Tailgating:

 

Having insufficient reaction time and distance between vehicles, to avoid an impact.

 

After a recent scare with some tailgating truck drivers, both on my bike and in my car, I needed to write this article, to bring awareness to the dangers of this practice. In both instances, I was doing the posted speed limit, but that is not always good enough.

I’ve noticed more and more tailgating of late. When viewed from a distance, a bigger vehicle unnecessarily honing down on a smaller vehicle, it looks no different to school-yard bullying.

 

The Tailgating Tango: A Dance of Danger

 

Imagine you’re in the middle of a high-speed dance routine, only it’s not on a stage but a bustling highway. An unexpected twist in the rhythm, and BAM! Collision! This is the risky dance we call tailgating. But have you ever wondered why it’s so dangerous?

The simple yet underestimated answer: reaction time.

Most of us underestimate the distance needed to stop a vehicle. Being unaware of your surroundings, including the hot-shot in the flashy car right in front of you, can be a fatal error of judgement. It’s like being in a boxing ring with your eyes closed. You never know when you’ll get a punch right in the face!

 

I can’t implore enough how important this is to understand.

 

Do.

Not.

Tailgate!

 

Leave two to three seconds, at least, between you and the vehicle in front. More if it’s dark or non-perfect road and weather conditions.

Yes, even on the freeways and amongst city traffic, when not lane filtering.

“Oh, but cars always push into the gap…” I hear you say.

So? Let them. Just move back a couple of seconds again.

Hold the safest position in your lane and keep your own gap, even if it means moving back a bit.

 

Think

 

Coffs Harbour to Newcastle. 385 km. Approximately a four-hour drive, or on a motorbike, maybe five. Factoring in fuel stop, pee and a bit of a gander. Or hey do it in four hours; makes no difference for this.

Say between Coffs and Newcastle, 40 vehicles push into your two to three seconds gap… damn! So you’d have to throttle off a bit, 40 extra times and back up a couple of seconds. At the end of that little road trip, technically, you have been one and a half minutes longer on the road.

Put in context, slowing down to check out a view, manoeuvre around potholes and detours, maybe an unexpected stop to don a rain jacket… really in the big scheme of things, does that minute and a half affect the time you’re going to get to Newcastle in a major way, since there will be unplanned interruptions anyway?

You would be likely to make up time. Sitting back from vehicles, enables a clearer view of what’s in front.

  • There’s no braking up their butt after they’ve braked at something you can’t see.
  • There’s no risk of decapitation when checking for oncoming vehicles.
  • There’s plenty of room to avoid that dead roo, they’ve just spat out behind them.

Why risk becoming a statistic by tailgating?

 

Take a moment to think of your riding/driving habits.

 

Next time you’re on the road, in control of a motor vehicle, spot a fixed object on the side of the road that the vehicle in front has just past. Start your count… one thousand and one, one thousand and two… one thousand and three…

 

There is your two to three seconds. If you are at that spot on the second or third thousand, then you are exceptionally awesome!

 

I always sit at least two, to three seconds back, whether I’m riding or driving. Possibly because I was licensed for a motorcycle before a car, I’ve always done that.

I feel mighty uncomfortable sitting in a passenger seat with my nose nearly up the vehicle in front’s bumper!

 

 

Too many times something has spat out the rear of vehicles. Once a big steel rod bounced out from under a B-Double. You wouldn’t be reading this, if I’d been tailgating.

Oh yes and I’ve also heard the bit about getting into the slipstream of the vehicle in front… hahahahahahaaaa like seriously? You’re on a motorcycle. You don’t need to be in someone else’s slipstream.

 

More drivers than not, tailgate. Most of the people I know, tailgate, even when they’re riding their motorcycle.

 

Do.

Not.

Tailgate!

 

If you’re being tailgated

 

It is absolutely within your control to maintain that two to three-second buffer zone to give you a reaction time and a better chance of avoiding any hazards.

However, what’s not controlled by you is the distance between you and a following vehicle.

 

And that is where it can get really scary, especially on two wheels.

 

Recently, on my Boulevard I was maintaining the posted speed. If I’d felt safe going faster, I would have. The road surface was crud, bumpy, holey and because it was also drizzling, extremely slippery.

 

I was freaking out, being pushed to sit at the speed I was.

 

The only choice I had, was to pull over as I couldn’t safely hold that position with the truck so close behind me.

 

There’re a few things you can do before that though if you are being tailgated and you’re not feeling safe.

 

 

Check your speed

 

Sometimes the throttle has moved, altering the speed, so you may be holding up traffic. If you can, get back up to the speed limit, maybe a quick spurt to get ahead and away from the following vehicle.

If you’re a newbie and not comfortable with the posted speed, then an alternate route may be better for you until your confidence is there.

If you’re having bike trouble, indicate your intentions to pull over.

 

Confidence with Lane Position

 

No matter what road you’re on, try and hold your lane position where safe and possible.

On a single carriageway, it is commonly known as the driver’s position. I.e., where a driver of a four wheeled vehicle would be seated, driving.

On a multiple carriageway, stay in the driver’s position in all lanes except the far-right. There, try to sit in the passenger position. This is so when others legally pass you, you are in the safest position of the lane. This also gives you the best visual advantages of seeing what is ahead.

If the traffic is stationary at some stage or very slow and you’re able to lane filter, then do so to get away from the danger.

 

Seeing what’s ahead, helps you prepare for braking, so you’re not bumped from behind.

 

If you or your bike can’t confidently and comfortably sit on the freeway or highway speeds, then it is strongly suggested an alternate route is found.

Sometimes on freeways the traffic goes faster than the speed limit, so find yourself a safe gap in the traffic and either go with the flow or choose the slower lane.

Freeway traffic kinda has its own mentality and often scares the daylights out of me. It reminds me of people playing an aggressive computer game.

 

Encourage them to just go ahead

 

Here’s a bizarre thought, which mostly works. If you increase the distance of the vehicle you are following, it often inspires your tailgater to pass because they can see themselves in the next gap ahead.

 

Get out of their way

 

If all else fails, then like I’ve had to do a few times now, pull over and get out of their way. Easier said than done though.

 

There’s not always a clear area or side-road to do so and in my case, I had to make sure the truck driver was well aware of my intentions. With him almost on my pillion seat, I used my left arm initially, in a no-nonsense manner, to indicate for him to back off and to slow down and that I intended to pull over.

Then I touched my brakes multiple times to indicate I was slowing.  I slowed down very slowly. It was that serious, constantly watching him in the rear-view mirror to make sure he wasn’t about to run me over.

I was literally sitting on about 400 mm of roadside verge, (that’s all there was) and he passed without even moving over.

 

Not all tailgaters are being mean.

 

Some just drive that way because they have not been taught any different, but unfortunately, as motorcyclists, we are at the mercy of them and other malicious and aggressive road users, who are putting our lives at risk. So many are also on drugs or alcohol, so there’s no reasoning with them.

Just check your ego, keep your cool in moments like these, choose the safest way that you are confident with and get out of the situation as smoothly as possible.

 

 

The above are tips from knowledge, personal choice and years of experience, but always remember to ride your own ride.

I do not encourage anyone to break the law or ride out of their comfort zone.

Make wise decisions and think safety first.

 

 

By Katarina Dálaigh

 

 

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