Jeb Bladine: Counting stripes a path to patience

Patience appears on many lists of our most important virtues, but it’s not exactly a human norm.

Roadways are filled with impatient people. To best see that impatience in action, just follow the “two-second rule” at all speeds and all times.

Yes, I’m talking about chronic tailgaters — those thoughtless and dangerous people whose driving style contributes greatly to death and destruction on our streets and highways.

The rule instructs us to trail two seconds behind the vehicle directly in front, regardless of speed. It’s shocking how far reality varies from the rule, especially at 60 mph and above.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Actually, it’s a great exercise in personal patience to follow that rule. Remember, however, your safe-driving practice may generate dangerous road rage around you.

Here’s one way to obey the two-second rule: Choose a roadway object passed by the car in front of you, and count the seconds until your vehicle passes the same marker. If fewer than two, adjust your driving gap. With practice, you can incorporate those safety gaps without counting.

An easier method may be to count the white or yellow road stripes between you and the vehicle in front. The count should be three at 40 mph, four at 50 mph and five at 60 mph. When you test that little theory, you’ll be shocked at the real-life discrepancies.

Just for reference, here are the underlying numbers:

At 30 mph, a vehicle travels 90 feet in two seconds — actually, 88 feet, but I’m rounding here. At 40 mph, the vehicle covers 120 feet in two seconds; at 50 mph, 150 feet; at 60 mph, 180 feet.

Those stripes are 10-feet long, with 30-foot spaces between them, so every stripe between you and the vehicle in front represents 40 feet.

My experience with I-5 driving around Portland often involves 40-60-foot gaps between vehicles going 50, 60 and faster. It’s truly insane, and inconsequential in terms of time-savings.

Perhaps, it’s simply a lack of patience. But I believe the major motivation for high-speed freeway tailgating is to prevent the other guy from cutting in. There’s not enough room here to delve into that dark side of human psychology.

“Patience is bitter,” said Aristotle, “but its fruit is sweet.” According to the curriculum of Character First Education, the path to patience is lit by these basic ideas: Wait your turn; don’t complain when you don’t get your way; accept what can’t be changed; use time wisely; try, and try again.

And while you’re trying, try following the two-second rule.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.


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