Road Safety News

Project seeks solutions to tailgating

Wednesday 6th July 2016

TRL has secured funding to develop an intervention to discourage tailgating and is seeking local authorities to work with them on the project.

The funding has come from the Road Safety Trust to find a solution to an issue which TRL says causes ‘widespread concern’ among drivers.

DfT stats for 2014 show that tailgating, or close following, was a contributory factor in 7% of collisions and also makes drivers feel intimidated, while aggravating congestion.

44% of respondents to a survey by road safety charity Brake said that they are concerned about close-following ‘most times’ they drive on motorways. However, nearly 60% admitted to leaving less than the recommended two-second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front.

TRL says the pilot will focus on business drivers because they undertake high annual driving mileages and DfT stats suggest they are involved in a quarter of road traffic collisions.

To support the project, TRL and its sister company Transport & Travel Research Ltd (TTR) are looking for local authority partners to help recruit employers within their area and develop a package of behaviour change techniques to measure and influence attitudes towards close-following.

Marcus Jones, senior expert, sustainable mobility at TTR, said: “The project provides an excellent opportunity for road safety departments to not only help tackle tailgating on their road networks, but develop new tools they can use in the future.”

Robert Gifford, chief executive of the Road Safety Trust said: “This project tackles two important issues: close following which is of concern to many road users, and driving for work which poses increased risk to all drivers.

“I hope that the Trust’s support will help to develop a useful tool for employers as they take their role in managing this issue seriously.”

Local authorities that are interested in taking part in the pilot should contact Marcus Jones via email or on 01344 770552.


Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

Yes. I am aware that lamp posts are sometimes at different distances. Usually caused by junction so they can't always be uniformally planted on the pavements. That said they are still generally over 75ft which is the full stopping distance in urban areas with a 30 mph limit. Much closer is the 30 ft thinking distance which many drivers wrongly appear to adopt.

The Lamp Post rule is not just about Tailgating alone. It's about controlling more space on the road and allowing others in and out of it without their presence causing us any driving disturbances. It's not difficult with space to view lamp posts along the road. The greater the space given the greater the numbers of lamp posts can be viewed and all without taking our eyes of what is important for our own safety.

I agreee that there will always be drivers that will break the law and tailgating is not alone in that but what it will do and what it's designed to do is to create a behavioural change in a vast majority of otherwise lawful drivers. By adopting the lamp post rule drivers will make their lives and the lives of others a much safer place. By adopting this simple rule and getting away from say the easier to learn thinking distance rule we will can herald a turning point in road safety.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

Although Rob Craven is right to emphasise the importance of stopping distances, it's worth mentioning that the intervals between lamposts can vary. They may even be absent from a 30 limit road and can be hard to spot anyway and having to avert one's eyes away from the road ahead to focus on lamposts or M/way marker posts, although well-intentioned, I don't think is a good idea. It wouldn't help the aggressive tailgater anyway, as their safety is not necesarily uppermost in their mind.
Hugh Jones,

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

Yes Andy I do blame instructors, but all those in the general sense of the word. Ones who will give instruction/advice to others whether on payment or not. I do include some DSIs with that framework.

I also do not agree with your assertions that the figures quoted within S.126 are good for theory only. They can and do form the basis ie. the building blocks of all good and safe driving principles in that if you get too close to another vehicle under certain circumstances you could become involved in an incident. That incident would be of your own making as it describes in detail the distances required to keep you safe at all times and at all speeds. Remember in a tailgate collision it's said that the following driver is always to blame. Usually found to be following too close to the vehicle in front. It is up to a DSI to drill that information into yany learner and also your own common sense to understand just how to judge those distances. Unfortunately they lack the will power to do so and thats their mistake. The 2 second rule was put forward as a begining.

