The Rules of Dealing With a Tailgater

Keep your cool with a tailgater and we'll all be safer on the road.
dealing with a tailgater

It’s frustrating when a slower driver keeps you from getting where you need to go, and it might be tempting to tailgate, but that’s never a good idea. To avoid being a tailgater all you need is an attitude adjustment and a lighter foot on the gas.

The problem comes when someone is riding your bumper so close you cringe every time you brake. AAA can protect you with car insurance if you are involved in a crash, but these tips from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety will help you avoid and safely deal with tailgaters before the situation escalates.

Stay Calm

The first thing you need to do when you look in your rearview mirror and see someone tailgating is to stay calm. That’s likely not your first reaction, but it’s the best one.

Your initial response is probably some combination of anger at the driver who is way too close and anxiety over the possibility they’ll hit you because there just isn’t enough distance between your cars. Let those emotions pass. If you react with anger or fear and start driving erratically, you’ll only make the situation worse. Continue driving the speed limit, stay cool and obey traffic signals.

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When You Need to Brake, Take it Slow…

Tailgating is dangerous because it reduces the space between cars to an unsafe distance. If you suddenly hit the brakes, the tailgater may not have enough time to react and slow down before hitting your car.

If you’re being tailgated, be extra cautious when you brake. Don’t slam on the brakes for no reason – and certainly not to be spiteful . Unless it’s an emergency braking situation, brake gently. You want the tailgater to see you slowing down and have enough time to slow down as well.

If you do happen to get into a fender bender, remember AAA Roadside Assistance is available 24/7.

dealing with a tailgater

Get Safely Out of the Way

If you’re on a multi-lane road and it’s safe to move to another lane, then put on your turn signal and get out of the way. This is the easiest way to end tailgating. The driver behind you is being unsafe and if you can solve the whole problem simply by switching lanes, then do so as soon as possible. If there’s not another lane, consider turning into a parking lot to let the tailgater pass.

It might be tempting to get angry at the tailgater, especially if you’re driving the speed limit and another car is in front of you. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Tailgating is a dangerous and aggressive driving tactic. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than half of fatal crashes from 2003 to 2007 involved an aggressive action. It’s far easier to change lanes and let a tailgater pass than become one of those statistics.

Drive at a Comfortable Speed 

There’s the chance you’ll be tailgated on a road where there’s no safe way to let the tailgater pass. If the road is clear in front of you, should you speed up to make the tailgater happy? It all depends on your situation.

If you’re doing the speed limit, then don’t speed up. No matter how impatient the driver behind you is, the solution is not to break the law and go faster than posted speed limits. Driving at a speed where you’re confident and in control of your car is key. Do not be pressured into driving outside your comfort zone. That’s simply swapping one unsafe situation for another.

Avoid Confrontation

You’ve been glaring at the driver in your rearview mirror for 10 minutes when there’s finally room for him to pass. Fine. Let him pass, but don’t give him dirty looks or make rude hand gestures to let him know exactly how you feel about his tailgating as he speeds away. Do not respond to an aggressive driver with more aggression.

It might seem harmless, but engaging an aggressive driver could escalate the situation into something even worse. Taunting a tailgater – including intentionally hitting the brakes hard while he’s still behind you to get him to back off – is not a good idea. The sooner the tailgater drives away, the better.

Aggressive driving tactics like tailgating are nerve-wracking. Keep calm, don’t overreact, and let the tailgater pass when possible so everyone safely arrives at their destinations.

Click here for more tips to avoid aggressive driving. 

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93 Thoughts on “The Rules of Dealing With a Tailgater

  1. Be Careful. I like to turn my lights on because it looks to the aggressive driver that i am braking. The agressive driver may slam on their breaks and spin out while you maintain your speed snd drive safely away. This is simple yet satisfying.

  2. Yup, just pull over asap and let them go on their way. They’ll be out of your life and you’ll have a much nicer day. I like to signal cuz they tend to slow so they have enough room to swing out around you.

