Defensive Driving Blog

Tailgating is not Defensive Driving.

Defensive Drivers don’t tailgate.

Tailgating is very simply being too close to the tailgate of the car in front of you.  That is actually the definition of tailgating. I don’t think many of us refer to the back of our car or door to the trunk as a tailgate but that is exactly the origin of the word. In the mid-1800s it referred to the hinged door at the back of a wagon that could be unlatched and swing down. On trucks it is easy to see the comparison because they have such a door that swings down to open. But in cars that are not trucks it does not make sense to call the rear of a car the tailgate. Nevertheless this is what we call the act of following too close.

defensive driving is not tailgating

Now that you have learned the term, do you know how far you should be from the car in front of you so that you won’t be considered “tailgating”? In daylight, good weather with dry roads we refer to the safest distance in Texas as the “two second rule”. Others states, such as California, use a three second rule and you can use three seconds also. You determine this by picking a fixed object on the road (a sign, a tree, a bridge, etc.) and when the rear bumper of the car in front of you passes it you start counting, one one thousand, two one thousand, and then the front bumper of your car should be just passing the same object.  If your car reaches the object before you count to two one thousand in this way then you are following too close. Once you get in the habit of knowing how far to lag behind, it will become habit and you won’t find yourself following so close any longer.

If weather conditions are poor or it is night time or the traffic is very heavy you should think in “defensive driving mode” and double that time and make it 4 seconds. In those conditions it can often be much more difficult to stop so you are giving yourself more of a buffer between you and the car in front.  Remember, if you rear end the car in front of you it is always your fault because it is up to you not to follow too closely and be prepared to stop quickly if the car in front slams on their brakes.

If someone is tailgating behind you and it is making you nervous then carefully move to the next lane when it is safe to do so and let them pass by. You cannot control the fact that other people tailgate but you can move yourself out of the situation.

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