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In my Opinion - Tailgating

In my Opinion - Tailgating

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Motoring journalist, John Swift, gives his thoughts on the dangerous habit of tailgating.

The terror of tailgating

Tailgating – we’ve all seen it, most of us have probably experienced it and when we read of Highways England’s new campaign warning drivers to back off a little, many of us will probably say `about time too’.

It is frightening, dangerous, intimidating and if the figures are to be believed, the cause of 1 in 8 crashes.

And yet there is another view, one founded in the frustration of sitting in endless queues of relatively slow traffic.

Those who say tailgating is dangerous – which it is – remind us that we should always heed the two second rule, leave a gap of two seconds between the vehicle ahead and yours.

Really? On our motorways and dual carriageways, in today’s traffic? Come on, let’s get realistic here.

At 60 mph a two second gap is approximately 90 feet, about six times the length of a Ford Focus, and if you leave that on a busy motorway there’s a more than even chance that another vehicle will move over to fill it, causing you to brake and setting off that horrible ripple effect further back in the traffic behind.

Traffic tailgating on the motorway

A bit like speeding, what we should do, and what we actually do, are two different things and while everyone recognises the truth and sense in the campaign’s message, many will also feel that it’s just not based on our everyday experiences. Hands up, how many of us do the same commute every day, there and back, with nothing like a two second gap but also without incident. A fair number, I’d hazard a guess.

My beef is that road safety is not done by numbers. It is bureaucratically easy to set a figure, be that a speed limit or a time/distance gap; it’s easy to measure and catch offenders, and in this case issue a £100 fine.

But, common sense and a moment’s reflection tells us that there’s much, much more to getting from A to B safely.

Of those 1 in 8 crashes, how many were caused in part or whole by the driver behind not looking or paying attention, simply not being fully engaged in driving their car. Daily observation of drivers patently not ‘with it’ suggests that many could have a two minute gap and still plough into the slowing vehicle ahead.

We should be thinking more about being alert, being engaged and actively driving our cars, rather than being a passenger who happens to be sat in the driver’s seat.

We all share a responsibility for these statistics; so, next time you find yourself wondering how on earth you’re already two-thirds of the way home, with no recollection of how you got there, be aware you could be part of the problem.