  3. The most common fact that drivers ignore is that, mostly, everyone driving is attempting to get somewhere! If you don’t need to be somewhere in a hurry then let others pass you. The speed limit is set for safety for all but if you don’t feel comfortable driving over 45mph then get-out-the-way. It is not your right/duty to force people behind you to obey the rules.

  4. Most everyone (not everyone) “has a place to be”. Sooooo leave 15-20 minutes or whatever amount of time earlier to get to the “place you have to be” on time. Simple solution for all involved. But then again I don’t know anything except to bring a good read to the DMV office for those transactions that can’t be done on line.

  5. I been careful and a speed limit driver all my life, if i see someone too close i continue my speed limit and they in a rush i let them go, i don’t care do die early or involve my beautiful car into a crash and avoid confrontations with all those ignorant drivers that don’t follow rules. God Bless Us all and we all should be Obedient to the Driving LAWS and everyone would be safe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So respect the Trafic Laws

  6. It seems this article missed one of the most important things to do if someone is tailgating you. You must slowly increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. This will allow you to make a more gradual stop if the vehicle in front of you slams on his brakes which will give the tailgater more time to stop before hitting you. I always thought that was the first and safest way to deal with a tailgater. Always worked for me.

  7. Driving too slowly under normal weather,etc. driving conditions – is just as dangerous – maybe even more so, than driving a bit above the speed limit – especially on the highway. As far as tailgaters & those driving too slowly in front or beside you, the best advice is to maintain a safe constant speed & try to pass or remove oneself from the situation as soon as possible safely. Excessively slow drivers should probably not be anywhere near highways. They may be impaired – advanced age, drug use, vision problems, etc.

    1. You said “a bit” what’s considered a bit: 10,20,30,40 mph over the limit?? At what point do you think it’s going to take to get You to slow down? Yeah I’ve been behind slower drivers but when do we call it quits, after the accident occurs or I love when they explain it “it wasn’t me officer, I WAS going the speed limit” which we all know is BS. The only time anyone speeding is going to care is When that accident happens & then They become the “innocent ” party.

  8. Another consideration. The driver ahead of you may have slowed down because he/she saw some possible trouble down the road that you do not (yet) have of view of. Also, drivers who anticipate making a left hand turn at an intersection normally will be in the left hand lane. Of course they SHOULD signal their intentions, but not everyone will always do so.

  9. If I am on a multi lane road I pull into right lane regardless of the speed I am going at. I may be doing 75 on a 65, but it doesn’t matter. If he want’s to go faster, that’s fine by me. If I’m on a single lane road doing the speed limit, I gradually slow down until I feel he could stop based on the distance he is from me. Usually they realize they are too close and drop back. I then resume my speed. People who drive in the Passing lanes and refuse to move over for faster vehicles probably cause more accidents than drunk drivers. They think that they are self appointed speed enforcement agents who believe that if they are doing the speed limit that no one should be allowed to go faster.

  10. It seems that lately, meaning in the past year there are more people who insist on driving 30 mph on a road posted for 40 mph or, and this is happening frequently, driving 20 or 25 mph on a road posted at 35 or above. Maybe because of COVID they have no place to be or have just slowed down, I don’t know. I DO know that it’s annoying and inconsiderate to the people behind you who may have someplace to be and aren’t able to just meander along well below the speed limit. If you’re one of those people you know who you are, if you don’t then a glance at the five or ten cars stacked up behind you should be a good indicator. Have a little consideration for the people behind you who do have somewhere to be and are capable of driving the speed limit; pull over and let them pass or better yet, drive the speed limit like everyone else. You’re the one creating the unsafe situation.

    1. Leave earlier. No one cares about where you have to go. We all have to share the road. Slow down if someone is in front of you. Tailgating will not make them go faster.

      You’re going to be at fault if you hit someone from behind.

