We’ve all been stuck behind another vehicle traveling slower than the speed limit. Sometimes the reason is obvious like when someone’s hauling an oversized load, the driver is a mail carrier, or you’re stuck behind a large vehicle already in the slow lane on the highway. 

It’s easy to be understanding when there’s an obvious reason someone is traveling slowly. However, when the reason isn’t obvious, a slow driver can be irritating. Being stuck behind a slow driver on a patch of road that doesn’t allow passing is even more frustrating and causes some people to tailgate the slow driver in an attempt to get them to speed up.

Although it might be your first impulse, here are 3 reasons you should never tailgate a slow driver:

1. Tailgating a slow driver is dangerous

Tailgating a slow driver is one of the most dangerous things you can do on the road. Tailgating a slow driver increases the possibility of an accident. In fact, tailgating contributes to more than one-third of all crashes according to data compiled by driving-tests.org

Say you’re driving too close to the car in front of you and they slam on their brakes to avoid a pedestrian. Upon impact your car will likely push their car forward into the pedestrian. A court might find that without the extra impact from your car, the pedestrian(s) would have been unharmed. In that case, you could be held completely responsible for the accident, including pedestrian injuries and/or fatalities caused by the other car.

2. Tailgating a slow driver won’t make them speed up

Getting frustrated with a slow driver is understandable, but tailgating a slow driver probably won’t get them to speed up. Some drivers might notice you, realize they’re going too slow, and then speed up. However, drivers who don’t pay attention to their mirrors won’t even notice you. Other drivers will see you and continue driving at the same speed.

You may even end up behind someone who will slow down even more just because you’re driving too close. Hopefully, you won’t end up behind someone who will intentionally slam on their brakes to cause an accident. However, it’s always a possibility. Many tailgating accidents are caused by people who brake hard to deter tailgaters and a good portion of those accidents are fatal for the tailgater.

3. You won’t save as much time as you think

Anyone who has been tailgated by an impatient driver has laughed when they both end up at the same red light or stop sign down the road. Tailgating and speeding around slow drivers doesn’t actually save as much time as you think.

Consider some simple math: If you’re traveling 10 miles at 60mph, you’ll get there in 10 minutes. If you’re stuck going 50 mph behind a slow vehicle, your 10-mile trip will take 12 minutes. That’s just two minutes longer. It seems inconvenient to be stuck driving 10 mph slower than you’d like to be driving, but it doesn’t translate to any significant time savings.

It’s not worth putting your life – and the lives of others – at risk to save a couple of minutes. 

Tips for avoiding a tailgating accident

You can avoid causing an accident by not tailgating other vehicles. However, when you’re the one being tailgated by another driver, there are only a few safe ways to deal with the situation.

The most important rule is to never use your brakes to deter a tailgater. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s for everyone’s safety. People who drive close to other cars are probably already irritated and even tapping your brakes could cause them to become enraged. Enraged drivers put everyone on the road at risk. 

Drivers who brake to deter tailgaters are likely to cause an accident. If the tailgater dies in the crash, you could be charged with vehicular homicide for using your brakes. In some states, it’s illegal even to tap your brakes.

Instead of using your brakes, pull over and let the tailgater pass. If you can’t pull over, take your foot off the gas and slow down naturally, gradually, and see if that gets them to slow down or pass. If that doesn’t work and you’re already going the speed limit (or even 10 mph over), change lanes if you can. 

If you’re on a two-lane road, look for a shoulder or a driveway to pull into. They might have an emergency so don’t assume they’re just being rude. Let them pass and let it go. Your only objective should be to get off the road quickly and safely.