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What is Tailgating and Why is it Dangerous?

Tailgating is common. It’s also antisocial, dangerous, and illegal.

It involves driving very close to the car in front – so close that, were the car in front to stop suddenly, a collision would be unavoidable.

Why Do People Tailgate?

Sometimes people tailgate other drivers to try and prompt them into speeding up. For example, they might be hogging the outside lane on a motorway. And yes, this behaviour might be annoying, and it might be holding you up, but it’s absolutely no excuse for tailgating.

Yet not all tailgaters are aggressive or impatient. More experienced drivers can easily slip into “autopilot”, particularly if they’re travelling long distances. They simply might not notice that they’re travelling too close to the car in front.

Inexperienced drivers may tailgate, too. Perhaps they’re unaware of the need to keep a distance between their car and the car in front. Or maybe they’re simply not used to driving on motorways, and they’re not sure which lane to use.

But whatever the underlying cause, tailgating remains dangerous and illegal.

Why is Tailgating Dangerous?

It’s all to do with stopping distances.

The RAC has a fantastic guide to stopping distance. In short, it is chiefly determined by two things: The driver’s thinking distance, and the car’s braking distance. It’s important to remember that stopping distance will always be greater in wet or icy conditions.

The faster you’re travelling, the longer it will take you to stop. The speed of the car will also influence your thinking distance. The higher your speed, the more distance your car will cover before you realise you need to brake.

Tailgating generally takes place at high speeds. And when you’re travelling at a high speed, your thinking distance will be lower, and your braking distance will be higher. So if you’re driving very close to the car in front at high speed, and you suddenly need to brake, there will almost certainly be a collision.

Is Tailgating Illegal?

It certainly is. If you’re caught tailgating, you could receive a £100 fine and three points on your licence. In more extreme cases, you may receive a driving ban, or even a prison sentence.

There’s no excuse. Keep your distance from the car in front, even if you feel they’re driving too slowly. And make a commitment to staying completely focused at all times while driving. If you can avoid slipping into autopilot mode, you can avoid tailgating any other drivers by accident.

What If Someone Starts Tailgating Me?

For many motorists, the instinct might be to teach the tailgater a lesson. You might slow down even further, or else make it difficult for them to overtake. This is a bad idea. Some people tailgate out of anger. If you make the stress of the situation even worse, you may inadvertently cause a full-blown road rage incident.

If someone starts to tailgate you, whether they’re doing it aggressively or absent-mindedly, stay calm. Stick to the speed limit, and as soon as it’s safe to do so, move over to allow the tailgater to overtake.

If you find you’re regularly pursued by tailgaters, unfortunately the problem might well be with you. Perhaps you truly are driving too slowly, or perhaps you’re not using the motorway correctly. In any case, it’s time for you to revisit the Highway Code.

Tailgating is one of the leading causes of accidents on UK roads. This is one of many reasons why it’s important to get yourself covered with adequate car insurance. That way, if you’re ever involved in an incident, you’ll be able to rest assured that everything will be taken care of.