Like practically every other major city in the nation, Chicago residents are inundated with aggressive drivers. Tailgating, where drivers follow other motorists at an unsafe distance of less than two seconds, is one of the major practices that these aggressive drivers undertake. Motorists often tailgate because they are late, impatient, rude, or full of rage. However, many may simply be unaware of just how dangerous it can be. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions make up around 23 percent of all car accidents. This accounts for roughly 950,000 injuries and 2,000 deaths each year.
What makes tailgating so dangerous?
When drivers tailgate, they do not give themselves an adequate distance in which they can safely stop their vehicle. For smaller cars like a 4-door sedan, the stopping distance is far less than that of a large diesel truck. Some motorists are unaware of the connection between the size of the vehicle and the required stopping distance, and instead believe that their own dexterity and reflexes will be adequate to keep them safe from injury if the driver ahead of them suddenly steps on their brake.
Tailgaters also often fail to realize the succession of events that are needed in order to safely stop their vehicles to prevent a car accident. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, drivers must first perceive that a roadway hazard has occurred, then they must physically react to what their brains saw. These two processes take an alert driver two seconds to complete. Tailgaters crash into the car in front of them before they have an opportunity to even finish reacting to what their brain has perceived. In cases where a driver is tailgating and distracted, they may collide with the vehicle in front of them before they even realize what happened.
Potentially deadly consequences
According to the Albuquerque Journal, an elderly man was killed after another driver rear-ended his van on a major highway. The accident occurred near Shiprock, New Mexico, where law enforcement officers allege that the driver of a pickup truck was tailgating an elderly driver in a van. The 72-year old man was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he died from his injuries. Charges against the tailgating driver are currently pending. While this accident did not occur in Illinois, similar scenes have played out throughout Illinois counties hundreds of times in recent years.
Taking preventative steps
While on the roads, drivers can take certain precautions to keep their chances of being involved in a tailgating accident low. Drivers with a tendency for tailgating can focus on keeping a safe distance between their vehicle and any other vehicles ahead of them. To calculate a safe distance, drivers should stay 3 seconds behind other motorists. For those being followed by a tailgater, simply moving to another lane or maintaining the speed limit are often the safest choices.