How to react if you are being tailgated: Understanding Liability and Road Safety
Tailgating is the practice of following another vehicle too closely on the road. It is not only a dangerous behavior, but often a manifestation of road rage. It poses significant risks to both the tailgater and the driver being tailgated. In 2019, South Carolina witnessed 3,494 injuries resulting from tailgating-related incidents [^], highlighting the need to understand how to react when faced with this perilous situation. Let’s deep dive into the dangers of tailgating, liability in South Carolina for tailgating-related accidents, and what you should do if you find yourself being tailgated.
The Dangers of Tailgating
Tailgating creates a hazardous scenario on the road by depriving the tailgating driver of the necessary stopping distance. This lack of adequate space can lead to rear-end collisions when the driver in front of them suddenly stops or slows down. The consequences of such collisions are often underestimated, with a significant number resulting in injuries and even fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one-third of all rear-end crashes in 2019 resulted in at least one person being injured, and 7.1% proved to be fatal. These statistics underscore the serious nature of tailgating-related accidents.
Liability for Tailgating-Related Accidents
In South Carolina, determining liability for car accidents follows an “at-fault” doctrine. This principle states that the driver responsible for causing the accident is liable for covering any resulting damages. In most tailgating cases, the driver who was tailgating is held responsible for the accident. Their insurance company is typically responsible for compensating the injured party for costs such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages.
However, situations may arise where the fault is not clear-cut. The other driver might claim that you acted aggressively by slamming on your brakes or were engaged in distracting behavior, such as texting.
In such cases, South Carolina employs a modified contributory negligence statute. This statute allows you to seek damages from the at-fault driver as long as you are less than 51% responsible for the accident. If you are found to be more than 50% responsible, you cannot seek damages against the other driver.
Working with an experienced attorney is crucial in these situations. They can help gather evidence to refute claims of shared fault and work to secure maximum compensation for your injuries and damages.
What Should You Do If Someone Tailgates You?
While it can be unlikely that you would be considered at fault if you are rear-ended by a tailgater, knowing how to react in such a situation can make a difference in preventing an accident or ensuring a successful accident claim.
Keep Calm: It can be frustrating to be tailgated, but avoid retaliatory actions or aggressive behavior. Refrain from slamming on your brakes, shouting, or making rude gestures, as these actions can escalate the situation.
Give the Other Driver Space: Do not engage in “brake-checking” or abruptly slowing down to provoke the tailgater, as this could lead to a collision. When it’s safe to do so, change lanes to allow them to pass. Avoid speeding up to appease the tailgater if it means breaking the speed limit.
Signal Braking: If you need to brake or slow down, lightly tap your brakes to activate your brake lights. This provides a clear signal to the tailgater that you are slowing down, giving them an opportunity to react.
Contact the Police: In cases where tailgating appears to be aggressive or potentially harmful, contact the police. Describe the situation, provide details about the tailgater’s vehicle (license plate number, make, color), and share your location. This action can help ensure your safety and hold reckless drivers accountable.
Tailgating is a dangerous behavior that can lead to accidents and injuries on South Carolina’s roads. Understanding liability in tailgating-related accidents and knowing how to react when faced with a tailgater can help protect your safety and rights. Remember, seeking legal guidance from an experienced attorney is essential in navigating the complexities of contributory negligence and securing the compensation you deserve in the event of an accident caused by a tailgating driver. Stay safe on the road and drive responsibly.