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Driving You Crazy: What do you do when an irate person is tailgating you in the express lane?

You can't move over and it gets actually scary.
Express lane tailgate
Posted at 4:57 AM, May 21, 2024

Janice from Denver writes, “What’s driving you crazy? What do you do when you are riding in the express lane, going the speed limit or a bit over and an irate person is tailgating you? You can't move over and it gets actually scary.”

That situation is very unnerving, Janice. What I have told my wife and 15-year-old daughter, who is learning to drive, is you should just continue going the speed limit or around it and try as best as you can to put that aggressive driver out of your mind. Don't let them force you to make an unsafe move. If they want to pass, they will.

CDOT’s Deputy Director of Communications for Policy and Programs Tim Hoover, who I talk to often about express lanes statewide told me, be assured Janice, you are not doing anything wrong. The person behind you is doing something wrong.

“The express lane is meant for free flow conditions. It is not an autobahn," Hoover said. "Express means non-stop, not pedal to the metal. Really, people need to stop driving recklessly. People driving the speed limit is not the problem we have, our problem as a state is that we have people driving way, way, way, way too fast and that leads to accidents and increases the severity of the accidents.”

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

One additional problem with this situation is that if you wanted to move over out of the express lane and let the aggressive driver pass, you will be making an illegal lane change over the double white lines and you could get a $75 ticket for doing it. Something else I told my wife is that if she starts to feel threatened, she could call the Colorado State Patrol at *CSP (*277). That will put you in touch with the state patrol dispatcher, and you can tell them where you are and what is happening. If you can safely describe the vehicle, plate number and driver description, that will help.

I asked the CSP if that was good advice. Trooper Gabriel Moltrer told me, “With a vehicle tailgating you, that is aggressive driving on the other vehicles part, and you can report it to *CSP (*277) to report them. If you are not planning to exit out of the express lane, then it is up to the driver if they chose to, but you do not have to as you are paying to use it just as they are, and are driving safe due to the speed limit. In a situation like this the speed limit is still the speed to go.”

Skyler McKinley, Regional Director of Public Affairs for AAA Colorado, shared his advice.

“From a AAA perspective, safety always comes first: When dealing with an aggravated or aggressive driver, the most important thing you can do is to remain calm, courteous and exit the encounter as quickly as you safely can," McKinley said. "To that end, in this situation, you want to avoid forcing the other driver to slam on their brakes, but you shouldn't feel obligated to match their unsafe speed. Maintain speed as close to the limit as the conditions allow while making a mental note of the driver's license plate number, a description of the vehicle, your approximate location, and the direction of travel.”

AAA shared this general advice when dealing with a tailgater:

“Tailgating reduces the space between cars to an unsafe distance so if you suddenly hit the brakes, the tailgater may not have enough time to react and slow down before hitting your car. Be extra cautious and don’t slam on the brakes to be spiteful.”

Skyler added, even though it is technically illegal to cross the double white lines, if you feel in danger, do what you need to do.

“Per CDOT, the Express Lane Penalty Program exists primarily because, ‘Violators who ignore these rules present hazards to themselves and other roadway users.’ Extricating yourself from a dangerous situation is consistent with CDOT's safety enforcement goals and while exiting the lane may technically constitute a violation, CDOT enforcement is aimed at those individuals who weave in and out of the express lanes. In the unlikely event you were ticketed for a one-time lane departure related to an unsafe situation, you would have excellent grounds to challenge the ticket on the basis of the aggressive motorist's behavior and your overriding interest in protecting yourself and other road users.”

Ultimately how you handle the situation is entirely up to you. Other from this advice, you can hope the tailgater passes you across the double white lines and they pick up that $75 ticket.

What do you do when an irate person is tailgating you in the express lane?

Denver7 Traffic Expert Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his award winning Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.