‘Stig’ backs ‘Space Invader’ campaign

12.17 | 11 February 2019 | | 18 comments


Ben Collins – best known for his role as the ‘Stig’ on BBC motoring show TopGear – is supporting a Highways England campaign to tackle tailgating.

‘Don’t be a Space Invader’ was launched in September 2018 on the back of figures showing one in eight road casualties are caused by people who drive too close to the vehicle in front.

The campaign uses the well-known Space Invader video game character to alert drivers to the anti-social nature and risks of tailgating.

Ben Collins, who is also a championship winning Le Mans racing driver, said: “I discovered the dangers of tailgating at a very early age – in an overly enthusiastic game of musical chairs. The music stopped. So did the kid in front of me. But I didn’t. I face-planted the back of his head instead.

“Following the vehicle in front too closely reduces your vision to zero, along with your time to react to danger. Stay safe, stay back and look ahead.”

As part of the campaign, Highways England launched a dedicated webpage where drivers can find more information about tailgating and what they can do to stay safe.

Highways England also published the findings of a survey which reveals tailgating is the ‘biggest single bugbear that drivers have about other road users’.

The survey suggests that nearly 90% of drivers have either been tailgated or witnessed it, while more than a quarter of drivers admitted to committing the action.

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “It’s great to have someone of Ben’s experience backing the campaign and the message today is really simple around tailgating.

“We know that if you get too close to the car in front, you won’t be able to react and stop in time if they brake suddenly.

“Tailgating also makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them more likely to make a mistake.

“It is intimidating and frightening if you’re on the receiving end. If that leads to a collision, then people in both vehicles could end up seriously injured or killed. We want everyone to travel safely, so the advice is – stay safe, stay back.”


 

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    Accepted, Pat, there is no 100% rule for anything but my suggestion is not to let the 2% undermine the 98%, as it were.

    30% of crashes are front to rear-end shunts and the majority of those are going to be the result of following too closely and, or inattentiveness. So to have the policy of prosecution if any vehicle goes into another is principally sound. The other and, if anything more important point, is that once the news got around it would be the start of drivers starting to take ownership of their own safety and that alone would lead to a quantum shift in road safety. So, overall, yes, nail them if they go into the back of another and, if there are any really mitigating circumstance that, can be sorted out in court. A key point in safety is having space and time and that’s what this would start to have more drivers thinking about. In turn that would more or less automatically start to deal with tailgating. So, from an overall perspective in terms of safety on the road. Yes, without doubt, go for it.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    The Highway Code doesn’t help when it advises one to regain their own lane as soon as possible – but adding when it is safe to do so. What does that mean?

    It makes no comment about the safe stopping distances at all. It does tell the overtaken driver that if there is now insufficient space they should slow and give that space. That however means that the vehicle having overtaken actually causes others to slow or alter course then they commit an offence of driving without reasonable consideration or due care and attention.

    One factor that may explain why a lot of drivers do cut in is that they look through their nearside mirrors only and see the overtaken car at a distance but the mirror is lying to them. Both external mirrors are distorting the true distance and only the internal one tells the correct distance. So the vehicle having been overtaken looks a distance away the overtaking car pulls in in.

    Information regards to this difference is in the handbook but no one bothers. They look in the mirror and see the car at what they consider a reasonable distance but if the looked in the internal mirror they would find it very much closer.

    Remember white van man has no internal mirror so be aware as he generally pulls in too soon.


    R.Craven
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    +1

    Happy to oblige Nigel,

    Things are rarely absolutely black and white and your comment “Either way he or she should be done. Period.” is too simplistic and takes no account of the car in front being the cause of the problem.

    I have lost count of the number of times someone has unwelcomely “squeezed in” just in front of me when they join the motorway. Sometimes they then have the cheek to immediately dab the brakes hard. Although I have already eased off the pedal to create the space I had before they squeezed-in, (without braking too hard and giving the driver close behind me palpitations) I would be rather annoyed if the car in front antics caused a shunt and I was automatically considered guilty just because I was the rear of the two cars. So, no “period full-stop”. Discretion is required, it is not always the car behind’s fault.


    Pat, Wales
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    +3

    Just clarifying on your comment please David re, ‘follows within 4 seconds of the car in front, they will fail it.’ Does this mean that a driver is expected to be more than 4 seconds away to pass?

    The other point is that we are dealing with a fairly basic issue of safety here and this is supposed to be a forum for those particularly interested in road-safety and presumably understanding the subject as well, and yet my comment has received just a negative rating. Something else which beggars belief. So, would the kind soul who did this be prepared to come out of anonymity, be brave enough to put their head above the parapet, and say how or why they justify that opinion please because we should all be singing from the same hymn sheet, as it were.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    +1

    Derek. That is heresay. A friend of mine and an Advanced Rider was out with his daughter who had just passed her car driving test. at the end of their first run out he asked her why she drove so close to the vehicle in front. Her answer was that its what was instructed. It appears that the advice being given by some ADI’s was in accord with the SEPARATION DISTANCE in the DVSA handbook and it was that the safe distance behind the vehicle in front is the distance one can stop in should that vehicle stop. [ Not in accord with the Highway Code S.126 ]

    I myself have had the opportunity last year to ask three ADI’s [ two who were retired ] the question of stopping distance and all three said almost the same thing, if the vehicle in front stops and you can stop then that is the safe distance.

