What to Do After a Tailgating Accident in Alabama

There are two types of tailgating. One involves fans coming together to cook and eat while they cheer on their favorite team. The other occurs when a driver engages in reckless behavior. This second type of tailgating causes thousands of car accidents in Alabama every year.

This post about tailgating will help you understand what tailgating is, why it’s dangerous, and what to do after a tailgating accident in Alabama. Read on to learn more about tailgating accidents.

What is Tailgating?

The word “tailgating” comes from the 1880s. The boards (“gates”) at the rear (“tail”) of wagons were called tailgates. Eventually, drivers applied the term to cars and trucks. By the 1950s, drivers began to call following another vehicle too closely “tailgating.”

Alabama law forbids tailgating. Following time can be measured several ways, but two are best for Alabama drivers.

First, there is the speed limit method. Alabama law states that drivers must “leave a distance of at least 20 feet for each 10 miles per hour of speed between the vehicle that he or she is driving and the vehicle that he or she is following.” Under this formula, a driver going 40 miles per hour should leave 80 feet of following distance.

The second approach is the fixed object method. Many drivers like this technique because it is easy to use and remember. To use this method, a driver picks a fixed object in front of them like a sign, telephone pole, or building. Then, they watch the car in front of them pass the object. Finally, the driver counts how many seconds pass until their car passes the same object. Experts recommend at least three seconds of following distance in good driving conditions. (Three seconds of following time exceeds Alabama’s 20 feet per 10 miles per hour requirement.)

Of course, following distances must adapt to the circumstances. Alabama law states that drivers “shall not follow another more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” So, Alabama law expects drivers to adjust their following distances based on speed, weather, traffic, and other factors.  

Why Tailgating Is Dangerous

Following other vehicles too closely is one of the leading causes of car accidents. Tailgating is the primary cause of rear-end collisions – the most common type of car accident. According to Drive Safe Alabama, tailgating was a factor in nearly 14 percent of all collisions in Alabama in 2019. Worse, tailgating was one of the top five causes of trucking accidents in Alabama that year. Clearly, tailgating causes accidents.

Tailgating is dangerous because drivers must react quickly to changing road conditions. It takes time for drivers to notice hazards and it also takes time for drivers to react to those conditions. Finally, the car itself needs time to respond to the driver’s directive to move, stop, or slow down. Drivers who follow too closely run the risk that they will not notice a hazard or will not have enough time to react to it.

Though the dangers of tailgating have been known for decades, sadly, some drivers still engage in the practice. There are many causes of tailgating. Inexperienced drivers may follow too closely because they are nervous or do not know better. Drivers who are texting or otherwise distracted may not notice how fast they are going or what’s around them. Drowsy driving keeps drivers from focusing. Drivers who are running late may tailgate in hopes of passing the vehicle in front of them. Similarly, drivers with road rage may tailgate in a dangerous and reckless attempt to force other drivers to go faster.

Tailgating accidents can result in many types of injuries. Some injuries are mild. However, tailgating can also lead to serious accidents and serious injuries. It’s not uncommon to learn that a rear-end accident caused a bone fracture, spinal cord injury, or traumatic brain injury.

Who is Liable in a Tailgating Accident?

While rear-end collisions can be caused by a number of factors, when tailgating is involved, the tailgating driver is nearly always at fault. Personal injury claims require proof of negligence. Negligence occurs when a driver: 1) has a duty; 2) fails to perform that duty; and 3) that failure results in damages. All drivers have a duty to drive safely. By following too closely, a tailgating driver has ignored that duty. So, a tailgating driver would likely be held responsible for any damages caused in a rear-end collision or other tailgating accident.

Note: Though the above is generally true, every case is different. The outcome of any personal injury case will depend on the facts of that case. An experienced car accident attorney can help you figure out which facts matter most in your case.

How to Avoid Tailgating Accidents

Of course, the easiest and best way to avoid tailgating accidents is for drivers to avoid tailgating! But if you are being tailgated by another driver, there are things you can do to prevent an accident.

Stay calm. Though being tailgated can make you (understandably) anxious, stay as calm as possible. Agitated or fearful drivers are more likely to make mistakes than calm ones.

Check your road rage. It’s normal to be angry when another driver is following too closely. But resist the urge to say or do something that could further aggravate the other driver and make things worse.

Don’t “brake-check” the tailgater. Brake-checking occurs when a driver taps their brakes repeatedly, slows down significantly, or slams on the brakes to tell the following driver that they are tailgating. Not only is this a dangerous maneuver, it is illegal in Alabama.

Change lanes if possible. Usually, slower traffic moves in the lane furthest to the right. Leave the tailgater by moving to another lane when you can safely do so. 

Take a detour. If you’re on city streets, one way to avoid an aggressive tailgater is to get out of their way by changing your route. A quick right (or left) turn can get you out of harm’s way.

Speed up – if you can. Put some distance between you and the tailgater by speeding up a bit. However, you should only do this if you can do so safely and without going over the posted speed limit.

What to do if You’ve Been in a Tailgating Accident

Generally, the steps drivers should follow after a tailgating accident are the same as those that they should follow after any driving accident. These steps include moving to safety, checking for injuries, calling 911, and taking pictures of the scene, and collecting witnesses’ names.

In addition to these steps, after a tailgating accident, be careful about engaging the tailgater. Tailgating and road rage often go hand-in-hand. Lashing out at an already angry driver could make a bad situation much worse.  Keep calm, keep your distance, and be mindful of your tone as you talk to the aggressive driver.

Have you been in a Tailgating Accident in Alabama?

Hopefully, this post has taught you a bit about the causes of tailgating and how to react when a car is following you too closely. If you’ve been in a tailgating accident in Alabama, you may need a car accident lawyer. If you do, please reach out to Collins Law, LLC. The injury lawyers at Collins Law handle cases involving tailgating and other types of collisions in Alabama. Our firm handles a variety of personal injury matters including cases involving trucking accidents and wrongful death claims.

Our team will fight for your rights and keep you informed about your personal injury claim every step of the way. If you need an accident lawyer, call (205) 881-0403 or click here to schedule a free consultation with one of our accident attorneys.