Tailgaters -- why do you do it?

This isn’t a Pitting, it’s a sincere inquiry: Why do you tailgate? Surely, if you consider it logically, you’re not going to get there that much faster. You’re increasing your risk of an accident. So why do it? What do you get out of it? What, to you, rewards the behavior?

Well it is more relaxful to show up to the game early and drink a few and grill a few with my friends.

Oh wait, you mean the other tailgating.
Don’t you know that by tailgating they will force you to go faster. At least that is my WAG of what is going through their heads.

Jim notice I did not say Brains

I don’t do it often, but it’s the only way to say “hey shitbag, either drive more than 15 miles an hour or get the fuck out of the fast lane” without a megaphone.

My FiL does it. Badly. I’m pretty sure he does it to “punish” what he sees as a bad driver (yes, the irony burns).

BTW, the only time I’ve ever actively considered my own mortality was driving with him down the 405.

What Ooner said.

Or without flashing one’s highbeams, which around here is way more aggressive than tailgating.

Why is that, it use to be a polite way to send a request that you wanted to pass, now it is a hostile act. What is the problem with a rapid double flash, how did it go from communication to harassment?
I try to avoid tailgating as it is dangerous, but I learned long ago, before I could even drive that a quick double flash meant, “please let me pass”.


Dude, I really don’t know.

Senior year of college ('93), my friend and I decided to drive from Philly to Canada for spring break (yeah, we were broke and a friend of my mom’s lived in Toronto). I did most of the driving. Once across the border, flashing highbeams were de rigueur: it took some getting used to but I soon adapted, and ever since then I’ve been wishing that the practice were more acceptable around here. I just always get the feeling that I’d be pulled over much faster for flashing my highbeams than I ever would for tailgating.

Is it really? I think it’s much safer to flash the highbeams. I would prefer it myself.

Also, it doesn’t explain why some people tailgate cars that are in the far right lane. I can only assume it means “I’m turning right pretty soon so I don’t want to move over to the left and pass you, but I still want to express my frustration at your slow driving.”

Well, we should also note that the definition of “tailgate” is a loose one. What some people consider tailgating is actually a proper following distance based on the age old 1 car length per 10 mph dictum.

Much research has been done into traffic and it’s generally accepted, IIRC, that at speed people tend to allow more distance between cars than is actually needed and this is effectively the cause of rush hour traffic congestion. The roads are actually capable of allowing much better traffic flow than they do if not for the reactions and instincts of drivers.

The point being, that many people who are accused fo tailgating aren’t actually doing so. Theoretically, if everyone minimized the margins between cars within safe limits overall traffic flow would be better.

If the OP more specifcally refers to aggresive tailgating in an attempt to pass a slower driver, then the other posters has basically nailed it. Often bad drivers do not monitor their rear-view mirror and the driver in back has a limited number of ways to request they move aside to allow passing. True, tailgating is the absolute worst of those options, but it’s what happens.

I agree that flashing of lights should be an acceptable thing and that drivers need to learn to better monitor their rear (and the rest of the world around them for that matter) when they drive, but I think this pretty much sums up why.

I don’t know. The rule of thumb here is to leave a gap of at least 2 secs. It works well because it is easy to measure and it automatically gives you a greater distance at greater speeds. There is no way that a 2 second gap can ever look like tailgating to anyone unless you happen to be travelling at 1.5 kph. Are you measuring your car lengths per 10mph accurately? How can you tell? The human visual system is notoriously bad at judging distance.

It’s not the “quick double flash” that’s rude, it’s the prolonged burning of two incadesent suns from just off your bumper that’s the problem. With or without frantic horn-blowing.

Also, there are some really stupid, stupid people who do this when, for instance, I’m behind a couple semi-trucks and/or stuck in solid traffic where/when I can not fulfill their fantasies of faster and me-free travel. I can’t drive through an 18-wheeler to please someone else and those fools really need to switch to decaf.

That’s my point really. Proper following distance is a subjective concept and one person’s tailgating is another person’s safe distance.

For the record here’s Cecil’s discussion of highway traffic. Clearly if everyone used the 2 second rule (it means WAY more distance between cars) traffic jams would be more common and more severe.

My point was that a distance which is truly safe will not be viewed by anyone as tailgating because a safe distance is quite a long way. So if someone thinks your safe distance is tailgating, odds are you need to reassess your safe distance. You only need to look at the kind of nose to tail pile ups that happen in wet weather to see that most people have no idea of what a safe following distance is.

Highway driving would be a lot better if people just put in the effort to look at the big picture and watch what the traffic four or five cars ahead is doing rather than constantly reacting to the driver immediately in front of them. Of course, if they can’t see past the first car, then they are too close (excepting large vehicles.)


Fine, add an “IME” as you see fit to my post (do you really think someone would think a two second following distance was “tailgating?”)

You know, with some of the little old ladies out there it wouldn’t surprise me.

Still, the solution isn’t “everyong just back up more!”. The size of following distances directly influence the amount of traffic a roadway can handle and therefore the amount of economy crippling congestion we tolerate. Aggesive tailgaters are assholes no doubt, but a less conservative following distance improves traffic.

Since the question the OP asked was “why do they do it?” I can’t see how you discussion of a 2 sec spacing is relevant.

It’s impossible for him to provide a cite, since “quite a long way” is a subjective term. However, by your own reckoning:

And taking the median of these cars as a sample, we have 1 car length = 13 feet. On a freeway at 65 mph, that’s 84.5 feet.

Surely nobody on earth would call a car 84.5 feet behind them “tailgating”.

To me, someone tailgating at this kind of speed would be about 10 or 20 feet behind me, something which happeneds quite a bit. I usually use my left foot to tap the brake pedal while maintaining my speed, making the fucker behind me slow down rapidly.

Well I reckon they all do it in NASCAR and no-one says nothing.

I was merely responding to your idea that some people would consider a “proper following distance” to be tailgating. Two seconds being our rule of thumb for a proper following distance.

You might be surprised how many drivers freak and get angry when there is no one in front of them and I do the “quick double flash” from a safe distance behind.

I have had people hit their brakes :eek: , give me the finger :mad: , and let me pass but then get behind me, speed up and put their highbeams on and leave them on :confused: .