By Logan Quirk
The road is not the right place to show your aggression. For instance, being aggressive by following too closely can lead to you a violation of CVC 21703.
A moment of displaying road aggression on your part can lead to unpleasant consequences. It’s simply not worth it. If you’re not sold on that notion yet, please feel free to read on to see why tailgating is a bad idea.
We’ll talk about the laws addressing tailgating as well as the dangers of that driving habit. You’ll also learn more about how following too closely can land you in a legal mess.
Let’s get started by discussing what tailgating is. Tailgating is the practice of following too closely while driving. It’s also a common driving behavior that the California Department of Motor Vehicles points to as something that can lead to aggressive driving.
If there’s another vehicle in front of you while you’re driving, the expectation is that you will give that driver more space. As the driver in front, it’s also reasonable for you to expect that a driver behind you will not follow too closely.
Why People Engage in Tailgating
No matter how you look at it, following another vehicle too closely is a risky thing to do on the road. So, why do people tailgate so much? There are some possible explanations for that.
The Driver Behind You Is in a Rush
First off, the driver behind you may be in a hurry. They may be late for work or an appointment, and they mistakenly think tailgating you will get them to their destination faster. Drivers in a rush may not always be thinking clearly, hence why they believe tailgating is effective.
Your Driving Speed Is Too Slow
Someone may also engage in tailgating if they are frustrated with how the person in front of them is driving.
Let’s say that you chose to drive on the fast lane of the highway. The expectation is that you will maintain a high driving speed while you’re in that lane. If you’re getting lost, though, you may need to slow down a bit to understand where you’re going.
A driver behind you may find that your driving speed is too low for the lane you chose. They may tailgate you to get you to speed up or get out of the way.
The Driver behind You Wants to Keep Lane Cutters Out
Drivers may also engage in tailgating because they don’t want others getting in front of them. Some drivers will weave in and out of lanes to get ahead of other vehicles. To stop that from happening, the driver behind you may follow you closely.
Both lane weaving and tailgating are risky driving practices that you should avoid as much as possible. Avoid engaging in either action whenever you’re behind the wheel of your car.
One more reason why a driver may tailgate you is that they’re angry. They may be angry about something you did earlier or another thing entirely, but they’re taking it out on you.
Try to steer clear of someone exhibiting the signs of road rage. They may do something dangerous and harm you in the process. Pull over and call the police if you believe the situation is escalating.
Is Tailgating Legal in California?
There is a California law addressing the issue of tailgating.
According to CVC 21703, the driver of a vehicle should avoid following another automobile “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” A driver must maintain a distance from another vehicle depending on factors such as their speed, the traffic, and the condition of the road.
So, how do you determine what distance from the vehicle in front of you is “reasonable and prudent?”
That’s the question that all California motorists should seek an answer to. If you’re wondering as well, it may help to read more about the so-called Two-Second Rule.
The Two-Second Rule and How It Can Prevent Tailgating Accidents
The Two-Second Rule gives motorists an easy-to-follow reference point for road safety. As the name suggests, the rule requires you to fall about two seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.
The reason why you drop back about two seconds behind the vehicle you’re following is to give yourself enough of a buffer. According to Driving Test Tips, falling behind by two seconds means that there’s about one car length per five mph between you and the vehicle in front of you.
It may not seem like much, but that distance can serve as a good buffer. Even if the vehicle in front of you suddenly stops or loses control, you can still react and avoid an accident. The vehicle behind you may also have a greater chance to avoid a collision if you and the other driver suddenly stop.
Executing the Two-Second Rule
Following the Two-Second Rule is easy enough. Driving Test Tips suggests using a traffic sign or landmark when trying to follow the rule.
As soon as the rear of the vehicle in front of you clears your chosen point of reference, count to two in your head. It should take you at least two seconds to clear the same point of reference. If it took you sooner than two seconds, slow down a bit and create more space.
Modifications of the Two-Second Rule
The Two-Second rule does not apply to all situations. There are situations where leaving only a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you is insufficient.
If it’s rainy or the road is slick, extend the gap to about four seconds. When the weather’s bad like it is when a storm is bearing down, leave a gap of ten seconds or more between you and other vehicles.
How Dangerous Is Tailgating?
There’s a reason why the state of California has a law discouraging the practice of tailgating. There’s also a reason why motorists came up with a rule of thumb to follow, so drivers do not engage in that practice.
