Driving too close behind another vehicle is causing 100 deaths or serious injuries a year on our roads and motorways according to research – and Highways England thinks it’s high time we all woke up to the dangers of tailgating.
The government agency has launched a new campaign that addresses the issue by focusing on new research that shows one in eight of all road casualties are caused by motorists driving too close to the car in front. The research also shows that nine in ten motorists have either experienced being tailgated or seen it happen – and over a quarter of us have admitted to tailgating.
It is believed that while some tailgating is done to intimidate drivers into pulling over or to speed up, Highways England says that in a majority of cases, it’s simply motorists not paying attention to the distance between their vehicle and the one in front.
The problem is not only the reduced stopping distances caused by tailgating but also the negative impact it can have on the poor driver on the receiving end. Researchers used dashcams, facial recognition, emotion tracking and heart monitors to show that a tailgated driver’s emotional reaction is one of surprise, anger and even contempt, all combined with a spike in heart rates.
“Tailgating makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them more likely to make a mistake.”
– Richard Leonard, Head of Road Safety at Highways England
To drive home that drivers must stay back to stay safe, Highways England has launched its ‘Space Invaders’ campaign that uses a classic videogame character to show how distracting and dangerous tailgating can be:
To help motorists stop tailgating or reacting negatively to it, Highways England advises:
If you’re a tailgater
… remember the Highway Code that states you should leave a two-second gap between you and the car in front – and to double that count in wet conditions.
If you’re being tailgated
… to never speed up, slow down (do not tap your brakes) or keep looking in the rearview mirror; instead keep driving safely and if and when appropriate, let people overtake when it is safe to do so.