Tailgating (following too closely behind another vehicle) is illegal and dangerous driving behavior.
Tailgating increases the risk of rear-end collisions, which account for over 30% of all traffic accidents. Serious personal injury and property damage can result from this risky driving habit.
What is Tailgating?
Tailgating is defined as the practice of driving too close to another vehicle, at a distance which does not guarantee that stopping to avoid a collision is possible. Following too close accidents typically occur in urban areas where stop lights, stop signs, and pedestrian traffic all can lead to a driver stopping suddenly.
Tailgating and Road Rage
Tailgating is often associated with aggressive driving and road rage. Impatience over being stuck behind a slower driver can cause a driver to act aggressively. Some drivers are in a hurry because of running late and are tempted to speed. In addition to tailgating, an aggressive driver may blow their horn and flash their lights. Protect yourself from injury by letting an aggressive driver pass you. Simply pull over if it is legal and safe to do so. Do not retaliate by abruptly slowing down.
However, not all drivers who follow too closely are trying to intimidate you. The driver may not be aware they are too close because of not paying attention. More experienced drivers at times overestimate their skill and become complacent about allowing sufficient distance to avoid an accident.
The Three-Second Rule
Safe driving habits include maintaining the appropriate distance between vehicles. A safe driving distance is dependent on several factors, including road conditions and visibility. The state of Missouri includes the three-second rule in the Missouri Department of Revenue Driver’s Guide:
Choose an object near the road ahead, like sign or telephone pole. As the vehicle ahead of you passes it, count slowly, “One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.” If you reach the object before you finish counting, you are too close to the vehicle ahead.
You may feel insulted or annoyed by a driver who is tailgating you. However, it is important to remain calm and to not react with emotion. Instead, use your head and allow the driver to pass you. If the driver is not aware they are too close, then consider changing lanes to put some distance between the two of you. Remember, you always have the option to simply ignore the too close driver, especially if they do not show they have the intention of passing you.
Be a considerate driver yourself by following the posted speed limits, drive in the right lane, and pass in the left lane.
3 Tips to Safely Deal With Tailgaters
Take a Deep Breath, Relax
When someone is tailgating you, it can be easy to let your emotions get the best of you. However, as we’ve mentioned, it’s important to stay calm and avoid getting angry. Getting angry can lead to reckless driving, and that can put both you and the tailgater in danger. Instead, take a deep breath and relax. If you can stay calm, you’ll be more likely to make smart decisions behind the wheel. Additionally, the tailgater may eventually get bored and move on to someone else.
Slow Down and Let Them Pass
If you can safely do so, slow down a bit and let them pass. They’ll probably be happy to be in front of you, and you can continue to drive at the speed limit. However, whatever you do, don’t brake suddenly. That could cause an accident. Instead, slow down gradually and make sure you’re aware of your surroundings.
Of course, there are situations when you just can’t let the tailgater pass. If that’s the case, your best bet is to try to increase the distance between you and the car behind you. Change lanes if possible, and signal well in advance so the other driver knows what you’re doing. And most importantly, don’t make sudden moves that could startle the other motorists and lead to an accident.
Do Not Honk Your Horn Excessively
Sure, this may seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people honk their horn excessively when they’re trying to deal with a tailgater. While it’s true that your horn can be an effective tool to get another driver’s attention, incessant honking is more likely to just annoy everyone on the road and escalate the situation. If you really want to get rid of a tailgater, it’s best to use your horn sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.
These are just a few tips for safely dealing with tailgaters. Remember, it’s important to stay calm and avoid making sudden moves. If you can do that, you’ll be better equipped to handle this dangerous driving behavior.
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