Tailgating: What It Is and How to Deal with Tailgaters

February 12, 2024
A woman checks her car’s rearview mirror.

If you’re on the road and you notice a driver right behind your car and way too close for comfort, this is called a tailgater. Tailgating is a factor in over 1/3 of all crashes on the road. According to a 2020 survey, 21% of responders admitted to tailgating or switching lanes quickly. [1]

While tailgating can be annoying and dangerous behavior, there are safe ways to deal with it. Here are some tips on what to do to help prevent an accident. [2]

What is tailgating?

Tailgating is when one car follows another too closely. It can easily lead to accidents, so it’s important to drive carefully when on the road with tailgaters. To warn the tailgater behind you that you’re slowing, tap your brake lightly a few times. If you notice a tailgater behind you, it’s best to change lanes and let them pass. [3]

How to deal with tailgaters

Tailgate drivers can be a very frustrating thing to experience. If you notice someone tailgating you, follow these tips on how to proceed safely:

  1. Stay calm: Keep composed to prevent emotions from getting the best of you and causing a serious accident.
  2. Keep a comfortable distance: Pay attention to the cars around you, and if one is tailgating close to you, stay far away.
  3. Let the tailgater pass: If the tailgater is behind you, switch lanes or even pull over to let them pass.
  4. Maintain your speed: Stay consistent with your speed so that other drivers can safely pass if they must. Using cruise control when conditions allow, is a way to keep your speed predictable for you and other drivers. [2]

What is a safe distance between cars while driving?

Make sure to follow the 3-second rule when determining whether you or another car on the road are driving at a safe distance. The rule says that when a car in front of you passes any point, you should be able to count to 3 before you cross that same point. The more distance between cars, the more time to react. [4]

What should you do in a tailgating accident?

You should handle a tailgating accident like you would handle any other car accident: Get help, call the police, collect the necessary information, document everything, and then contact your insurance company for next steps. What’s covered in your car insurance depends on your specific policy, the situation, and other factors.

While tailgaters can be annoying and dangerous, follow our tips on how to spot and deal with them to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. Also, make sure you and your vehicle are covered with the right insurance for you.


[1] “The Ultimate List of Driving Statistics for 2023,” driving-tests.org/driving-statistics (accessed Oct. 11, 2023).

[2] “Don’t Get Tackled: How to Deal With Tailgaters Safely,” firestonecompleteautocare.com/blog/driving/what-to-do-someone-tailgating-you (Sept. 2, 2019).

[3] “Tailgating,” driversed.com/resources/terms/tailgating (accessed Oct. 3, 2023).

[4] “What Is a Safe Following Distance?” driversed.com/trending/what-safe-following-distance (June 8, 2021).


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