Tailgating – which should not be confused with partying at the Arizona Cardinals football games – is defined as driving too close to drivers in front of you. When drivers tailgate, there is an increased chance that they will rear-end the driver in front of them. Drivers who tailgate also make the drivers in front of them nervous which can cause the drivers in front to drive faster or to shift into other lanes which can cause accidents, too.
There are many reasons why a driver may need to stop suddenly. If the driver behind you is tailgating, a crash is likely to occur. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 23% of all motor vehicle accidents are rear-end collisions. Yearly, rear-end collisions account for approximately 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries. Rear-end collisions include accidents where the lead car is moving and accidents where the lead car is stopped.
Why does tailgating cause so many rear-end crashes and other types of accidents?
The National Automotive Roads Fuel Association reports that “it takes alert drivers approximately two seconds to see a roadway hazard and react to it.” If a driver is tailgating, he or she loses that two-second advantage. Basically, tailgating leads to rear-end crashes because:
- Tailgating reduces stopping distance. Drivers who tailgate greatly reduce the distance (called stopping distance) they need to bring their car or truck to a full stop. Many drivers fail to appreciate that the stopping is “directly proportional to the size and weight of the vehicle.” For example, a driver of a large truck generally needs about twice the distance to stop their truck than the driver of a passenger needs to stop their car.
- Tailgating reduces perception time. Perception time is the time a driver needs to recognize there is a traffic danger such as a car directly in front of the driver in the rear.
- Tailgating reduces reaction time. Reaction time is the time the driver needs to “physically react to their brain’s perception.” Reaction time is the time a driver needs to recognize the danger and apply the brakes or shift into another lane of travel.
Are tailgating drivers dangerous?
Yes – and not just because of the reduced reaction and stopping time. Drivers who tailgate are often aggressive drivers who are thinking about their problems rather than focusing on the traffic in front of them. Drivers who tailgate are already exhibiting a behavior that shows they are “losing their cool,” so other behaviors – blowing their horns, flashing their lights, making rude gestures – are usually par for the course. These aggressive actions can distract the aggressive driver in the event of an emergency, or be an indicator for road rage. They can also make the other driver incredibly nervous, which in turn may lead to mistakes.
Suggestions for avoiding tailgating car accidents in Phoenix
You cannot control the actions of others, but you can take steps to be a safer driver. Drivers should consider the following safety precautions to reduce the risk of a car accident:
- Leave enough room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to stop. If the car in front of you needs to stop quickly or there is any other type of emergency such as a downpour of rain, an accident can occur if you’re too close.
- Be aware of vehicles around you. Trucks and buses generally need more time to stop than passenger cars, and motorcycles can easily slip into a blind spot.
- Increase the following distance when the weather is bad. If the sun is causing glare, or if it’s raining or foggy, or there are other weather difficulties, you should leave more room to stop your car.
- Let cars that are tailgating you pass. Driving is no time to be obstinate. If a car behind you is too close, either shift into a slower lane yourself or give the following car room to pass.
Remember when we said earlier that drivers need about two seconds to react to a hazard? That two-second rule is a good one. It means that when a car ahead of you passes an object on the road, you should pass that same object at least two seconds later. Four seconds is considered a safer rule when the weather is wet. If there’s ice and snow, consider using a 10-second rule.
Who is liable for a tailgating accident?
In nearly all cases, the car that is tailgating will be held liable for your injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one. Simply put, if the tailgating driver had left more room (wasn’t on your tail), the accident would not have happened. Of course, the facts of each case are different and liability is usually determined after a review of the police report.
Why cars and other vehicles should be equipped with crash avoidance systems
The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) strongly recommends that cars should be equipped with crash avoidance systems (CAS). The NTSB states that research shows that CAS systems can help to prevent or mitigate rear-end collisions in both passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Some CAS systems use “autonomous emergency braking (also known as ‘crash imminent braking’) that automatically applies brakes,” to help avoid the crash.
We have been advocating for these types of technologies to come standard with all vehicles, but we can see the real benefit of it here. If a significant portion of collisions are rear-end crashes, and tailgating contributes to those collisions, then safety technologies that could reduce tailgating, like forward-collision warnings and autobrakes, are ones we can support.
At Plattner Verderame, P.C., our Phoenix car accident lawyers have been fighting for injury victims for 30 years. We work with investigators to show how an accident occurred and who is liable. In tailgating cases, the damage to the rear of your car and the front of the tailgating car is a strong indicator of fault. Our lawyers demand compensation for any whiplash, soft-tissue, or other injuries that anyone in your car suffers due to a tailgating driver. We also file wrongful death claims. To talk with a seasoned car accident lawyer, please call us at 602.266.2002 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment at our Phoenix or Tempe office.
Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
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