How to deal with tailgating drivers

Tailgating NRMA Driver Training

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

In NSW, rear end collisions make up the most recorded crash type, with a whopping 19,462 incidents reported on our roads in the five-year period between 2015 and 2019. Perhaps unsurprisingly, metro areas are overrepresented in the statistics with 15,796 rear-enders versus regional NSW’s 3,666 over this timeframe.

Commonplace belief amongst motorists says the vehicle following during a rear end crash is generally at fault. Insurance companies also tend to look favourably upon the driver who was crashed into, meaning excuses like being distracted, in a hurry or the leading car braking unexpectedly rarely reverse guilt.

What should I do if I find myself being tailgated?

The penalty for tailgating is currently a $464 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.

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