View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

UAE: The Tailgating Capital of the World

I give UAE drivers the dubious record for being the greatest tailgaters in the world. This statement is not based on statistical evidence but research done driving on the roads of different countries. For those unacquainted with the term, ‘tailgating’ is following too closely behind another car.

One doesn’t have to drive on UAE roads for too long before one has this experience: You are on the highway traveling at the required 100 kph or 120kph when those in the right lane are slowing. You check to see the way is clear, indicate and pull out to the left to overtake. As you are passing you see through your rear view mirror a car steaming up behind you with their lights flashing demanding you hurry up or get back into the slow lane where you belong. You then realize that the line of cars and trucks you are passing is much longer than you imagined and it is taking more time to get back on the right. The tailgater maintains a high speed and follows you within a few inches of your rear bumper. Some cars, especially sports cars and 4 Wheel Drives (SUVs) are the greatest culprits.

Tailgating is a concoction of speed, disrespect and arrogance. Tailgaters are often exceeding the speed limit. The excessive flashing of lights and tooting of the horn is a form of road rage and their proximity to the rear of your car combines to make this act one of gross intimidation.

Beyond all the emotion and the signal to “get out of my way”, tailgating is extremely dangerous, especially in wet weather. It limits the ability of the tailgater to be able to react swiftly to unforeseen events further along the road and it increases the chance of a pile up. About 40% of all collisions are of the rear end variety which might have been avoided by keeping the appropriate distance.

What is the safe distance and how is this determined? The Smart Motorist recommends this rule of thumb:

“During daylight with good, dry roads and low traffic volume, you can ensure you're a safe distance from the car ahead of you by following the "three-second rule." The distance changes at different speeds.”

“To determine the right following distance, first select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass. When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand." If you reach the object before completing the count, you're following too closely. Making sure there are three seconds between you and the car ahead gives you time and distance to respond to problems in the lane ahead of you.”

“In heavy traffic, at night, or when weather conditions are not ideal (e.g. light rain, light fog, light snow), double the three second rule to six seconds [or more], for added safety.”

Do write your disagreements, agreements and suggestions as a ‘comment’.

Geoff Pound

Image: One car [not in the UAE] that followed too closely for its driver’s good.