Feb 22, 2023
Tailgating is a form of aggressive driving that often leads to serious accidents involving a range of injuries to passengers, drivers, and even pedestrians. Tailgating is one of the most common causes of rear-end collisions, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms account for approximately 23% of all motor vehicle crashes.
As a result of rear-end collisions, approximately 2,000 fatalities and 950,000 injuries occur annually in the United States, according to the Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation.
A recent article published by The Conversation, a network of non-profit media outlets which features news stories and research reports, looks at why drivers tailgate from the perspective of a psychologist.
In the sections below, we will look at why drivers frequently tailgate and provide information on how to file a claim for financial compensation with Dordulian Law Group after a car accident injury.
Australia’s Monash University has its own Accident Research Center which works to make people safer by conducting comprehensive injury prevention research. Amanda Stephens is a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University and wrote an article entitled “Why do people tailgate? A psychologist explains what’s behind this common (and annoying) driving habit.”
According to Stephens, aggressive driving such as tailgating is a general risk to people sharing the roadways, but that risk is increased considerably during the holidays.
“Holiday driving comes with increased risk (road deaths tend to spike during the holidays). That’s why news bulletins often carry the latest ‘road toll’ figures around public holidays,” Stephens wrote.
And whether or not you drive aggressively often boils down to one factor: time.
“If you are in a rush, your time becomes more precious because you have less of it. If something, or someone, infringes on that time, you may become frustrated and aggressive. This is basic human psychology. You can get angry when someone gets in the way of what you are trying to achieve. You get angrier when you think they are acting unfairly or inappropriately,” Stephens wrote.
Drivers often tailgate because they are under the perception that:
Accordingly, the tailgater might speed past the “offending” driver and then maintain that speed for some time after the incident occurs, according to Stephens.
“Aggressive tailgating may be seen as reprimanding the driver for their perceived slow speeds, or to encourage them to move out of the way. The problem is, when you are angry, you underestimate the risk of these behaviors, while over-estimating how much control you have of the situation. It’s not worth the risk,” Stephens wrote.
Moreover, Stephens notes that both tailgating and speeding actually increase your odds of being in a motor vehicle crash more than if you were driving while holding or dialing a cell phone.
A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) confirms that drivers who are tailgating or speeding have a 13 to 14-fold increase in odds of being in a crash (compared to when they are driving more safely).
According to Stephens, an important way to stay safe on the roads – especially during the holidays – is to “recognize the situations that may lead to your own dangerous behaviors.”
In fact, the Monash University Accident Research Center developed a program to help people behind the wheel reduce their aggressive driving behaviors.
As Stephens wrote, the program “helps drivers develop their own strategies to stay calm while driving, recognizing that one strategy is unlikely to suit every driver.”
The Monash University Accident Research Center encourages aggressive drivers to apply four types of tips to remain calm while behind the wheel. Those tips for reducing tailgating and aggressive driving are broken down below by category type.
Four months after completing Monash University’s program, drivers “reported less anger and aggression while driving than before the program. The strategies that worked best for these drivers were listening to music, focusing on staying calm and rethinking the problem,” according to Stephens.
Stephens also recommends a 5x5x5 Strategy, for aggressive drivers which entails:
” …asking yourself whether the cause of your anger will matter in five minutes, five hours or five days. If it is unlikely to matter after this time, it is best to let go.”
The California Highway Patrol offers the following tips to help drivers handle tailgaters and aggressive drivers:
Additionally, California Highway Patrol Officer Hunter Gerber offered the following tips for dealing with tailgating and aggressive drivers in a recent interview with FOX 5 San Diego:
If you feel threatened, law enforcement officials recommend calling 9-1-1. After calling, you should be prepared to provide information related to:
For more information on tailgating, please visit our recent blog.
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