Nearly every day somewhere in the United States, a road rage incident makes news headlines. One driver becomes upset with another driver, and soon he begins driving aggressively, risking his life, as well as the lives of his passengers and anyone else unfortunate enough to be on the road with him. More than half of all traffic fatalities can be attributed to aggressive driving, according to AAA. Among the most dangerous offenses? Tailgating.

While there are myriad behaviors that are classified as aggressive driving, tailgating is high on the list of accident causes. Why? Stopping involves more than just applying the brakes. It also includes perception time (realization that you need to stop) and reaction time (moving your foot to the brake pedal). At 60 MPH, by the time the vehicle begins to slow down, it will have traveled more than 130 feet.

Common knowledge holds that a driver should maintain a minimum of three seconds between his car and the vehicle in front of him. However, depending on factors such as vehicle condition, size and type, speed, time of day, road and weather conditions, and visibility, the time it takes to fully stop your vehicle can vary dramatically. For example, a wet road can quadruple the time required to fully stop, and increasing speed from 35 MPH to 55 MPH nearly doubles the required stopping distance. If you’re tailgating someone, you simply aren’t giving yourself enough room or time to safely stop your vehicle.

Check Your Attitude

When we’re in a hurry, or feel slighted by another driver who has cut us off, it can be easy to allow emotions to get the best of us. Not to mention, if you’re suffering from PTSD, you may get episodes of discomfort or anxiety. However, venting emotions by tailgating or engaging in other forms of aggressive driving is a deadly decision that costs thousands of lives every year. The good news is that there are steps you can take to avoid putting yourself in that situation in the first place. Namely, prepare for your trip in advance by checking weather and road conditions, and leave a few minutes early so you won’t feel rushed. This simple step will provide you with a cushion of time to contend with circumstances, such as slow traffic or construction.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that you play mellow music while driving because it will help you remain relaxed while navigating the roads. Also, stay focused on the road, and don’t allow yourself to engage in any form of distracted driving (texting, eating). When you’re not paying attention to driving, you can easily end up following another car too closely.

If Someone is Tailgating You

If you find that another vehicle is tailgating you, remain calm and don’t allow ego to get in the way of safe driving. Do not slam on your brakes, honk your horn or use angry gestures. Instead, if there is an alternate lane choice, safely move over to allow the other car to pass. If you are unable to move over, slowly increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. That way, if the tailgater hits you, you are less likely to hit another car.

 

Tailgating is one particularly dangerous form of aggressive driving that can be easily avoided by employing some common sense tactics. Avoid becoming the aggressor by remaining calm and giving yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. If another vehicle is following you too closely, practice defensive driving maneuvers, including moving over and increasing the distance between vehicles. These simple steps will help ensure that you reach your destination safely.