What is tailgating?
Tailgating is a term often used to describe when drivers don't maintain a safe distance. If you're following another car too closely and the car in front of you brakes suddenly, you may not be able to stop in time to avoid a crash, so it's best to avoid tailgating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends keeping at least three or four seconds of distance between you and other cars.
Tailgating occurs when drivers don't maintain a safe distance.
How to handle tailgaters
Here are some of the best ways to deal with a tailgating driver safely:
- Remain calm. It's essential to not escalate the situation, since aggressive driving can have devastating consequences. Avoid yelling, gesturing in the direction of the tailgater, and doing anything else that could upset them even more.
- Let the tailgater pass. If you're on a multi-lane road, move over to the right when it's safe, giving the driver a chance to pass you on the left. If you're on a single-lane road, consider pulling into a well-lit parking lot or gas station to let them pass.
- Stay steady. Speeding up and slowing down can increase your chance of getting hit. Keep your speed consistent so the person behind you knows what to expect. It'll allow them to pass when there's an opening.
- Don't slam on your brakes. Slamming on your brakes to send the driver a message that you don't like what they're doing may feel satisfying in the moment, but an accident won't improve the situation. If you need to hit the brakes, do so slowly and steadily to give the car behind you time to reduce its speed.
- Be extra cautious. When someone is following you closely, it can be difficult to predict what they'll do next. Use caution in your movements and pay special attention to what's going on everywhere on the road, not just behind you.
What happens if a tailgater hits you?
If someone rear-ends you, they're usually (but not always) considered at fault in the accident. If the other driver is at fault, their liability coverage should cover your injuries and damage to your vehicle.
However, if you do something to cause the accident, you may be considered at fault. If you have collision coverage, you can file a claim with your insurer to get reimbursed for the damage to your vehicle, and your liability coverage may pay for the other driver's injuries and property damage.
If there are witnesses, get statements from them or ask them to talk to the police when they arrive. This can help provide the authorities and insurance companies with an accurate report of what happened.