When you’re driving, few things are worse than being stuck behind someone who drives painfully slow. All of us have experienced the frustration of traveling behind slow-moving vehicles. Under these conditions, many drivers are tempted to follow more closely than they should, sometimes behave even worse and flash the high beams, and much more. However, “tailgating,” is risky and can lead to rear-end collisions or other accidents.

Tailgating while driving is more risky than you think. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 40 percent of all car accidents are rear-end collisions. Head-on collisions, t-bone collisions, sideswipe accidents, rollover accidents, and single-car crashes (along with many other types) together comprise the remaining 60 percent of car crashes. Common Causes and Contributing Factors of Rear-End Car Crashes

  • Driver Distractions – Texting, eating, rubbernecking, other passengers, or in-car technologies, like a GPS navigation system or a CD player, can take a driver’s attention away from the road.
  • Tailgating – This involves following another car too closely. If the vehicle in front of you needs to stop suddenly, you may not have time to react.
  • Hazardous weather conditions – Snow, icy roadways, and standing water can prevent a driver from successfully stopping his car.
  • Speed
  • DUI or other impairments

What Happens When We Tailgate? When drivers tailgate, they significantly reduce their stopping distance—or the distance needed to come to a complete and safe stop. What many drivers don’t realize is that stopping distance is directly proportional to the size and weight of the vehicle. For example, the stopping distance is much longer for a heavy truck than it is for a passenger vehicle, such as a car. In fact, it takes about twice the distance to stop a heavy truck than it does a car.

Other critical driving elements drivers sacrifice when tailgating are perception and reaction times. Perception and reaction times are two separate intervals of time. Perception is the time we need to see and process the roadway hazard, while reaction time is the time needed for a driver’s body to physically react to their brain’s perception. When a driver tailgates, both are significantly reduced. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, it takes alert drivers approximately two seconds to see a roadway hazard and react to it. The more space a driver allows between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them, the more time they have to see a hazard and react safely.

Add Another Second

A driver’s best defense against becoming involved in a rear-end collision is to create a “safety cushion” by keeping at least two seconds between them and the vehicle in front of them. This allows time for the driver to perceive and react to a roadway hazard, ultimately avoiding an accident. For added protection, when driving in poor conditions, such as driving at night, in bad weather, in heavy traffic, and through roadway construction, drivers should double their safety cushion to four seconds.

Remember to practice safety. Don’t learn it by accident. We value your safety here at NARFA so we continue to provide you with an ever-growing library of safety tips to keep in mind both on the road and on the job. The NARFA website provides a comprehensive glimpse into our best in class programs including employee benefits, workers compensation in Massachusetts, and much more.

For 87 years NARFA has looked out for its members. Join a group of successful businesses in the automotive, roads, fuel, and related industries who have the same interests at heart as you do. Contact us to learn more about our Trade Association and become a part of our “power in numbers.”



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