18 Sep Cut Your Risk – Stop Tailgating
Tailgating is one of the most common aggressive driving behaviors you could engage in while on the road. By following a few simple tips you can break your tailgating habit, and do your part to keep roadways safer.
You’re waiting in traffic on your commute to work and you’re running late. In the hopes of pressuring the driver in front of you to drive faster, you close in behind them, urging them to move. Instead, just as traffic begins to move, the car in front of you slams on its brakes and you crash into it. Hopefully you were lucky and just have to contend with a bit of bent metal, a dent in your wallet, and the certainty that you are not going to be at work or that sales meeting on time.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, rear-end collisions account for 500,000 injuries and 1,700 deaths on the road per year, and tailgating significantly increases the risk of getting into a rear-end accident.
What is Tailgating?
Tailgating occurs when one vehicle drives closely behind another, leaving very little space between the vehicles —increasing the likelihood of a crash due to a sudden stop. Make no mistake; tailgating is considered an aggressive driving behavior, belonging in the same class as other unsafe behaviors, including speeding, cutting other drivers off, refusing to yield, flashing high beams, passing vehicles on the shoulder, and making obscene gestures.
According to a 2008 study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), 22% of drivers surveyed admitted to regularly tailgating other vehicles, ranking it among one of the most common aggressive driving behaviors. Many drivers may not even perceive they are acting aggressive or unsafe, seeing it as an appropriate response to force the driver in front of them to drive faster.
But as common as it is, tailgating can lead to serious consequences, including serious injury or death.
Rear-end accidents are even more dangerous for vehicles driving behind large trucks. Crashing into the back of a truck can cause severe damage and result in the tailgating car being pinned beneath the larger vehicle. A truck driver may not even be aware of a tailgating vehicle. If you are unable to see a truck’s rearview mirrors while driving behind it, it’s likely the driver isn’t aware of how closely you’re following the vehicle.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation offers a few pieces of advice for drivers to determine if they’re engaging in tailgating behavior:
- If you are close enough to another vehicle that your car is taking up all or most of its rearview mirror, slow down and put more distance between you and the other driver.
- Allow at least three seconds of travel time between your vehicle and another during the day.
- Adjust your driving distance according to road conditions. If it’s darker outside, increase your distance to around four seconds. Give at least six seconds of distance when driving in inclement weather such as rain, snow, or fog, and keep in mind your tire tread; balding tires take much longer to stop in all conditions.
- Exercise caution at stop lights, intersections, and merging lanes, where vehicles may stop suddenly.
- Be aware of sudden lane changes a vehicle may make in front of or behind you.
- Stay alert and focused on the road. Any risks you face from tailgating or being tailgated are exacerbated if you are distracted by your phone or any of your vehicle’s infotainment or navigation systems.
- If you’re being tailgated, allow more space in front of your vehicle to let the aggressive driver pass you, or change lanes when it is appropriate and safe to do so.
Curbing Road Rage
We know drivers who tailgate are likely susceptible to road rage. On the flip side, tailgated drivers can become frustrated by the aggressive behavior, and possibly retaliate, resulting in road rage. If you find yourself being tailgated, do not use aggressive driving tactics of your own, such as brake checking – when one driver suddenly brakes to startle or warn another driver. This can result in an increasing escalation of aggressive behavior, making the situation worse. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation notes that tailgating normally only serves to anger other drivers and does not make them drive faster.
The AAA has provided the following tips on dealing with road rage:
- Don’t offend or behave in a way that may induce road rage in other drivers.
- If a driver is acting aggressively toward you, do not engage. Avoid making eye contact, and if you feel you are being targeted, drive to a public area or building with people to diffuse the situation.
- Prioritize safety over time. It is more important for you to remain safe on the road rather than arrive at your destination a few minutes early.
Tailgating significantly contributes to danger on the road, but, being mindful of your behavior and the drivers around you can help you break the bad habit of tailgating, be a good on-the-road citizen, and make the roads safer.