Don't be a space invader - tailgating causes eight of all road casualties. Image: Open Government Licence v3.0

Tailgating causes one in eight of all road casualties

Highways England’s new safety campaign uses the well-known Space Invader video game character to alert drivers to the anti-social nature and risks of tailgating.

The ‘Don’t be a Space Invader – stay safe, stay back’ campaign is supported by one of the world’s best drivers.

Nigel Mansell backs the anti-tailgating campaign Image: Open Government Licence v3.0

Former Formula 1 world champion and President of the Institute of Advanced Motorists RoadSmart, Nigel Mansell, said:

“Tailgating is a driving habit I utterly deplore. Not only is it aggressive and intimidating, but it can lead to a crash with a tragic outcome.

“There is absolutely no upside to it – you will not get to your destination faster, you are not a skilled driver for doing it, and you are putting so many innocent people at risk. So I very much back this campaign to highlight the dangers of tailgating.”

Tailgating can cause a spike in driver’s heart rate

Most tailgating is unintentional by drivers who are unaware they are dangerously invading someone else’s space. Nearly 9 out of 10 people say they have either been tailgated or seen it. And more than a quarter of drivers admitted to tailgating.

A survey by Highways England reveals that tailgating is the biggest single bugbear about other road users. Dashcams, facial recognition, emotion tracking and heart monitors where used for in-car research.

This revealed that a driver’s typical reaction to someone who tailgates them is surprise, anger and contempt. There was also a spike in the driver’s heart rate.

Tailgating is intimidating

Head of Road Safety at Highways England, Richard Leonard, said:

“Tailgating makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them more likely to make a mistake.

“It is intimidating and frightening if you’re on the receiving end. If that leads to a collision, then people in both vehicles could end up seriously injured or killed. We want everyone to travel safely, so the advice is – stay safe, stay back.”

If you wonder whether you are ‘space invading’, then remember the Highway Code. This says that drivers should allow at least a two second gap, which should be doubled on wet roads.

If you are tailgated, then avoid speeding up, slowing down or staring in the rear-view mirror. Reduce the risk to yourself by driving normally, signalling clearly and allowing people to overtake.

Being a Space Invader can also cost you money. One insurance company reports that almost a quarter of accident claims between January and August this year involved either a policy holder’s or a third party’s vehicle being hit from behind.

Highways England has a dedicated webpage where drivers can find more information about tailgating and what they can do to stay safe.