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Tailgating – what it is and why you shouldn’t do it

Oct 18, 2018

Tailgating has been in the news with Highways England recently launching a campaign to try and stop the behaviour. In light of this we’ve put together a quick guide to what tailgating is and why you shouldn’t do it!

So what is tailgating? The official definition is to ‘drive too closely behind (another vehicle)’. This means that the following vehicle would not have enough time to stop without causing a collision if the vehicle in front stopped suddenly.

A recent study revealed tailgating gives 49% of road users road rage. But as well as being a nuisance Highways England suggest that tailgating is to blame for 1 in 8 serious accidents on motorways and major A roads. When asked about being tailgated, people reported a sense of being targeted and victimised by the car behind. These feelings can lead to drivers being distracted and therefore more likely to make mistakes.

There is no benefit to tailgating – you won’t reach your destination any quicker by reducing the gap between you and the car ahead. So why do people tailgate? On motorways the behaviour could be intended to make another driver move lane or to encourage a car ahead to driver faster. Highways England put a lot of it down to people driving on autopilot or being unaware of the gap they should be leaving between themselves and the vehicle ahead.

The ideal gap to leave is a 2 second gap. This is doubled in wet weather given the increased stopping distance required.

Tailgating is classed as a careless driving offence and if caught you could face a £100 fine and 3 penalty points. Punishment could be more severe if the behaviour results in a serious accident.

The behaviour of tailgating is something that fleet managers and those who work in the transport and logistics industry should be aware of as it’s easy to go into autopilot when you spend a large proportion of your time on the road. But remember, the effect on the driver ahead can be significant particularly on their ability to concentrate. Feelings of intimidation and victimisation could also be heightened if the vehicle behind is a large HGV or van so keep this in mind and as Highways England would say – Don’t be a space invader!

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