When someone tailgates you, do you spend miles glaring at the rearview mirror? Do you slow down or speed up to try to get them to pass — or to create extra space? Do you feel completely stressed out the entire time?
These responses are very normal, and people sometimes try to tell themselves that they’re just overreacting. It would be nice if the other driver would back off, but it’s not a big deal and that driver is probably just oblivious and doesn’t know what a proper following distance looks like. Right?
Calming down is important, as is reducing stress. But don’t do it based on the myth that tailgating isn’t all that problematic. It’s actually incredibly risky and that driver is putting you, themselves, and anyone else in either car in serious danger.
What is the right following distance?
Both impatient and oblivious tailgaters do exist. The actual following distance that a driver should observe is at least three seconds. One or two just isn’t enough, as it takes some people that long to react, let alone slow down.
This also isn’t a hard and fast rule. In rain, snow and fog, following distances need to be longer. They also need to be larger for heavy trucks and vehicles with trailers. Road speed makes a difference, as well. Three seconds on the interstate, at 75 miles per hour, is much different than three seconds on a city street at 25 miles per hour.
What should you do about that tailgater?
The best thing you can do is to let the tailgater pass. Sometimes, this means pulling over. Yes, it’s an inconvenience. But, if your goal is to drive safely, you need to avoid other drivers who refuse to do so. They may crash eventually. You just don’t want them to crash into you.
If they do hit you through no fault of your own, as so often happens, that’s when you need to look into your legal options.