Why Do Drivers Tailgate? University Program Aims to Reduce Aggressive Driving

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Why Do People Tailgate? A University Researcher Explains

Why Do People Tailgate? A University Researcher Explains

Jan 4, 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.

Why Do People Tailgate? A University Researcher Explains

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.

Why Do People Tailgate?

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:

  • The other vehicle is driving too slowly
  • The other vehicle is driving in the wrong lane

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).

What Can You Do To Reduce Aggressive Driving Like Tailgating?

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.

They include:

  1. Before driving: tips include better journey planning, allowing enough time for the trip and recognizing how you are feeling before you get in the car
  2. While driving: this includes travelling in the left lane to avoid slow drivers in the right lane, or pulling over when feeling angry
  3. In your vehicle: such as deep breathing or listening to music
  4. ‘Rethinking’ the situation: acknowledge that in some situations, the only thing you can change is how you think about it. For example, ask yourself is it worth the risk? Or personalize the other driver. What if that was your loved one in the car in front?

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.”

What Should I Do If Someone is Tailgating Me?

What Should I Do If Someone is Tailgating Me?
The California Highway Patrol offers the following tips to help drivers handle tailgaters and aggressive drivers:

  • Maintain adequate following distance
  • Use turn signals
  • Allow others to merge
  • Use your high beams responsibly
  • Tap your horn if you must (but no long blasts with accompanying hand gestures)

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:

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Do not respond to aggression with aggression
  • Keep your distance
  • Have passengers record the incident if possible
  • Have an escape route
  • Do not drive home if the aggressive driver continues to follow you
  • If you feel you are at risk, call 9-1-1, and drive to a police station
  • If you are confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible

If you feel threatened, law enforcement officials recommend calling 9-1-1. After calling, you should be prepared to provide information related to:

  • The description of the driver
  • The vehicle
  • The license plate number
  • The location
  • The direction of travel

For more information on tailgating, please visit our recent blog.

Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer After a Tailgating Injury?

Hiring an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer from Dordulian Law Group (DLG) can be advantageous on a number of levels. In fact, statistics prove the benefits of hiring a personal injury attorney after a car accident.

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) recently conducted a study which confirmed the following personal injury claim statistics:

  • Settlements for injured claimants were 40% higher when they had secured private legal representation.
  • The average insurance payout was 3.5 times higher for injured victims who hired private attorneys (when compared to those representing themselves).
  • 85% of all money paid by insurance companies for bodily injuries is received by victims who have secured representation from a private personal injury attorney.

Free Los Angeles, California, Car Accident Lawyer Consultation

Reach out DLG’s award-winning and top-rated car accident attorneys today to arrange for a free and confidential consultation regarding your personal injury case. There is never any upfront fee for our expert legal representation – you will not be charged a penny until after we’ve successfully recovered a maximum financial damages award for your case.

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