You know tailgating when you see it, and the other driver’s eyes in your rearview mirrors. Following closely behind another car, tailgating increases the risk of a rear-end collision. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end collisions are the most common kind of car accident.

Studies have shown that driver attributes influence behavior leading to rear-end collisions. People who feel they were unfairly cut off and those who are running late, for example, may accelerate more aggressively.

But many of us have been running late and cut off in traffic without causing harm to others. So why is it that people feel the need to tailgate? Should we all be more aware of the risks of tailgating? And what should you do if you experience someone tailgating your vehicle?

Drivers More Likely to Tailgate Share Several Factors

The potential risks caused by tailgating are obvious, but what’s less clear is why someone might choose to tailgate another car. 

Studies have shown several behavioral factors that contribute to tailgating:

  • Aggressive driving tendencies. Drivers who engage in tailgating tend to have aggressive driving habits. These drivers are the constant honkers, the speeders, and the risky lane-changers. Younger people tend to take more risks and behave impulsively. They are more likely to tailgate.
  • Self-importance. Drivers who place their needs above the needs of others on the road are likely to tailgate. If these people are late for work, or in a hurry to get home, they will do whatever it takes to get an advantage on other drivers. This includes endangering others with their risky driving maneuvers.
  • A false sense of security. Some think their driving skill protects them from the risks of tailgating. Most drivers can’t avoid a catastrophe and those who think they can have a false sense of security. That is, they believe they can behave better than they can. The reality of high-speed driving, close vehicles, and human reaction time can combine tragically.

Of course, not everyone who tailgates exhibits these behaviors. Some people who exhibit these tendencies won’t necessarily tailgate while driving.

What are the Dangers of Tailgating

A significant danger of tailgating is that tailgating drivers do not leave enough room to stop if the car in front rapidly decelerates. That increases the chances of a rear-end collision. The first rear-end collision increases the chance of a chain-reaction multi-car pileup.

Neck and back injuries are frequently caused by rear-end collisions. 

Another tailgating danger is that it can pressure the driver in the front car to brake in an attempt to get the tailgater to back off. Commonly referred to as a brake check, if the front driver holds the brake pedal for even the slightest bit too long, it can bring about an imminent crash. Brake checks can also trigger tailgaters to road rage. 

Any aggressive driving can lead to crashes that cause catastrophic injuries

Although it can be tempting to try to hold a tailgater to appropriate behavior, it can be dangerous. So what do you do when you encounter a tailgater coming up on you?

Safe Drivers De-escalate Tailgating (or avoid it altogether)

When a driver is quickly approaching you from behind, there may be nothing you could do differently to change their behavior. However, you have control over your reaction to their behavior.

The recommended manner for responsible drivers of responding to tailgaters is using an evasive maneuver: pull into the adjacent lane and let them pass. It’s not advisable to make eye contact or gesture at the tailgater. Whatever their problem is, don’t make it yours.

Safe drivers can practice defensive driving. Defensive driving techniques can decrease the likelihood of car accidents. Some ways to avoid tailgaters on your back:

  • Drive the speed limit. In the absence of adverse weather conditions or congested driving conditions, maintain speed. Driving below the speed limit can trigger tailgaters.
  • Stay in the right lane. On a two-lane highway, the rightmost lane is universally designated as the slow lane. Since the right lane is known for slower traffic, it’s less likely that a tailgater will be driving in it.
  • Don’t tap the brakes. If you think a car is following too close behind, don’t tap the brakes. If the driver behind you does have a tendency to tailgate, tapping the brakes may trigger an incident of tailgating.

While it’s never your fault if a driver tailgates you, it is safer to practice defensive driving and de-escalate conflict on the roads. 

Filing a Tailgating Claim

If you were injured in a wreck caused by a tailgating driver, you should contact a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney can tell you about your legal rights and what you can do next to protect them.