Tailgating – Too Close For Who’s Comfort?

Tailgating is where drivers and riders follow too closely to the vehicle in front, making it frustrating to the driver in front and leaving no room for error or reaction from the vehicle in front.

The general guide for following other vehicles, certainly at speed, has been to leave a 2 second gap between vehicles. In essence allowing extra space between vehicles to allow for reaction times and to give an improved view of the road ahead. In poor conditions this space could be increased, in slow moving traffic such as in urban areas, this space could be reduced somewhat.

Most drivers know this, have been taught this and can comprehend the concept, however it is an activity that still occurs everyday on our roads by many drivers and also riders.

There are motorcycle and scooter riders who do this on a regular basis and for the most part either believe they have the ability to react in time, although that may have never been put to the test. They might also believe that as they are generally seated in an elevated position that they have an improved view of the road. Some may not be aware that their near proximity to the other vehicle in front is in any way placing their life and other road users unnecessarily at risk.

Some riders may tend to ride close to the vehicle in front prior to performing an overtake, and other riders or low powered machines may delay braking and slowing down, thus let there momentum overtake a car in front when it slows down. This practice is incredibly unwise as the rider has no control of their speed or their ability to brake and reduce speed to avoid crashing into the vehicle ahead.

On an almost daily basis, the emergency services attend multi vehicle accidents in which a vehicle in front has been crashed into from the vehicle behind. Sometimes these accidents are minor collisions, however, some are much more serious and can occur in high or low density traffic.

Riders are particularly vulnerable in this case as they may also have a vehicle following too close behind them. If the vehicle in front has to brake quickly, or the rider is late in braking and the vehicle behind also follows suit then the net result is that the motorcycle collides with the vehicle in front and the vehicle behind collides with the motorcycle, thus crushing the rider.

Another accident scenario is one where a rider’s closing speed on the vehicle in front is too quick or they are too close and have not reacted in time. To avoid the collision, the rider takes avoiding action and manoeuvres the motorcycle but only to collide with another oncoming vehicle, or solid object. In this case there are usually two sub scenarios: either the rider loses control of the motorcycle and then collides with the road and other objects or vehicles, or the rider maintains control of the motorcycle but cannot avoid the collision.

On a regular basis it is considered that those drivers of vehicles in front may have braked too suddenly and regardless of the space behind, this action left no time to react. This point of view is partially defendable if adequate space and time has been left behind, however the reality is that any vehicle should  be travelling at a speed that allows it to stop and avoid any other vehicle regardless of the actions of that vehicle. I do stress …‘should’, as this is sometimes subjective. One person’s reactions might be slower than another and different types of vehicles may react and perform differently.

Any rider should make space and take advantage of space that presents itself and use it to create time. Never get too close to the vehicle in front, it not only limits the rider’s ability to control the motorcycle, in the event, of a developing hazard and it causes the driver of the vehicle in front to become frustrated and some even nervous. This then causes the driver to spend more of their time and attention on the following rider/driver and less time focussing on the road ahead. This could cause them to not be aware and avoid a developing hazard ahead of them in time, which then leads to late and hard braking or even loss of control.

The result is that the actions of the following vehicle, be that a motorcycle or other vehicle, has actually contributed to a hazard developing that may not be avoided, which ultimately may lead to severe or fatal injuries.

As riders, we are responsible for our actions and their consequences on not only other road users but also on ourselves. By creating space with the vehicle in front and a vehicle behind, the rider is able to generate the most valuable commodity, which is TIME!

If a rider believes the vehicle in front might be driving erratically, or the road & weather conditions are poor, or the view of the road ahead past the vehicle in front is obscured or restricted, then the rider should drop back and increase their space.

If a rider believes the vehicle behind in too close, then the rider should generate space by either slowing down, pulling over and letting the other vehicle pass, change lanes (in a multi lane road) to let the vehicle pass. Sometimes the rider may choose to speed up temporarily, however avoid excessive speed and certainly any speed that is beyond your comfort zone. If the vehicle behind also speeds up and is still too close, then slow down again and let the vehicle pass…It’s really not worth getting into a tussle with another vehicle.

Ride and drive as you would wish others to ride and drive. Let us lead by example and demonstrate to other road users that riders are taking a lead in road safety for others to follow.

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