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Stop Tailgating and Following Too Closely
with Your Big Truck


As you drive professionally, you control the space around your truck. Tailgating, or following too closely behind the vehicle in front of yours, is both rude and dangerous. To some degree, you also control the space behind your truck to prevent others from being in a position to tailgate you.

According to this section of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website,

Following too closely may be defined as, "situations in which one vehicle is following another vehicle so closely that even if the following driver is attentive to the actions of the vehicle ahead he/she could not avoid a collision in the circumstance when the driver in front brakes suddenly."



In the following YouTube video -- "California DMV - Rules of the Road #15 - Following Distance" - the advice given is to leave two seconds of following distance behind the vehicle in front of yours. Remember that this is for a car, not a tractor trailer.



The formula to calculate Total Stopping Distance is:


Perception Distance
+ Reaction Distance
+ Brake Lag Distance
+ Effective Braking Distance
-----------------------------
= Total Stopping Distance






Vicki took the following photos when she was on the road with Mike during June and July 2009. As you will see, they are quite instructive.

The first group of photos is of signs that can be seen along various roadways in the United States.

A sign that reads 'Don't Get a Ticket – Leave More Space' A sign that reads "Don't Get a Ticket - Leave More Space." Obviously, this is geared toward four-wheel vehicles that cut too closely in front of big trucks.
A sign that reads 'Targeted Enforcement Area' A sign that reads "Targeted Enforcement Area." You may be more likely to be watched in places with this sign posted.
A sign that reads 'Don't Tailgate' A sign that reads "Don't Tailgate." No other explanation is needed, is there?
A sign that reads 'Beware of Aggressive Drivers' A sign that reads "Beware of Aggressive Drivers."

The definition of an aggressive driver is not dependent on the vehicle being driven (as we shall soon see).








This second group of photos shows trucks and cars following behind each other in various types of traffic situations.

Some of them show definite problems of following too closely.



The following distance between a car and a big truck behind it in stopped traffic on I-95 south of Washington, DC. The following distance between a car and a big truck behind it, in stopped traffic on I-95 south of Washington, DC.

It appears the truck driver is vitally aware of the space in front of him.

Four different following distance set-ups at highway speeds in fairly heavy traffic on I-20. Four different following distance set-ups at highway speeds in fairly heavy traffic on I-20 west of Columbia, SC:
  1. A dark truck behind a car. Is there sufficient room?
  2. A red car following way too closely to the P.A.M. truck in front of it. Can the truck driver even see the car behind it or is it traveling in its "blind spot"?
  3. A flatbed unit behind a four-wheeler. Is there sufficient room?
  4. The car in front of us, following the truck in front of it. Is there sufficient room?
A big truck following behind a car at highway speeds on I-20, a little too closely. A big truck following behind a car at highway speeds on I-20, a little too closely.
This is Vicki's favorite photo of this series.
A big truck tailgating a car at highway speeds on I-20 so close that it looks like the truck is pushing the car down the road. The big truck in the left lane is tailgating a car at highway speeds on I-20.

The trucker is so close that it looks like the truck is pushing the car down the road!

The following distance of two big trucks on the opposite side of the interstate in stalled traffic.
Following distance of big trucks on opposing side of the interstate in stalled traffic. The white truck in the outside lane is behind another big truck; the red truck in the middle lane is behind a car. The white truck in the outside lane is behind another big truck; the red truck in the middle lane is behind a car.

Is there sufficient room?

Then the "oops!" photo... or is that "ouch!"?
In this picture from Wikimedia, 'A rear-end collision in Yate, near Bristol, England, in July 2004. The car failed to stop when the articulated lorry stopped at a roundabout. The car's bonnet can be seen deep under the rear of the lorry. There were no injuries.'

This picture is from Wikimedia, having this description: "A rear-end collision in Yate, near Bristol, England, in July 2004. The car failed to stop when the articulated lorry stopped at a roundabout. The car's bonnet can be seen deep under the rear of the lorry. There were no injuries."

The British term "lorry" is equivalent to a big truck in the USA, just as a "bonnet" is what Americans would call a car's hood.






This final photo summarize our advice to all drivers regarding this subject.



A sign reading: 'Maintain safe distance between vehicles' A sign reading: "Maintain safe distance between vehicles."





Are Tailgaters Involved in "Accidents"?

Wikipedia defines an "accident" as "a specific, identifiable, unexpected, unusual and unintended external action which occurs in a particular time and place, without apparent or deliberate cause but with marked effects. ..."

Based on this, we conclude that any collision that involves tailgating cannot technically be called an accident because it could have been expected. Think about that.



Advice to Professional Truck Drivers

The FMCSA's two overarching tips on this subject are:

  1. Maintain a safe following distance and
  2. Double your following distance in adverse conditions.

We encourage you to read the details on their website.

We'll go into more detail on proper following distance on another page.






truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: Even seemingly minor incidents that happen as a result of tailgating are totally avoidable. They are preventable. Besides being downright embarrassing, they can be injurious, time-consuming and expensive.

Wikipedia says regarding a rear-end collision:

A rear-end collision (often called simply rear-end or in the UK a shunt) is a traffic accident wherein a vehicle (usually an automobile or a truck) crashes into the vehicle in front of it, so called because it hits its rear. ...

A typical medical consequence of rear-ends, even in case of collisions at moderate speed, is whiplash. In more severe cases permanent injuries... may occur.

For purposes of insurance and policing, the driver of the car that rear-ends the other car is almost always considered to be at fault due to not being within stopping distance or lack of attention.

One of the risks of following too closely is the accusation of being an aggressive driver or having road rage. Since you are the professional, please practice professionalism.

Is there anything you can do if someone is following you too closely? Yes, there is! Simply slow down enough to make the driver behind you want to pass you!

Consider the many potential costs associated with rear-end collisions:

  • insurance increase;
  • hospital bills;
  • therapy and rehabilitation;
  • traffic ticket and fine;
  • possible loss of your job;
  • getting sued; and
  • possibly others.

Our advice: Just don't tailgate!








Return from Stop Tailgating and Following Too Closely with Your Big Truck to our Tricks of the Ttrade page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.







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