Dealing with tailgating safely

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One of the biggest thing drivers find annoying on the road is tailgating.  These are the pesky motorists you get who follow you too closely, often at dangerous proximities.  Their actions can endanger themselves, you and your passengers as well as other road users.

Despite this, a survey carried out earlier this year showed that over half of drivers (53%) admitted to having tailgated someone else on the motorway, with men the worst culprits of the offence (61% vs. 46%.)

Whatever your opinion on tailgating, there’s no doubt that if you are on the receiving end of it, you’re likely to feel intimidated, maybe scared and at risk of an accident.  But how can you safely deal with the tailgater to ensure the incident passes without anyone getting hurt?

Consider the type of tailgating

Much of this depends on what kind of tailgating you are dealing with.  In the heat of the moment, it’s very tempting to slam on your brakes to give the person behind a scare.  However, it is important to remain calm and level-headed and deal with each situation in the appropriate way.

Most tailgaters can be broken down into two distinct types – those who are driving in an aggressive manner, and those who are doing it due to a lack of concentration or understanding of the gap required to maintain a safe enough distance in front of them.

There are ways to deal with both situations that will help you stay safe and minimise the chance of you and your passengers being involved in an unnecessary accident.

The aggressive tailgater (aka the bullies or the frustrators)

These are the kinds of drivers who will approach you from behind at a quick speed and then sit virtually on your bumper, no matter what you do to try and shake them off.  They enjoy nothing more than trying to bully everyone that gets in their way off the road.  It makes them feel big and powerful, yet their actions are, more often than not, incredibly dangerous.

Unsurprisingly, these are the type of tailgaters that really wind people up.  However, it’s important to fight the urges to try and wind them up, slow down, touch your brakes, speed up to get away or anything else that could put you in an even more hazardous situation than you are already in.  Road-rage incidents are also increasingly common at the moment, and it just isn’t worth getting into these circumstances for the sake of a mindless individual.

The best way to deal with an aggressive tailgater is just to let them pass – although you may feel that this is rewarding their behaviour, it just isn’t worth the hassle or risk to your safety, let alone the potential increase in your car insurance if you were to be involved in a collision.

If on the motorway, pull back into the lane to the left of you as soon as you have overtaken, while if on a smaller road you should pull over to the kerb when you are on a stretch where the visibility of oncoming traffic is good.

The passive tailgater (aka the daydreamers or the distracted)

There are more types of passive tailgater, generally as they don’t realise that they are doing it or frustrating the driver in front of them.  Often they have been distracted by some news, are listening to music, have kids in the back that are being unruly or are generally just a bit short of some common sense. Alternatively, they may have a complete inability to judge a safe two-second gap.

For this reason they don’t really pose an immediate risk to you and your passengers and are unlikely to attempt to try and pull off any dangerous overtaking manoeuvres around blind bends for example.

The best way to deal with this type of tailgating is to protect yourself, first and foremost. Slow down but avoid using your brakes – as they clearly aren’t paying too much attention they may not realise you are braking before it is too late and plough into the back of you.

Instead, ease off the gas and increase your own distance the car in front.  This means that if the traffic ahead of you slows down suddenly, you won’t need to react as sharply than you perhaps might have had to.  You then avoid becoming the ‘sandwich’ in the middle of a car pile-up.

Tailgating is dangerous, especially at motorway speeds (The Car Expert)
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Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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