This is cool.
If you are close to the car in front of you and the brake lights of that car go on, you have to hit your brakes—your default reaction has to be “brake until I understand what is going on.” If the other driver is braking for no good reason (as a rule of thumb, people are bad drivers) you have braked for no good reason. If the driver behind you is close to you, he is going to brake for no good reason too, and the driver behind him, and so on and so forth. Since the cars aren’t linked, reaction times are lengthy, and drivers have limited information about the speed of the vehicles ahead of them, each car is going to brake for longer until they are coming to a full stop. This is why we see traffic congestion for no apparent reason with clear road ahead of it..
If, on the other hand, you are far from the car in front of you and its driver hits its brakes, you have time to evaluate the situation and decide whether you need to brake. If the driver in front is braking for no good reason, you don’t need to brake, and neither do the drivers behind you. You keep rolling along at the average speed.
This satisfies the categorical imperative, as well. If everyone driving down the open freeway left at least a hundred feet in front, everyone would get to their destinations more quickly, safer, and with less wear and tear on driver and car.
How many tailgating drivers does it take to screw up the system? As the video demonstrates, many. One Zen driver can “eat” the traffic wave created by a large number of drivers who are trying to get to the front of the line. Everyone behind him benefits, until someone else being followed too closely brakes unnecessarily (or someone tries to pull in to too small a space).
I was going to label this post “off-topic,” but it isn’t really. Its application to criminal-defense trial lawyering? Aside from the obvious—you have enough stress in your life; drive more zenly—there is this: trial is a drive. Relax a bit, give yourself some room, and you won’t have to react to every set of brake lights you see.
Set the pace, tell the story, and the jury will follow.