Tailgating is a factor in one in eight casualties on the Highways England network, and a serious issue that the government-owned company is looking to crack down on.

Currently, tailgating related collisions are at their highest level for at least seven years, according to the Department for Transport. Even with a £100 fine and three penalty points on their licence at stake, drivers are consistently breaking the two-second safe gap between vehicles.

That could be about to change, thanks to new roadside cameras.

Technology that can tell if cars are too close together is being trialled on the M1 in Northamptonshire before a potential nationwide rollout. The trial started in late-2020 and is due to last six months.

Strikingly, over 26,000 vehicles were caught tailgating in the first two months of the trial. That's 419 drivers a day! Even worse, some 3,700 drivers were repeat offenders and some were spotted tailgating up to 12 times on the same 150-metre stretch of road where Highways England installed the cameras.

That may seem like a lot of fines, but the police have sent warning letters to drivers instead.

With the number of offenders likely to rise, many within Highways England wonder whether warning letters are enough.

A recent survey revealed almost 1 in 3 drivers tailgated others at various points. Driving too close to another car may not seem like a serious offence, but it can prove fatal. Different road conditions affect braking differences and, if your car isn't well maintained, it may not stop as quickly as you want. That's why you should treat the two-second rule as a minimum distance.

If the trial goes well, the cameras may be rolled out nationwide. That way, those who feel the need to tailgate will have to back off or face punishment. And that will make many more drivers feel safer on the roads.


How Do I Know if I'm Tailgating?

There are a few things you can do when following other cars on a motorway to see if you're too close.

  • Keep at least two chevrons (white arrows on the road) between you and the vehicle in front
  • Pick a point and start counting as the car in front passes it. If you can't count 'one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi' before passing the point yourself, you're too close.

And remember: only fools don't follow the two-second rule.