    I recently had communicated with a Rospa Advanced Motorcycle Instructor on advice he had given and he again confirmed to me that on urban roads subject to the 30 mph limit they advise the distance to be some 30 ft. The Thinking Distance only.

    Beggars belief doesn’t it.


    R.Craven
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    +1

    If what Derek has said about failing the test in those circumstances is correct, I despair and wonder if it’s time to examine the examiners. It would be unusual for me to be closer than 4 seconds behind a vehicle at anything more than say, 25mph. As for 2 seconds..forget it.


    Hugh Jones
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    I have heard that if on test the driver follows within 4 seconds of the car in front, they will fail it. Maybe if this is correct, it should be more widely advertised and it also begs the question, what safe distance is involved with autonomous vehicles.

    2 seconds?


    Derek C Donald, Inverness
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    I agree with Nigel that people are pussyfooting about the issue and not taking it seriously enough.. But enforcement is only one tool that can be used but then it’s something like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted and there are problems.

    How can the police or the prosecution service bring a case If the defence is clearly outlined as being acceptable and encouraged in the DVSA handbook. Tell me what would happen if that piece of evidence was given to a court. It would give sufficient doubt in the mind of the Court.

    There are a further two reasons for Tailgating and both involve mistakes being made by the Police themselves.

    What we need to initially do is to look at and stop the 3 reasons why tailgating is happening. Is anyone going to go against the advice given by the DVSA I think not but it needs to happen.


    R.Craven
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    +1

    It’s really a erewegoagain job. The Highways Authority poked this with a stick last year (what a waste of public money that was) and it is good that someone else has taken up the baton but nothing much is going to happen until it has some bite.

    Close following is so often promoted as a major ‘irritant’ to other drivers. Ben Collins touches on the safety aspect, but only lightly. 30%^ of crashes are apparently front to rear-end shunts. There is a penalty of 3 points and £100 for close following. If the one in front has to do an emergency stop and the one behind can’t stop in tine then that driver has been following too closely and/or not paying sufficient attention. Either way he or she should be done. Period. That would start to get drivers to take ownership of their own safety and would itself cause a significant shift in road safety. But most follow at less than the 2secs min and many are around the suicide spacing of 1 second. So it’s really a question of when the powers that be stop pussy-footing around and start get serious about this issue.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    --1

    What would happen if a driver undergoing training was to be instructed on the correct, safe distance, lets say about 75 to 90 ft mark at up to 30 mph in an urban situation. Further that that training continues with the same safer distance for the 40 to 60 hours of training being undertaken. That safer distance then becomes the norm and an acceptable safe distance. Then what if the same distance was to be tested on and perhaps some would fail if they were found to be dangerously close.

    Under those circumstances I am sure that the trainee would have a greater understanding of what constitutes a safe distance. That would be a safer and better basis to start with. Much better than to give a completely falls,dangerous and incorrect distance that would stay with them for life, A distance that would make use of the roads a more dangerous place. Something that now appears to be happening.


    R.Craven
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    Even with the ‘correct’ distance in their mind, people are not necessarily capable of measuring that distance whilst on the move. For that reason, informing drivers of supposed stopping distances whether in feet, yards, metres or seconds for them to adhere to is a I think a mistaken idea anyway -so many variables to add into the mix anyway. It would be like advising exactly what speeds they should drive at.


    Hugh Jones
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    The fundamental problem is that for many decades drivers have been instructed to be closer than the full stopping distance.The Thinking Distance only. This is explained in ‘SEPARATION DISTANCES’ in the DVSA Official guide to DRIVING handbook ,page 169. ADI’s teach this distance and it has become acceptable on the test as it’s referenced the book.

    Not only that but they will see many other drivers doing the same thing and even take it out on many faster roads where again only the Thinking Distance is given. Even in bad weather, rain and wet roads or in the dark or at any speed on any road they will continue to drive far too close and its not their fault. It’s how they were instructed and all they know.


    R.Craven
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    If that’s correct Bob, then you’ve identified the fundamental problem i.e. that the driving instruction and testing in the UK is flawed…however too close driving and too fast driving is still only the realm of the minority so it can’t be that on its own.


    Hugh Jones
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    Sory Hugh but your presumption about drivers not being too close in examinations is a wrong one. They are instructed to be so and that is obviously accepted by the examiner. They may fail on driving too fast or too slow but do not fail on being too close.

    You have to understand that both the ADIs and the examiners have to sing from the same hymnbook and so they follow the same advice re distances given in the hymnbook.


    R.Craven
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    --2

    I presume that drivers, during their driving test did not drive too close or too fast, so what happens to them, once they are let loose with their shiny new licenses I wonder? Some drivers improve post-test, others obviously don’t.


    Hugh Jones
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    +1

    The problem is Hugh that we are actually training drivers to be at the closer position of the Thinking Distance only.

    How can we ever start to improve things and make driving a safer place for all road users and change an obvious problem that is being made worse through initial training.


    R.Craven
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    There’s a danger that impressionable young drivers might be more influenced and excited by the Stig’s antics on Top Gear’s racetrack than his endorsement of, in their eyes, a relatively unexciting road safety campaign.


    Hugh Jones
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    --2

    What is worrying is that some drivers who have passed their test and are therefore deemed competent to drive on the highway actually need to have this pointed out to them at all… it is after all, an elementary and fundamental aspect of driving. Whilst some tailgate deliberately and knowingly to intimate others, a lot do so seemingly in blissful ignorance of the danger.


    Hugh Jones
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    +6