Rear-end collisions are one of the most common—and potentially most destructive—types of auto accident. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear end collisions accounted for 33.4% of all collisions in 2015, resulting in about 556,000 injuries and 2,203 fatalities.
Rear-end accidents are caused by a variety of factors, including distracted driving, panic stops, or vehicle braking and tire failure. However, by far the most common contributor to rear-end accidents is tailgating.
What is Tailgating?
Tailgating is the practice of driving too closely to the vehicle in front of you, or not allowing a safe distance between the front of your car and the rear of their car.
Tailgating is actually illegal in California—California Vehicle Code section 21703 states: “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.” A violation could net you a minimum $238 fine, not including potential insurance premium hikes and penalties.
Tailgating and Accidents
Tailgating leads to rear-end accidents because in the event that the vehicle in front stops abruptly, those following too closely are not able to stop quickly enough to prevent a collision.
It takes a vehicle traveling at 35 MPH an average of 135 feet to come to a complete stop on dry pavement. These numbers increase with speed—cars travelling 55 MPH require 265 feet to stop, and at 65 MPH this distance increases to 344 feet. Wet pavement increases the distance required to come to a complete stop. Much of this has to do with the physics of forward momentum, but the figure also factors in the delay between when the front car stops and when the driver of the rear car notices and reacts—in other words, it takes many drivers a second or two to realize that the car in front of them has begun to slow or stop.
How Prevalent is Tailgating?
One survey found that:
- 19% of young drivers admitted to tailgating, compared with 15% of middle aged and 6% of senior drivers.
- Women were as likely as men to admit to tailgating.
- Men who drive sports cars are more likely to admit to tailgating (23%) than those who drive SUV’s (18%); however, the opposite is the case with women drivers—20% of female sports car drivers admitted to tailgating, versus 25% of SUV drivers.
Another survey reported that:
- 74% of survey participants had been tailgated in the previous 6 months.
- Only 11% admitted to tailgating another vehicle.
- 47% did not know the safe driving distance.
The inconsistencies in these numbers gesture towards the difficulty in generating accurate statistics from self-reported data; however, it is clear that tailgating is a relatively common practice that has been proven to contribute to rear-end crashes.
What Is a Safe Distance?
Although there is not a specific standard that applies to all vehicles, there are a few general rules of thumb when trying to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you:
- Allow about 1 car length per 10 MPH of speed (so, for example, if you are travelling 60 MPH, allow roughly 6 car lengths of space between your vehicle and the one in front).
- Choose a marker on the road (for example a traffic sign) and count the amount of time between when the car in front of you passes the marker, and when your car passes. There should be at least 3 seconds between when the back of the front car passes the marker and when the front of your car reaches the marker.
- Allow an extra second or two if it is raining or the pavement is wet.
What to do if you are in a Rear-End Accident?
If you are involved in a rear-end collision as the result of tailgating, contact a Los Angeles a rear end accident lawyer. At The Dominguez Firm, our award-winning team of personal injury lawyers will fight for you and get you the compensation you deserve. Call our offices today for a free consultation at 800-818-1818.