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Is Tailgating Really As Dangerous As People Claim?

Whether you’re a new driver or you’ve been on the road for years, you’ve almost certainly heard of tailgating at some point. Tailgating is the act of following another vehicle too closely.

Although this behavior can occur at any time, it is most common on highways or congested roadways. While some drivers may be inclined to dismiss tailgating as a mere annoyance, the reality is that tailgating can pose a significant threat to everyone on the road. 

What Makes Tailgating So Dangerous?

Statistics paint a clear picture of the dangers associated with tailgating. Studies have consistently indicated that tailgating is a contributing factor in many rear-end accidents, which account for a substantial portion of all crashes.

A rear-end accident can range in minor damages from a fender-bender or multiple fatalities, if a crash occurs at high speeds or between disproportionately sized vehicles. When tailgating is the cause of a crash, it’s common that a car accident lawsuit is filed against the liable party.

When compared to other dangerous driving behaviors, tailgating is a concerningly common problem on our roadways. Data suggests that tailgating plays a role in a significant number of crashes, highlighting its widespread occurrence and potential consequences. Statistics fluctuate from year to year, but tailgating has been and continues to be a significant safety risk to motorists, pedestrians, and bikers.

Person driving

The Mechanics of Tailgating

The dangers of tailgating are rooted in the core concepts of physics. Following a vehicle too closely reduces the time a driver has to react to unexpected hazards, such as stopped traffic ahead or a fallen tree branch in the road. Reduced reaction time translates to a shorter stopping distance, giving a driver significantly less leeway to avoid a crash if the car in front slams on the brakes.

In addition to reducing reaction time, tailgating limits a driver’s ability to perceive potential hazards. When following another vehicle too closely, it becomes challenging to see what lies ahead on the road. A driver may be unable to see a roadway hazard, stopped vehicle, or other dangerous condition because they can’t see around the car they are following. This reduced visibility significantly increases the risk of a serious crash.

Why Do Drivers Tailgate One Another?

Although tailgating can be caused by something as simple as inattentiveness, there are oftentimes psychological factors that make a driver more or less likely to indulge in this dangerous practice.

Frustration, impatience, and aggressive driving tendencies frequently cause a driver to make poor decisions, such as tailgating the car in front of them. The stress of traffic congestion can further exacerbate these emotions, creating a volatile mindset that increases the risk to everyone on the road.

In some cases, tailgating escalates into full-on instances of road rage. The frustration and perceived aggression associated with tailgating triggers hostile behavior from drivers, posing a threat to the aggressive motorist and everyone around them.

Furthermore, social influences and incorrect perceptions of “acceptable driving behavior” may also play a role in the prevalence of tailgating.

Following another car

Taking Action to Prevent Tailgating

Fortunately, you aren’t powerless to protect yourself and your loved ones from the undeniable risks of tailgating. To begin with, you should always take care to maintain a safe following distance. In normal driving conditions, the three-second following rule can help you stay safe.

Leave three seconds of space between your vehicle and the car you’re following when traveling at normal speeds, giving you a buffer to brake or take evasive action in an emergency. 

Technological advancements can also mitigate some of the risks of tailgating. Features like automatic emergency braking systems can detect slowing traffic and apply brakes automatically. By staying informed about modern technological advancements and purchasing a vehicle that has safety features like this, you reduce your risk of getting into a wreck.

Finally, traffic laws and law enforcement frequently deter tailgating and other forms of dangerous driving. Strict enforcement of following distance regulations and penalties for aggressive driving behavior show a community that unsafe driving will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

Tailgating Puts Countless Lives at Risk

Although it might not seem like tailgating is a big deal at first thought, this type of dangerous driving can be very problematic. Drivers that tailgate will almost inevitably have slower reaction times, a poor view of the road, and an increased likelihood of making aggressive or poor decisions behind the wheel.

By understanding the risks of tailgating, making an effort to implement safe following distances, and embracing new safety technologies, drivers can protect not just the people in their car but also other motorists on the road.

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