Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

Tailgaters deserve a special place in hell.

Not the folks who enjoy a beer and a brat in a parking lot party at a football game. But the selfish drivers who sneak into your rearview mirror and perch one car length off your bumper as you’re sailing down the interstate at 70 mph.

Those people. They need to spend time on earth in jail and in a rather hot place in the sweet hereafter.


What kind of driving nut thinks it is actually safe to hug the rear of another car at high speeds? Ever hear of the reaction time needed to stop a car safely if the one in front slows or does something unpredictable (perhaps because a nut is on their rear end)?

“The closer you get to the car ahead, the sooner you will meet an injury attorney,” observed North Charleston attorney Gary A. Ling.

Following a vehicle too closely in South Carolina is illegal, although you wouldn’t know it from driving in the state. It’s a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to a measly $100 fine or 30 days in jail.

We doubt few tailgaters receive any such penalty. Most face zero justice as their illegal driving rarely gets on the radar of the few law enforcement officers on highways these days.  

State lawmakers need to rein in the Wild West driving show in South Carolina by upping the penalty on tailgaters and making police enforce it. Bump the fine to $10,000. Make it a year in jail if someone causes a wreck when following too closely.  

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, if it seems like there is more rude and obnoxious behavior on the road these days, there is — simply because there are more drivers crammed on the highways.

But “a motor vehicle insulates the driver from the world. Shielded from the outside environment, a driver can develop a sense of detachment, as if an observer of their surroundings, rather than a participant. This can lead to some people feeling less constrained in their behavior when they cannot be seen by others and/or when it is unlikely that they will ever again see those who witness their behavior.”

So they do what they want to when they want to, including tailgating to intimidate other drivers to get out of their way.

If you think things have gotten bad in the political sphere with overzealous rhetoric and attacks, just take to the highways and it won’t be long before you encounter aggressive drivers who don’t care for your safety or theirs.

So what should you do when you encounter a tailgater? Probably what you don’t want to do: Get out of their way by signaling that you’re moving into another lane, if you can. It’s probably the last thing you want to do because it reinforces the other driver’s atrocious driving, but it will keep you and  your passengers safer.

AAA says you need to keep some distance between your car and the car ahead. Here’s how: when the car ahead passes a fixed point, such as a sign, you need to make sure you pass that point at least two seconds later. Otherwise, you’re too close.

“If you think another car is driving too slowly and you are unable to pass, pull back and allow more space, not less. That way if the car does something unexpected you will have time to get out of the way. You should be able to see the headlights of the car behind you in your rear-view mirror. If you feel you are being followed too closely, signal and pull over to allow the other driver to go by.”

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Be more courteous. If you see a particularly bad tailgater, take down the license plate and call the police or S.C. Highway Patrol (*HP).

Andy Brack is publisher of the Charleston City Paper.  Have a comment? Send to:

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