What is tailgating?

Last updated February 04, 2022

Tailgating is the term used to describe driving too closely to the vehicle in front of you. If you’re driving too close to the car in front, it means you’re not keeping a safe distance and may not have sufficient time to react if the car in front of you brakes quickly or if there’s an accident.

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What is a safe driving distance?

The measure of ‘safe’ distance is affected by different factors under different circumstances. To work out a safe distance, you need to consider the speed at which you are travelling, the visibility on the road and any other road conditions.

One method that’s sometimes advised is to leave around one metre of space for every mile per hour you’re driving. For example, if you are driving at 30mph, leave 30 metres of space.

Another way of ensuring a safe distance that’s touted by the CEDR is to leave at least 2 seconds of driving time between yourself and the next car along. This should leave you with enough stopping distance, as specified in the Highway Code.

Is tailgating illegal?

Tailgating isn’t just an inconvenience to those on the road but is classified as a careless driving offence, which could land you with a £100 fine and three points on your licence.

In the worst-case scenario, tailgating could result in a driving ban or a prison sentence should a serious collision occur as a result.

Therefore you should be careful to prevent tailgating where you can by leaving space in front of you, whilst ensuring you’re not travelling too slowly.

What to do when you are being tailgated

It’s important to remain as calm as you can – after all, you need to keep a level head whilst operating a vehicle. It’s illegal to tailgate, but it’s also inappropriate to police the road yourself by deliberately slowing down in front of tailgaters or touching your brakes.

If you are on a dual carriageway, you always have the option of pulling over to allow the tailgaters to pass when it’s safe to do so. Getting agitated and ‘teaching tailgaters a lesson’ isn’t worth breaking the law or getting into an accident.

Additionally, it is important to check your speed to ensure you aren’t driving too slowly. If this is the case, speed up where you feel comfortable, or move as soon as you can.

How to prevent tailgating

When it comes to tailgating, it’s important to recognise that both parties may be at fault. For example, a motorist driving close to the speed limit and being forced to slow down because of a slow driver in the outside lane may be frustrating.

On the road, you should always put your safety and the safety of other drivers above anything else. Be aware of your position on the road and who is around you. Check to see which drivers are keeping a safe distance and if you see someone driving too close to another car try to avoid pulling out in front of them.

Try not to pull into gaps that are too small and look out for other cars that may be approaching the same space.

If you are being consistently tailgated, check over your Highway Code and assess your driving habits; if necessary, amend them to avoid this issue.