Tailgating Problem More Complex Than It Appears
The Recent RAC Foundation survey has highlighted what has long been a serious problem on UK roads. The government have for many years shirked any responsibility for tackling this issue as they have always lumped 'driving too close' in with speeding, 'in a hurry' and many other accident causation factors to produce the now infamous lie that 'one third of accidents are due to speeding' used as an excuse for multiplying speed camera numbers.
Perhaps now the government will wake up to this serious issue which is, indeed far more important to safety than speed limit infringement. However, they must realise that this cannot be resolved by technology. Tailgating cameras have been mooted but they have serious drawbacks - overtaking traffic pulling back in could easily result in a safe driver being prosecuted, perhaps even deliberate braking by a preceding car likewise. In car technology could be highly dangerous. Any system that applies the brakes when a car pulls in front could cause chaos on motorways. Any skilled driver knows that braking on motorways is to be avoided unless absolutely essential due to the ripple effect caused amongst following traffic.
As ever, a combined approach of education and enforcement is needed. Tailgaters come in two basic types:
1. The absent minded tailgater. These people are drivers who have 'switched out' and are blindly following the vehicle in front, often seen in lane one and two of motorways travelling too close to the vehicle in front without realising it. They tailgate without reason and are unlikely to notice what is happening around them. When something goes wrong they just plough into the back of the preceding vehicle. These people need education on all aspects of motorway use and the effects of their behaviour upon safety and traffic flow.
2. The tailgater who wishes to pass. This is a far more complex issue. There is no excuse for tailgating and those doing it dangerously deserve to be prosecuted. However, we must also look at the reasons why they do it. There is an unfortunate culture on UK roads where drivers will not move over unless they are tailgated. Many are happy to travel for miles in the middle and outside lanes holding up queues of traffic. On single carriageway roads, too many drivers will happily drive along unnecessarily slowly with a queue of cars behind them and will not dream of pulling into a layby to let others pass. If cars stay a safe distance behind and patiently wait, they no that the driver will never pull over so they move closer to show they wish to pass. Education and enforcement is needed therefore, not only of the tailgater but also of the tailgated. Courtesy must be shown on both sides and courtesy must also be repaid.
ABD chairman Brian Gregory said:
"This is a very serious issue but it is no use the government trying to solve this problem with cameras or in car devices. Thay must start taking driver education seriously and get more traffic police out on the roads taking enforcement action against those causing danger. A campaign of courtesy is needed. We need to get tailgaters to modify their behaviour and keep a safe distance. However, we cannot realistically expect this to happen unless all drivers start using their mirrors and moving over or increasing speed if conditions allow when they are causing a traffic queue. All drivers must think about the effects of their driving upon all vehicles around them and realise the importance of concentrating upon facilitating safe traffic flow at all times."
ABD Road Safety Spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie said:
"One cannot ever condone driving too close. However one must question which are the most dangerous drivers, the switched out absent minded tailgater who is looking no further than the car in front or the press on driver who is looking further up the queue for an opportunity to make progress?" McArthur-Christie continued "It is very easy to over-simplify this problem as being just a case of prosecuting the press on type of driver — in reality it's a far more complex situation than that, requiring an approach from many angles."