Tailgating is a traffic violation in which a driver follows other vehicles too closely. Since it is likely for tailgaters to crash into the vehicle in front of them if it brakes suddenly, tailgating can result in serious accidents. It can also result in tickets from police, road rage incidents, and rear-end collisions.
Rear-end collisions cause 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries each year and account for around 23% of all motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are four types of tailgating: aggressive, distracted, ignorant, and complacent. Aggressive tailgating is purposely tailgating to intimidate other drivers into speeding up or moving into another lane. Distracted tailgating is when the driver is too distracted to care about the dangers of tailgating and doesn’t think about the risks. Ignorant tailgating occurs when a driver isn’t aware of the risks of tailgating. Lastly, complacent tailgating occurs when a driver who has never been in an accident is overconfident and assumes they will never cause a collision.
To avoid tailgating, it is important to maintain a safe following distance. This can generally be achieved by following the three-second rule. When following a vehicle, pick a roadside marker such as a tree or overhead road sign. Once the vehicle in front of you passes the marker, make sure that it takes you at least three seconds after to pass the same spot. This gives you enough time to recognize a hazard and respond safely if the vehicle in front of you brakes abruptly. Additionally, the following distance should be adjusted based on a vehicle’s speed, length, and weight. The following distance should also be doubled under bad road and weather conditions. Lastly, it is critical to drive defensively, anticipate hazardous situations, and manage aggression against tailgaters.
Always remember to avoid tailgating and follow the three-second rule to stay safe behind the wheel.