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.
Keep Calm and Drive On
The most important rule when dealing with a tailgater 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. 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.
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.
Get Safely Out of the Way
If you’re on a multi-lane road and it’s safe to move to another lane, put on your turn signal and get out of the way. This is the easiest way to deal with a tailgater and end the situation. The driver behind you is being unsafe and if you can solve the problem simply by switching lanes, then do so as soon as possible. If there’s not another lane, consider turning into a parking lot.
It might be tempting to get angry at the tailgater and not let them pass. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Tailgating is a dangerous and aggressive driving tactic.
Aggressive driving, defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association as a combination of moving traffic offenses that can endanger other people or property, is often the result of road rage and a major factor in fatal highway collisions each year.
A 2009 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety based on the NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Reporting System, found that aggressive driving played a role in 56% of fatal crashes from 2003 through 2007. And according to recent NHTSA data, “following improperly” is among the top aggressive driving behaviors associated with fatal crashes.
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 you’re doing the speed limit, don’t speed up. No matter how impatient the driver behind you is, do not 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.
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. Responding to an aggressive driver with more aggression is not a responsible way of dealing with a tailgater.
Engaging an aggressive driver could escalate the situation into something even worse. 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.