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Is It Legal to Tail Someone in Your Vehicle?

Every driver has been there – enjoying your drive when you suddenly notice another vehicle tailing you so closely it’s practically in your back seat! At best, it’s annoying. At worst, it can be dangerous or even deadly.

But what does the law say about tailgaters and how closely one vehicle can tail another?

We’re taking a closer look and exploring what you should do in the situation. 

Let’s jump in!

What Does It Mean to Tail Someone on the Road?

Tailing or tailgating someone generally refers to a driver following a car so closely that they would be unable to avoid hitting the front car if it were to brake suddenly. The exact distance and speed that can be considered tailgating will vary depending on road conditions, weather, and other factors.

While it can be hard to define precisely in words, most people can feel the difference between simply following a vehicle and tailgating, even if they’re the one riding the other car’s bumper. Tailgating also tends to take place over a sustained period rather than a temporary closeness resulting from traffic or road conditions in the moment. 

While you’ll frequently find yourself behind other vehicles on the road, tailing someone at an unsafe distance or speed is generally not legal. Certain jurisdictions have laws requiring vehicles following another to keep a specific time or distance interval back.

However, local rules and enforcement will vary from area to area. So while the legality of tailgating someone may shift, the wisdom of doing it will not. It’s never a good idea!

Pro Tip: Never break any of these 10 Unwritten Rules for Highway Driving.

Through the windshield of someone tailing another vehicle
Keep a safe driving distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you while on the road.

How Should You React to a Tailgater?

No one enjoys having someone riding their tail, whether it’s out of aggression or simple obliviousness. But if you find yourself in the situation, here are some valuable tips on what to do. 

Remain Calm 

Getting frazzled does no one any good in a tailgating situation. The worst thing you can do is panic, which could lead to an accident with your tailgater, another car, or simply on your own. If you remain calm, every other step will be much easier and safer. It’s natural to feel your pulse quicken or your face flush with annoyance or stress, but take a deep breath and focus on the road.

Brake Slowly 

If you need to brake, you should do so as slowly as you can. This will give the driver behind you a clear sense that you need to slow down, hopefully encouraging them to do the same. It’s good to be proactive about this. You never know when you may need to brake suddenly, and with a tailgater, you may find yourself rear-ended. 

Get Into Another Lane If Possible

If you’re traveling on a multi-lane road in any lane other than the rightmost, try moving over. In many cases, tailgaters are just impatient drivers who may be late or frustrated and are speeding to compensate. Letting them pass and move ahead diffuses the situation and gets you back in a safe, comfortable driving mode.

However, you should only change lanes if conditions are safe to do so – don’t let a tailgater lead you to make a mistake that causes a crash!

Don’t Speed Up and Don’t Engage With the Other Driver

If you’re driving at a safe, appropriate speed, you shouldn’t feel pressured to speed up by an aggressive tailgater. This can put everyone on the road at risk and expose you to speeding tickets and other hazards. Chances are your tailgater will stick right behind you anyway, extending the same dangerous situation but now at higher speeds. 

You should also universally avoid engaging with the other driver. No matter how much you might feel like it, an aggressive or offensive gesture will likely only escalate the situation. Even well-meaning engagement can, at best, be ignored or, at worst, be misinterpreted as rude or angry. 

Driver hands on wheel driving car on city street
Do not slam on your breaks if someone is tailgating you. Instead remain calm and allow them to safely pass.

How Do You Stop Someone From Tailgating You?

The simplest way to stop tailgaters is to let them pass you and continue down the road. In most situations, the tailing car doesn’t have anything against you personally. They just want to drive faster. Letting them do so by passing, even if it’s not an intelligent decision on their part, at least removes you from the potentially dangerous situation. 

Pro Tip: Do you need to repent from committing any of these 7 Deadly Sins of Interstate Driving? Find out!

Should You Ever Call the Police on a Tailgater? 

These days, the police are busy. And unfortunately, there are quite a lot of tailgaters out there. Therefore, you shouldn’t call the police over every single aggressive follower. However, it’s clear that tailgaters can cause significant accidents, so they should still be taken seriously.

Particularly close or aggressive followers can and should be reported to the police. Use your best judgment in deciding whether to get the authorities involved, and stay safe out there!

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