Tailgating: What’s the big rush?

TAILGATING: How often do you experience this on the road?

TAILGATING: How often do you experience this on the road?

You’d be an extremely lucky driver if you hadn’t experienced tailgating while driving in New South Wales (or pretty much anywhere, really).

We’ve covered the dangers of tailgating before – this blog from last month explains that in this state alone, there are more than 10,000 rear-end crashes every year.

But why are people tailgating? Are drivers in such a rush that they’re willing to put the lives of others (and themselves) at risk?

Just recently on a drive from Sydney to Wollongong, I thought I’d momentarily entered a Steven King movie when I found a massive truck, high beams flashing wildly, bear down on me in the left-hand lane and almost swallow me and my family.

With the cruise control set on exactly the speed limit (110km/h), I was following a steady stream of Friday night traffic and had nowhere to go.

Why was that truck driver in such a hurry? Was he running behind schedule? Was he desperate to get home from work? Or did he just like to intimidate other drivers in his big rig?

I’ll never know because I didn’t get a chance to chat with him, thankfully. If you are the victim of aggressive tailgating, don’t intimidate the driver. Call the police if you fear you’re in danger, or simply let them pass if you have the chance.

Of course you can switch out ‘truck’ with just about any vehicle and it’s likely to be a familiar story to many who use the road. It’s one that is in no way limited to heavy vehicles.

It’s also not just on highways that tailgating is a problem – it’s just that the speeds involved substantially increase the level of danger.

But we experience forms of this behaviour every day. At the lowest end it’s annoying and dangerous. At the extreme end it can be deadly.

Have you experienced tailgating on the road and how often? Who do you find are the main offenders and why do you think they are in such a hurry?

How to avoid the 5 most common crashes

Avoiding common crashes

DRIVE TO SURVIVE: In NSW, around 90% of road crashes are caused by just five types of situation.

In NSW, around 90% of road crashes are caused by just five types of situation. NRMA’s corporate driver-training program, DriveSafePro, explains how to reduce that risk.

Keeping the right amount of stopping space between vehicles is the best preventative.

  • There are 9,000 serious rear-end crashes per year in NSW*
  • They account for 33% of all crashes for P-plate drivers and 40% for drivers with more than five years experience.

Reduce the risk:

  • Aim for a three-second following distance from the vehicle in front.
  • Leave more space in poor conditions.
  • Leave at least half a car length from the one in front of you when stopped.

Safety tip: To estimate a three-second gap, count “One – 1000, two – 2000, three – 3000” when you see the vehicle in front pass an object like a tree or telephone pole. If you pass the object before you finish counting, you are too close.

Thinking ahead and being ready with the brakes can avoid this situation.

  • In NSW, there are 6,000 serious crashes per year with vehicles approaching from the sides and an additional 2,000 crashes involving pedestrians.
  • These account for 19% of driver crashes*.

Reduce the risk:

  • Do not place trust in other drivers.
  • Estimate your stopping needs.
  • Prepare to use the brakes, slow down or move away from the hazard.
  • Check for vehicles running the red light before moving off at the lights.

Safety tip:
To set up the brakes, move your foot quickly and gently to the brake and apply light pressure – just enough to take up any free-play but not slow the car.

The width of your seat could be all you need to prevent a fatal head-on from happening to you.

  • There are 7,000 serious head-on crashes per year in NSW, including those from an oncoming vehicle turning across the opposite lane.
  • They account for 17% of crashes for all drivers and 60% of all fatalities.*
  • ANCAP performs 40% offset crash tests as part of its safety rating for new cars.

Reduce the risk:

  • Recognise the risk. Centre lines and median strips don’t stop vehicles crossing to your side of the road.
  • Buffer from oncoming traffic – a small movement can make a big difference.
  • Move left on crests and curves when you can’t see oncoming traffic.
  • Use the left lane where possible.
  • Be aware of vehicles waiting to turn across your path.

Safety Tip: As a guide, position your body in the middle of the lane, rather than your vehicle. This will keep your vehicle to the left of a lane and give you that extra car width from oncoming traffic. Of course, if there are hazards on your left, move away from them. Do what you can, when you can.

Tiredness and distractions are just a couple of the causes here. Alertness is key.

  • There are around 13,500 serious off-path crashes each year in NSW (6500 on straight roads, 6000 on curves)
  • Off-path straight crashes account for 9% of P-plate driver crashes and 6% for drivers with more than five years experience.**
  • Off-path curved crashes account for 8% of P-plate driver crashes and 6% for drivers with more than five years experience.**

Reduce the risk:

  • Manage driver fatigue.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Avoid distractions such as using a mobile phone, changing music, and eating and drinking. Pull over – it only takes a minute.
  • Avoid driving in the blind spot of other vehicles. Many drivers don’t look over their shoulders or use their indicators before changing lanes.
  • Avoid dawn or dusk in country areas when wildlife is most active.
  • Keeping a three-second gap helps estimate vision – you should always be able to see at least twice as far ahead as the car in front.

Safety tip: Pre-book a hotel on long trips so you won’t be tempted to drive further than you should.

Driving on Auto-Pilot


MIND BLANK: ‘Complacency driving’ and it contributes to more unintentional deaths on our roads than anything else

How often have you driven to your destination and not even remembered the journey you just took?

This is called ‘complacency driving’ and it contributes to more unintentional deaths on our roads than anything else, especially when you combine it with rushing, frustration or fatigue.

How do people get so complacent that they will do something they know contributes to making a mind-not-on-task error, such as texting while driving?

Doing something over and over again, such as driving the same route to work each day, can lead to this tendency to drive on autopilot. We get overconfident that nothing will happen, but in fact we all need to recognise and accept that driving is always potentially risky. Even a good driver with many years of experience can be involved in a crash.

