Tailgating – a familiar site in our mirrors

What is tailgating? In terms of driving, tailgating is simply driving too close to the vehicle in front. I’m sure almost everyone has had an experience with tailgating.

It doesn’t take long, even as a learner driver you’ll experience it all too often. You look into your rear view mirror not to see another vehicle, but the face of the driver behind so close that it appears they’re on your back seat.

Tailgating is a rather unusual driving habit as there’s apparently so little to be gained by doing it, but yet so much to lose. So why do people do it? Let’s look at why, the dangers associated with tailgating, how to deal with a tailgater and possible fines.

Is tailgating dangerous?

Tailgating is incredibly dangerous as it leaves such a small margin for stopping distance; both thinking distance and braking distance combined. Unfortunately tailgating is a highly selfish form of driving ‘technique’, as the consequences that typically result in an accident, seldom involve the offending driver alone.

Tailgating – a familiar site in our mirrors

Persistent tailgaters are effectively limiting themselves to when they will be involved in an accident, rather than if, as it’s impossible to consistently maintain the levels of concentration needed to drive in such a way. Tailgaters are limiting themselves to the necessity of concentrating on only the vehicle in front, whereas they should also be concentrating on the road up ahead.

Tailgaters are also removing ‘exit routes’. One of the main reasons for the invention of anti-lock brakes is the prevention of locked wheels so that a driver in an emergency braking situation can maintain control and has the ability to steer away from an accident, to find an exit route. Tailgaters have no exit routes. Their only route is into the 1.5 tonne piece of metal in front of them.

Tailgating and why people do it

There’s various reasons. A particularly common reason for tailgating is being late. We’ve all been there before – running late, you get stressed, need to get there faster and find yourself edging ever closer on the driver in front in a bid to subconsciously push them along at a faster speed. For the better drivers common sense usually prevails and the realisation that you’re probably late because you didn’t plan your day properly and that tailgating isn’t going to get me there any faster.

Other drivers with motive; delivery drivers (white van man) often have a huge workload to accomplish in a day, and again stress plays a part in a drivers habits. Taxi drivers getting to their next job as quickly as possible, all of which constitutes to the motives behind tailgating.

Then there’s the bully. The driver that gains satisfaction from tormenting others. A large proportion however, are those that don’t even realise they’re doing it, and their motivation being security.

It’s a little like driving in fog, you can see almost nothing in front of you, you’re nervous and stressed, and then you see a set of tail lights up ahead. You feel somewhat confident that ‘ you’re not in this alone’ and feel compelled to get a little closer so as not to lose them.

These tailgaters believe they benefit by copying the vehicle in front, maintain the same road position and speed, and to keep close so to provide them with the illusion of security. Whatever the motives, it’s always going to be bad and dangerous driving.

Click to know the Disadvantages and dangers of tailgating