Most drivers have been in a situation where they feel they are being followed too closely by another vehicle. The obvious risk is that the tailgating driver won’t have enough time to brake if needed, but that’s increased by the intimidation and distraction caused to the driver in front.
Broadly speaking, tailgating means driving without sufficient distance between vehicles to avoid a crash. Reaction time to an emergency ranges from 1.5 to 3 or more seconds, which means even the best of us are guilty of tailgating at some time.
Tailgating is a key factor to the most common serious crashes on our roads. More than 10,000 rear-end crashes are reported in NSW each year, with a greater number going unreported, as no one is injured. According to the RMS, rear-end crashes make up a staggering 40% of all reported crashes for experienced drivers.
The penalty for tailgating is a $425 fine and 3 demerit points. If you are being tailgated by an aggressive driver, do not allow them to indirectly control your speed or observation through intimidation. Get out of their way by pulling over or turning left. Avoid slowing or flashing your brake lights, as this may escalate the situation to road rage. You can report the driver to police or the business to which the vehicle belongs.
A 2-3 second gap (4-6 seconds in the wet) from the vehicle in front will ensure you have enough time to react and stop in most emergencies. This can be a challenge at first and you may feel like it’s costing you time, but watch a few tailgating drivers and you’ll see their progress is no better than your own.
Has a tailgater ever caused you to lose your cool?
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Whenever this topic comes up, we get a lot of messages from NRMA Members who get frustrated by slow drivers. So it’s worth clarifying what exactly are the road rules when it comes to driving under the speed limit, travelling in the right-hand lane on roads and tailgating?
According to the NSW Road Rules you cannot drive so abnormally slowly that you cause an obstruction. An example of driving ‘abnormally slowly’ would be, if you were travelling at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour on a road with a speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour, then you could be causing an obstruction to other drivers if there is no reason for you to drive at that speed on that road.
Drivers are to keep to the left on a multi-lane road where the speed limit is over 80 kilometres per hour and are only allowed to drive in the right lane in certain circumstances:
- Turning right
- Making a U-turn from the centre of the road
- There is a ‘Left lane must turn left sign’ or left traffic lane arrows apply and the driver is not turning left
- The driver is required to drive in the right lane if traffic signs require a particular kind of vehicle to drive in the marked lane indicated by the signs.
- Avoiding an obstruction
- Traffic in every lane is congested
- The right lane is a special purpose lane in which the driver is permitted to drive
- There are only two marked lanes and the left lane is a slow vehicle turn out lane.
If a ‘Keep Left Unless Overtaking’ sign is displayed, then you must keep left regardless of the speed limit (unless overtaking).
Tailgating is a definite no-no and the Road Rules make this clear: “A driver must drive a sufficient distance behind a vehicle travelling in front of the driver so the driver can, if necessary, stop safely to avoid a collision with the vehicle.”
What do you think about these rules? What are your thoughts on drivers who travel under the speed limit?