Tailgating, or following too closely is a common and very preventable cause of accidents. What may seems to be a safe distance under normal driving conditions, if nothing unexpected happens, is often too close to for real driving situations. Should something happen, such as an animal crossing the road or tire failure, there is not enough space and time to safely avoid a collision.
If you have been in an accident caused by someone tailgating you, they may be held responsible, even if at first glance the accident appears to be your fault. Of course, you should never assume or admit fault in and accident, because there can always be contributing factors of which you are not aware.
Tailgating is not just dangerous, it’s against the law, and can carry significant weight in determining fault in an accident. Not only is following too closely a factor in itself, but the reason for following too closely may also be considered. If a driver is following too closely with the intent to harass or intimidate, you may be able to recover even more damages.
What is a safe distance?
The rule of thumb is 3 seconds, in ideal driving conditions. Of course, in hazardous conditions or heavy traffic you need more time to stop or react safely. Ideal conditions are:
- Clear weather
- Dry roads
- Light traffic
In moderate conditions the distance should be doubled to six seconds. Moderate conditions would include any one of the following:
- Heavy traffic
- Light rain
- Light fog
- Light snow (not sticking)
Poor conditions require tripling your distance, or even more. Poor conditions include:
- Heavy rain
- Thick fog
- Heavy snow
- Icy roads (even if not snowing)
Some people follow too closely because they are in a hurry, or because that is just how they drive. Whenever possible your safest bet is to get out of their way, no matter how irritating their behavior and how tempted you are to slow them down.
If you have multiple lanes to choose from, always stay in the right hand lane, except when passing. The left lane is for those who wish to pass. Even if you are driving the maximum speed limit, you should leave room for those who are traveling at faster speeds, to avoid an accident.
If you do not have two lanes, or if the person tailgating you will not take the left lane and pass, you may need to turn off onto another road or pull over. Pulling should only be done with caution, however. You do not want to cause an accident by slowing down to sharply, or place yourself in danger if the tailgater is trying to intimidate you off of the road for carjacking.
Tailgaters don’t always hit the person they are following. Sometimes, because they see that they cannot stop quickly, they will swerve into oncoming traffic or off of the road, injuring pedestrians.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident because another driver was following too closely, contact an experienced auto accident attorney today.