Tailgating increasing on motorways: Brake

10.27 | 1 March 2012 | | 7 comments

More than half of motorists drive too close to the vehicle in front on motorways, and the number is increasing, according to new research by Brake and Direct Line.

The research shows that 53% of drivers are taking this risk, which compares to 49% seven years ago. It also revealed that 30% of male drivers tailgate at least weekly, compared to 15% of women.

Brake says that the research adds weight to the argument against increasing the motorway speed limit, pointing out that at 80mph stopping distances are 27% greater than at 70mph.

Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive, said: “Drivers who don’t keep their distance increase the risk of pile-ups, which can and do result in multiple deaths and injuries.

“We urge all drivers to realise the vital importance of the two second rule, and make a personal commitment to always stick to it. We are also appealing to the Government to ditch proposals to raise the motorway limit – the fact most drivers aren’t keeping their distance only adds to the case against this policy.

“Various researchers have predicted an 80mph limit will mean more lives cut short and more injuries, while arguments in favour simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.”

For more information contact Ellen Booth on 01484 550067.


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    Tailgating is on the rise. Having travelled along the M1 and M6 through miles of roadworks and managed motorways, almost every vehicle was within the safe braking distance.

    Irrespective of the speed limit, it’s down to the driver to ensure they can pull up without drama if the traffic slows and the time lost leaving that little extra gap is immeasurable. Modern cars are good for probably twice the legal maximum speed, but that means nothing if this is not measured with extra distance to cover reaction time and road conditions. The penalties and enforcement do not seem to work and I wonder how many average speed cameras can measure the speed and gap between vehicles. That would be quite a revelation.

    HGV’s tailgating cause a heap more problems. The risk of getting off the motorway or joining is huge when there is insufficient gap between a line of HGVs.

    But its not just HGV, vans etc. its everyone contributing. Once a line starts to slow down, some poor guy 20 miles upstream is standing on his brakes directly due to the concertina effect and a matter of luck he keeps it straight.

    Its simple…leave more space and then some.

    Foz, Stoke
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    Many lorries tailgate – try driving a car behind a truck doing 50 (e.g. Tesco limited to 50) and see how close they get. Never mind 2 seconds we are talking fractions. Then the hauliers wonder why criminals slam on to claim insurance fraud cash. The excuse that they want to avoid a night over is BS of the highest order. These are “professional” drivers trying to intimidate other drivers into tailgating in “their” lane and it deserves heavy fines for the haulage firms who permit their workers to behave like that. Nothing to do with 80mph of course but at 80mph a 2 second gap gives just as much reaction time as it does at 5mph or 180mph and is pretty irrelevant to the debate about increasing speed limits (which I am personally against).

    Rick, Cheshire
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    Mr Craven. HGVs don’t cause tailgating. Tailgaters cause tailgating no matter what they’re driving. There are 3 lanes on a motorway so it’s not like there isn’t a way past.

    You say what do they gain doing 1mph than the truck in front but it’s not that simple. Some trucks are limited to 56, some as low as 50. A 6mph decrease on a 400 mile journey could be the difference between getting home to your family or running out of hours and having a night out. And for what, so a car driver who’s only traveling a few junctions can bomb home in record time. 80% of motorists travel less than 20 mile per day. That’s 10 mile each way to work and back. Are trucks really causing that much bother to the majority of road users.

    And forcing all trucks into the inside lane would present a whole new world of problems. Including, ironically, tailgating. The 56mph trucks would almost certainly start tailgating the 50mph ones resulting in more accidents. This would also make it very difficult to enter motorways as there would be less gaps and trucks wouldn’t be able to move over to let other motorists on.

    Marc Scott
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    And finally. In a few words, HGVs driving at same speed in tandem hold up two lanes of the motorway for many miles with total disregard to the problems they creat to others.

    They should be required by law to stay on inside lane. After all, what are they gaining doing 1mph more that the lorry in front? But they cause the bottleneck and the ensuing tailgating problem.

    robert craven Lancs
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    Dont get me started on this topic.

