Chances are, you have found yourself in a situation where you feel that you are being followed too closely by another vehicle. Not only is this behaviour intimidating, but the obvious risks of ‘rear-end’ crashes are heightened with the driver following having less time to brake.
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 that even the best of us are guilty of tailgating at some stage during our time behind the wheel.
The consequences of tailgating
Tailgating is a key factor to the most serious common 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.
In terms of liability, if a driver’s vehicle is struck from behind by another vehicle, the resulting accident is nearly always the striking driver’s fault. The cases of which can be due to drivers being distracted or induced by ‘being in a hurry’ and tail-gating in the hopes of ‘pushing’ other drivers out of the way.
What should I do if I find myself being tailgated?
The penalty for tailgating is currently a $439 fine and 3 demerit points. If you are being tailgated by an aggressive driver, it is in your best interest to not allow tailgaters to indirectly control your speed through intimidation. It is wise to move out of their way by pulling over or turning left, avoid slowing down or flashing your brake lights, as this may escalate the situation to road rage. Rather than taking matters into your own hands, you can report the driver to police or the business to which the vehicle belongs and appropriate measures of disciplinary action should be taken.
Create a safer environment for yourself and other road users
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 it may feel like it’s ‘costing you time’, but in comparison to other drivers who are tailgating, the difference in arrival time is slight. Plus, if you are participating in tailgating behaviour, the chances of you being involved in a crash (as noted) are heightened, which can make you seriously late for a deadline, or worse, not turning up at all.