Tailgating is the scourge of safe driving that refuses to go away. This aggressive behaviour is difficult to react to in the correct way. It triggers a series of emotive responses, but it is absolutely essential that drivers are not intimidated enough to put themselves and their passengers in danger.
Drivers who tailgate need to accept the message that it is behaviour is unacceptable, that it is highly intimidating and is at the end of the day, a form of bullying and it won’t lead to a journey being any faster.
Some drivers will engage in tailgating, overlooking the known dangers, due to an overestimate of their own ability to react. In normal conditions on fast moving roads, drivers should leave a 2 second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front and in wet or bad weather conditions, that time should be doubled.
Most drivers will have experienced being tailgated, so the range of emotions will be familiar. They will likely include anger, frustration and fear, and each of those can lead to an understandable but nevertheless incorrect reaction. Frustration and fear may lead to increasing speed, whilst anger may lead to slowing down to irritate the tailgater. Increasing speed will simply cause the tailgater to increase speed and turn an already dangerous situation worse. Braking hard will lead to a full-blown road-rage incident, so obviously however tempting these behaviours must be avoided.
The safest response is to maintain a safe and correct speed and at the first opportunity, let the closely following driver overtake. On the motorway, this is simply a matter of pulling in once there is a safe gap. On other roads, maintaining a safe, steady speed is the first priority, but if the tailgater does not or can not overtake then slow your speed gradually and pull over if possible – even if this means taking a unintended turn, you can always rejoin your route when it is safe to do so.
Deliberate tailgating is both dangerous and at the same time, difficult to combat except by police action on the road. However, there is a less deliberate form born out of following too close without actually realising, so drivers need to be aware that they must leave a safe gap.
Lastly, most new vehicles are now fitted with anti-collision safety technology, which includes alerts that signal to the driver that they are travelling too close to the vehicle in front. But for someone intent of drivers dangerously too close these warning will be ignored.