‘Don’t be a Space Invader’ – Highways England launches new ‘tailgating’ campaign

09.38 | 17 September 2018 | | 11 comments

Highways England has launched a new campaign 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.

Highways England says while a small minority of tailgating is deliberate, most is an unintentional act by drivers who are ‘simply unaware they are dangerously invading someone else’s space’.

Highways England also points to figures suggesting tailgating is linked to more than 100 KSIs each year.

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

It has also published the findings of a new 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 seen it, while more than a quarter of drivers admitted to committing the action.

The campaign is supported by former Formula 1 world champion Nigel Mansell, who is president of IAM RoadSmart.

He said: “Tailgating is a driving habit I utterly deplore. Not only is it aggressive and intimidating, but it can lead to a crash with a tragic outcome.

“There is absolutely no upside to it – you will not get to your destination faster, you are not a skilled driver for doing it, and you are putting so many innocent people at risk. So I very much back this campaign to highlight the dangers of tailgating.”

Highways England is encouraging drivers to abide by the Highway Code, which says that drivers should allow at least a two second gap, which should be doubled on wet roads.

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, says: “If you get too close to the car in front, you won’t be able to react and stop in time if they suddenly brake.

“Tailgating 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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    Agreed Hugh but there must be some recommended distance to start with and both the Highway Code and the DVSA put forward distances which are considered to be far safer than being any closer. Before motor vehicles and speedometers were invented the safe distance measurement was applied to horse drawn carriages etc on our roads. So in bygone days distance was accepted as being important.

    Its no use telling drivers that they should be twice the distance in wet weather if they are not informed of what is considered to be the safe distance in the dry. Otherwise they if they usually drive in a 30 mph area being only 20 ft behind the vehicle in front and then in the wet double that distance to a mere 40 ft when in the dry it should be a recommended 75 or 90 ft. and in the wet that distance should be doubled.

    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Mr Lawson – I would not be happy about you, or anyone else, driving behind me, counting ‘one thousand and one,.. one thousand and two’ etc. If you have to rely on that, there’s something amiss…..stay further back and you won’t need to count anything.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

    At last, at very long last something is being attempted by HMG agencies to deal with this primary road safety issue. However, the disappointing part is that it has been approached with kid gloves on and seems to focus more on the irritation than the safety aspect. There is no mention that at least 30% of crashes are front to rear-end shunts. So that’s 1 in 8 killed but what about those just suffering injuries? By using the word ‘just’ I don’t mean to demean anyone suffering injuries. The campaign doesn’t seem to even mention that close following is a ticketable offence (3 points and £100 fine). And no one yet has taken up the thread that under HC126 (combined with Para 3 of the HC Introduction) there is a potential prosecution. IAM Roadsmart’s contribution is supported by a former F1 World Champion racing driver who merely says he feels that tailgating is, ‘deplorable’. Hmm.

    There seem to be two approaches to being able to stop in time if things suddenly go pear-shaped in front. One is the actual ability to be able to stop in time; the minimalist view which means ‘just’ – in other words, foot hard on the brake, arms braced, and pray. The other being, ‘undramatically’.

    At two seconds, and if paying full attention, then there is a chance (level road, good road surface dry condition and tyres in good condition) that a driver might be able to pull up in time. But, it is what I generically call a Blue Smoke Job, and not one I want to be around. Russell Jones suggests three seconds and incredulously has so far got a rating of +0/-7. Can you believe this, and from people who are presumably supposed to be the keenest and most knowledgeable on road safety?

    The undramatic part stems in two parts from Police driving Schools (not Driver Training Units as most are today, effectively Force Driving Schools), where 3-4 seconds was a recommended following distance, if not planning to overtake. This dovetailed very nicely with what one former police driving instructor told me he used to ask his pupils, ‘Whatever the circumstances can you pull up in time, undramatically? I’ll take the second option please, and then if I am taking granny out for the day she won’t go through the windscreen or, possibly have a heart attack.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
    Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

    Distance and speed are the biggest factors in the cause of traffic accidents. A large proportion of drivers just do not take any notice of warning campaigns and the dangers of tailgating.

    I have been travelling on the M1 and A14 this morning, I like Bob Lawson found it safer to travel on the inside lane with other slower moving traffic, those in the outer lanes (HGVs LGVs and Cars alike) at much higher speeds, bumper to bumper, 2 Nano seconds apart. Is it blind arrogance, or just plain stupidity? They put the rest of us at risk.

    What is the answer? They ignore campaigns, perhaps it is time for unmarked Police vehicles to patrol the roads and start the prosecution procedure of these Darwin award contenders?

    David Matthews, Northamptonshire
    Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

    To those who suggest the “two second rule” doesn’t work, I suggest they attempt to maintain a greater distance between their vehicle and the one in front. Nothing really stops them from attempting it. On motorways, I find I can maintain huge gaps between my vehicle and the one in front by using lane 1 as much as is possible. I have to get into the outer lanes when traffic conditions dictate, such as when overtaking vehicles that are speed limited by their nature, or by their driver’s inability to drive at motorway speeds.

    At 70 mph, with a two second gap, there will be a 200 foot / 60 metre gap between vehicles, which, in good conditions, is plenty. Increasing that gap to 3 seconds, or 300 feet / 90 metres, (except in adverse conditions) will not generally be beneficial. If the two second gap isn’t enough for you, increase your distance to one you’re happy with. Those who feel they need more, perhaps ought to check their separation distance, or consider paying more attention to the road ahead.

    I do what I always have, as the preceding vehicle passes a fixed point on a road, I start counting, one thousand and one, one thousand and two, and consider the gap is about right if I get to that fixed point as I finish saying “two”, and I adjust my distance either way as necessary.

    There would be more space available on motorways for gaps between vehicles if the lanes were being used correctly, but it suits me to travel, more or less alone, at motorway speeds in lane 1, with half a mile of braking distance, plus easy access to the hard shoulder if something goes wrong up ahead, and I have no lane changing to do when I reach the exit I need.

    Bob Lawson, Kettering
    Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

    A combination this campaign and the one dealing with lane hogging drivers who don’t pull over when they can and should may help improve lane discipline. Here’s hoping.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    But still only relevant at town and city speeds Russell – on the open road it should be much longer. The chevrons that h/way authorities mark with ‘keep two chevrons apart’ signs are not much better either. Both these and an arbitary time interval give out the wrong signals i.e. that we must be as close as possible to the vehicle in front, provided it is no closer than officially determined distances.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (5)

    The 2 second rule has long, long, been discredited. 3 rule is much safer.

    Russell Jones, Nottingham
    Agree (4) | Disagree (7)

    Coincidentally, on the BBC News website now, there is a feature about police issuing fines for tailgating on motorways.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    As a messaging design I think this works very well. Again though there is a, presumably deliberate, lack of “aftermath” in the images and seemingly a lack of risk of enforcement by stretched police. So I fear the behaviour will continue.

    I also wonder what work should be going on at manufacturer level to encourage slightly higher default headways for vehicles that automatically brake in assisted driving mode…..this matters to the driver in front who has to deal with the short headway and the pressure it creates.

    Peter Whitfield, Liverpool
    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    I was hoping the ill-researched two second rule was not going to be mentioned but no, there it is, three quarters of the way down. Perhaps the drivers involved in the 100 KSIs mentioned were in fact religiously adhering to this ‘safe distance’ because the authorities have been repeatedly telling them to. It doesn’t work!

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (14)

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