Handle Tailgaters on the Road

Tailgating is when another driver follows too closely behind another car. There isn’t a specific distance that defines following as tailgating, it’s based more on your comfort level and the probability of having an accident. If you feel there is a driver who is following you too closely, you can try a number of things to resolve the situation and make things safer.


Handling a Tailgater

  1. Remain calm and don’t allow your emotions to get the better of you. If you notice someone tailgating you, your first instinct might be to panic or get upset. You might either feel nervous that someone is following too closely, or you might be angry that someone is following too closely. Either way you need to take a couple of deep breaths and put your emotions aside for the time being.[1]
    • Remaining calm also ensures you’re able to stay in control of your vehicle and avoid causing an accident.
    • Turn the radio down or off if it helps you to concentrate and calm down.
    • Pay extra attention to your driving until you’ve been able to remove yourself from the situation.
  2. Pull over and allow the vehicle to pass. The easiest thing to do if you have someone tailgating you is to pull over and let that person pass you. If it’s safe, just pull to the side of the road and allow whomever was following you to pass. Get back onto the road when you feel it safe to do so.[1]
    • Always remember to signal your intention of pulling over in advance of actually pulling over. Keep your signal on while you’re pulled over, until you’re ready to merge back into traffic.
    • If the area allows, you can also pull into a parking lot and remain there until the tailgater has passed.
    • Do not attempt this on a major, multi-lane highway as it may be difficult to merge back into traffic later or the shoulder may not be wide enough.
  3. Keep to the right. When driving on a multi-lane road, always keep to the right-most lane unless you are passing someone. Leaving the other lanes available for other drivers to pass you will help ensure you do not get a tailgater in the first place.[1]
    • This is especially important in areas where the passing lane is not constant. When a passing lane appears, keep to the right unless you need to pass the person in front of you. In these situations the passing lane may only be available for a few kilometres.
  4. Slow down on the straight sections of road. When travelling on a road that is winding and curving significantly, and only has 1 lane in either direction, chances are there will not be a lot of places for someone to pass you safely. When you reach a straight piece of road and passing is allowed, slow down. Give your tailgater a chance to pass you and get ahead of you before the next winding section.[1]
    • If it helps, you can even move over slightly to signal to the car behind you that they’re welcome to pass.
    • If another driver attempts to pass you on an unsafe part of the road, slow down. If they get into trouble, they may instinctively swerve back into your lane and hit you.
  5. Maintain a constant speed. Tailgaters may be stuck behind you because your speed is inconsistent and they may not feel it’s safe to pass you. Keep your speed as constant as possible so the tailgater has a chance to judge if it’s safe to pass you.[1]
    • If your car is equipped with cruise control, this is a great time to take advantage of it.
    • Don’t purposely change your speed just to annoy the person who is tailgating you. This may only end up inflaming the situation and causing an accident.
  6. Do not force yourself to travel faster than you feel safe doing. When being tailgated another instinct may be to speed up so the gap between you and the car behind you widens. This is usually only a temporary fix, as the car behind you is also likely to speed up, thereby closing the gap again. The problem is, you’re now travelling at a faster speed and you still have a tailgater.[1]
    • Don’t speed up to appease a tailgater. Keep to a speed you feel comfortable with based on the road conditions.
  7. Follow a truck. When in doubt, follow a truck! If you find yourself constantly being tailgated, maybe because you are driving a little slower than other drivers on the road, try getting behind a truck (at a safe distance of course).[1]
    • Chances are the truck is travelling at a speed you’re comfortable with, so you don’t have to pass the truck.
    • The truck is also big enough for other drivers to see it from a distance. When they see a truck ahead, they’ll likely prepare themselves to pass it.
    • If you’re following the truck, they’ll pass you as well before they’re able to tailgate you.
  8. Avoid tapping on the brake pedal. While it may seem logical to tap on the brake pedal so your brakes light up in an attempt to “ask” the tailgater to back off, it’s unlikely to work. Plus, one of two things might end up happening:[1]
    • One, the driver behind you may not have been paying attention and may panic when they see your brake lights. They may then slam on their own brakes and cause a chain reaction behind them, resulting in an accident.
    • Two, the driver may catch onto what you’re doing and start to ignore your brake lights. If you need to brake for real at some point, the driver behind you may not react at all.

Driving Etiquette

  1. Use slow traffic pull-outs. Some roads that are winding or on steep hillsides will have traffic pull-out spots where slow drivers can get off the road and allow other drivers to pass them. These pull-outs are usually in areas where there is not enough room for an actual passing lane. Use the pull-out if you have a tailgater or if you’re not able to keep up with the flow of traffic.[1]
    • Even if you’re driving the speed limit, you may still be driving slower than other cars on the road. Use the pull-out to be polite to other drivers and allow them to get around you and continue on to their destination unimpeded.
  2. Watch your speed on the straight-aways. Many drivers go slow because the road conditions call for it. Maybe the road is icy or wet, or really curvy, so you’ve slowed down. When the road straightens out, or becomes dry, don’t speed up if there is a car tailgating you. Speeding up on the straightaways and not allowing the tailgater to pass will likely make them mad.[1]
  3. Do not drive in the fast lane. The fast lane is for passing. If you are not passing anyone, do not drive in the fast lane. People who are driving faster than you can come up behind quite quickly, especially if you aren’t paying attention to your rearview mirror.[1]
    • If a car comes up on your suddenly while you’re in the fast lane, don’t immediately pull into the middle or curb lane without first checking that the other driver isn’t also going to do this. Because they’ve encountered someone in their own lane, they may decide to pass you on the right.
  4. Avoid pacing the car beside you. If you’re on a multi-lane road, regardless of which lane you’re in, you should avoid pacing the car in the other lane. This is especially important if you’re in the fast lane, as you should be overtaking the other car, not travelling at the same speed as them. However, if you’re in the slow lane and you have a tailgater, the fact that the car already in the fast lane is pacing you may be the reason your tailgater can’t get around you.[1]
  5. Respond courteously to someone flashing their headlights at you. In some situations a car that is tailgating you might flash their headlights. Normally this means they’re trying to pass you, but for whatever reason, you’re making it difficult. Pay attention to these flashes and move out of the way — don’t get upset.[1]
  6. Signal your intentions well in advance. If you have a tailgater, make sure to signal your intentions to turn or slow down well in advance. Because of the lack of space behind you, that driver may need some extra time to adjust their speed when you turn or slow down.[2]
    • While it would technically be the fault of the driver behind you, if you got into an accident, it’s still your car that’s been hit and damaged.


  • Remember the 3 second rule. Regardless of your speed, try to remain at least 3 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. This is a general rule of thumb for safe distances between cars. To measure this distance, pick a spot ahead of you. Start counting when the car in front of you passes that spot (e.g. one one-thousand, two one-thousand, etc.) and stop counting when you pass that spot. As long as you were able to count to 3, you’re following at a safe distance.[1]


  • It is never a good idea to “teach tailgaters a lesson.” It’s not up to you to teach other people how to drive. Teaching another driver a lesson is simply revenge and is based completely on emotion. Unfortunately it can also result in an accident that would be your fault.[1]

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Sources and Citations