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.

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  1. I agree let them past, pull to the left and enjoy the zen. I also slow gently and/or switch the cars main lights on and off (red lights near brake lights appear suggesting braking without doing so, usually tailing driver slows reflexively re-establishing a gap especially useful if hard to pull over)

  2. On multi lane roads, I drive in the left lane. I use the right lane for overtaking. If I see someone in my mirrors who seems to be moving faster than me, I get out of their way when I get a chance. When moving off from the lights, I don’t dawdle around.
    Funny, but I don’t seem to get bothered by tailgaters.

    1. Spot on Bill.

      I’ll bet you also use your cruise control and maintain a set speed on the freeway, & probably at the speed limit- so few people do.

      I’m always amazed / dismayed to hear folk complain about being “tailgated by nasty trucks on the freeway”. For starters, if a 100kph limited truck is up your behind, then you are moving too slowly, or being inattentive and letting your speed drift up and down, or are simply in the wrong lane.

      Far too many people are obviously too important being the centre of their own universe to show courtesy to other road users. And while I certainly don’t advocate tailgating or road rage, I can definitely understand how it comes about.

    1. Yet some people do that even when you are 2 car lengths behind them in the right hand lane doing 58km/ph in the 70 zone.

      1. There is a better way ……if you are at the legal speed ….I just slow down enough to piss them off then accelerate back to the legal speed ……maybe even stick my finger up to show I’m not playing their game …..I don’t mean slow down a lot as in obstructing traffic …..just enough to notice …..the fact is IF YOU GIVe INTO these bullies they will keep doing it …..get a rear Dash cam for police or employer contact

  3. Most commenters appear to be living in a world where drivers are blessed with at least a modicum of intelligence. Where I live, for 80% of drivers, as close as you can get to the vehicle in front is the default position. I use the term ‘driver’ loosely, since the road position is not something these people even think about, nor much else to do with being in control of a vehicle. They’re too busy texting or on their phone. They use the vehicle in front like a pathfinder, and the closer the better.
    To me, someone right up your ‘tail’ who’s completely unaware of it is far more frightening than someone hell-bent on getting by. At least they’re focused on their objective. If you slow down to let the unaware / uninvolved tailgater pass, they simply slow down with you. Their attention may be somewhere, but it’s not on the road, or the dynamically-changing driving environment If a hard-braking situation should arise, there’s no cushion for reaction from the following vehicle, because the person behind the wheel is present only physically.
    And, sorry to the commenter who proclaims that, ‘it’s ll your own fault if you’re tailgated by nasty trucks on the freeway” up here the same non-rules apply. But made worse by truck drivers claiming that they’e not driving dangerously because they’re ‘higher up, and can see further down the road’ than a sedan driver. When you’ve got a B-Double so close behind you at freeway speed, (in traffic that doesn’t want to allow you to escape into its already crowded lane) that all you can see in your mirror is the grille, and then only part of it, telling yourself that the person at the wheel is a superior driver provides no comfort at all. About the only thing you can do is hope he or she isn’t wearing thongs.

    1. So you are correct and the other 80% plus are in the wrong ? The only reason tailgating occurs is where dim witted and inconsiderate drivers act as semi-mobile roadblocks. The Accelerator is on the right!

  4. Tailgating it doesn’t bother me at all, I just continue my journey. Same for people cutting in front of me, I just let them in, no drama. People driving 20k below the limit in the right lane used to bother me a bit, but here in the West there is this secret, a left lane nobody uses, usually you can travel at the limit or more on that one LOL.

  5. Nailed it. I tell, and remind, drivers in my family that complain about tailgaters that “….the best place for a tailgater is in front of you, so let them get there as quick as they can….”. Crash Avoidance Space is a basic common sense skill that is learnt from walking age onward, if the idiot behind you does not comprehend that most basic of skills then do not keep them behind you.

  6. Hello. Can you please tell me if this was the right thing to do. I’m a learner driver driving back home from work at 9pm at night on a highway going 100km/h and there was a Ute behind me tailgating me probably about 3m behind my car. I was driving in the left lane and there was an overtaking lane on the right but he wasn’t using it. I slowed down to about 60km/h whilst I was doing this he turned on his high beams and blinded me in the rear view mirror. He then sped of around me reaching probably 140km/h. Did I do the right thing or not?

  7. I have tried slowing down but this person doesnt get the hint and what makes it worse is it is on a daily basis

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