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3 OwlsA few days ago, I again drove my car, leading another driver and her car through a long road trip. I used to do that a lot, guiding groups of vehicles packed with young people, on trips hither and yon. I thought I had a talent for it. Only once in fifty years did I lose a carload of passengers at the tail of a caravan, and that was due to a vehicle breakdown out of sight, and the loss of radio communication with the driver, but I knew he was resourceful and dependable, he knew our point of rendezvous, and he caught up with us at the end of the day.

Driving ahead of another car or cars requires frequent and observant glances in the rear view mirror. It does not matter if one tries to maintain a speed at or five miles per hour above the posted speed limit, someone will always want to go faster, getting between the lead car and the followers. Sometimes it is a truck, large enough to hide the view of cars from front or rear. The leader must find a way quickly to restore the connection, before the next turn or stop, or an additional intruder adds to the distance between the tandem drivers. Changing lanes and preparing for turns needs to be signaled well in advance if possible, but obscured vision may require the use of another lane just to keep each other in view. The process becomes nerve-wracking in heavy, fast traffic.

Often the lead driver spends as much time looking in the rear-view mirror as looking forward. That may sometimes be true in normal driving, when trying to keep a safe stopping distance between oneself and the cars ahead and behind, but with a caravan behind, as part of one’s responsibility, it becomes even truer.

What seems to be required for the lead driver is to know well the destinations and the directions for the trip, to set a reasonable and steady pace forward, and to keep the changing needs of everyone who follows in constant view.  It also helps to have a back-up plan that everyone is aware of, for all the times when the unexpected happens, and contact is,  we hope temporarily, interrupted. That sounds like an ambitious goal for leadership in many contexts, not just tandem  driving.

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