Is your journey so important that you have to force me off the road?
Let’s face it, driving in the 21st century is stressful. It seems no motorway journey can be completed without being delayed by roadworks, rush hour is a daily test of patience, and the opportunity to enjoy a quiet drive down an empty country lane feels like a distant dream.
But the single most stressful thing for me about modern driving is tailgating. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t encounter a new fool intent on driving me off the road to save themselves a few precious seconds – or to satisfy some kind of aggressive competitive instinct.
If this behaviour was confined to motorways, I could almost put up with it. After all, the modern motorway has become a kind of daredevil carousel in which we all egg each other on to drive at higher and higher speeds.
Bumper to bumper
What really worries me is that the most common place for me to encounter tailgating is when I’m within a few hundred metres of home – in a busy, built-up area with no shortage of children, bikes and pets waiting to dart out into the road.
By far the worst area is a long, straight and wide stretch of road that runs right through this residential area. Even though it’s clearly a 30mph zone – with houses and parked cars right along it – some drivers seem unable to resist the feeling that it’s a dual carriageway in disguise.
So, speeds of 40 and even 50mph are commonly seen – and woe betide the law-abiding motorist, like me, who attempts to stick to the speed limit. This is viewed by the tailgater as an aggressive act in itself; cue bumper to bumper tailgating and ludicrous high speed over-taking. To achieve what, I’m not sure, as at the end of this stretch of road is a traffic light junction that will soon stop the tailgaters in their tracks.
In case you’re wondering, I promise you that I am not one of those annoying drivers who deliberately drive under the speed limit. However, as the mother of two children, I am acutely aware of the dangers of speeding – especially in suburban areas – and so refuse to exceed the speed limit, even with an impatient tailgater hassling behind me.
This, though, is the dilemma. By sticking to the speed limit, I am putting myself under considerable stress as the driver behind stays close on my tail – trying to force me to go faster. It’s a very uncomfortable situation and one which is proven to cause accidents: official figures say tailgating is the cause of up to third of all serious accidents, and 14% of road casualties. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/highways-agency-warns-tailgaters-that-only-a-fool-breaks-the-two-second-rule
So what is the best thing to do in this situation? This was the question at the top of my list when I attended a speed awareness course last year (confession: yes, like most of us I have exceeded the speed limit on the odd occasion).
The answer was two-fold: to avoid being dragged into the tailgater’s aggression and to get out of the situation – safely – as soon as you can. In my case, this means I will now routinely pull over to let the tailgater past. It doesn’t mean they’ve ‘won’; it just means I can continue with my journey without the burden of their stress.
Take a deep breath
To all you tailgaters out there – and you know who you are – here’s a plea: please take a deep breath and take your foot off the pedal. The reduced stress could put years on your life and – more importantly – could save someone else’s.
· To find out more about safe driving distance, here is advice from the Highways Agency – and a useful video highlighting that many motorists simply aren’t aware of how much space they need to leave between them and the car in front. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/highways-agency-warns-tailgaters-that-only-a-fool-breaks-the-two-second-rule
Have you experienced tailgating – or do you deliberately drive too close to the vehicle in front? Tell us what you think.