's all it is!

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Maybe their thinking is that the person in front doesn't realise they're not driving up to the posted limit, and the looming presence of your vehicle behind them will serve as a friendly, not at all menacing reminder.

Let's face it, the chances are if they really are unaware of the limit and the large speed signs dotted along the highway haven't tipped them off, we're past the point of friendly reminders. They might not even notice you. They might not even notice the sign for their turning until the last second, then the brakes come on, you've been a fool with no two-second rule and nobody in this situation goes home happy.

Just relax, man. Back off.

Have a rhubarb and custard travel sweet, change the station to Classic FM, do what you gotta do. There's every likelihood that if you're travelling with a passenger they're already helplessly pressing the invisible brake.

Despite driving to the limit whenever it's appropriate, I've had my share of fellow motorists that may as well have been on tow. With my delivery van limited to 50mph this was a more common occurrence - as many people know, the closer you drive to a long vehicle the less likely it is they can see you.

Their attempts to urge the van along faster fall on blind eyes, the only hint they're behind you being a wing mirror and headlight playing peek-a-boo as they search for a big enough gap to overtake and be shot of this minor hindrance.

My absolute biggest of bugbears doesn't just affect me, however.

It's when people don't back off after my most precious of cargo, my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Benjamin T Dog sticks his head up from his resting place in the boot and casts an intrigued eye over our close-quartered motoring mate.

Maybe your disdain for my refusal to break the speed limit is enough for you to risk damaging both our cars, but to place an innocent animal in danger? That crosses a line, and you'd best hope I'm loaded up with travel sweets and piano concertos or things could get ugly.