    2. its one thing to have consideration for those behind you, its another to be cornering too fast because the people behind you want to keep their speed up.

      i get tailgated a lot in corners, people expect me to do 40km/hr on 90 degree turns

  11. If I am on a two lane road I look for an area to pull over and let them pass me. You never know why they are in such a hurry. They could be rushing to a hospital. I give them the benefit of the doubt.

    1. Perfect approach, perfect reasoning. Find a safe place to pull over and let them pass. I blink to the right slow down and wave them around. No conflict or glaring at all at them. I will sometimes pretend to be addressing a text and look down at the center console as they pass. Sounds weak, but you are controlling a dangerous situation.

  12. 1) Calm, Centered & Rational
    2) Engage Emergency Blikers
    3) If you are in the Left / Passing Lane…Pull to the Right & let’s the TG pass

  13. I drive a speed that is safe and comfortable for me based on road conditions. The speed limit posted is the maximum speed limit and at time one has to choice but to drive slower (weather conditions, traffic, accident, etc.) For tailgaters I oftentimes put on my 4 way flashers to alert them and this seems to work fine most of the time. I personally will pull off the road in a safe area as they are a danger. Good Luck All and Be Safe!

  14. You say drive at a comfortable speed so you are safe, but when the speed limit is 45 and the car ahead of you is only going 30 or 35 and breaks at on coming cars, then that drive does not belong on the road. So please state that if you cannot keep up with the posted speed limit on roads, than you should think about not driving at all as you can cause an accident. Driving 10 to 15 miles an hour under the posted speed limit is NOT a safe/comfortable way to drive.

    1. What is it about the word “limit” that you don’t seem to understand? A speed limit is the MAXIMUM speed that is allowed. If no minimum speed is posted then the slower driver is perfectly within his/her rights to maintain the slower speed.

      1. If a road is posted for and considered safe at 40 mph and there are no detrimental weather conditions and you decide to drive at 30 mph because “you are perfectly within your rights” you are the one causing an unsafe situation not to mention inconveniencing everyone behind you who probably have somewhere to be. It’s not all about you Albert. If you choose to be one of those drivers at least have the courtesy to pull over after you’ve collected a line of cars behind you and let them pass. What part of that don’t you understand?

        1. So breaking the law is ok but driving at a speed below the limit is justification for aggressive driving from those forced to follow.
          With PRSD so common, back off and shut up – you never know who’s in front of you.

          1. honestly most of these replies are from aggressive idiots. they think its okay to break the law and speed than to go slower (dont be a senior around these people)

            they are showing how inconsiderate they can be of others.

            i guess they forgot the story of the tortus and the hare? the hare lost that race if i recall

        2. Well stated Kevin. As I mentioned, those who cannot drive the speed limit in good conditions, do not belong on the road. They are far more dangerous than those going 5 or 10 miles over the posted speed.

        3. And those that drive the speed limit on roads are always be tailgated by aggressive drivers like you Kevin. It is not my fault that my town has decided that 30 is the maximum speed! So back off when you drive behind people driving the speed limit!

          1. It’s not a matter of getting out of the passing lane even as that is by itself a valid claim. Aggressive driving is common where there is no left lane available. Limit means limit not minimum. Hello.

      2. That’s absurd. If someone is not capable of driving the speed limit posted, then he should not be on the road period!! Most people have somewhere to go and driving under the speed limit is just as dangerous as those who hang out in the left lane instead of using it to pass only and then move back. In NJ, that has become such an issue, that cops are now giving left land hogs a $300 violation. So again, anyone who is not comfortable driving the posted speed limit in good conditions, should not be driving.

      3. So you’re okay with someone.driving at 10 mph on an interstate with no posted minimum speed when there is little to no traffic? Perfectly within their rights, but perfectly inconsiderate of others.

      4. Seriously? You sound like a rolling obstruction. Don’t confuse speed “limits” with the engineering driven 80th percentile. If you are doddering well below everyone else under favorable weather and traffic YOU are the problem.

