Defensive Driving: How to Deal with Tailgaters

By Jeremy Patton

You’re enjoying a lazy, Sunday drive. The windows are down, the summer wind blows through your hair and your sweetheart smiles lovingly in the passenger seat. Out of nowhere, a sports car whips around a corner and tails a few feet from your bumper. You can’t see the driver due to his tinted windows, but you’re certain that he’s deaf from his blaring music and roaring engine. You realize that you’ve been driving slow, so you courteously bring your speed up to the posted limit. A few moments pass, but he doesn’t back off. You feel the vein pomp out from your forehead and your girlfriend eyes you nervously.

When I was young, these situations brought out the worst in me. Cursing, swerving, rude gestures, stomping the breaks and invitations to pull over were typical. If the tailgating happened at night and I was blinded by bright lights, it would enrage me even more. Fortunately, no violence ever erupted.

Now that I’m older and a more experienced driver, I’ve found a way to deal with tailgaters that works almost every time. It allows you to deal with the problem peacefully without ruining your day. Here’s what you do:

Just slow down.

This isn’t an attempt to cause a confrontation. Your goal is to make the bumper-rider frustrated so he’ll pass and leave you alone.

After making sure that you’re traveling at the speed limit and you give him an opportunity to back away, drop your speed to 5 MPH under the limit. Don’t hit the breaks. Don’t make eye contact and pretend that you don’t notice him. You’re completely oblivious of any traffic behind you.

Usually, the tailgater will realize that his antics won’t make you go faster and he’ll go around at the next straight stretch. If he continues riding your bumper, drop your speed in 5 MPH increments. If he tailgates you for the remainder of your trip, be satisfied that you made him very angry without stooping to his childish antics.

This tactic can be used on quiet country roads, highways and the interstate. However, don’t drop your speed so low that it could cause an accident. Be especially cautious on curvy roads.

Give this strategy a try and I hope that it makes your driving life a bit easier. Remember, stay calm and let the tailgater do the fuming (no pun intended).

Added 5/8/17