Tailgaters Suck

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Photo: Julia LaPalme
Photo: Julia LaPalme

Motorcyclist Online recently posted my article “6 Riding Tips for Dealing with Tailgaters“. This particular piece garnered a ton of comments from readers and Facebook followers of several riding groups. While most people agreed that it’s best to pull over if possible, an alarming number of people suggested flipping the bird or tossing pebbles, nuts, or ball bearings to get the driver to back off.

I know some people were trying to be funny, but I am afraid a lot of commenters were serious. That kind or reaction is what leads to deadly road rage.

Yes, some drivers are habitual tailgaters and total inconsiderate asses. But just as many offenders aren’t even aware they are driving dangerously. Hard to believe, I know.

I once was in the car of a good friend who was tailgating each and every car we followed, no matter the speed. When I asked him about it, he truly didn’t think what he was doing was bad…not because is is stupid or inconsiderate, he simply had a different perception of what was okay.

Listen, I get that tailgaters are infuriating and can rank near the top of most despised people. And it can seem as if their transgression is a personal affront, but trying to teach tailgaters a lesson is a bad idea. Tailgaters, be tailgatin’. They won’t change.

You may be able to wake up a driver by tapping your brake light, but be careful gesturing, even if it is a “friendly” one.

One thing is for sure; addressing aggression with aggression escalates the situation and is very risky. A flip of the bird only adds fuel to the fire. And if you get caught tossing hard objects at a tailgater, you will get into a heap of trouble.

Instead, take the high road. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Easier said than done, I know.

It’s better to disengage and separate yourself from the tailgater. If you can’t do that, then follow the other tips in the article so that you’re less likely to get creamed by a clueless tailgater.

Read the full article HERE.

What am I missing? Add your comments below.

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6 Replies to “Tailgaters Suck”

  1. The pull off advice gets old for me! I’m bothered by tailgaters ONLY when I CANNOT pull off: when I’m taking over on the highway. Say, I’m taking over another car @90MPH on the high speed lane, and when I’m just beside the vehicle I’m taking over, an arse arrives @120MPH and tailgates me. So what? There is no good solution in this case. If I slow down to pull over and let him pass, I get him furious, which is dangerous with these animals. If I accelerate, I break the law (and I give baby what he wants). If I don’t do anything, this guy is risking my life (and his) because something can always happen that would FORCE me to break. Tailgaters on the highway should have their permit revoked. They don’t deserve to use a car and share public roads.

  2. What do you do about motorcycle riders that tailgate (car or bike)? I try to prevent them from passing on the right, slow down gradually, and just wait for them to buzz past and go. I cover the brake in case they dump their bikes when cutting me off bc usually they rev and pass closely to be obnoxious.

  3. I really like your approach to this problem, Ken. Don’t be passive and vulnerable. Take action to reduce the danger. Most importantly, avoid the need for hard braking. Improving your forward field of view (#5) and increasing following distance (#3) do just that.

    Another thing I do is use my forward space cushion to gap a tailgater before slowing to turn. I will be turning into that driveway ahead, which is 50 yards before the intersection. My tailgater could misinterpret my brake light and blinker to mean that I’m turning at the light, not into this parking lot. So I accelerate into my ample space cushion, then signal, brake, and turn. I’ve traded space ahead for space behind, giving the tailgater more time and space to react.

  4. My MSF Basic Rider instructor “schooled” us (April 2012) to look for a safe place to pull over and allow the tailgater (and personal angst) to pass. He was right…and I do practice this whenever possible. Sometimes I wave the driver on when it’s 1-lane each direction and there’s no clear place for me to pull over (or I feel that slowing to pullover would not be a good idea.)

    I experience tailgating in my car, too. I’m not a slowpoke in the car, but I’ve realized if I drive within 10 MPH of the posted speed limit (and it’s within 5 MPH off major highways) not only do I get better mileage, but wear and tear on the car (and my head) will be lessened, too. I wish the police were more vigilant about tailgating (and would cite drivers for it…it’s prevalent in my area: Newton, Mass – Route 90, 95, 2, 16, 135.)

    My 1-day training day this year with Ken reinforced the dangers posed by cars (in addition to the increased joys from motorcycling with additional skills work), and I’m always replaying Ken’s advice while on the bike and using it in my car now, too.



  5. Yes, tailgaters are a potential threat! I have been using my emergency flashers ( bike and car) with some success to get them to back off or if that does not work I use it to signal my intent to pull over combined with hand signals, to allow them to pass by me.

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