5 Steps to Dealing With a Tailgater

Written by Liam Hoch
5 Steps to Dealing with a Tailgater

Drive long enough, and it’ll happen to you. You mind your own business, checking your mirrors, and a vehicle behind you is suddenly a lot closer than it should be. Getting followed by a tailgater is frustrating under the best of circumstances, but the experience can be downright scary for a new driver.

Thankfully, you can take a few steps to help keep you from getting into a collision and, hopefully, diffuse the situation altogether. So read on for the 5 steps you should take when someone is getting a little too close for comfort on the road.

Rise Above It

Keep Calm and Drive On. The first step you need to take when you’ve got a tailgater is to remember to relax. The other driver is putting you at greater risk of getting into a collision, which is never a good thing, but losing control of your emotional state will only increase the chances of a bad outcome.

Take a few deep breaths. Try to stay calm. Remind yourself that anyone can have a bad day. For all you know that person’s house could be on fire, or they might have a family member suffering a medical emergency. The point is their reasons don’t matter. You can only control your reaction, so stay cool, stay calm, don’t take it personally, and deal with the situation.

arguments can easily result in a collision on the road

Stay the Course. Once you’ve detected that someone is following you too closely, it’s essential not to react hastily. Any action you take from this point on needs to be done smoothly and under control. The most fundamental step you can take while driving is controlling your speed, and you want to maintain it carefully.

Even if someone is directly behind your vehicle, you do not want to accelerate to a higher speed than the posted limit. Accidents tend to happen when you drive in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, and if you’re already traveling at a speed that safely works for you, don’t let an angry tailgater change that.

Brake Dancing. Just as it’s vital to carefully moderate your speed in the face of a close encounter, you’ll also have to pay particular attention to your braking. When another vehicle is directly behind you, braking suddenly or sharply will almost certainly result in a collision.

When you need to use your brakes, do so in a very controlled manner. Brake slowly. Remember that the driver behind you needs to notice your braking in time to react to it, and they won’t have long if they’re directly behind you. Whatever you do, do not slam on your brakes or “brake check” the vehicle behind you. Those actions will only make you less safe.

You… shall pass? Your best course of action is to get out of your tailgater’s way as soon as it is safe. The best strategy to get out of the way is signaling and changing lanes on a multilane road when you have a good opportunity. If a lane change isn’t a viable option, look for a possible place to pull over or turn off the road — like a parking lot or rest stop.

You never want to think of these situations as having a “winner” or a “loser.” Everyone wins when everyone gets home safely, so be the bigger person, and let them pass. Bonus points if you find them pulled over by a police officer for speeding sometime down the road.

Don’t feed the troll. Getting into an argument on the road is a lot like getting into one on social media. There’s a good chance the other person is only trying to elicit a reaction from you, and you’ll both be worse off if you choose to participate.

The difference is that these arguments can easily result in a collision on the road. A crash could mean injury or death for you, the tailgating driver, and anyone else unfortunate enough to be involved. Whatever you do, avoid any attempts by anyone on the road to engage you in a confrontation.

It’s not a question of if but when. Drive long enough, and you will have to deal with someone following too closely. How you choose to deal with it might be the most critical choice you make on the road. So, remember, stay calm, maintain a predictable speed, brake gently, let them pass as soon as possible, and never, ever engage in a confrontation on the road.

Follow these simple steps, and that annoying tailgater will be a distant memory by the time you’ve reached your destination.

Written by
Liam Hoch
Liam Hoch researches and writes about safe driving for DriverZ. Having been a passenger in multiple near-catastrophic vehicle collisions, Liam knows first-hand the dangers of distracted, reckless, and unsafe driving. Passionate about our core principles of helping to make safer drivers and, ultimately, saving lives, Liam stays at the forefront of driving safety innovation and research.

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