How to deal with tailgaters

Tailgating. It’s dangerous. It’s annoying. It’s intimidating. It can be frightening. And it can happen at any time while you’re driving.

If you’re on the road and another car is driving much too close to the back of yours, that’s tailgating. It greatly increases the risk of collision. In fact, one in six drivers have reported damage to their cars thanks to this practice, from dents in the bodywork to broken rear lights.

In accordance with the Highway Code, you should maintain a two second gap between you and the car in front and double this in wet weather. For snowy or icy roads, a twenty-second gap is advised.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being tailgated, what should you do about it?

There are two types of tailgaters: the aggressive and the passive.

The aggressive tailgater clearly wants to overtake you. They may drive aggressively up to your rear end in a manner which suggests: “Get out of the way.” A passive tailgater usually doesn’t want to overtake you but is happy to sit behind you for long periods of time while driving much too close for comfort. They may do this without realising it.

Each type of tailgater requires a different approach to deal with them.

The best thing to do with an aggressive tailgater is let them pass as soon as you can. Regardless of how aggrieved they make you feel, the sooner they can be on their way, the better. You may feel tempted to hold them up or do something to tease them, but it really isn’t worth your time and effort. Aggressive tailgaters are exactly what the name implies.

They are aggressive and if they are pushed to the limit, their aggression levels will only increase. In some cases, the aggressive tailgater may be exhibiting signs of road rage, so your best choice would be to take the moral high ground.

On the other hand, passive tailgaters require a different strategy. You should avoid putting too much distance between them and you, otherwise you may end up as a tailgater yourself. If the car in front were to break suddenly, you would find yourself in the middle of an unfortunate sandwich.

Instead, you should always make sure there’s plenty of room in front of you and do not brake sharply. Braking repeatedly, and thus flashing your brake lights, will lose its significance before long. Whenever you need to slow down, take it easy on the brakes. If for whatever reason you need to brake suddenly, the resulting brake lights should convince the tailgater to take appropriate evasive action. At this lower speed, the risk of sustaining damage will be reduced. And if damage is unavoidable and an insurance claim or police report ensues, you stand a better chance of being found at fault.

In conclusion, if you should encounter an aggressive tailgater, allow them to overtake safely and don’t do anything to provoke them. When dealing with a passive tailgater, don’t speed up, avoid braking sharply or flashing your headlights and take it easy on the accelerator.


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