New research reveals that tailgating is not only one of the most annoying habits drivers experience on the road, it causes many motorists to make dangerous decisions of their own.
A study for Kwik Fit, the UK’s leading automotive servicing and repair company, shows that 89% of drivers say they find tailgating by other drivers either very or moderately annoying, second only to dangerous overtaking (92%), and three quarters (75%) would take action in response to a car following too closely.1
The most popular course of action for drivers being tailgated is to slow down to leave a wider gap between them and the car in front, with the aim of encouraging the tailgater to do the same. This move would be adopted by 37% of tailgated motorists, however many drivers take riskier measures.
Over a third (34%) of drivers, some 13.9 million licence holders, say that if being followed too closely by the car behind they would lightly dab their brakes to make their brake lights come on without slowing down. 8% of drivers would use their fog lights, flicking them on to make the driver behind think that they are braking. One in ten drivers (10%) go even further, saying they would brake sharply to get the car behind to back off.
All these moves carry significant risks of causing a collision – the driver following too closely may overreact with their own braking and cause a ripple effect leading to an impact in the traffic flow behind as the cars ‘concertina’.
Kwik Fit found that 11% of drivers say they would increase their speed when being tailgated, but that can clearly be dangerous if the driver ends up going too fast for the conditions or their own comfort. Accelerating can also be counter-productive as the driver behind is likely to speed up, resulting in the cars remaining too close together but at a greater speed.
Almost one in ten drivers (9%) admit to making a ‘revenge attack’, pulling over to let the tailgating car pass, and then pulling back out to follow as closely as the first tailgater had been doing. 7% of drivers would make some sort of hand gesture at the driver behind them in an effort to get them to back off.
Despite almost every driver stating that tailgating is one of the most annoying habits displayed by other drivers, a third of motorists (33%) in Kwik Fit’s study admitted that a car they have been following has reacted to their presence in some way. This includes the one in ten drivers who have had a car let them pass, only for it to then pull back out and tailgate them in turn and 8% who have experienced the driver in front brake sharply, purely to get them to back off.
Male drivers are more likely than women to have caused a reaction from motorists they are following (38% and 26% respectively). Younger drivers (50% of those aged 18-34) are also more likely than older drivers (21% of those aged 55 and over) to have had an impact on the behaviour of a driver in front of them.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “The accident statistics show very clearly that many road casualties are caused by cars following too closely. This research highlights that the danger doesn’t just come from tailgaters not being able to stop in time, but from the negative reactions they cause in other drivers.
“Brake testing a car which is far too close can be very tempting for drivers, either by dabbing the brakes to flash the brake lights, or by actually braking hard, but this can be very dangerous. The safest approach when encountering tailgaters is to drive normally, signal clearly and pull over when it’s safe to do so to allow them to overtake. Getting drawn into tit for tat behaviour is a no-win situation and only makes driving much more stressful than it needs to be.”