Who’s that in the Rear View Mirror? Dealing with Tailgaters

a car tailgating a van

Give people space. Only a fool breaks the 2 second rule. And have you seen how much braking distances are impacted by the wet, snow and ice? Doesn’t matter. People still love to tailgate.

However much of a rush you might be in, this is annoying at best, and at worst, downright dangerous. And could lead to a severe crash if someone has to brake suddenly. So what’s the safest and most sane way to deal with tailgating drivers?  

What is tailgating?

Simply put, tailgating is when another driver gets incredibly close to the driver in front. Sometimes this is an aggressive move to either make the driver in front go faster or pull out of the way and let the car behind go through, but other times it could just be that the driver is not totally aware of what they’re doing.  

Whatever the intention, tailgating is dangerous, inconsiderable and puts drivers under undue pressure. Be aware that it’s not always coming from a place of anger however…

What does the law say?

Like most people, the police are not big fans of tailgating. Perpetrators can be charged with careless driving, and could be landed with a £100 penalty charge and 3 points on their license. If a collision actually occurs, then this could be upgraded to driving ban or even a prison sentence in the unfortunate event that someone is severely injured.

What are they thinking?

Some tailgaters will simply try to bully you out of the way. Often they might be local drivers who know the back roads and want to speed through to their destination whilst you’re taking it a bit more cautiously. As we mentioned previously, others could have a lot on their mind, or could simply be in another world, listening to music or day-dreaming – leading them to not be aware that they’re putting pressure on another driver.

Others could be in a rush for a meeting or appointment. Inexperienced drivers may be unaware of the need for safe spacing and others could be distracted by their internal state and driving on autopilot. You never know what people are dealing with, but this is no excuse for such careless driving.

Dealing with Tailgaters… Do’s and Do Not’s

­Do try the following to deal with tailgaters:

  • Stay calm – avoid getting angry, be the bigger person and just maintain the speed that makes you comfortable. Don’t go below the speed limit deliberately. Turn down the radio and concentrate so you don’t have to play their game.
  • Let them pass when it’s safe to do so – pull over if you want to just get on with life beyond this little situation. Then check both ways and your blind spot, before you get back on your travels. Breathe a sigh of relief and welcome to less hassle.
  • Always leave plenty of space for the car in front – don’t give yourself another problem by allowing the pressure of the driver behind to force you to encroach on the space you’re giving the driver in front.
  • Slow down gradually with your foot off the juice – rather than braking suddenly, which could shock or cause annoyance to the tailgater.
  • Ensure your driving is consistent and on point – brush up on your highway code and remember – driving too slowly is an annoyance for other drivers, and you should be attempting to drive at the regulated speed limit. If someone is pushing you to go beyond the speed limit then don’t break the law.
  • Keep your wits about you – watch to see which vehicles are tailgating and which are giving others room. Don’t get in front of a potential tailgater and even consider sitting at a safer speed behind a bigger vehicle, if you don’t want the hassle.
distance to avoid tailgating

And don’t try the following:

  • Leave the tactics at home – forget trying to get them to back off by suddenly slowing down or hitting the brakes over and over to try to get them to rethink their strategy. It never works. Two wrongs never make a right, and there’s a real danger you could cause an accident. Silly games, as they say, win silly prizes.
  • Don’t wind up the other driver – leave hand gestures out of the window back in the 1990s where they belong. If someone is already in the red zone with you because they can’t force their way past then, pushing them into full on road rage comes with a whole other set of dangers.
  • Take it easy on the speed – don’t give into your anxiety and put your foot down hard, because this could cause you to encroach on the person in front, creating another dangerous little situation.
  • Be careful where you stop – give yourself the space to take it easy. Don’t pull over when you don’t really have the space or there isn’t the room to do so. If you’re going to commit to letting the car behind pass, make sure they have room.
  • Are you actually hogging the lane – even if you’re going the full speed limit, it’s not your place to slow down traffic in the fast lane. If other drivers want to speed, it’s up to them. Make sure you’re not driving too slowly in the outside lane and move back to the middle or left lane as soon as it’s safe to do so.

And finally

Is it ever OK to tailgate? Get out of here. Of course it’s not and you shouldn’t even have to ask. Most of us have been victims of this behaviour, and you should never take it personally. We’re going to repeat ourselves, because tailgating is a dangerous driving offence.

However, it is important to recognise that sometimes both drivers could be at fault.

If you’re out for a scenic trip and want to dawdle, then it’s unreasonable to expect other drivers to simply sit in a queue as you ignore the speed limit, which works both ways. You can’t be doing 25mph in a 40mph zone as it creates a different kind of danger. Additionally forcing drivers to slow down on the motorway is equally inconsiderate, especially when they are going at the national speed limit, and could cause a crash.

Be courteous. Be aware. And like every time you go out there and drive your car, make sure that you have your eyes wide open and ears listening out, giving the job in hand your full attention. Tailgating will always happen, but stay cool and simply let the situation pass.

This entry was posted in Driving on by Justin Smith.

About Justin Smith

As the man at the helm of BreakerLink, it is no surprise that its Director, Justin Smith, has always had a keen interest in cars, bikes and most things wheeled. Having spent over two decades in the car parts industry, Justin combines his passion that since 2002, has successfully united those looking for new and used car parts with the breaker that supplies them. Follow Justin on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: These articles are for guidance purposes only. If you have any questions regarding any matter relating to your vehicle we would recommend that you seek the advice of an appropriate professional. We accept no responsibility or liability should you suffer financial or personal damages in relation to the advice stated on this website.