Developing low-risk driving habits for fighting complacency is more than just reducing
associated common driving errors, it’s about developing a deep respect for complacency and what it can detrimentally do to our decision making.

Safe habits are needed even when there is no hint of imminent danger. A good swimmer may be less inclined to wear a lifejacket just as a ‘good’ driver might be less inclined to keep a safe following distance or ‘set up their brakes’ for random and unique hazards on each journey, because the last time they went driving they didn’t need to.

Working on your daily driving-related habits can help with complacency driving as it keeps your mind active on the task at hand. Actions such as looking in your mirrors regularly, ‘setting up’ your brakes and ensuring you maintain the three-second gap from the car in front all help keep your mind active whilst driving.

Do you make an effort to try and keep your mind active and present while driving?

SPEAK OUT: Large objects in school zones a safety hazard

SCHOOL ZONE SAFETY: NRMA to champion Pittwater Council's initiative to ban large objects in school zones

SCHOOL ZONE SAFETY: NRMA to champion Pittwater Council’s initiative to ban large objects in school zones

A call from Pittwater Council to ban large objects being parked in school zones has received broad support on our interactive advocacy hub Speak Out and will become the second grassroots campaign the NRMA has championed since the site was launched last month.

Pittwater Council were concerned that trucks, caravans and motorhomes, together with objects like mobile billboards and boat trailers, were making it difficult for drivers to see clearly and made it dangerous for children and their parents to cross the road safely.

After the council submitted their suggestion through Speak Out, we surveyed almost 740 drivers on the issue and found that almost three-quarters believed that these objects were a safety hazard that impaired the driver’s vision.

READ MORE: Pittwater Council’s Speak Out submission.

Trucks parking in school zones was the major concern of drivers with 50% of respondents saying they cause reduced visibility, while caravans and motorhomes (21%), boat trailers (12%) and mobile billboards (11%) were also a concern.

Speak Out enables individuals and community groups to organise and mobilise around issues they want the NRMA to fight on their behalf. Others can then vote on whether they support the campaign or disagree with it.

Almost 84% of those who read Pittwater Council’s suggestion supported the campaign.

NRMA President Kyle Loades said there was overwhelming support for the Pittwater Council initiative on Speak Out and that the NRMA would take up the fight on behalf of the community.

“Large objects parked in school zones are a safety risk because it makes it harder for drivers to see children as they walk along footpaths or cross the street,” he said.

“If the large vehicles or objects are parked at the entrance points of the school zone they can also impair the view of the school zone sign – this could result in drivers not realising they are entering a school zone and creating a further safety risk for children.

“The NRMA survey shows drivers are concerned about this issue and when we put Pittwater Council’s initiative on our grassroots hub, Speak Out, it generated broad public support.”

Pittwater Mayor Jacqui Townsend welcomed NRMA’s support for their initiative and called for safety measures to be rolled out across the country.

“Safety in schools zones needs to be top of mind for communities across Australia. We are very pleased our initiative to ban the parking of large vehicles has the support of the NRMA and motorists nation-wide,” she said.

“Ultimately, we want to see national legislation that bans the parking of oversize vehicles in schools zones during school zone times which operate from 8am to 9.30am in the morning and 2.30pm and 4pm in the afternoon on school days.”

Have your say: Do you think large objects such as trucks, caravans, motorhomes and advertising trailers should be banned in school zones?

Public want education on morning after DUI


BIG HEADACHE: An RBT the morning after drinking could see you blowing over.

Do you ever get up the morning after a night out drinking and wonder if you’re alright to drive?

After a Member suggested there wasn’t enough information available on the dangers of driving drunk the morning after, the NRMA is calling for an education campaign about the risk for drivers.

The call prompted a survey of Members on the issue which found 90 per cent of people who drink believed there is not enough community education to help drivers monitor if they are over the blood alcohol limit the morning after drinking.

The survey found almost one-quarter (23%) know someone who was caught over the legal blood alcohol limit the morning after drinking, while almost 40 per cent (37%) have noticed an increase in RBT units in their local area on the mornings of weekends and public holidays.

Alarmingly, only 18 per cent of drinkers surveyed claimed they had a definite understanding about their blood alcohol limit the morning after drinking.

The NRMA also found that an average of eight drivers were booked for drink driving between the hours of 5am and 1pm every day in New South Wales.

“Being caught with a blood alcohol reading above the legal limit the morning after drinking is one of those issues Members worry about and we have seen some high profile cases this year,” NRMA President Wendy Machin said.

“Our Members don’t want to be caught inadvertently breaking the law and putting their lives and the lives of others at risk, but at the same time they feel there has not been enough information about how best to make sure it’s okay to drive – in essence they want to take the guessing out of what is a very serious issue.”

The NRMA survey on blood alcohol limits the morning after drink driving also found that when it came to the ways to reduce your blood/alcohol level and get alcohol out of your system quicker drinkers felt:

  •  Wait it out (57 %)
  •  Rehydrate by drinking lots of water (46%)
  •  Sleep (27%); and
  •  Eat a big meal or greasy food (14%).

While there is little public education around when best to know if it’s safe to get back in the car, the NRMA encourages its Members to wait one hour for every standard drink consumed the night before.

Do you think driving drunk the morning after is commonplace? Do you think you have before?

This campaign was kicked off after a Member suggested it on Speak Out, NRMA’s advocacy platform that enables individuals and community groups to organise and mobilise around issues they want the NRMA to fight for on their behalf.

Do you have an issue on motoring, roads or public transport that you feel passionately about and want NRMA to fight for on your behalf? 

Submit your campaign suggestion, or support another, by clicking here.