That reason is due to how dangerous tailgating can be.
Per the Insurance Information Institute, 2,456 rear-end collisions led to fatalities back in 2017. That accounts for about 7.2 percent of all fatal crashes. Accounting only for fatal crashes involving motor vehicles in motion led to more casualties.
Remember again that those are only the fatal crashes.
There are way more collisions that led to injuries. Some of the injuries you may sustain from a rear-end crash can stick with you for a long time or even for the rest of your life. Examples of injuries that may be caused by tailgating-related crashes include concussions, whiplash injuries, and brain bleeds.
Even if you are somewhat lucky and you do not sustain or cause injuries, you could still wind up in trouble. The car you hit while tailgating may end up damaged because of your irresponsible driving. Addressing that could prove costly.
Don’t forget about the penalties you may face as well.
What Are the Penalties for Tailgating?
They do not consider tailgating a crime in California, but they do recognize it as an infraction. Because it’s an infraction, the penalties you’ll face will be lighter, at least when compared to committing other violations of the law.
The most notable penalty you’ll face is a fine. You will receive a ticket for tailgating, and you’ll need to pay a fine of $238. That is a significant chunk of change that not everyone can afford.
In addition to the fine, you will also receive a point to your driving record if you were tailgating.
That one point is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. However, if you’re not careful and commit other violations within a certain period, you could face a more significant penalty. To be more specific, they may suspend your driver’s license for six months, and you may also be on probation for one year.
At first, the penalties for following another vehicle too closely may not seem that bad. Lose track of your previous citations and commit a tailgating violation at the wrong time, though, and you could end up in serious trouble.
Are There Times When Tailgating Is Allowed?
California drivers may get away with tailgating in certain situations.
For instance, you can tailgate when there’s heavy traffic. Since the movement of the vehicles is slow, the odds of you rear-ending the vehicle in front are quite low. You can stick close to the vehicle ahead of you without committing a violation.
Tailgating is also permitted when you’re going through a low-speed area. You can engage in that practice inside parking structures, but you should still try to maintain some distance whenever possible.
How a Tailgating Violation Can Hurt You from a Legal Standpoint
The act of tailgating itself is not considered a serious offense. Do note, though, that it could play a role if someone is building a case against you.
Let’s say that you were recently in an accident.
The accident occurred because the vehicle in front of you had to stop suddenly to avoid hitting something on the road. You didn’t react quickly enough, though. As a result, you hit their vehicle, and now that driver is injured.
In that scenario, you could argue that you didn’t know that the other driver was about to stop, and that the collision was purely accidental. That defense could work, but it may not if they cited you for tailgating.
Even if it’s true that you had no intention of hitting the vehicle in front of you, they can still hold it against you. The other party may argue that the accident would not have happened if you weren’t tailgating. The authorities can cite your irresponsible driving as a contributing factor to the accident taking place.
How You Can Fight a Tailgating Accusation
A tailgating charge may not be something you can accept at the moment. Maybe it’s because you’re in danger of getting your driver’s license suspended or because you don’t have money to pay the fine.
The good news is that you don’t need to accept the tailgating charge. By partnering with a lawyer, you can credibly fight the accusation and prove that you weren’t doing anything wrong.
Your lawyer can argue that you were trailing the vehicle in front of you by a “reasonable and prudent” distance. The officer who asked you to pull over may have witnessed the incident from the wrong angle, which is why they thought you were following the other vehicle too closely.
Another case you can make is that the driver in front of you was the one behaving irresponsibly. Your car may have gotten too close to the other vehicle, but that’s only because the other driver was slowing down and speeding up unpredictably.
You can also point to other variables when making the case that you were not intentionally tailgating the driver in front of you. If a significant portion of the road was closed due to repairs, it may have forced you to drive closer to the other vehicle. The officer may have failed to account for the road repairs when deciding whether you were tailgating or not.
The lawyer you choose to partner with can make a big difference if you’re trying to beat a tailgating charge. Many tailgating accusations are subjective. A good lawyer can show that you were acting responsibly, even if you did momentarily get too close to another vehicle.
Fight your tailgating accusation by partnering with us at the Quirk Law Group. Contact us today, and we’ll work together to ensure that they do not label you as an irresponsible driver.