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It is quite a frustrating experience when trying to follow someone in heavy traffic, and he or she keeps changing lanes as if trying to lose you.

Keeping two cars together in heavy traffic requires close cooperation between the leader of the procession, who knows where he or she is going, and the follower, who is a complete fish out of water.  Many of the techniques resemble a good cop/bad cop act, with the leader being the good cop and the follower the bad cop.  The leader must be considerate while the follower is free to be an aggressive jerk.  Much of the dangerous, stressful part falls upon the follower's shoulders. The freedom to be a complete jerk can, however, be a great stress reliever.

Take the matter of letting cars move into one's lane:  Each car that the follower allows to get between himself or herself and the leader add a certain amount to the probability of being lost and stranded.  To avoid this, the leader should let anyone who wants in front of him or her in, but the follower should take any steps necessary to keep cars from coming in between himself or herself and the leader, up to and including shooting out interlopers' tires with a shotgun.  Because of this, a passenger is an invaluable asset to the follower.

Changing lanes is a particularly tricky process, especially in a backup.   The leader should be considerate of the poor sap following him or her, and not create any more opportunities for an accidentIn no event should the leader shoot like a watermelon seed through a rapidly-closing gap between a tractor-trailer in the source lane and one in the target lane.

Here is the correct process for changing lanes:

  1. The leader politely puts on his or her turn signal.
  2. Follower notices the signal and forces his way into the target lane.  Follower should not signal, as this is an invitation for cars in the target lane to pass.
  3. Follower slows down (or if, this is a backup, waits) until a gap big enough for the leader to fit in opens up.  If other cars look like they're trying to fill in the gap, caltrops usually provide plenty of stopping power.
  4. Leader moves into the target lane.
Invariably, this process takes longer than simply forcing one's way into the next lane.  Because of this, the leader should start the process as soon as possible, that is, more than 100 feet (30 meters or so) from the next exit or turn. Ideally, the leader should position himself or herself in the proper lane from which to exit or turn immediately after the previous exit or turn.

If there are pedestrians waiting in a crosswalk ahead, the leader always should stop and let them cross!  The follower, however, need only concern himself with how much suspension damage the pedestrian is likely to cause.

Finally, we come to traffic lights.  These constitute the greatest threat to the procession's unity.  The solution, however, follows all of the above guidelines.  If the leader thinks that the light has even a chance of turning yellow, he or she should STOP.   That way, the only red lights the follower need worry about are the leader's brake lights.  If you think about it, these are the only red lights the follower should worry about, no matter what the leader does!

It's frightening when, in the middle of such a frustrating experience you think about the writeup you're going to make about it rather than the fact that you're about to be left behind without a clue as to which direction to go!  Some of the above advice is recommended, the rest is hyperbole, blowing off steam.  If you can't tell which is which, go take your driving test again!

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