    2. If 10 under the limit is their comfort zone…that’s fine, long as it’s a steady speed and they’re not below the limit because they’re distracted by a device or somebody else in the car.

      That said, the slower driver is obliged to check the rearview mirror once in a while, and safely pull over when there’s a line of cars stacked up behind them.

      Slow isn’t the problem. Oblivious is the problem.

    3. no thats not true at all. its a suggested limit based on the best driving conditions. if its raining, snow, ice on the road, pot holes, animals in the way, etc, driving slower is A LOT safer overall. more time to react and less damage/suffering caused if there is an accident.

  15. The article should put more emphasis on the law in most states that requires that you keep right except to pass, regardless of the “speed limit”. Most incidents of tailgating that I see are on multi-lane highways or roads. Those who don’t observe this law actually create many of these dangerous situations. If there were enforcement of this law, there would be far fewer tragic situations from tailgating. On most roads, traffic regularly moves at speeds a bit higher that the “speed limit”, including law enforcement vehicles not responding to emergencies. So just keep to the right, except to pass.

      1. I agree with you completely, Dan. Enforcement of the “keep right except to pass” rule would cut four lane accidents dramatically. It should have as high a priority as speeding for law enforcement. AAA should make it a lobbying and advertising priority!

    1. DOUBLE AMEN!! Do they even teach that in driving schools that people shouldn’t be driving regularly in the passing lane.

    2. Agree 100%. Most tailgating, in my experience, is the result of people cruising in the passing lane as though it were the travel lane – refusing to move over even when they see other cars approaching at a significantly higher speed.

    1. People in MA tailgate bcuz somehow it means you’ve interrupted their private race track time. I’ve found I can be in either lane and still get flashed so these idiots want to go around me. Then they should move regardless of where I am. Usually I’m in left lane bcuz I’ve learned certain upcoming exits are heavy with incoming traffic,not that a tailgater cares. Not for anything, but I might be going slower than the racing speed bcuz of traffic conditions that tailgaters isn’t noticing, weather, police ahead, etc. Speeds over 80mph =2FAST. Not your private racetrack for coffee talk at work. Are you seriously in that much hurry to get to work? Come on!
      There are reasons why going over bridges/certain areas at lower posted speeds are in place. Too bad on highway they don’t show what happens to drivers that speed &end up in ER if lucky or RIP if not. Even better, when the tailgaters are not the ones hurt or dead=okay?
      Being sorry after the fact isn’t going to bring someone back from dying(75% chance)& some cards/flowers won’t help the person YOU hurt/crippled bcuz you “just had to get ahead” , “why are you going so slow in ‘my lane”, “come on, you’re going so slow”, ” flashing my lights &this idiot won’t get out of my way”…
      Losing your license &trying to get it back (difficult even without a pandemic)=worth being a tailgater? Nope.

      1. Yeah, Massachusetts drivers suck big time. Forget about driving at the speed limit or slightly over it. People will tailgate you no matter what lane they’re in. I sometimes put a GoPro camera in my rear window. That stops some drivers from tailgating, but others harass me more because of it.

  16. I find that putting on your 4-way flashers alerts the tailgater that (s)he is too close and to back off. It works in many cases. DO NOT slowdown as that may cause an accident – maintain speed (YOUR speed).

  17. Get a description of the tailgater’s car and plate number, dial 911 to report it.
    I’ve done this successfully a number of times.

    1. Do you really think that the police are going to respond to a 911 call for a tailgater? They have more important things to do.

        1. White silverado crew cab or sierra crew cab going west on 94 apparently didn’t like my speed & the gap between the 2 cars to my right too much distance for him to let me over so he slalomed between me & the other 2. I used to like to drive.

