Autocar/AA Drive Better Campaign

Tailgaters are the UK's most irritating road users

17 July 2009

Tailgaters are the UK's most irritating road users

Tailgaters are the UK's most irritating road users and more needs to be done to tackle the menace of 'close following' according to a new campaign, launched today to improve the standard of driving.

The habit of driving too close to the car in front was voted as the most irritating behaviour of other drivers by 36 per cent of road users in an AA/Populus panel survey1 of over 14,500 AA members, conducted to launch the Autocar/AA Drive Better Campaign.

And not only is tailgating extremely annoying, it's also very dangerous.

Edmund King, AA President reveals that: "Survey respondents were spot on to highlight their irritation with tailgaters. Data reveals that leaving pure human error aside, tailgaters fall just behind 'loss of control' as the major cause of crashes. It's a problem not only on motorways but also on dual carriageways, country lanes and in road works. Some tailgate to bully drivers out of the way, others because they just don't think of the potentially tragic consequences of their actions."

Lost in the war on speed

However, the dangers of tailgating have been lost in the war on speed, which has seen a much greater emphasis placed on catching speeding drivers than teaching better, safer driving techniques. And with more Brits taking a 'staycation' this summer, the roads are going to be busier than ever with more accidents, many of which will be caused by the dreaded tailgater.

16% of motorway accidents

The AA says that 'detailed analysis of police accident causation figures has shown that close following is a particular problem, contributing to 16 per cent of motorway accidents'. However, the AA says that it's difficult to judge the scale of close following accidents on lesser roads, 'mainly because many more of the collisions will not involve injury and therefore not be recorded in studies.'

The Autocar/AA Drive Better Campaign It's clear then, that tailgating is one of the most serious aspects of the poor driving evident on the UK's roads. The problem lies in trying to educate drivers – some with decades of experience – to not only take tailgating seriously, but also to be able to judge safe braking distances at various speeds.

Heavyweight motoring brands Autocar and the AA have joined forces to make motoring a better experience for road users frustrated by the lack of ability or care of many drivers. The Autocar/AA Drive Better Campaign believes the route to better, safer roads is education. Autocar and the AA will be lobbying the government for a re-think of the driving test process.

Autocar comment

"For more than a decade the road safety message has been speed kills," said Chas Hallett, editor of Autocar. "But the truth is a little different – just five per cent of all accidents (and 12 per cent of fatalities) were wholly or partly caused by a driver breaking the speed limit. Poor driving causes the vast majority of accidents and tailgating is the cause of many collisions. Tailgaters need to remember the danger they put other road users in."

Detailed results

The AA/Populus panel was asked Which, if any, of the following behaviours of other drivers irritate you most when you are driving?

Tailgating – 36%
Talking on the mobile phone while driving – 23%
Middle lane hogging – 18%
Swooping – 6%
Driving slowly – 5%
Undertaking – 4%
Littering – 4%
Speeding – 3%
Other – 1%

Regional data

Percentage who select tailgating as the most irritating action.

Drivers in Wales and N Ireland were most likely to select tailgating. Females (40%) were more likely to dislike tailgating than males (33%). Younger drivers aged 18-24 were more likely to select tailgating probably as fewer saw mobile phone use as a problem compared to older drivers.

London – 37%
South – 35%
South West – 39%
Wales – 36%
East Midlands – 34%
Eastern – 36%
Yorkshire and Humberside – 34%
North West – 32%
North East – 34%
West Midlands – 36%
Scotland – 40%
Northern Ireland – 40%

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16 July 2009
1Populus interviewed 14,743 AA members online. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.