I can see the need for drivers to be able to quickly determine the various distances and I would advocate and emphasise the lamp post rule. One lamp post apart or over that in a 30 mph area and for anything over 30 mph be at least 2 lamp posts apart. Further than that if driving conditions allow. On Motorways the marker posts at 100 mtrs apart meet the needs of traffic travelling at 70 mph. Easy, no probs.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Mr Craven appears to be blaming instructors for the fact that people cannot remember stopping and thinking distances. The reason may be that the figures in themselves don't mean much - ask most people how far away an object is and very few will get within a few metres. Just knowing how long it takes to stop from 70mph does not help if you cannot judge how far 96 metres is. The figures are useful for the Theory Test, but not much help in real life.
Andy, Warwick

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

Nick's points are logical. But if drivers are prosecuted for their vehicle going into the back of another then it takes care of both issues because they will make sure, in the latter instance, that they back off in time to settle to at least 2 secs. Remember in HC it is not just 2 secs, it is a MINIMUM. At police driving schools 3-4 seconds are used in a following distance, or certainly used to be. Also being further back gives a better view of what's happening in front of the vehicle being followed.

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

I agree the 2 second rule is a very good and simple way of gauging the distance required. Having said that I do think that constantly lowering speed limits and an aging driving population has consequences of driver frustration, which leads to more tailgating. Having said that a lot of modern cars have radar safety systems which although I wouldn't want to rely on it, contributes to safety in terms of rear end collisions.

As for passing on both sides, the rules are clear, if you are not overtaking you should be in the left lane. If a vehicle not driven recklessly has time to pass on the left the car being "undertaken" is liable to be prosecuted as they are lane hogging and probably either is not driving with due care and attention or has a very bad attitude towards other road users.
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

Am I correct in thinking that there may be two problems being "discussed" in this thread?
Tailgating in the context of this article is, I think, when a following driver maintains an inappropriately short distance from the vehicle in front and cannot then react in time to avoid the front vehicle in the event of it braking.

The "looming" aspect is, in my interpretation, when a following driver approaches at speed and doesn't react in time to the front vehicle's presence. This effect can be exacerbated when the front vehicle is braking.

I think that learner drivers and also qualified drivers who need reminding would respond better to a general "2 second" type rule if it is backed up by a valid and understandable explanation together with a non-emotional description of potential consequences of not adopting the "rule".

I am pretty sure that there is not just one solution to rear-end shunts as there are perhaps several reasons why they can and do happen. This includes behavioural and attitudinal issues as well as perception issues and mechanical failures and probably many, many more………..
NIck, Lancashire

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

R.Craven's the SPACE IS SAFE caption sums it up but, why do TRL need to go through all this anxt? Firstly, for close following change 'careless driving' change to 'dangerous driving'. Secondly, 126 of HC says 'you should be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear'. Tie this in with the HC Introduction para 4 and I believe you have a prosecutable situation. And thirdly, there is already a penalty of £100 and 3 point. All it needs is for the police to get their act together. As for the passing either side suggestion 1) how on earth does that tie in with close following? And 2) if you want mayhem on the roads then that is just another bullet point for it, in my view.

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

I agree with Charles that we should encourage passing either side. This would reduce lane changing - always a potentially dangerous manouever, and could reduce tailgating as the rear vehicle could pass on either side.
Robert Bolt

Agree (1) | Disagree (15)

Thank you for those comments Kevin. I might have known that you would be answering my points raised and not Duncan himself. That's the way you two work.. inseperable. You fail also to argue against my point that we don't have to have a scientific reason going back into pre history to learn that some drivers fail to observe the 2 second rule or rather as the book says at least a 2 second rule at faster speeds. Obviously in those days of dinosaurs they didn't have cars did they. I am sure following on from what Duncan had to say there may also be a mathamitical theory involved and someone versed in pure maths can come along and elucidate us all with figures to prove the point. On the other hand I can come with my little dinky cars, a bus and a car and put one close behind the other and say BAD and DANGEROUS then I will place them far apart and say GOOD and SAFE. I think that students will get the idea and no science books going on about inherant eyesight and looming problems. It's just a matter of showing them right from wrong. Talking about wrong, if all instructors as you say, and that's an opinion I do not hold to, spend some time with their students on the 2 second rule and I presume that includes Sect 126, then why can no one remember the actual stopping distances and thinking distances at the various speeds that are in the book. There for all to read.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)


>> if they are not instructed correctly they will make up what they presume is right all by themselves

Every single instructor I have ever met teaches the two second rule and spends quite a lot of time making sure the trainee understands and employs it.

