The Problem with Tailgating - Why Space is Good for All of Us

Mar 7, 17 by Jorian Goes

The Problem with Tailgating - Why Space is Good for All of Us

Not unlike personal relationships, giving some space between you and the vehicle in front of you is a good thing.

This isn’t a relationship blog, but why is it that some of us tell others that “we need space”? While the person who receives this information might not understand why, the person giving the statement just knows that sometimes space is actually a good thing. The same applies when driving - giving some space between you and the vehicle in front of you is also a good thing. Drivers in California have a rep for being aggressive, and sometimes it may be warranted, as this Sacramento Bee article asks which freeway has the most aggressive drivers.

Tailgating in California (v.c. 21703), in this case, doesn’t have anything to do with going to an outdoor party with lots of food and beer before a college or pro football game; it has to do with following too close behind another vehicle while you’re driving. This offense can cost you in fines starting at $238 and up - likely much more expensive than any food or beer you might bring to a football tailgate party.

The law is pretty straight forward. It states:

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.”

This essentially means that you can’t follow another vehicle too closely; that you need to be aware of the speed of the vehicle in front of you, your own speed, the traffic around you, and the condition of the roadway and be able to react in a timely manner that won’t cause harm to yourself and others around you should conditions change- these would be considered reasonable and prudent.

The Press Enterprise article on tailgating notes, the following best practice: “Based on studies and testing by such agencies as the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the accepted rule of thumb for maintaining a safe minimum following distance is one car length for every 10 miles per hour of speed”. Their article also notes that tailgating is the primary reason for rear-end collisions.

It’s pretty apparent that whether you need to tell someone to give you some space, or whether you need some on the road- both are great ideas. There have been many stories of fatal car accidents due to tailgating and you probably know someone who’s been ticketed for it on the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many other locations throughout California. Save yourself some money and a potential accident by giving everyone some space on the roads.


California Legislative Information.

The Press Enterprise. On the Road: What Constitutes Tailgating? Rick Davis. August 2014.

The Sacramento Bee. Which freeway has the most aggressive drivers?