Tourists and summer visitors are starting to pour in, so it’s time for a warning against tailgating — how to avoid doing it yourself and what to do about that pesky driver who keeps crowding up behind you.
Tailgating is probably against Maine law, which makes “driving to endanger” a criminal offense if accompanied by “criminal negligence.” Massachusetts, home of many reckless drivers, is more specific, authorizing turning on red and prohibiting a horse-drawn sleigh or sled unless three bells are attached to the harness. But no precise mention of tailgating is there or, by a quick scan, in most other states.
Wisconsin tells motorists: “As lovely as you may think your vehicle is, the driver in front of you doesn’t care to have it fill up his or her entire view in the rearview mirror.” It advises to allow at least 2 seconds between vehicles in the daytime, 3 seconds at night and 4 seconds during rain, sleet or snow.
About one-third of rear-end collisions involve tailgating. In Maine, rear-end crashes caused eight fatalities and 115 incapacitating injuries last year, according to the Department of Transportation.
Police are usually fully occupied with smashups, speeders and drunken drivers, so doing something about tailgating is pretty much up to you.
Rule No. 1 is don’t tailgate yourself. Leave plenty of room ahead of you in case the car or truck driver in front of you suddenly hits the brakes for a left turn, a traffic jam ahead, a deer, moose or other animal in the road, or whatever else.
The rules about dealing with the tailgater behind you are more complicated, but the main thing is don’t get mad. He or she is either in a big hurry, trying to be ready to pass when it looks clear, or one of those nuts who can’t stand having anyone in front of them. There’s a chance that the tailgater is looking for a fight and may even be carrying a gun. Road rage can lead to all sorts of trouble. Don’t let it grab you, and don’t drive the tailgater to it. Don’t just slow down to show who’s boss either.
The obvious course is to leave plenty of room ahead, so any type of tailgater can safely pass when there’s a gap in oncoming traffic. If that doesn’t work, look for a place to pull over to the side until he or she passes.
That way, you can focus on your driving — not that of the person behind you — and the tailgater can go annoy the next car up the road.