Not many people know that tailgating is the leading cause of most motor vehicle crashes in Jamaica.
This finding by the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI) from its map of 72,000 road crashes between 2000 and 2010 revealed that tailgating accounted for some 20 percent of all collisions, followed by drivers who fail to stay in their lanes, or who are responsible for 10 percent of crashes.
“Tailgating is a commonplace issue on our roads that can lead to danger,” says Duane Ellis, General Manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA).
He points out that motorists should always try to maintain a minimum following distance of four seconds to allow them space to take the precautionary actions to avoid a collision. “And your following distance should increase as your speed increases,” he says.
Mr. Ellis pointed out that if one is being tailgated “there are actions good drivers can take to manage such situations. And, the first reaction should be to remain calm.”
Avoid the urge to respond aggressively and concentrate on diffusing the situation rather than aggravating it, he cautions, “Some aggressive drivers may hurl insults or display unkind and adversarial gestures, but you are better off de-escalating those tensions.”
Do not lose your cool. This could result in the loss of control of your motor vehicle,” he advises. Preparing yourself mentally for such situations can also help to guide how you should respond.
“Check your mirrors frequently to monitor the vehicles behind you and focus on the situation, so that you can react appropriately, if it becomes necessary,” he advised.
It is critical to reduce your speed gradually to allow the tailgater to determine when it is safe to overtake. “Often a tailgater just wants to go faster, so slowing down or pulling over if necessary, can assist them,” Mr. Ellis says.
However, he warns that if tailgated continues after offering several opportunities to overtake, the situation should be treated with added caution, especially when driving at night or along lonely or poorly lit roadways.
“Assess the risk involved, yield and allow the tailgater to pass. If the vehicle following you does not overtake, be vigilant and stop only in well lit, built up areas where there are people around, or drive to the nearest police station,” he advised.
“Being tailgated is a difficult situation, but you should make the best of it by exercising self control and using smart driving strategies to reduce your risks, because aggression leads to road rage,” he stated.