Many years ago, owning a car was as much about pleasure as it was a means of transport, whole families went out for a ‘Sunday drive’, with no particular destination in mind, and with a timescale that was set to leisurely rather than efficient, but with more demands made on our time, increasing motoring costs and congested roads, the social aspect of motoring is falling down the list of recreational activities.

Perhaps it’s the modern world to blame for everyone being in a hurry, or just that society as a whole is becoming more … self-important, but one thing’s for sure – driving standards, or more correctly, driver etiquette, is in short supply.

A recent study by Lexham Insurance found that tailgating is the UKs number one annoyance for British drivers, with over 30% of drivers picking that above lane hogging (15.9%) or lane swerving (14.3%).

Tailgating

Tailgating is the act of driving too close to the car in front, without leaving enough of a safety gap (a general rule of thumb is two seconds in the dry), it’s extremely dangerous and could lead to a prosecution of careless driving, although in August of 2013, the Police were given extra powers to deal with it by the roadside with the use of a Fixed Penalty Notice – up to £100 fine and 3-points on a licence.

Whilst that could be an excellent measure in deterring drivers who insist on tailgating, the reality is that just 8,000 tickets have been issued since the introduction, mainly thanks to the dwindling numbers of traffic police. But with over 13% of all drivers blaming tailgating as a contributing factor to a serious accident, and the Highways Agency stating that tailgating is responsible for over one-third of all accidents on the UK roads, the problem is perhaps more significant than we realise.

Passive Aggressive

Experts say that there are two types of tailgaters – the passive and the aggressive, and whilst the term ‘aggressive’ would lead you think they’re the worst kind, it’s the passive tailgater that you should watch out for.

The aggressive tailgater will do all that they can to pass you, chivvy you along or just plain harass you in to moving out of their way, it’s annoying and dangerous, but at least they’re generally aware of the situation, whereas the passive tailgater won’t even recognise what it is that they’re doing, which means that it’s unlikely they’re paying attention, so you now need to be aware of what’s happening in front of you, and behind you.

Any kind of tailgater is dangerous; ‘thinking distance’ (aka reaction time) at 70 mph is 21 metres, nearly 69 feet in old money, and at 70 mph, the car is travelling 31.5 metres per second – it’s easy to see how accidents occur.

What can you do?

Should you find yourself in the situation of being tailgated, advice is straightforward:

Remember that it isn’t your job to police the roads, regardless of how annoying any driver is, you shouldn’t try to antagonise them, but equally, a court of law won’t recognise the argument of tailgating for increasing your speed, nor should you slow down unnecessarily.

Assess your own driving – are you driving particularly slowly? Or is the other driver genuinely at fault?
Do not speed up, but try and keep to a constant speed where possible and should there be an opportunity to let the driver pass, do so, providing it’s safe and legal. Give the other driver plenty of notice with your indicators – they may not be aware of your intention, and could equally be totally unaware of their own driving.

Don’t be tempted to ‘brake test’ the driver.

Bad habits?

The survey doesn’t list the demographics of the respondents, and there were only just over 400 in total, but it would seem a fair representation of bad driving habits, the complete list is as follows:

1. Tailgating 30.1%
2. Middle or fast-lane hogging 15.9%
3. Lane swerving 14.3%
4. Driving under the speed limit 12.4%
5. Undertaking 10.2%
6. Getting cut up 9.1%
7. Being squeezed out on merging lanes 8.1%

It could be that being tailgated is seen as much more of a threatening behaviour, whereas the other habits are just discourteous, although undertaking inparticular is perhaps one of the most dangerous habits, right alongside tailgating.

Unfortunately, there does seem to be a decline in driving standards, patience and forgiveness – whatever happened to raising your hand to say thanks, or even to apologise if you’ve accidentally made a mistake?

Do you think this survey is right? Are driving standards falling below an acceptable level? Would driving on the congested roads feel just that bit better with a little more courtesy? Let us know in the comments.

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