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Washington: Attempt to Stop Tailgating Causes Massive Traffic Jam
An attempt in Washington state to target tailgaters backfired by causing massive traffic jams.

I-5 DotsAn attempt by Washington state transportation officials to stop tailgating failed an important reality test over the weekend when it caused massive traffic jams on a two-mile stretch of northbound Interstate 5. Officials had just unveiled the "2 dots 2 safety" program that urged motorists to keep no less than two of the specially painted freeway pavement dots -- 160 feet -- distance from the car in front. Each dot is spaced eighty feet apart on the freeway between Lacey and Nisqually. The hope was to expand the program statewide and use the dots eventually to help police issue $101 citations to drivers for following too closely.

During heavy Saturday traffic, however, motorists maintained the 160-foot distance as required by the posted signs, even though such distances were unnecessary at the crawling pace. This further reduced the freeway's capacity causing a chain-reaction slow-down.

"The idea was not to impede traffic, but to increase safety," state Traffic Engineer Ted Trepanier said in a statement provided to The Olympian newspaper. "We apologize for delays drivers faced as a result of this program."

The state maintains tailgating is a problem because it leads to rear-enders. "Twenty-one people died in rear-end crashes in Washington during 2005," the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) website asserts. In the context of red light cameras, however, Washington state dismisses the importance and severity of potentially fatal rear end collisions and encourages cities to install the automated ticketing systems. WSDOT will now remove the dots from I-5 and try them on another freeway.

Article Excerpt:
Washington 2 dots 2 safety sign
Source: State will remove jam-causing I-5 'dots,' which were meant to curtail tailgating (The Olympian (WA), 8/14/2006)

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