      1. Slow down.
        Angle your car to block entire pathway for tailgater to pass.
        Stop car.
        Turn on hazards.
        Turn off car.
        Step out and look perplexed at your car like your trying to diagnose a problem

        1. NEVER do any of that ! First of all, you never block a vehicle or try to trap them !! Secondly, do not get out of your vehicle with a fake car problem as you are now extremely vulnerable to all sorts of things. Never run your hazards with your car off as they will quickly drain an old battery. I find it hard to believe that this is a real licensed driver offering this information…..Do you really think that a tailgater is going to feel bad if you act like you are having car issues ?? This whole thing smacks of a very inexperienced driver, and a very trusting individual that is setting themselves up for trouble.

    2. As a service member I drove on the Autobahn in Germany for two years, where there is no speed limit and no issues with tailgating. If someone is traveling faster in the passing lane, they flash their lights and the person in front moves out of the way. The most common, modern day rule (law) that is completely ignored by most Americans is 1) They are likely driving over the speed limit. 2) They use the left-most lane, which is supposed to be for PASSING only as a travel lane. 3) When someone does come up behind them, they make no attempt to move. Although this in no way justifies tailgating, these are the facts and if everyone paid as close attention to their own driving, we’d all be safer.

      1. So true! I’m German and have been traveling on the autobahn many times and nobody dares to leisurely drive in the passing lane. Drivers here think they can be in the passing lane as long as the drive the speed limit and don’t care if someone else chooses to drive faster. So ignorant!!!

      2. I want to point out that passing on the right is also illegal in Germany, unlike the US. Passing a slow left lane driver on the right creates its own set of dangerous situations. I think a lot of accidents would benefit from a pass-on-the-left only rules and it would force more people to move over instead of staying in the left lane.

      3. People are properly trained to drive in Germany. 2 years and over $2000 US Dollar equivalent, that’s what I’ve been told by people from Germany.

        In US, there is at best a single driving test, with a small written portion (simple things like, identifying traffic patterns.) and driving section about a 1/4-1/2 mile around a small area, doing the most basic driving techniques. It’s wholly inadequate. We have some of the highest number and rates of deadly car crashes because of this idiotic norm.

        American driving standards are VERY LOW even by international standards. Commercial drivers here have less education than the average German driver.

        1. I agree Justin. Lack of knowledge of basic driving rules is unfortunately often demonstrated. In my area many people drive to try to push others off what they seem to think is their road. Driver safety courses every several years should be mandatory!

      4. You are absolutely right Seth. If people used the passing lane for passing only there would be less congestion on the road, fewer accidents and a lot less road rage.

      5. Very true. I lived in Germany as well, and felt safer on German highways at 140mph, than I do on American highways at 80mph. If you are in the left lane, and someone has come up behind you, be considerate, and move over. Simple. It may be some speed demon jerk, or an emergency doctor getting to a hospital, you can not possibly know. Just move over, and drive your car to its capabilities, along with your own.

      6. Since your item 1) says “driving over the speed limit”, which the Autobahn doesn’t have, I assume you’re referring to the behavior of American drivers on American roads. If so, I should point out that “left lane for passing only” is a relatively rare restriction on multi-lane highways here, at least in the Northeast; given the density of traffic it would result in many unnecessary lane changes. Driving a bit over the speed limit is, unfortunately, usually normal and expected. I don’t know how that convention became standard, and I don’t understand it. I only know that unless I’m driving at least 5 mph over, I’d better expect to be tailgated.

        Common sense says get out of the left lane if someone wants to pass you, and get out of the left lane if you’re not going faster than traffic in the lane to your right. That should be enough.

    3. I push the windshield wiper fluid a couple of times; it flies over the roof of my car and hits the window of the tailgater, and they turn on their wipers and drop back. It’s safer than hitting the brakes, and I think people are often unaware how close they are. I never stay in the passing lane, I get in and out; these people are tailgating me in the slow lane, even when they have ample time to pass me. If it’s a two-lane road with no passing, I recognize an impatient or careless driver is dangerous and as soon as I can I pull into a parking lot to get him off my tail. Or her.

    4. I’ve driven RIGHT in front of Highway Patrol with A Semi 4 feet from my bumper while already going 10 miles Over the Speed limit. They could not care less! I

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