Avoid Tailgating – Give Others (and Yourself) Space

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on January 23, 2018

Driving responsibly in Washington involves a number of habits that keep you and others around you as safe as possible. Today, we’re going to talk about tailgating.

And why you shouldn’t do it.

“Tailgating” in this sense refers to following the vehicle in front of you too closely; typically from two seconds away or less. This does not give you enough time to stop safely if that vehicle slows or comes to a stop, especially if you’re the littlest bit distracted.

Tailgating greatly increases the risk of rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions, though relatively common, can lead to serious injuries. The impact from the rear of the vehicle can cause neck and spinal cord injuries, such as whiplash. These are painful and require long, expensive medical treatment for a full recovery. Impact crumple zones on modern cars do help reduce injuries, but they also greatly increase vehicle damage, usually resulting in the need to buy a new car after such a crash.

Tailgating can also result in chain reaction accidents. If you are too close to a car that hits another vehicle in front of you, you will not have time to avoid the collision yourself. While the driver in front of you might be at fault for the initial impact, your tailgating can put you partially at fault for additional damages or injuries due to the chain reaction. If other drivers strike your vehicle, they may also be at fault, or possibly increase your own liability because of the role you played in making the initial crash even worse!

Is Tailgating Really that Dangerous?

Let’s put it this way: a vehicle moving at just 60 mph, which is not an excessive speed on highways, needs at least 240 feet to safely come to a stop. It takes about 60 feet of travel time for a driver to realize the need to stop, plus another 180 feet for the vehicle to stop.

If you are tailgating, you can slam into the car in front of you before you fully realize you need to stop. Consider this: rear-end collisions account for about one-fourth of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., resulting in about 2,000 deaths and 1 million injuries every year. By not tailgating, you greatly improve your chances of not causing this type of crash.

How to Stop Tailgating

The good news is that it’s easy to stop tailgating: all you have to do is give vehicles in front of you more space. You can judge this distance in one of two ways: by looking at the distance in space, or counting it out in time.

The distance you should give a vehicle in front of you is 10 feet for every 10 mph that you are traveling. In the previous example, a car moving at 60 mph should have at least 60 feet between it and the vehicle in front of it. This is also sometimes expressed as one car-length for every 10 mph that you are driving, which is not as accurate but can be easier to judge while driving.

You can also use time to measure the distance between yourself and another vehicle. To avoid tailgating, leave at least 3 seconds between yourself and the car in front of you. To measure this, look at a spot on the road when the car in front of you passes it, such as a mile marker or other sign. Then count out how long it takes for you to pass it. If it takes 3 seconds or longer, you’ve left enough space. Otherwise, increase the distance between yourself and the vehicle before you.

Don’t Forget Poor Weather Conditions

This winter, there’s another important thing to keep in mind: wet roads from rain, slush, sleet, and snow make tailgating even more dangerous. You should essentially double all of the these numbers in wet conditions (though stopping distances can actually be four times longer in really bad weather!). Give about 20 feet per 10 mph between yourself and the car in front of you, and slow down in general when weather is bad. Add an additional 2 or 3 seconds to your count if you use time to measure safe distance, especially in poor weather or when driving particularly fast.

We hope these guidelines keep you safe (and convince you to stop unconsciously tailgating). If the guy behind you doesn’t take these same precautions and ends up hitting you, talk to a Seattle rear-end car collision attorney. At Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., our legal team has extensive experience and has gotten very good results for clients injured in vehicle accidents. Call us today at (888) 228-3860 for a free consultation.

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