Tailgating (driving too closely behind another vehicle) is not only annoying, it is dangerous, and a common cause of rear-end accidents. Tailgating is a pet peeve of most drivers – seeing a car in your rear view mirror that is disturbingly close can feel like the other driver is perpetrating an act of aggression – and sometimes he or she is. Besides aggressive/road-rage driving, other reasons for tailgating include impatience, inattention or ignorance.
Perhaps some of us remember the adage from driver’s training that you should allow two car lengths between the front of your vehicle and the back of another when driving. Studies have shown that following for less than two seconds behind the leading vehicle creates the greatest risk of a rear-end accident. The risk is even greater in heavy, stop-and-go traffic.
To make sure you are not tailgating, choose a focal point ahead in your line of vision, and make sure you can count at least three seconds from the leading vehicle passing the focal point with the rear of the car to your vehicle’s front end reaching it. If the weather conditions are adverse, or there is compromised visibility or heavy traffic, double that time to six seconds.
If you find yourself being tailgated, stay calm. Do not view the driver behind you as an aggressor, or opponent that must be taught a lesson – pumping the brakes, or worse, abruptly stopping – in order to “get back” at the tailgater increases the chances of an accident greatly, and an accident will ruin everyone’s day. Sometimes staying calm is easier said than done. Imagine the tailgater is rushing to the hospital to deliver a baby. If it is safe to change lanes, do so to let the hurried party pass. If you are on a two lane highway, move to the right or the shoulder, and slow to allow the tailgater to pass safely. Then go about your day safely. Your best chance at avoiding a tailgater on a California freeway is to stay in the right lane(s), for slower traffic and using the left “fast” lane for passing only.
I’m Ed Smith, an auto accident attorney in Sacramento, California. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident caused by tailgating, give me a call at (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly advice. If you are out of the area, you call call us at (800) 404-5400.