Tailgating is a driving behavior in which a vehicle follows too closely behind another vehicle. This increases the chances of a rear-end collision, and increases the chances of chain-reaction rear-end accidents, which involve multiple vehicles.
And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 20 percent of all car accidents in the U.S. each year involve rear-end collisions. These accidents cause 2,000 fatalities each year and nearly one million injuries. (1)
Most drivers have experienced tailgating, and many drivers have tailgated at least once. But habitual tailgating may not only lead to accidents, it can trigger road rage in other drivers that can cause a tragic event.
So why do drivers tailgate, and what are the dangers of tailgating? If you’re in a situation in which something is tailgating your vehicle, how should you handle it?
Why Do Drivers Tailgate?
So why do drivers tailgate, and why does this behavior elicit so much anger and frustration for the drivers of vehicles that are being tailgated?
Researchers who study the psychology of driving, have identified several factors that contribute to tailgating, including:
- Tendency for Aggressive Driving – many drivers who habitually tailgate also exhibit other types of aggressive driving such as constant honking, speeding, and unsafe lane changes. Young drivers tend to be more impulsive and risk-taking, and therefore are more likely to tailgate. (2)
- Self-Importance – tailgaters are also often drivers who believe that their needs are more important than those of other drivers. So if these drivers are late for work or late for an appointment, they don’t care who is in their way because they must arrive at their destination even if it means inconveniencing or endangering other drivers.
- False Sense of Security – some tailgaters believe that they can stop their cars in time to prevent a catastrophe. But the truth is, these drivers are guilty of a false sense of security, because cars are not indestructible, and reaction times are often much slower in real-life than they are in theory.
The Dangers of Tailgating
One of the dangers of tailgating is that drivers who practice this behavior eliminate any room to bring their vehicles to a stop if the driver in front of them hits the brakes.
That means a much higher likelihood of a rear-end collision, and an increased chance of a chain-reaction rear-end collision event involving multiple vehicles.
Another danger of tailgating is that it often triggers the driver of the vehicle in front of the tailgater to tap the brakes to alert the tailgater to back off.
This is known as a ‘brake check,’ and if the driver presses on the brakes for even a second too long, it can lead to a rear-end collision.
Furthermore, tailgating can trigger a road-rage incident if tailgaters believe that drivers in the vehicles in front of them are playing games by brake checking.
Tailgaters can respond by following even more closely, or pulling into an adjacent lane and using their vehicles as battering rams.
“It’s important for drivers to remember that tailgating is an example of aggressive driving,” stated Dallas Car Wreck Attorney Amy Witherite, partner of the law firm Eberstein Witherite, LLP. “Tailgaters exhibit classic patterns of dangerous driving, so safe drivers must immediately practice evasive action by pulling into another lane, and refraining from gesturing or even looking at the tailgater, which can escalate the situation.”
What To Do With Tailgaters
In fact, Witherite’s advice about what to do with tailgaters is accurate.
Car safety experts also recommend that in addition to pulling into another lane and allowing the tailgater to pass, you should also follow these good practices:
- Avoid ‘Brake Checking’ – tapping your brakes to warn off the tailgater can just escalate the situation or guarantee a rear-end collision.
- Stay In the Right Lane – the right lane is for slower traffic; therefore it is less likely that a tailgater will bother you in that lane.
- Don’t Drive Below the Speed Limit – unless there are adverse weather or driving conditions, don’t drive below the speed limit as this could help trigger tailgating.
Filing a Tailgating Claim
If the driver of a vehicle that was following your car too closely has injured you, you may think about filing a tailgating claim. The team at 1-800-CAR-WRECK® has handled many of these cases, and we have the resources to obtain rightful and fair compensation on your behalf.
“Tailgating accidents are becoming more common as aggressive behavior incidents continue to rise,” stated Amy Witherite. “Our job after you suffer an injury in these accidents is to keep your life running, and to help you get through your daily activities until you recover physically and regain your peace of mind.”