By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
It’s the driving habit that’s been found to infuriate motorists more than anything else; the infraction that is not only nerve grating, but also wildly unsafe.
And now, it turns out that intentionally driving so closely to the vehicle in front of you that you can almost touch their bumper – better known as tailgating – is a driver behaviour that many of us are actually guilty of.
Let’s turn to South Australia as a case in point.
It is reported that over 2018, in South Australia alone, more than 3,000 motorists were caught tailgating vehicles, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Of those, more than 1,323 drivers were penalised, accumulating over $516,000 worth of fines.
In fact, so significant is the problem of tailgating now that new figures from the Royal Automobile Association (RAA) show police are now issuing more fines over the risky behaviour rather than simply cautioning drivers.
In South Australia, drivers who tailgate face a fine of $411 and loss of a demerit point.
Tailgating Terror: “No Excuse” for Drivers to Put Themselves and Others at Risk on Roads
RAA Insurance Claims Manager, Hayley Cain, has since expressed her disappointment in seeing so many drivers putting not only themselves but also others at risk on the roads.
In fact, the insurance manager warns that drivers should take note that they are also liable from an insurance point of view should they rear-end someone.
“The number of drivers caught tailgating each year is very concerning because it is dangerous behaviour, and contributes to the fact that rear-end crashes are the most common type of collisions on our roads,’’ Ms Cain said.
Ms Cain has also advocated that no matter the reason, there is no excuse for the dangerous behaviour.
“Unfortunately, there are some drivers who deliberately tailgate because they think it will force the motorist in front to go faster,’’ she said.
“Other drivers who bunch up in congested traffic can find themselves unintentionally tailgating and potentially becoming involved in a pile up.
“Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for tailgating.”
Tailgating by Other Drivers: The Behaviour that Annoys Motorists Most on the Road
Given many of us are guilty of tailgating, it may seem quite ironic to learn that according to a survey conducted by the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) in 2018, tailgating by other drivers is the behaviour found to annoy motorists most on the roads.
In fact, according to RACQ spokesperson, Clare Hunter, tailgating surfaces as the one driving habit that motorists overwhelmingly say gets their blood boiling.
“Time and time again tailgating ranks as the number one most annoying habit and it’s a major problem because it puts unnecessary pressure on inexperienced drivers and leads to mistakes that cause crashes,” says RACQ spokesperson Clare Hunter.
Across all states, motorists are required to drive a sufficient distance behind a vehicle. If they are caught tailgating, meaning they drive at a closer distance than allowed, they can be hit with a whopping fine and a loss of demerit points.
In Queensland, offenders cop a $304 fine along with one demerit point, while in Victoria, receive a $242 and one demerit point penalty.
In South Australia, drivers can expect a $334 fine along with one demerit point, while Western Australia drivers following too close can await a $200 fine and the loss of two demerit points.
What are the Penalties for Tailgating in NSW?
It’s considered a traffic offence in NSW to tailgate, and this is largely because drivers who engage in this kind of dangerous driving can be intimidating, distracting, and place others at risk.
The law on tailgating in NSW is understood as the law on keeping a safe distance behind vehicles.
As reflected in rule 126 Road Rules 2014 (NSW), put simply, this law outlines that motorists on NSW roads must keep a sufficient distance behind another vehicle travelling in front in order for the driver to be able, if necessary, to stop safely to avoid collision with the vehicle.
As a guide, this sufficient distance can be measured at a gap of three seconds between your vehicle and the one ahead, while maintaining an appropriate space. This distance is sufficient to allow a driver enough space to brake safely if he/she suddenly needs to stop.
In NSW, the current penalty for tailgating is a whopping on-the-spot-fine of $448 fine and three demerit points.
If you wish to dispute the matter in court, the maximum penalty is a fine of $2,200.
Can You Appeal an On-The-Spot-Fine for Tailgating? You may appeal the fine by ‘court-electing’ the penalty notice (this option is located on the back of the penalty notice fine).
Upon court-electing this fine, you will be required to appear in the Local Court where you must then either ‘plead guilty’ or ‘plead not guilty’ to the traffic charge.
The charge will be dismissed if you are found by the court to be ‘not guilty’ after having entered a ‘plea of not guilty’.
The Magistrate will proceed to sentence if you are found guilty, or if you decide to ‘plead guilty’ to the charge in court.
In the event your case proceeds to sentence, the Magistrate will then allow you to produce further evidence in an attempt for you to reduce the penalty that the Magistrate is required to ultimately determine.
While the Magistrate has the discretion to impose a maximum penalty of up to $2,200 fine, it is rarely imposed.
The Magistrate may impose a conviction or section 10 non-conviction sentence penalty.
If the Magistrate imposes a conviction penalty, then this will result in loss of demerit points upon conviction.
If the Magistrate decides to impose a s10 non-conviction penalty, then this will result in no loss of demerit points and no fine.
Click here for an outline on how to get a section 10 non-conviction.
How to Deal with Tailgaters
There’s a good chance you might find yourself stuck in a circumstance where you’re being tailgated by a driver.
Such drivers have the clear intention of passing you, and as such, will actively drive up your rear end in a manner that indicates they want you to get out of their way.
The best way to deal with aggressive tailgaters is simply by letting them pass, as soon as you can, and if it’s safe to do so.
While it can be tempting to hold them up, wind them up or think of your own tricks that will incite their frustration in return, there’s not much to be gained by reacting.
Moreover, this can lead to more unpredictable behaviour on their part.
It’s probably not the best idea either to take matters into your own hands as this may enable the situation to escalate, possibly even trigger road rage.
A safer alternative is to report the driver to the police.
Questions on this topic? Speak to an experienced traffic lawyers in Sydney today.
Our office is available 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.