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When another vehicle is following your car too closely, they are tailgating. Although somewhat subjective, if you can’t see the headlights on the vehicle behind you, they are probably too close. Tailgaters tend to get into more car accidents than drivers who maintain a safe distance. It’s common knowledge that tailgating is detrimental to car safety for everyone on the road, but what happens if a tailgater hits your car?

What is tailgating, and is it illegal?

Tailgating is illegal in all areas of the United States, but it’s one of the least enforced traffic laws. Following too closely creates a dangerous situation because a safe distance between vehicles isn’t maintained. Progressive Insurance tells us the recommended safety distance between cars is three for four seconds. While distance and time are not the same thing, measuring the distance is done by marking the amount of time each vehicle needs to pass a stationary object, such as a roadway sign.

What happens if a tailgater hits you?

When tailgaters hit the cars in front of them, they are usually considered to be at fault for the accident. Their liability insurance will cover your injuries or damage to your vehicle, but that’s not a good reason to force a tailgater into an accident.

In fact, if you do something to cause the accident, you could be at fault; talk about pouring salt on a wound. If witnesses are present, ask for statements or to talk to the police once they arrive. This helps the authorities and insurance companies have an accurate report of the accident.

How risky is tailgating?

A yellow signed with "road rage ahead" in large lettering with blue sky and puffy clouds in the background
Road rage stemming from tailgating could be dangerous | goir via iStock

It’s important you don’t become one of the many tailgaters out on the road. This is extremely dangerous and is the leading cause of the most common form of car accidents. The NHTSA reports that nearly 30% of all car accidents are rear-end collisions, which result in 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries every year.

You shouldn’t ever tailgate other cars; here are five reasons why:

  • It’s Illegal
  • Tailgating other cars is dangerous and leads to injuries and possible death
  • You can’t make other cars go faster by tailgating them
  • Does your ego really need the boost? No.
  • Tailgating makes driving more stressful and less enjoyable for everyone

With the reasons not to tailgate in mind, how should you handle one when you encounter them? Here’s what Progressive recommends:

  • Remain calm – avoid escalating the problem
  • Let the tailgater pass – typically, this is their goal
  • Stay steady – keep your speed and driving steady and consistent
  • Don’t slam on your brakes – this creates a dangerous, potentially deadly situation
  • Be extra cautious – pay attention to everything on the roadway, not just the tailgater

Tailgaters make the roadways dangerous for all. These drivers are generally aggressive and prone to violent acts of road rage. If you’re in a car accident with one, you may end up feeling their wrath at the accident scene, but hopefully, that’s not the case. Use some of the tips included here to avoid an accident and handle tailgaters while driving.