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Why does tailgating persist on U.S. roadways?

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2023 | Car Accidents

Despite numerous safety campaigns and strict traffic regulations, one aspect of road behavior that persists is tailgating. You’ve likely experienced it at some point, that uncomfortable feeling of another vehicle following too closely behind yours.

Why does tailgating persist on U.S. roadways, and what drives this risky behavior? Understanding the reasons behind tailgating and its risks can be essential for automobile owners who want to actively avoid getting into preventable accidents.

The psychology of tailgating

Tailgating occurs when drivers are in a hurry or impatient. Everyone seems to be in a rush, whether for work, appointments or personal matters. The urgency to reach a destination quickly can lead to impatience, which, in turn, prompts tailgating.

Moreover, the relative anonymity provided by the confines of a vehicle can bring out the worst in some individuals. When people are behind the wheel, they might exhibit behavior they wouldn’t in face-to-face interactions. This sense of detachment can lead to road rage and aggressive driving, often manifesting as tailgating.

The dangers of tailgating

Tailgating dramatically reduces a driver’s reaction time. A situation can turn hazardous in a split second, and if a driver is tailgating, they may not have enough time to react. Whether it’s sudden braking or an obstacle in the road, not maintaining a safe following distance can lead to accidents.

Tailgating can also initiate chain reactions on the road. If one tailgating driver has to slam on the brakes due to a sudden obstacle or traffic slowdown, it can cause a domino effect, potentially involving multiple vehicles. This behavior not only endangers the tailgating driver and the motorist they’re following, but also innocent bystanders.

Preventing and dealing with tailgating

As a responsible driver, maintaining a safe following distance is your best defense against tailgaters. The general rule of thumb is to stay at least three seconds behind the vehicle in front of you, which can provide ample time to react to any sudden changes in traffic, even if that change in traffic occurs behind you. If you find yourself being tailgated, it’s essential to stay calm. Do not engage with the aggressive driver, and avoid brake-checking, which can escalate the situation. Instead, safely change lanes or pull over to allow them to pass.

In the event that you are involved in a crash caused by a tailgater, don’t hesitate to pursue compensation by seeking legal guidance. Tailgating is almost always preventable, which means there’s likely no excuse for the other driver’s behavior.