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The Bermudian

It may come as a surprise to some, but there are gaters on this island.

Not the kind that come snapping at you from the water, but the ones you find when you are on the road, located directly behind you and far too close for comfort. They are that special breed of Bermudian driver known as the tailgater.

The Bermudian gater seeks his prey in much the same way as the swamp alligator does. In a flash. He secures his position only an inch from your rear bumper. And that's where he remains. Relentless. Until one of two things happens: he arrives home or you simply give up.

Just as fish are attracted to shiny lures, Bermuda's drivers are drawn like magnets to metal.

"Why do you do that?" I asked one taxi driver.

"I don't know," he replied. "We just do"

This complete absence of malice helps a bit to make up for the unnerving practice. But not completely. Others I asked about the practice wouldn't admit to tailgating themselves, but they did have opinions about why others do it. "They're in a hurry," said one man. "They are just impatient," said another. "It's dangerous," offered one woman. How about "obnoxious" as an answer to the question about why folks tailgate? SmartMotorist.com tries to answer that query this way: "Tailgating is an aggressive driving behavior that is easily mistaken for road rage."

The speed limit in Bermuda is a sedate 20 miles an hour. It should be. Our roads are narrow. In fact, each side of asphalt divided by a yellow line measures just eight feet. Most vehicles span seven feet. That leaves two cars travelling in opposite directions a mere 12 inches of leeway. Combine that cozy arrangement with a guy riding your back bumper and you've got a challenge that requires both adroit eye-hand coordination and nerves of steel.

The attraction of the lead car is never as intense as when a biker is in hot pursuit. Sometimes these road jockeys ride so close that I can't even see their front wheel in my rear-view mirror. It's guerrilla warfare with a balletic quality to it.

One motorist slows down. They all slow down. One speeds up. They all speed up. But never straying any farther apart than a couple embarking on a new romance. It's a virtual conga line of motorized stalkers. This nerve-wracking behavior has forced me to consider attaching a big fat L for learner onto my rear bumper. Does that make me a target, perhaps? Maybe conforming is the wiser choice.

I decided to ask the people responsible for road safety if tailgating was allowed on the island. The woman who answered the phone when I called TCD said it was not but suggested I call the police for an official answer. I did. The Bermuda Police Department's media relations officer said that he was aware of the tailgating trend even if he didn't indulge in it himself. "I try not to tailgate," said Officer Robin Simmons. "One, because I work for the police department and two, no matter how good your reactions are, any mistake could result in a collision."

I did some checking and found that in Abu Dhabi police issued 750 tickets for tailgating violations in one year alone. I know some fine people on this island who have been issued tickets for various offenses. But never one for tailgating. Not surprising, as there is actually no law on the books preventing the practice.

"I was not able to find any reference to tailgating as an offence under Bermuda law" said Officer Simmons. "However, a driver who tailgates may be ticketed for another offence or offences depending on the situation."

The stakes in the game of roadway risk and reward have just gone up!


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