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Are you a 'space invader' on the roads?

calendar Published on: Wednesday, 17th October 2018 | male icon Author: Kevin Thorpe

When youíre out and about on the roads, you might not think twice about the distance between you and the vehicle in front. However, just like sticking to the speed limit and abiding by the other rules of the road, itís crucial that you leave enough space to ensure that youíre driving safely.

In the recent ĎDonít be a Space Invader - stay safe, stay backí campaign released by Highways England, it was revealed that an eighth of all road casualties across the country are the result of motorists driving too close to the vehicles ahead of them, with over 100 people being seriously injured or killed every year.

More commonly known as tailgating, not leaving adequate space between you and the car in front could put the safety of yourself and other road users at risk - even if it isnít being done deliberately.

To find out more about this problem, and to see if youíre guilty of doing it, keep reading.

What is tailgating?

In short, the term Ďtailgatingí refers to when a motorist drives too close to the car in front. Although it can be unintentional, some drivers do this in an attempt to force the vehicle ahead to move out of the way into another lane or to get them to speed up.

Tailgating often occurs on motorways. For example, a driver may become frustrated that the car in front of them isnít going fast enough. To show their annoyance, they may travel in close proximity behind them as a way of encouraging them to move so they can pass.

It can also be caused by a lack of concentration. If a driver isnít paying attention, they may forget to leave a safe distance between their vehicle and the one in front.

Is it dangerous?

Tailgating is extremely dangerous. Regardless of whether itís intentional or not, driving too close to another vehicle can come across as intimidating and aggressive, but more importantly, it can lead to serious road accidents.

ďTailgating is a driving habit I utterly deplore,Ē says Nigel Mansell, former Formula 1 world champion and president of the Institute of Advanced Motorists RoadSmart. ďThere is absolutely no upside to it - you will not get to your destination faster, you are not a skilled driver for doing it, and you are putting so many innocent people at risk.Ē

Speaking on behalf of Highways England, head of road safety Richard Leonard adds: ďTailgating makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them likely to make a mistake.Ē

He continues: ďIt is intimidating and frightening if youíre on the receiving end. If that leads to a collision, then people in both vehicles could end up seriously injured or killed.Ē

Despite the risks involved, it happens all too often. In a survey carried out by Highways England, nearly 90 per cent of people said they have either been tailgated or seen this behaviour, with more than 25 per cent of drivers actually admitting to tailgating themselves.

In the UK, tailgating is considered to be a criminal offence. If youíre caught driving too close to the vehicle in front, you could receive a £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence. In extreme cases, you may be banned from driving altogether. So, to avoid getting in trouble with the law, itís important to make sure that you leave a safe distance between you and the driver in front.

What is considered a 'safe distance?'

When youíre driving, itís up to you to establish a safe distance - but knowing whatís safe can be tricky. Ideally, drivers should allow at least a two second gap. To estimate this, allow the car in front to pass a fixed object, such as a lamp post or road sign. As the rear end of the vehicle passes your chosen reference point, count to two. If you reach the object before the two seconds is up, itís likely you are driving too close, so itís a good idea to rethink your distances and back off.

However, in wet or icy conditions, or if the road surface has recently been gritted, stopping distances can be increased by up to four times. In these circumstances, you should keep a greater distance than normal to allow you to brake safely.

What should I do if someone is tailgating me?

Having someone tailgate you can be extremely annoying, but itís important not to let your frustration get the better of you. Itís not worth getting road rage over, especially when the safety of you and other road users is at risk.

For instance, if youíre driving on the motorway and you notice that a vehicle is too close behind you, the best thing you can do is let them pass. You should do this by moving over into the left-hand lane when itís safe to do so. Although it may be tempting, you should not speed up, as you may end up becoming too close to the driver in front of you. Similarly, you should not slow down or stare into your rear view mirror as this will distract you and could prevent you from driving safely.

The truth is, tailgating can be extremely dangerous, so itís important that you make a conscious effort to stay back when youíre behind other vehicles. For more information about tailgating, you can visit the Highways England website. Why not also check out our blog post on the Ď7 deadly sins of drivingí for more tips to help you stay safe on the roads?


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