Safe Driving - Tailgating

Author: Ashley Davis, Esquire, Personal Injury Lawyer, Richmond Virginia

Tailgating is when one vehicle follows very closely behind another vehicle.  Tailgating is dangerous because if the vehicle in front suddenly stops or slows down, the tailgater might not have enough time or distance to avoid a collision.  Tailgating is illegal in Virginia, and can lead to tickets, fines and jail time.[1]

The statistics are staggering.[2]  Last year, there were 121,763 reported traffic crashes in Virginia – 1 crash every 4.32 minutes.  According to the Virginia Highway Safety Office, 741 people were killed, and 65,114 people were injured.  In 2013, following too closely was identified in 28,345 (12.72%) of all motor vehicle crashes in Virginia.

Tailgating can be accidental, such as when a driver does not realize that he or she is following the other vehicle too closely.  It can also be intentional, and can be triggered by aggressive driving or road rage.

One of the best ways to avoid causing a rear-end collision is to make sure that you have enough room in front of your vehicle, so that you can react to changing traffic conditions.  If possible, you should leave enough space in front of your vehicle to allow other vehicles to pass and stop safely.  It might be necessary to increase your following distance when driving:[3]

  • behind a large vehicle that blocks your vision
  • in bad weather or heavy traffic
  • when exiting an expressway
  • behind a motorcycle
  • when being tailgated

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recommends using the two-, three- and four-second rule to determine if you are following far enough behind the vehicle ahead of you.

Following Distance

At these posted speeds and on dry surfaces, this distance, in seconds, allows the driver to steer and brake out of a problem area.

2 seconds

Under 35 mph

3 seconds

36-45 mph

4 seconds

46-70 mph

Here’s how the following distance rule works.

  • Glance at the vehicle ahead as it passes a fixed object, such as an overpass, sign, fence, corner or other fixed mark.
  • Begin counting the seconds it takes you to reach the same place in the road.
  • If you reach the mark before you have counted off two, three, or four seconds, depending on speed, you’re following too closely. Slow down and increase your following distance.
  • For bad weather conditions, heavy traffic, poor pavement or if your vehicle is in poor condition, add extra seconds to increase your following distance.

Although you cannot prevent someone else from tailgating you, there are steps that you can take to try to minimize the risk of a collision.

  • Remain calm, and do not engage the tailgater by shouting or making gestures.  Road rage is another common cause of car crashes.
  • If possible, move over to the next lane.
  • If it is possible to speed up without going over the speed limit or putting other motorists in danger, consider doing so in order to get more space between both vehicles.
  • Consider taking the next right turn or using an alternate route to get away from the tailgater.
  • Do not pump your brakes or suddenly slow down, if you can avoid it.

Allen & Allen is committed to representing individuals who are injured as a result of tailgating.  If you or anyone you know has been injured in a tailgating accident that was caused by someone else, you may be entitled to compensation.  If you are wondering whether you or loved one might have a claim, please contact us today for a free consultation at 866-388-1307.

About The Author: Ashley Davis is a research and writing attorney at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen in Richmond, VA. She works together with the firms partners to identify, analyze and address legal issues that affect clients' cases. Ashley formerly represented insurance companies and knows how they operate. This gives her a competitive advantage when fighting for the rights of our clients at Allen & Allen.



[1] Virginia Code Ann. § 46.2-816.

[2] Source: 2013 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts, published by the Virginia Highway Safety Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, Commonwealth of Virginia.

[3] Source: Virginia Driver’s Manual, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

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