Nobody likes a tailgater - those drivers who appear with telescopic clarity in your rear-view mirror, nearly touching your bumper in the process. It's not only infuriating, it's dangerous.
Tailgating increases the odds of a rear-end collision, which is the most common multiple-vehicle crash. Following too closely is a factor in more than 1,000 collisions each year in Saskatchewan. On average, these crashes result in over 400 injuries and 1 death annually.
As a driver, it's important to know how much space to leave between your vehicle and the one ahead. The distance depends on several factors:
- road conditions
- the vehicle's mechanical condition
- the driver's physical state
Regardless of the situation, however, all drivers are responsible for maintaining a safe following distance that allows them enough time to stop in an emergency. That's why, in most cases, you'll be found at fault if you rear-end another vehicle.
Avoid these collisions by leaving a minimum of 3 seconds between your vehicle and the 1 in front of you. To measure the time, start counting (1 thousand 1, 1 thousand 2...) when the vehicle ahead passes a marker like a tree or a sign beside the road.
If it takes less than 3 seconds for you to pass the same point, then you're following too close. Readjusting to a safe following distance is as simple as easing off the accelerator and repeating the 3-second test.
But the rule isn't universal. Different vehicles require different following distances. For example, motorcycles should be given more room because they're lighter and can stop more quickly than most vehicles.
Be especially cautious around heavy vehicles. Because they take a lot longer to stop, it's dangerous to pull in too quickly after passing a truck. This is especially true at night when it becomes more difficult to judge distances. At the same time, headlights in your rear-view mirror can be blinding.
Unfortunately, keeping yourself from following another vehicle too closely is only half the battle. How do you, as a driver, shake the dreaded tailgater?
Surprisingly, decelerating is the safest way to deal with drivers who are following you too closely. Your first reaction may be to speed up, but that only increases your stopping distance and puts you at risk of hitting the driver ahead of you.
By slowing down you add more time and space in front of your vehicle and encourage the tailgater to safely pass. It's a small step that goes a long way towards keeping everyone on the road safe.