An increasing number of incidents are being caused by aggressive driving, especially those where tailgating is involved.
This behaviour often upsets the driver in front which often leads to unwise and inappropriate behaviour — a cause-and-effect scenario.
Whether the person behind is too close because of a personality disorder, ignorance or inattention, the effect is the same — the inability to stop should you apply the brakes suddenly.
This issue is even more critical in the winter months when conditions require more space to come to a stop.
Perhaps the following driver feels you are driving too slow, or otherwise hampering their progress.
Or maybe they have just been lulled into a position where they are fixating on your vehicle and establishing their speed based on yours.
This commonly results in pulling very close to the vehicle in front. The third possibility is that this is the way they drive and, so far, they have been lucky enough to avoid the very unpleasant circumstances related to that ignorance.
Whatever the cause of their poor driving the most common reaction is to flash your brake lights with a tap on the pedal.
Or in some cases, conduct a “brake check” by applying the brakes. Wrong! While it is a natural thing to do, the latter is riddled with potentially dangerous results.
The first is that you are now spending an inordinate amount of time and attention looking in your rear-view mirror instead of forward, increasing the likelihood that you will miss a warning signal ahead and have to brake suddenly.
The second issue is that the following driver may be an aggressive individual who is already upset and all you are going to do is cause the situation to escalate.
No good can come from this. In the very best case scenario, the following driver will take even greater chances in reaction, putting you in more danger.
It is tempting to “show” the other person that they are driving poorly, secure in the knowledge that they will be found at fault if they hit the rear of your vehicle.
The problem is that hit may well result in injury or your vehicle being pushed off the road or worse, into the path of oncoming traffic.
It will almost certainly involve others vehicles and their occupants, all of whom are innocent bystanders.
At highway speeds the average, alert driver will require about 10-15 metres of space just to react to your brake lights.
That is merely the time needed for the eyes to tell the brain to pass the word on to the muscles to move your foot toward the brake pedal. No actual braking has taken place at this point. If the distance between your vehicle and the one behind is not sufficient, the following driver will hit you before even getting to the brake pedal.
So while it is tempting to get involved, the safest approach is to remove yourself from the scene, away from this dangerous situation. Look for an appropriate space, signal and pull into another lane or off the road.
Let that other driver get on with it and concentrate on your driving, not theirs.
Better yet, take this as an opportunity for a break, especially if you found yourself tempted to get into a confrontation.
As your attention switches from monitoring the traffic situation ahead to becoming involved with that behind, your blood pressure rises and safe driving is no longer a given.
Only after calming down are you capable of driving properly.