When we’re behind the wheel we routinely scan the road up ahead for potential hazards.  But how often do we pay attention to the road behind us?  We should always be aware that a road hazard can sneak up behind us in the form of a tailgater.  Most rear-end collisions occur because someone was following too closely, so the best way to avoid being hit from behind is to identify and avoid tailgaters.

Although we might be tempted to taunt the tailgater by slowing down or not letting him pass, this is a breach of defensive driving practices and could set off an episode of road rage.  The correct thing to do when you are being tailgated is to let the tailgater pass you as soon as possible.  These are not drivers you want in your vicinity.  If you can avoid the tailgater, you can avoid a potential auto accident.

Tailgaters should never be ignored. Most of us do not aspire to be tailgaters, so using the “Three-Second Rule” can help keep our distance.  To make sure you’re not following the car in front too closely, watch as it passes a fixed object such as a pole or building and count out three seconds.  If you reach the object before three seconds, you’re too close.  If it’s raining, snowing or foggy, count at least four seconds, and as many as six.  Also, be aware of the time it takes for you to bring your car to a complete stop.  For the average car traveling 65 miles per hour, it takes the length of a football field to come to a halt.  That doesn’t leave any margin for error if you are being followed or are following too closely. And ask yourself if someone in front of you stopped suddenly, would you be able to change lanes quickly or drive onto the shoulder to get out of the way of the vehicle behind you?  Traffic can become so congested that it makes your space cushion disappear; if this is the case, be extra cautious, open up space where you can and watch your speed. Do not attempt to get away from a tailgater by accel-erating, particularly if there is a vehicle in front of you.  You can only control the space, or safety zone, in front of you.  You can’t control the space behind you.

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