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      Is It Illegal To Tailgate In NSW?

      Tailgating another driver is defined as following a vehicle without keeping a safe distance between the two vehicles.

      There are some obvious dangers in tailgating a vehicle. Any sharp reduction in speed of the vehicle in front could lead to a collision as there is insufficient time to brake.

      Further, tailgating can cause the driver in front to be intimidated and fearful. This in turn can lead to mistakes in their driving behaviour.

      A recent study found that between 2014 and 2018, almost 25% of accidents on the road were due to a rear-end collision. Clearly, keeping a safe distance could have prevented a large number of these accidents.

      Indeed, over 10,000 rear-end crashes are reported each year in New South Wales. This does not account for the rear end collisions that are unreported due to there being no damage to the vehicles.

      However, is the act of tailgating another vehicle illegal?

      Is it illegal to tailgate someone?

      Most states in Australia have made tailgating illegal.  

      In NSW for example, Rule 126 of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW), makes it illegal to tailgate another vehicle.

      The rule requires drivers to keep a safe distance behind other vehicles. While there is no specific distance prescribed by the rules, generally a ‘3 second gap’ is acceptable.

      The legislation sets out that each driver must travel a sufficient distance behind another vehicle so that the driver can, if necessary, stop safely to avoid a collision.

      At present, the penalty for tailgating in NSW is a fine of $448 and 3 demerit points. However, if you appeal the matter to court, you can be subject to a maximum fine of $2,200.

      Despite the small penalties, the dangers of disobeying the rule are evident. Any collision that causes injury to another person could lead to far more serious charges, such as negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm.

      If you were convicted of this offence, you could receive a jail term. The maximum penalties for negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm are 9 months imprisonment for a first offence and 12 months imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.

      There are also lengthy licence disqualifications for negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm that the Court may impose. For a first offence, there is a minimum disqualification of 12 months and an automatic disqualification of 3 years.

      If you were convicted of a previous major offence in the last 5 years, then the penalties increase to an automatic disqualification of 5 years and a minimum disqualification of 2 years.

      What is Tailgating?

      The definition of tailgating another vehicle is following them without keeping a sufficient distance.

      There are a number of reasons why people tailgate. Often the tailgater will not believe that there is any risk in their actions. They may also be of the view that they are a good enough driver not to obey the ‘three second rule’.

      At the other end of the scale are drivers who tailgate as a way to intimidate other road users. This may be to have other drivers move out of their lane and allow them to drive at excessive speeds or as a way to vent their ‘road rage’.

      A less common reason for tailgating is a concept known as slipstreaming. This is used by both cyclists and race car drivers. It is sometimes called a draft-assisted forced auto stop.

      The benefits of slipstreaming are that less fuel is used as the car in front bears the brunt of the wind resistance. As such, the tailgater uses very little fuel to drive at the same speed as the vehicle in front.

      However, the obvious benefits of greater fuel economy must be assessed against the increased chance of a collision as there will be virtually no time to react if the vehicle in front sharply brakes.

      Indeed, with older cars, this pressure can also cause power steering to stop functioning as well.

      How to deal with tailgating

      According to organisations such as the NRMA, there are some proven ways to deal with being tailgated.

      Firstly, you shouldn’t feel pressured to increase your speed. It is a very common occurrence for people to increase their speed when they are being tailgated.

      This can of course lead to incurring a speeding fine and the associated demerit points.

      Rather, you would be better served by waiting until it is safe to move out of their way by changing lanes and allowing the tailgater to pass.

      If you have concerns about the driving behaviour of the driver behind you, you can report them to Police or to the business the vehicle belongs to.

      It is important not to slow down, flash your brake lights, or do anything else that may further anger an aggressive driver.

      If a collision occurs, the tailgater will almost always be held as the responsible party for causing the accident.

      This is in large part due to the requirement to keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

      To ensure that you do not risk tailgating another vehicle, you should allow at least 2 seconds between yourself and the vehicle in front of you during the day. At night, this should be increased to 3 seconds at night and 4 seconds during bad weather conditions such as during snow, ice, or rain.

      When approaching intersections, stop lights, and when you changing lanes are particularly important times to keep a safe distance.

      It is also suggested that drivers anticipate hazards that may cause the driver in front of them to brake suddenly.

      If you are charged with a traffic offence, it is important to obtain advice from a senior lawyer. We have Sydney CBD, Parramatta and Liverpool Traffic Lawyers who can advise you on the best way to keep your licence.  

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