Millions of British drivers would be willing to risk an accident by “brake testing” another driver who was following them too closely.
New research has found that tailgating is not only one of the most annoying habits drivers experience on the road, but it leads to many victims making dangerous decisions of their own.
A poll of British drivers found that 89 per cent find tailgating – where a car follows too closely to the vehicle in front – annoying and 75 per cent of drivers said they would take some form of action in response to being tailgated.
Just over a third of those – equivalent to 13.9 million motorists – said they would brake test the car behind – lightly tapping their brakes to illuminate their brake lights. One in ten drivers said they would go even further and brake sharply to get the following car to back off.
The risks involved in such actions are obvious, with the chance that a following driver won’t react in time and could drive into the car in front. Alternatively, they might overreact and create a concertina effect behind them, increasing the chances of a collision.
Highways England estimates that one in eight casualties on motorways and A-roads are due to tailgating and more than 100 people are killed or seriously injured due to motorists driving too close to the car in front.
The survey by Kwik Fit also found that nearly one in ten (9 per cent) of drivers admitted to getting “revenge” on a tailgater by letting them pass then following them as closely as they had been.
And a third said they were aware that their actions had caused a driver in front to react in some way. This includes one in ten drivers who have had a car let them pass, only for it to then pull back out and tailgate them in turn and 8 per cent who have experienced the driver in front brake sharply, purely to get them to back off.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “The accident statistics show very clearly that many road casualties are caused by cars following too closely. This research highlights that the danger doesn’t just come from tailgaters not being able to stop in time, but from the negative reactions they cause in other drivers.
“Brake testing a car which is far too close can be very tempting for drivers but this can be very dangerous. The safest approach when encountering tailgaters is to drive normally, signal clearly and pull over when it’s safe to do so to allow them to overtake.
“Getting drawn into tit for tat behaviour is a no-win situation and only makes driving much more stressful than it needs to be.”