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The Dangers of Tailgating


Tailgating can be dangerous—and even deadly. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), of the more than 40,000 fatal car accidents in Florida and across the United States each year, nearly 20 percent involve rear-end collisions. Many of these collisions are the result of tailgating.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show similar risks. Tailgating creates unnecessary emergency scenarios, and drivers who are following too closely are frequently unable to avoid causing collisions.

Understanding the Unnecessary Dangers of Tailgating

Tailgating is dangerous for several reasons. It is also entirely unnecessary. There is no excuse for tailgating, and in many states it is against the law. For example, Section 316.0895(1) of the Florida Statutes provides that:

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the highway.”

Tailgating is illegal because of the risks it presents. As the NSC and NHTSA’s data show, following too closely is a frequent factor in serious and fatal rear-end collisions. Some of the most significant dangers associated with tailgating include:

1. Limited Visibility

Drivers who are tailgating have limited visibility. Their view is obstructed by the car, truck or SUV in front of them. As a result, they are less likely to see brake lights in traffic ahead, and this means that they are more likely to cause a rear-end accident.

2. Limited Reaction Time

Since tailgating drivers have limited visibility, they also have limited reaction time. In many cases, they won’t realize that something has gone wrong until it is already too late. Studies have shown that, on average, it takes a driver about a second and a half to interpret an accident risk and apply their brakes. If a driver is just a few feet behind the car in front of them, the driver will have nowhere near enough time to react before causing a collision.

3. Limited Braking Ability

Even if a tailgating driver is able to apply the brakes immediately upon seeing brake lights, he or she still typically won’t have enough stopping distance to avoid a rear-end collision. At highway speeds, for example, an average vehicle needs 180 feet to come to a complete stop. The smaller the gap between a tailgating vehicle and the vehicle in front of it, the less margin for error the tailgating driver has.

4. Enhanced Risk from Other Factors

Tailgating is also dangerous because it enhances the risks associated with other common causes of car accidents. For example, tailgating makes each of the following much more risky:

  • Distracted Driving – Driving distractions increase drivers’ reaction times (if they are able to react at all). Since drivers who are tailgating have less time to respond, tailgating while distracted is especially dangerous. Distracted drivers are more likely to cause rear-end accidents at high speeds, and these high-speed collisions are more likely to result in serious or fatal injuries.
  • Impaired Driving – Impaired driving and distracted driving have many similar effects. When a driver is drunk or high behind the wheel, he or she is far less likely to both (i) identify accident risks and (ii) respond to accident risks in time to avoid a collision. As a result, tailgating increases the risk that a drunk or high driver will cause a collision.
  • Brake Failures Brake failures are dangerous under any circumstances, but they are especially dangerous when tailgating. If a tailgating driver’s brakes fail unexpectedly, he or she could be completely unable to avoid causing a serious crash.
  • Tire Failures – Likewise, if a tailgating driver’s tires fail, this can be even more dangerous than experiencing a tire failure in other scenarios. Tire defects can cause drivers to unexpectedly lose control, and they can prevent drivers from stopping in time to avoid a potentially serious rear-end accident.
  • Brake Light Failures – Brake light failures are also more dangerous in tailgating scenarios. If a driver is tailgating a vehicle with inoperable brake lights, this makes it even less likely that the tailgater will be able to identify an accident risk and stop in time to prevent a collision.

5. Limited Options for the Driver In Front

Not only does tailgating limit the tailgater’s ability to avoid a collision, but it also limits the options of the driver in front. When being tailgated, drivers need to be cautious not only of avoiding the cars in front of and beside them, but behind them as well. While a driver who brakes to avoid causing a rear-end collision generally will not be deemed at fault for “causing” a collision with a tailgater, the driver will still need to deal with the practical consequences of the accident.

6. Stress and Intimidation Can Distract the Driver in Front

Being tailgated is stressful, and it is often intimidating. Stress and intimidation can both be distracting, as drivers who are being tailgated will often feel the need to frequently check their mirrors. As discussed above, driving distractions can be dangerous. But, in this scenario, the tailgating driver will still generally be deemed at fault, as his or her actions are ultimately the cause of the dangerous situation at hand.

7. Injury Risks Associated with Rear-End Accidents

Finally, tailgating is dangerous because of the unique injury risks associated with rear-end accidents. These accidents can cause serious head, neck and back injuries—and the faster a tailgating vehicle is traveling, the greater the injury risks involved. Unfortunately, as noted above, rear-end collisions can be fatal in many cases. But, even when victims survive, they will often be forced to cope with the financial and non-financial effects of life-altering injuries.

Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Florida Car Accident Attorney in Florida for Free

The car accident attorneys at Searcy Denney provide experienced legal representation for Florida car accident victims and their families. If you need help recovering your losses after a rear-end accident caused by a tailgating driver, we encourage you to call 800-780-8607 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.

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Posted By: Samantha Saundry