“There is absolutely no upside to tailgating – you will not get to your destination faster, you are not a skilled driver for doing it, and you are putting so many innocent people at risk.” Those are the words of 1992 Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell, stating the dangers and, often, pointlessness of tailgating when backing National Highways ‘Stay Safe, Stay Back’ campaign.
Having a vehicle right up close behind you when powering down the motorway is an extremely alarming and nerve-wracking experience, with 46% of people claiming they are both angry and scared when it happens. Whether it’s a van trying to bully you out of the way, or an Audi desperate to get past you because it’s an Audi, tailgating is a dangerous habit. In this blog, we’ll explain what it is, why it’s dangerous and how to avoid it – because sometimes you might actually be partly at fault.
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What is tailgating?
Simply put, tailgating is when you drive far too close to the car ahead of you. It is also a direct contravention of the Highway Code, which states that you should “allow at least a two second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster moving traffic”. In this instance, faster moving traffic means motorways or dual carriageways, as if you were to keep the same level of distance between yourself and the car in front of you while waiting at traffic lights in the centre of town, you’re either going to annoy a lot of people or just find people cutting in front of you anyway.
What is the problem with tailgating?
Other than being annoying and distracting when you’re being tailgated, the act of tailgating is incredibly dangerous. Tailgating is a factor in one in eight of all collisions on the road network, and 87% of drivers say they have witnessed it taking place. The biggest danger to tailgating is that by driving too close to the car in front, you are minimising the amount of time you’ll have to react in the event the car ahead has to slam on the brakes.
Is tailgating illegal in the UK?
If you’re seen to be tailgating by the police, then you could be landed with a fine under the banner of careless driving. If you are slapped with a careless driving penalty then you could find yourself with three points on your licence and a £100 fine, or, if a serious collision occurs as a result of your tailgating, you could face jail time and a driving ban.
What to do if you’re being tailgated
Although it is incredibly frustrating to find yourself being tailgated, the most important thing to ensure you do is to remain calm at all times. While tailgating itself is illegal, don’t get drawn into reacting as you could then fall into the dangerous driving category. This means no slowing down or brushings of the brake pedal – also known as brake checking.
If you’re in the outside lane of a dual carriageway or one of the outer lanes of a motorway, then pulling into an inside lane (when safe to do so) is an easy way to remove the problem quickly. It’s also worth having a quick check of your own speedometer just to make sure you’re not driving too slowly, and adjusting your speed safely and accordingly.
Is there any way to prevent being tailgated?
It’s easy to blame the tailgater and say they need to be more aware, but if you’re sitting in the outside lane and only doing 60mph, you are just as much at fault, and you’ll be frustrating the car behind, potentially making the entire situation worse. Being acutely aware of your surroundings is the most effective way to ensure that you’re safe from tailgating, whether that’s keeping an eye on your mirrors and who may be moving faster than you, whilst also driving to the conditions and speed limits of the road.
If it feels like you’re being tailgated every time you head out onto a multi-lane carriageway, then it may be worth taking a step back and asking someone to assess your driving skills. While you could just be very unlucky, chances are there are steps you can take to avoid having someone perched on your back bumper.
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