Tailgating: The habit considered the most dangerous driving act on our speeding roads
It’s one of the most irritating things we all experience on the road – and yet almost all of us chase others when we’re impatient behind the wheel.
Amanda Stephens, a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University’s Accident Research Center, discovered in a new study the reason why people lean back.
She said that when drivers are in a hurry, they feel their time becomes more valuable because there is less left.
So if something or someone violates that time, drivers can become increasingly frustrated and aggressive.
A study of real-world driving concluded that speeding and tailgating increase the risk of a crash more than holding or using a cell phone.
Tailgate drivers had a 13- to 14-fold increase in the likelihood of being involved in a crash, compared to more responsible driving.
A study of real-world driving concluded that tailgating along with speeding is the most dangerous traffic act. Drivers who had tailgates had a 13 to 14-fold increase in the likelihood of being involved in a crash (stock image)
Amanda Stephens, a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University’s Accident Research Center, said that when drivers are in a hurry, they feel their time becomes more valuable because there is less time left
Ms Stephens said tailgating is caused by people getting angry at someone getting in the way of what they are trying to achieve, in this case the destination.
She often said that before reacting to a problem you evaluate what happened, but when you are driving you are in a heightened state and there is no time to think critically about what is going on.
“Usually before reacting, you evaluate what happened, and ask who’s to blame and if they could have done things differently,” Ms Stephens said.
“But when you’re driving, you have less time and resources to make detailed evaluations. Instead, you are quick to judge the situation and how best to handle it.
“If you are frustrated before you get in the car, you are likely to become frustrated easily while driving, blame other drivers for your circumstances more, and express this by driving aggressively. Tailgating and speeding are examples of this aggression.’
Aggressive tailgating is often seen as a way to get back at a slow driver and is seen as an encouragement to get out of the way or speed up.
Aggressive tailgating is often seen as a way to get back at a slow driver and is seen as an encouragement to get out of the way or speed up
However, Ms Stephens said when a driver becomes agitated and angry they underestimate the risk and overestimate how much control they have in the situation.
She said the best way to stay safe behind the wheel is to recognize situations that could lead to your behavior.
A study of nearly 100 self-identified aggressive drivers yielded four tips for staying calm behind the wheel, focusing on planning, taking a break, taking a deep breath, and rethinking the situation.
The best strategy for these self-proclaimed aggressive drivers turned out to be the 5x5x5 strategy. The strategy leaves motorists wondering if the cause of their anger will matter in five minutes, five hours or five days
Ms Stephens said the best strategy for these self-proclaimed aggressive drivers was the so-called 5x5x5 strategy.
The strategy leaves motorists wondering whether the cause of their anger will matter in five minutes, five hours or five days.
After this time, if it’s deemed unlikely to matter, it’s not worth stressing over and you’re better off letting it go.
If the decrease in anger and fear on the road isn’t motivation enough to stop tailgating, drivers can also face hefty fines.
If you are cited in NSW for failing to maintain proper distance between your vehicle and another vehicle, the fine is $448, as well as 3 demerit points.
This is almost the same amount as it would cost you if you exceed the speed limit by 20-30 km/h, which carries a $455 fine and 4 demerit points.
HOW TO STAY CALM BEHIND THE WHEEL
1. Plan your journey before driving and allow enough time for the journey
It’s also good to know how you feel before you get behind the wheel
2. While driving, do things like drive in the left lane to avoid slow drivers in the right lane
Or if you feel yourself getting angry, stop and take a moment to calm down
3. In your vehicle: Do things to calm yourself down, such as taking a deep breath or listening to music
4. “Rethink” the situation: Recognize that in some situations, the only thing you can change is how you feel about it.
For example, ask yourself: is it worth the risk?
Or personalize the other driver. What if that was your lover in the car ahead of you?
Tips are from Amanda Stephens, Senior Research Fellow at Monash University’s Accident Research Center