    To late. First.. The stats may be correct re male/female involvement but what % of the driving population is male and what is female? The number of female offenders then goes up.

    Can’t agree with Dave re increased speed, increased distance tho. Not true in my opinion. Tailgaters will tailgate no matter what speed. I have slowed, I have increased my speed to over the limit but I still can’t shake them from huggin my rear fender.

    It’s not just motorway, the 2 second rule applies in towns also but with a speed of 30 mph [44ftm] and a stopping distance 1.7 times that [75ft] it doesn’t take much maths to appreciate that most vehicles are too close. Maybe at 5 mph it would be ok?

    On speaking to many drivers and twv riders they have this presumption that if the cars in front brake to a stop then they can do the same. When I point out that it’s in the event of the vehicles in front coming to a complete and utter standstill because its crashed [not slowly braking] they start to see my point.

    I have in the past critisised police instructors on bikes for riding too close to the vehicle in front and they have defended this with the fact [posible] that they can swerve out of the way in the event of an accident…. not if the carriageway is completely blocked with artics and cars piled up. I hope they see the point I make as well and drop back into the safer defensive riding position.[ ie 2 second rule] Most argue till the cows come home and will not be told.

    A major issue and possible cause for this, particularly on two lane A roads and motorways is the total false perception to distance given by a cars exterior mirrors. the nearside mirror makes one believe that the car u have just overtaken is some 60ft away when in fact u are pulling on it and its only 30 ft away. the nearside mirror is nowadays manufactures to give a wider view but one that is distorted. The offside mirror is also manufactured in the same way but to give an impression that the car behind is further away than it is thus u have just pulled out on him and effectively cut him up, You thought he was 30ft away [ far enough] when he was only some 20ft away or less[ just over a cars length]

    White van man who is always cutting in front or swerving has no interior mirrors so he relies on the false info his external ones are giving. All this leads to anger, frustration and the fact that if the car just overtaking u has moved in and is to close , this puts one in a tailgating position and thus breaking the law and its not your fault. Rather than slow to a safe distance . the 2 second rule applies, one remains tailgating and thus it goes on from the first to the second to the third lane. No one wants to back of. By the way if u are ever in a such a queue and u see a gold coloured Skoda miles away from anything in front… it will be me. exercising my right to the freedom of space.[ or at least 2 seconds of it]

    So the manufacturers have got it wrong and should alter the external mirrors. In the mean time drivers should, after overtaking view the overtaken vehicle in their nearside mirror and then watch it in the interior one and when that overtaken vehicle is in the middle of that mirror, then and only then should they indicate and pull in. In the event of pulling out into the next lane look into the offside mirror and if the vehicle approaching u is to close let it pass and wait for a larger gap to pull into but first do a check over the right shoulder so as not to impeed his approach.and or check to see if indeed he his visible in your interior mirror.


    bob Craven Lancs
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    It might be useful if these news items included the available data on the size of the problem.

    “Following too close” is a contributory factor in collisions: 1.3% of fatal, 2.6% of KSI and 6.7% of all.

    This suggests it is quite a large factor in slight injuries, but of decreasing significance with increase in severity. This seems logical as the impact speed could be expected to be far far lower than in other types of collision.

    But following too close is not simply too short a distance to the vehicle in front, it depends on the entire set of hazards ahead and gaps between vehicles seem closely related to perception of speed. The higher the perception of speed, the larger the gaps drivers leave. You can easily see this at most speed camera sites. Gaps decrease as speeds decrease. And SPECS often have very short spacings.

    Can’t see how this impacts decisions on 80mph limits though, especially as most motorists already regularly reach 80mph where safe.

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    I abhor tailgating and would like to see police patrols tackling this issue. But it is inappropriate and wrong to link this to 80mph.

    Brake have consistently refused to engage with me on the subject of real road safety, content to focus on their apparent belief in safety through speed enforcement.

    As an independent safety researcher, whose sole interest is road safety, I can see no reason why KSI would increase due to an 80mph motorway limit. If anything, the arguments and evidence suggest it would be safer.

    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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