You're in a hurry, so you try to put pressure on the slow poke in front of you by following closely. The other driver spots some debris in the road and slams on the brakes, leaving you no time to avoid a car accident. Suddenly, being late is the least of your worries.
Tailgating is an aggressive driving tactic that's a high-stakes roulette game. Many times, you'll wind up unscathed, but when you don't, the consequences can be devastating.
Car accidents can cause death, injury, significant property damage, skyrocketing insurance rates, and legal trouble. Following at a safe distance can help you avoid all of this.
The Rules of the Road
Florida law allows authorities some discretion when determining what precisely constitutes tailgating, but drivers can use landmarks to judge whether they're leaving enough room. The website DMVFlorida.org recommends that drivers stay at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front of them.
Tailgating and aggressive driving are commonly associated with urban areas. Though the perception might be that there's more open road in places like Brooksville, Spring Hill and Wesley Chapel than there is in Tampa or St. Petersburg, the reality is that Pasco and Hernando counties are not the safest places for drivers.
Data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows Pasco County in the upper tier of all Florida counties when it comes to the number of car accidents per 100 miles traveled, with a crash rate higher than in neighboring Hillsborough County during 2009. Hernando County is the 28th most dangerous of Florida's 67 counties in terms of car accidents, according to the Florida Highway Patrol and the Hernando Today.
Nearby municipalities are introducing technology to help combat tailgating and reduce the number of car accidents. In 2010, Tampa police began using lasers that measure the distance between cars to provide more concrete evidence of tailgating in court, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
The same report noted that more than 25,000 drivers were cited for following too closely in Florida during 2009, a violation that incurs a fine of $151 and three points on your driver's license.
The number of drivers caught tailgating may be on the rise if laser technology catches on. If you commute to Tampa from Brooksville, Spring Hill or Wesley Chapel, the lasers already provide one more reason not to tailgate. It stands to reason that the same safe driving practices you follow in the city should apply as you travel north on Interstate 75 or the Suncoast Parkway.
While the specter of a ticket can change driving habits, the threat of a car accident looms much larger. As the space between you and the vehicle in front of you shrinks, the danger grows larger. The less time you have to brake before a rear-end car accident, the more severe the crash is likely to be.
Staying two seconds behind the car in front of you won't make much of a difference in when you arrive at your destination, but it can have a significant impact on whether a car accident will keep you from arriving at all. Give the other driver room to stop and give yourself time to make a potentially life-saving decision.