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More than 50% of drivers admit tailgating

Frustrated driver at the wheelTailgating is on the increase and male drivers are the worst culprits, according to new research.

Ask a group of motorists which road behaviour they find the most annoying and it's likely that tailgating will be near the top of the list.

It's irritating, it's scary, but unfortunately tailgating is on the rise.

Tailgating is where a driver breaks the so-called two-second rule – the road safety guideline that says motorists should maintain a two-second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front.

Instead the motorist gets too close in a bid to force the driver in front to speed up and/or move out of the way.

Tailgating on the rise

Tailgating is anti-social, but more than that it's also dangerous, especially at high speeds, as it leaves little room to brake safely in an emergency.

Yet more of us are guilty of it than ever before, according to research by road safety charity Brake.

More than half of drivers surveyed - 53 per cent - admitted tailgating on motorways, compared to 49 per cent of drivers polled in a similar survey carried out in 2004.

Men worst culprits

Men are far more likely to tailgate than women, with 61 per cent of male drivers admitting to driving too close to the car in front, compared to 46 per cent of female motorists.

And young drivers are more likely to tailgate - 56 per cent compared to 53 per cent of drivers across all age groups who admitted driving bumper to bumper.

Dr Nick Reed, senior researcher at  the Transport Research Laboratory, says frustration plays a key part in tailgating.

Frustration to blame

"Causes for tailgating may be ascribed to a number of factors from drivers being unaware of their own unsafe driving, to frustration with the lead vehicle for driving at the national speed limit," says Dr Reed.

"'The tailgating motorist is trying to send 'hurry up' messages to the driver in front.

"And because the car is an impersonal space rather than a personal one, they're aware that they can be aggressive without any comeback on them as an individual."

Driving instructor Lois Pallister of the Lois School of Motoring agrees.

"I think that when they are in their cars, some drivers feel affronted if another driver does anything that they see as holding them up in any way.

"They don't understand that it's their car they own, not the road."

Tailgating defence tactics

Many motorists feel bullied by tailgating, particularly on motorways when the fast speeds combined with having another vehicle following very closely can be very intimidating.

Others feel angry at the tailgater and attempt to annoy them further by decreasing their speed.

There's even a bumper sticker celebrating this attitude which reads: "The closer you get, the slower I'll drive."

But it's important not to let your emotions get the better of you and concentrate on your own safety and that of your passengers.

"Don't do anything provocative," says Dr Nick Reed.

"Let the other driver overtake you and pull over and let them pass if you can.

"That way, you know you've done the right thing. Let them go off and be aggressive somewhere else."

What do you think?

Go on, admit it, have you been guilty of tailgating? Your secret is safe with us.

But do tell us how and why you came to be driving bumper to bumper with the car in front. Was it frustration perhaps?

And if you've been on the receiving end, what's your top tip for shaking a tailgater?

We want to hear from you! You can share your thoughts on the message board below.

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

View more from Maria

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