Tailgating or following too closely behind another car is dangerous behavior, and often a form of road rage. It can easily lead to rear-end collisions and injury accidents.

In South Carolina, 3,494 people were injured in 2019 by drivers following too closely. Since this bad habit is so widespread across the state, it’s helpful to understand what to do if someone is tailgating you on the road to avoid an injury accident or road rage incident.

The Dangers of Tailgating

Drivers on the road must ensure that they leave enough space between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them to avoid collisions when stopping suddenly. When another driver follows too closely behind you (also known as tailgating), they fail to provide enough distance to stop safely, potentially leading to a rear-end accident if you suddenly need to slow down or stop.

The hazards of tailgating-related collisions are often underestimated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, close to a third of all rear-end crashes in 2019 injured at least one person, and 7.1% proved fatal.

Who is Liable for a Crash Caused by Tailgating?

In South Carolina, courts and insurance companies use an “at-fault” doctrine to determine who is liable for a car accident. This doctrine indicates that the driver who caused the accident is responsible for covering any resulting damages.

Sometimes both drivers are partially at fault for a crash. For example, one was speeding while the other was driving distracted. For these cases, South Carolina uses modified contributory negligence to decide who is liable. Under this doctrine, you can seek damages from the at-fault driver as long as you are less than 51% responsible for the accident. If the court finds that you are more than 50% responsible for the cause of the crash, you cannot seek damages against the other driver.

Typically, the driver who was tailgating is held liable for the subsequent car accident. Their insurance is responsible for paying out damages, and you can pursue a claim against the driver to recover accident-related costs like medical bills, property damages, and lost wages.

However, determining fault isn’t always so cut and dry. In a tailgating case, the other driver may claim you acted aggressively by slamming on your brakes. They may also claim you were texting or not wearing a seatbelt to show you are partially at fault for your injuries. Working with an experienced attorney can help you navigate the state’s contributory negligence statute. Your lawyer can gather evidence to disprove these claims and win you maximum compensation.

What Should I Do if Someone Tailgates Me?

It’s unlikely that you would be considered at fault if someone rear-ends you while tailgating. However, knowing the actions to take if someone is tailgating you can help if you make an accident claim, or potentially even prevent the accident altogether.

Keep Calm

Tailgating can be aggravating, but resist the urge to retaliate or act aggressively. Don’t slam on the brakes, shout out your window, or make rude gestures, as these actions may escalate the situation.

Give the Other Driver Space

Avoid “brake-checking” or aggressively pumping your brakes when a tailgater is following you, as this can cause them to hit you and potentially injure you. Instead, when it’s safe to do so, change lanes to give them space to go past you. Don’t speed up to make them happy if it means breaking the speed limit.

If you need to brake or slow, softly tap your brakes before coming to a stop. This will trigger the brake lights and give the tailgater a chance to slow down and avoid colliding with you.

Contact Police About Dangerous Drivers

In some cases, tailgating can be malicious. Road rage, for example, may lead another driver to follow you too closely. They might have deliberate intent to hit, aggravate, or intimidate you.

Tailgating can also be caused by drunk driving, as the driver may be too impaired to realize how closely they’re following. Drunk driving is risky for everyone, including the driver. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that 33% of South Carolinians killed in car accidents had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater.

If you suspect that the driver tailgating you is under the influence of substances or trying to aggravate or harm you, call the police or have a passenger do so. Explain the situation to the police and give details to help them locate the driver, like the tailgater’s license plate number, car model and color, and location.

Contact Joye Law Firm for a Free Consultation

Interacting with a tailgating driver can cause anxiety and stress. If that interaction ends in a rear-end collision, you may incur expensive medical bills and lost wages. Contact the Summerville auto accident lawyers with Joye Law Firm to help you understand your legal options after a tailgating accident and how to seek compensation.

Call our offices today to schedule a free consultation. We can review your case and provide the legal counsel you need to ensure that you get a fair settlement.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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