Drivers have been warned against the dangers of tailgating amid concerns that ‘huge numbers’ are failing to follow ‘basic safety rules’ on the country’s busiest roads.
The Highway Code tells drivers to allow at least a two-second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic and in tunnels where visibility is reduced.
The gap should be wider as speeds increase. It rises to 2.4 seconds – about 53 metres – when driving at 50mph and 3.1 seconds – or 96 metres – at 70mph.
Furthermore, the gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads.
A survey carried out by National Highways found that eight in 10 people said they were aware of the ‘two-second rule’ – while 75% said they had not driven too close to the vehicle in front within the previous three months.
However, a recent trial of new tailgating cameras on a stretch of the M1 captured 60,343 incidents of vehicles driving too close, in just one year.
The trial, carried out in partnership with Northamptonshire Police, also found there were 10,994 repeat offenders.
Drivers caught in the trial were not prosecuted but advised they had been tailgating and given educational material demonstrating the dangers of driving too close.
National Highways will use the results of the trial to inform future work on tailgating, which is a factor in around one in eight crashes on England’s motorways and major A roads.
Jeremy Phillips, National Highways head of road safety, said: “Unfortunately, as highlighted by the M1 trial, we know that too many people are driving too close on our roads.
“Most tailgating is unintentional by drivers who don’t realise that they are infringing on someone else’s space. But not leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front is not only very frightening for that driver, it could have devastating consequences.
“The closer you get, the less time you have to react and to stop safely. So to avoid inadvertently getting too close to the vehicle in front, we would urge drivers to use the two-second rule and to always ‘stay safe, stay back’.”