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Slow For Tailgaters

Car damageIt’s a common scenario. We are driving along, with a safe distance between our car and the one ahead. We check our mirrors, just like driver’s training taught us: left, right, centre. The car behind is following too closely. Maybe they want to pass and are waiting for the opportunity. Maybe they are trying to read our bumper sticker. Maybe they are just idiots.

Most drivers feel the pressure from the tailgater. Are we going too slow? We speed up. We crowd the car ahead of us.  The car behind closes up, still tailgating.

Inevitably, the car ahead of us stops. We pile into its back end.

Who is the idiot here?

When someone tailgates, the best response is to SLOW DOWN.  It seems counter-intuitive. But we need a safe stopping distance ahead of us.  That includes space to protect ourselves from the car behind us.  If he has not left a safe stopping distance between us and him, that means we have to leave a space ahead of us which is enough for BOTH ourselves and the car behind.  In the words, double the stopping distance.  The rule of thumb is a 2 second gap to the car ahead.  When we are being tailgated, we need at least a 4 second gap ahead.

Tap your brakes. DON’T SLAM THEM ON.  Just a tap.  Just enough to make the brakes lights come on.  A little tap, pause, a little tap. Do that several times.  We want to get the attention of the tailgater, but don’t want to have him hit us.  We don’t want him to slam on HIS brakes – maybe get hit by the car tailgating HIM. Tap, pause, tap, pause, tap.  Then take our foot off the gas and let our car slow until we have a double stopping distance ahead. If necessary, pull over.  Let the tailgater pass.

If we let the tailgater push us into crowding the car ahead, then we double our danger.  If the car ahead suddenly stops, we have no space to stop safely.  Neither does the car behind us.  We risk being in two collisions.  We crash into the car ahead.  Then we are hit by the car behind.  Meat in a metal sandwich.

Of course, maybe we have pulled far enough ahead of our tailgater, to allow him to stop safely – or pull around us.  So we have been in a collision – one for which we are 100% at fault — and the real culprit is unhurt. He drives on, no doubt to cause another accident. Predictably, he doesn’t even look over, oblivious to the harm he caused.

The best we can hope for in the collision is that no one is hurt – just “tin” damage. If any claim is made, we lose our safe driver discount.  In a worst case scenario, we are injured.  Because rear-ending is pretty much always found to be the fault of the one behind, we are not entitled to any compensation.  We are limited to ICBC’s Part 7 “no fault” benefits.  ICBC typically refuses to pay the benefits we are owed (see another column).

It’s really easy to avoid all this: slow for tailgaters.