To start this short article, can you answer the following question?
Which is the odd one out?
a) Using a mobile phone while driving
b) Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
I admit it’s a trick question: they are all extremely dangerous. They all cause huge amounts of needless deaths and serious injuries on our roads every year and all are offences (regardless of whether the perpetrator is caught and prosecuted or not).
On the other hand, perhaps tailgating does stand alone in so far as it does not seem to be viewed or treated anything like as seriously as the other two.
Based on my own anecdotal daily experience of the M56, I confidently suggest that it would be impossible to stand for 5 minutes on a motorway bridge during rush hour without seeing at least one tailgater pass below. (Disagree? Let’s meet for a sportsman’s bet. I will split the money I win from you between Roadpeace and Aftermath, two excellent charities who Birchall Blackburn Law are proud to sponsor).
That brings me to a second distinction which is that very few tailgaters are stopped and prosecuted despite the fact it happens in plain sight all day every day.
The third distinction follows from that – in the rare situations of prosecution, the usual penalty is 3 points and a fixed £100 fine. To put that into context, I recently received a £60 parking penalty charge fine for overstaying my welcome in a carpark by 12 minutes. (Ironically I was meeting a new client whose mother had recently been killed by a motorist).
The fourth distinction is that many tailgaters apparently fail to understand when they are doing it. A recent survey of 1,109 motorists carried out by Highways England found that 1 in 4 had tailgated another driver in the last 4 months.
So why is tailgating perpetrated so freely and openly? Perhaps things would be different if law enforcement agencies treated it the same way as drink driving and using a mobile phone while behind the wheel of a car. We have the camera technology to monitor car speed, misuse of bus lanes, and number plate recognition for parking offences; but driving along the outside lane of a motorway two metres from the car in front does not get noticed (except by the driver of the car in front).
Would tailgating be quite so common if traffic officers were able to occasionally stand by roadsides with recording and measuring devices?
Unfortunately, for now at least we are left simply to:
1. Support the “DON’T BE A SPACE INVADER” campaign launched by Highways England (https://highwaysengland.co.uk/staysafestayback/).
2. Remind ourselves of the standards of the Highway Code.
3. Do our best to keep a safe distance from those who don’t bother.
So let’s remind ourselves:
• If you are driving so close to the vehicle in front that you would not have time to break if it stopped or slowed down – you are tailgating.
• As a minimum, allow a 2 second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic, and in tunnels where visibility is reduced. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads as stopping time is greatly increased in these conditions (Highway Code Rule 126).
• To measure that 2 second gap, pay attention to when the vehicle in front reaches a fixed feature such as a tree, lamppost or sign. Then time how long it takes to reach the same point by counting the seconds out in your head. If it is less than 2 seconds, slow down until the gap in front becomes at least 2 seconds long.
• If you find yourself being tailgated stay calm, drive normally and when it is safe to do so pull over to let them pass. Do not speed up or slow down. Do not make eye contact in your view mirror or do anything else which might be interpreted as aggression.
Stay safe and be the better person – “There is absolutely no upside to tailgating – you will not get to your destination faster, you are not a skilled driver for doing it, and you are putting so many innocent people at risk” to quote no less than Nigel Mansell on this subject!
Birchall Blackburn Law act on behalf of the people seriously injured in Road Traffic Collisions and also the families of fatal accident victims. We act on a “No Win – No Fee“ basis.
If you would like our help to pursue a claim please do not hesitate to call Robert Jones for advice without any charge or obligation on 0161 238 4376 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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