Unfortunately what we all learn from experience is not to follow fixed 'rules' like this (however sensible they might be) but to do what works for us, individually. Although you might argue that rear end collisions are collectively very common, from the point of view of individuals - who are 'learning', remember - the vast majority of drivers and riders do not constantly run into the back of the car ahead when following inside the safe stopping distance.

That's how learning works. And that's science, not mumbo-jumbo.
Kevin Williams / Survival Skills Rider Training

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

I totally disagree wuth your presumption that it is not an issue of attitude and or behaviour. People learn during their lifetime and if they are not instructed correctly they will make up what they presume is right all by themselves. Without the ability to learn we would not have been able to go to the moon etc. What is needed here is not some mumbo jumbo from a scientific journal. They too can be wrong or misleading or just downright speculation. We don't have to believe everything that we read in a book.

The subject of Tailgating can be approached without bringing in design flaws or science and people can be retrained in small but subtle ways that SPACE IS SAFE.

On a practical note, nothing to do with science. One of the reasons that it takes place often by drivers, is that following an overtake drivers rely on the nearside external mirror, ones that are specifically designed to give a totally false indication of the closeness or otherwise proximity to the vehicle that has just been overtaken. Failing to know or understanding this, they pull or rather cut in and cause the overtaken vehicle to be now actually tailgating. The HC now under these circumstances advises that they, the now following vehicle, need to pull back to the safe distance. Retraining drivers to understand this does not require them to understand anything of the literature that you make so much comment about.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

It's the same issue Matt, but it manifests itself in different ways. It concerns the fact that there is a sweet spot in the looming profile of an object where the object in question begins to need the least longitudinal movement for the most lateral movement. Keep in this sweet spot and any change in the looming rate is very easy to detect whilst the possibility of collision is at a relatively low level. This probably explains why people follow motorbikes at a much closer distance than they follow cars.

Like I said it's not an issue about behaviour or attitude, but one of perceptual optimization brought about by millions of years of evolution.

Any gadget or intervention that was designed to discourage tailgating would have to not only take these perceptual factors into account, but also provide sufficient reward to the driver for following its indications. Luckily for us such a gadget already exists and according to the data I have seen it works very well indeed.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

Agree (5) | Disagree (8)

Perhaps I will let them look at my SPACE IS SAFE literature. In it are all the relevant circumstances that they need to renew about. The idea that giving space to other road users is a good and positive thing and one to be encouraged at national level. It goes into detail of new measures that can be adopted in order to satisfy the need and the easy way to achieve safety and SPACE. It will also help change perceptions, behavioural paterns and atitude towards driving in general.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

A very interesting piece Duncan, but I read it as identifying the reasons why rear-end collisions happen due to looming perception errors - slightly different to the tailgating issue highlighted in the story. With looming perception errors I would think some of the forward collision alert/assist technologies now on the market will help combat the perception errors. As for tailgating, it will be interesting to see what this project comes up with?
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (2)

It's interesting how news items on the forum link together. The 21 month 'real behaviour' study mentioned elewhere should reveal tail-gating and more importantly, the subjects might explain why they do it. Why don't TRL and those doing the aforementioned study get together, rather than have two separate studies, or at least learn from each other? My own view is that some tailgate deliberately as a way to intimidate (a male thing usually) and there are those who do it simply not realising that it is too close and that it makes a collision highly likely.

One other thing that the two studies might like to factor in - few people like being told they're driving is flawed and will be resistant and reluctant to take on board such criticism - mind you that's always been the problem with road behaviour anyway. Good job we have appropriate laws that can be enforced - resources permitting.
Hugh Jones

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

This 'problem' was solved ages ago and it isn't anything to do with attitudes or behaviour.

Read all about it here.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

Agree (3) | Disagree (9)

One solution might be to allow, even encourage, passing either side. That way, lane hogging might not be such an issue, and risky/aggressive "prompting" to move over might be significantly reduced.
Charles, England

Agree (6) | Disagree (22)

Coming up behind you driving at very high speed while flashing their lights! For me that's an enforcement issue.
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (17) | Disagree (4)

A good start to developing an intervention, might be to ask the 60% of the respondents to Brake's survey who admitted not leaving sufficient space, the basic question: "Why?" followed by: "What would it take motivate you to do so?" in future.
Hugh Jones

Agree (17) | Disagree (5)