What to do when you’re being tailgated…
Everyone’s been tailgated before. It can be scary, and if you’re already a little stressed it can be tempting to fight back. Don’t. Here’s how to handle tailgaters.
THEY’RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU, up close and very, very personal. Way too close for it to be a mistake. The intent is to intimidate, perhaps for fun, perhaps as revenge for some real or perceived slight from you. It doesn’t really matter, they’re there. This is dangerous, because if another vehicle is following you really close then if you brake, they won’t be able to react in time. That could cause an accident, and push you where you don’t want to be.
What do you do?
The answer depends on whether you want to teach them a lesson, or prevent an accident. If the former, then stop reading now because I’ve got no advice for you because you wouldn’t listen anyway. If you want to avoid an accident, then read on.
Tailgaters don’t generally get out of the way or lose interest. You need to let them by. This starts with the number one act in any road safety situation, and that is putting your ego aside, even if it means “letting them win”.
First off, continue driving. Don’t spend all the time looking in the rear view mirror. That’s irrelevant. Your scared eyes may be visible in the mirror, and that’s just going to show the tailgater they’ve been successful. And you need to be looking ahead more than ever, as you’ve now got two cars to slow down, not just one. You cannot control how far behind the tailgater is, so staring at your mirrors won’t help.
If you need to slow down then do so early and slowly, and don’t use the engine to slow down, ensure you’re on the brakes. Your brakelights are what the tailgater is looking for, and if you slow down any other way they may not be able to react.
If you’re on a freeway, then move left and let them through. Don’t make eye contact as they pass.
If you’re not on a freeway, then turn off as soon as you can… but only if you know the road or are sure it’s not a dead-end.
It is tempting not to give in – to play games such as stamping on the brakes, letting them by and then tailgating them, hand gestures. That may be satifysing in the short term, but it’s a very bad idea. You are now dramatically increasing the chances of a crash because you’re both distracted, emotions are running high, and you’re intentioanlly cutting safety margins. And from the other driver’s perspective you may have wronged them (even if you never noticed), they have tried to let you know and now you’re overreacting. So they up the ante too… do you see where this ends?
Tailgating is never, ever right but there is no safe nor legal way to “win” you’re tailgated or teach the other driver a lesson. You simply need to put your ego aside get out of the way, but do so smoothly, camly and without undue haste.
This article was originally published in 2015.