Tailgating occurs when one driver follows too closely to another and is a significant cause of about a third of all car accidents. Tailgating definitely could cause an accident.
Following at a safe distance gives you time to observe what traffic is doing and react accordingly as needed. As long as you have good tires and brakes, your vehicle should be able to stop safely without slamming on the brakes or creating a disturbance and potential collision.
If you are driving an RV, large truck, or another heavy vehicle, the safe stopping distance is longer. You need to follow even farther back to allow for safe stopping under good driving conditions. The worse the road conditions, the bigger the gap should between your vehicle and the one ahead of you.
What Makes Tailgating Dangerous
Tailgating is a contributing factor in about a third of all vehicular accidents. With more than two million car accidents occurring on U.S. roads every year, tailgating clearly is a big problem when it occurs.
Tailgating makes it impossible to react safely if the vehicle in front must stop suddenly. If your front bumper is practically touching the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead of you, you are creating a very dangerous situation that would not exist if you just slow down and increase the distance between vehicles.
Tailgating could cause you to strike the vehicle in front of you in its rear end. When a vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind, the vehicle in front could spin out of control or possibly roll. Those are very dangerous scenarios that could cause traffic fatalities. The faster you are traveling when the rear-end collision occurs, the more likely catastrophic personal injury could occur.
Tailgating drivers could cause serious injuries if they wind up striking one or more vehicles in the rear end. Whiplash easily could occur and happens when someone is struck unexpectedly from the rear or side. When the head and neck suddenly and violently jerk around from the forces caused by a vehicular accident, the spine undergoes a whip-like action that damages soft tissue.
Most whiplash injuries heal on their own in a few days or weeks, but some injuries can have long-lasting effects. They all are very painful and could make you feel like you suffered a broken neck. Broken bones and spinal cord injuries also could occur in an accident caused by a tailgating driver.
Tailgating Contributes to Road Rage
Tailgating is illegal in every state and is considered a type of aggressive driving. If you are tailgating a driver because you are upset at how that driver is handling a vehicle, you are driving aggressively.
If your aggressive driving is in combination with other aggressive driving behaviors, you could be guilty of road rage. If you are speeding while tailgating, repeatedly honking your horn, or making obscene gestures to the driver in front of you, a criminal charge for road rage might occur.
If the driving behavior causes an accident and injuries, a local prosecutor almost certainly would file charges for road rage and other offenses. If you use your vehicle to endanger others, you might be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
How to Prevent Tailgating
Tailgating generally is a crime of passion caused by losing your temper at another driver. The passion might arise from running late, being angry about something unrelated to driving, or a perceived mistake made by another motorist. Keeping a cool head while driving and maintaining a safe following distance will help to prevent tailgating and related accidents.
You can determine how many seconds you are following by watching when the rear wheels of the vehicle in front of you pass over a lane marking or another object. A sign on the side of the road also works well as a marker. When the vehicle in front of you passes the marker, you count the number of seconds that transpire before your vehicle reaches that same mark.
Under good driving conditions, you should maintain at least a two-second gap between your vehicle and any vehicle that you might be following. If road conditions are bad or the weather is putting rain on the road, you should increase the gap to four seconds to allow for a greater stopping distance.
When roads are snowy or icy, you should increase your following distance to eight or even 10 seconds. That will help you to slip and slide a bit while still coming to a safe stop if the vehicle ahead of you loses control or otherwise comes to a surprising stop.
How to Handle a Tailgater
If you are driving the speed limit and abiding by the rules of the road, you should not have any issues while driving. Unfortunately, other motorists might have issues that cause them to overreact to what should be a perfectly acceptable situation.
Tailgating could occur because another driver is upset about just about anything. It also might happen because someone is not driving sensibly and enjoys tailgating others.
No matter the reason, the result is the same. You have a driver behind you who is following dangerously close in violation of safety rules and traffic laws. If that happens, you should not speed up. The faster you go, the more likely an accident might occur.
If possible, you should look for a passing lane or passing zone and slow down to encourage the other driver to pass you. Waving the driver around you while you slow down should encourage a sensible motorist to safely pass your vehicle.
If the tailgating driver continues to drive aggressively and stays on your rear end, you should try to exit the roadway. If you are on the freeway, it would be a good time to exit and get some fuel or stop for a short break. If the offending driver follows you, a public location and preferably a police station would be a good place to go to discourage possible criminal activity.
Other Types and Signs of Aggressive Driving
Tailgating is a clear sign of aggressive driving and could contribute to road rage charges against the offending motorist. When tailgating happens, it usually is accompanied by other types of aggressive driving.
Speeding almost certainly could occur and is another clear sign of aggressive driving. So is repeatedly honking the horn, flashing the headlights at the vehicle in front, and yelling or making obscene hand gestures.
If you are driving and encounter a motorist who is driving aggressively and exhibiting clear signs of road rage, you should not confront that motorist. It always is best to try to distance yourself from aggressive drivers and even exit the road if needed.
How to Prove Fault in Tailgating Accidents
If a tailgating driver causes an accident and injuries that you survive, you could have a legal case to make. A tailgater might try to accuse you of driving erratically or having one or more taillights out and blame you for the accident. If you survive an accident caused by a tailgating driver, you might need the help of an experienced car accident lawyer to prove fault.
It helps if your vehicle has a rearview camera or sensors that could record when a vehicle is following too closely. Maintenance records also could affirm your vehicle was reasonably maintained and had all working lights and traffic signals to counter any false claims by an at-fault motorist.
Whenever a tailgater rear-ends another vehicle, the offending driver generally is considered liable for following too closely. However, the offending driver and the insurer for the vehicle will do their best to deflect fault whenever possible.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Hold Tailgaters Accountable for an Accident
If you were involved in a car accident caused by another driver who was tailgating you, reach out to the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. Our legal team will investigate the cause of the accident and hold the negligent party accountable. Call us today at 215-569-4888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.