Remember Drivers Ed? If your class was like mine, you learned about the dangers of tailgating. You know, following the car in front of you too closely.
If you do that, and the driver in front slams on their brakes, you might rear-end them. In fact, with the right conditions, there is a 100% chance you will rear-end the car in front of you, no matter how much you stomp on your brakes. While you may think you can stop fast enough to avoid a crash, you cannot, no matter how good your reflexes are.
There are a few variables at play that can make collision a certainty.
First, there’s your reaction time. How fast can your brain process a signal from your eyes that says, “Hey wake up! The guy in front of you just stepped on his brakes!” Your eyes have to see it, and then send a fax to your brain. Your brain has to think about this and retrieve from its memory banks the correct response. “Oh yeah, I need to tell right foot to move off the gas and step on the brake.” Then your brain has to send that message through your spiney hole down to your leg. Your leg muscles have to wake up and start the process of moving to the other pedal.
Second, your brakes require distance. They’re designed to bleed off energy and turn your car’s forward motion into friction and heat, so your car will cover a certain amount of distance while this happens.
Last, the speed at which both cars are moving changes everything. The faster you’re both going, the farther away you have to be. When going fast, your car covers more distance while your brain figures out stuff and your brakes do that slowing down thing.
There’s a valuable concealed carry or self-defense lesson to be learned from the dangers of tailgating. It all boils down to the fact that action is always faster than reaction. This principle is the cornerstone of Colonel John Boyd’s OODA loop theory, originally developed for fighter plane dogfighting tactics. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. It describes the process I described above with deciding to stop your car when the dude in front slams on the brakes.
Let’s see what that really means.