Amy, you must have been away from the US for a long time. When I left in 1991 there was not much tailgating, but when I came back in 1994 it was practically universal. People even form what I call tailgating caravans, where five or more cars are all tailgating each other. If you’re to the left of one of those, and your exit is coming up, you’ll have a tough time getting off the freeway. Even semi drivers tailgate now! I attibute it to the fact that teenagers don’t have to see movies like “Mechanized Death” anymore before passing their driver’s ed courses. If I get too close to someone or take too much of a risk, I still immediately see in my mind a smashed car containing a trapped, screaming woman who looks like ravioli.
Once I heard some sociologist on the radio who had made a study of driving behavior. The interviewer asked, “Who tailgates more, men or women?” He said they tailgate about equally, “But women do more of the ramming.” YIPES! RAMMING?! Apparently in California, where the study was done, some people ram the back of cars that they think are going to slowly. I was really shocked.
In my town they say it’s due to “gawkers”. Same thing.
Often in Detroit the radio says that traffic is slow somewhere because of a carbecue, i.e., there’s a car on fire.
People should also know about the term road rage, which means very aggressive, belligerent driving because of anger. There’s a lot more now than there ever was 20 years ago. One of my friends claims it’s caused by cupholders.