Many tailgaters have no idea that they’re doing anything wrong. They do not understand what a proper following distance should look like or what their reaction time really is. They may believe that they have plenty of space because they think they can react quickly if they need to stop suddenly.
But reaction times are probably slower than most people realize. For instance, some reports claim that it takes about 0.75 seconds for a driver to analyze conditions ahead of them and realize that they need to hit the brakes. Simply looking at traffic conditions, considering their own speed and then perceiving the need to hit the brakes delays their reaction time. It may feel instantaneous, but it’s not.
Neither is pressing the brake pedal. It often takes another 0.75 seconds for a driver to move their foot and press the pedal down. They think they are doing this immediately, but they have now spent 1.5 seconds without even beginning to slow their car down.
A proper following distance
For this reason, drivers are told that they should have a following distance of at least three seconds. This gives them time to react and another 1.5 seconds to actually start slowing the car down to avoid a crash. But if a driver is tailgating and only has 1.5 seconds, they are barely going to start pressing down on the brake pedal before they cause an accident.
Much of the time, these negligent drivers don’t realize the risks that they are creating until they’ve already crashed. Those who have been injured need to know how to seek financial compensation.