Almost everyone who drives has experienced a tailgater at one time or another. They drive right up to within a few inches of your bumper and remain there, seemingly waiting for you to go faster, even if you are already driving the speed limit. You know that if you have to stop suddenly, they will slam into your car from behind, causing an accident. So how do you handle a tailgater? Because you cannot control their behavior, it’s up to you to drive defensively and safely to avoid a crash, hopefully.
Why Do People Tailgate?
While there isn’t a good excuse for anyone to be tailgating you, it can be important to understand the reasons behind tailgating so you can avoid doing it to others. After all, you can only control your own actions. Fewer people tailgating overall means fewer accidents and injuries for everyone. Some common causes of tailgating to be aware of include:
- Distracted driving
- Aggressive driving
- Overconfidence in driving skills
If you find yourself tailgating, remember that it dramatically increases the likelihood of a rear-end crash. Also, keep in mind that if you are on a 30-minute trip, going 65 mph instead of 55 mph only gets you to your destination about 5 minutes sooner. It may feel frustrating to go a little slower than you’d like, but it probably won’t impact your day overall. With that in mind, remember to relax, slow down, and give the car in front of you ten feet for every ten mph you’re traveling. Add more space if the weather conditions are bad or the vehicle in front of you is a large truck or motorcycle. This way, you can ensure everyone gets to their destination safely.
How Should You Respond to a Tailgater?
But what if you are driving safely and another vehicle is right on your bumper? It can be a stressful and aggravating experience. While you cannot change their driving, there are some actions you can take to improve the situation and keep yourself safe:
- Stay calm: Do not allow them to force you to drive above the speed limit or in a way that is unsafe for the current conditions.
- Avoid the tailgater, if possible: If you can, pull into a slower lane or pull off to the side of the road and let them go past you.
- Avoid eye contact: While it might be tempting to give a tailgater a stare down or some variety of gestures, that could escalate the situation into a road rage incident. Be the bigger person and stay professional.
- Don’t tap the brakes: Many people hit the brakes when they are being tailgated to attempt to get the vehicle to back off. However, this could backfire and create an accident if the driver is impaired or distracted and does not stop in time. It also has the potential to make the situation worse if the other driver is aggressive.
Can You Call the Police if Someone is Tailgating You?
If someone is driving in a reckless or overly aggressive manner and you are concerned about your safety, you are within your rights to contact the police to report the hazardous driver. Generally, using your phone while driving is not legal unless your vehicle has hands-free technology, but exceptions can be made for emergencies. Just make certain to be extra careful while making the call. Pulling over is best if you can safely do so. Be prepared to describe where you are, what the tailgating vehicle looks like, and the license plate number, if possible.
If the tailgating incident turns into an accident, ensure everyone gets any medical attention they need and contact the police to report the crash. Then call a personal injury lawyer who can advise you on your next steps.