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Tailgating and Rear-end Car Accidents

Offered by Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone & Morelli

In Connecticut, vehicles ‘following too closely’ is a common crash factor

We’ve all been there. You’re driving down a highway or rural road, going the speed limit, when suddenly, another vehicle comes racing up behind you. They’re following only a few feet behind — too close for comfort. If you’re lucky, the driver will only ride your bumper for a few miles before making a turn or safely passing you.

Far too often, tailgating leads to road rage incidents and rear-end crashes.

Rear-enders are the most common type of accident in the U.S., accounting for about one-third of all crashes. They are also among the types of accidents most likely to cause serious injuries.

Connecticut drivers know this too well, according to UConn research. One of the most frequent actions drivers make prior to a crash is following another vehicle too closely.

Rear-enders often cause serious damage. Some of the most common tailgating accident-related injuries include:

  • Broken bones in the legs, arms, and wrists
  • Fractured ribs
  • Burns
  • Facial bruising
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Whiplash
  • Spinal cord injuries

For the driver behind you, tailgating accidents are 100 percent avoidable: just slow down a bit. Unfortunately, if you have someone following your car too closely, your ability to prevent a crash is more limited.

Knowing what causes tailgating, where it’s most likely to happen on Connecticut roads, and how to shake someone on your tail may help to keep you safe behind the wheel.

Tailgating in the Nutmeg State

If you’ve driven in Connecticut, you may already be aware that tailgating is a problem here.

Rear-end accidents often happen when a driver is tailgating and slams into a slower moving vehicle, fails to notice turning cars, or ignores signs that the driver ahead is stopping. Rear-enders also happen when a driver assumes the vehicle ahead at a stop light will hit the gas as soon as the signal changes green, then plows into the car in front.

When one driver tailgates another, they are most likely distracted, according to research by the University of Connecticut’s Crash Data Repository.

Usually, that distraction is coming from inside of the car: eating, shaving, talking to passengers, using a smartphone, or changing music. Outside distractions exist too: things like a work zone, billboard, other people and pets, or glare from the sun.

Rules of the road

Tailgating is illegal in Connecticut, but due to the language of the law, it can be difficult to define. State laws do not include a specific distance between vehicles. Instead, the law says that no motor vehicle shall follow another “more closely than is reasonable and prudent” considering speed, traffic, and weather conditions.

In general, drivers should be leaving enough room between themselves and the vehicle ahead to accommodate a vehicle to pass in between the two without significant danger.

The fine for tailgating is $100-150 and up to $200 if following too closely is a traffic accident factor.

Injured car accident victims are almost certainly due much more. Often, crash victims may be able to claim compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Car repairs
  • Disability equipment
  • Reduced earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental health care

To access this money, an injured crash victim must file an insurance claim and possibly a civil lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

The most dangerous roads in CT

Tailgating accidents are likely to happen on some roads more than others. In Connecticut, the routes with the most crashes include:

  • I-95 all along the Atlantic coast with hotspots in Bridgeport, New Haven and Stamford
  • I-84 particularly where it crosses Hartford and Waterbury
  • CT-15 AKA the Merritt Parkway, with hotspots in Meriden
  • US-1 this sister route to I-95 sees most of its accidents in East Bridgeport, Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk, and Broad Street in Stamford
  • I-91 the interstate’s crash hotspots are concentrated in Hartford and New Haven

Fault and rear-end accidents

In most cases, the driver in the back is responsible for an accident. However, in many tailgating situations, reckless drivers don’t want to admit to their actions.

There are four circumstances under which the front car may be responsible for an accident. To deflect blame, a tailgater may try to say that the victim made a sudden, un-signaled lane change; put their car in reverse after coming to a stop; stopped for no apparent reason; or was driving with faulty brakes or lights.

An experienced lawyer will have the knowledge to push back against such false accusations. This is important because any fault the other driver can pin on you may reduce the compensation you receive for your injuries.

Connecticut is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent rule. This means that someone injured in a car accident can claim damages if they were less than 51 percent responsible for the crash.

Your fault in an accident is calculated as a percentage during settlement negotiations or in a verdict. Your final payout will be reduced by however much responsibility you bear for causing the crash.

How to handle tailgaters

If you find yourself being trailed by a tailgater, there are things you can do to de-escalate the situation, according to AAA.

Keep calm. The first thing AAA suggests is that you resist the urge to get angry. Stay calm. Driving erratically will only make the situation worse.

Do not perform a “brake check.” Braking fast to send a message to a tailgater runs the risk of causing an accident. The tailgater may not have enough time to stop and could cause you serious injuries in a crash. If you’ve got someone riding your bumper and you’re coming to a stop, take more time than usual slowing down. This will hopefully communicate you are stopping to the person behind you.

Let them pass. When someone is driving in a way that puts you and your passengers at risk, it is natural to feel anger and anxiety. However, this is no time for your emotions to rule; let the aggressive driver pass. If you’re on a multi-lane road and it’s safe to move into the next lane, do so. This is the easiest way to end tailgating. If there is not another lane, consider turning off onto a side street or into a parking lot.

Do not speed up. Whether you’re driving at or below the speed limit, keep driving at the speed that feels safe to you.

Avoid confrontation. You may feel the temptation to express your frustration with a cuss or crude gesture aimed at the other driver, but it’s best to resist this urge. You do not want to antagonize someone who is already unconcerned about your safety. Do not escalate the situation. Be the bigger person and do not engage the tailgater.

Help for car accident victims

Tailgating often leads to serious, injury-causing rear-end collisions. The results can be life changing for the victims and their families.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, it is important that you start the claim process from a position of strength. You need an aggressive law firm that will fight hard for your rights. Speak with an attorney in your area today about your legal options.

The Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone & Morelli is a personal injury law firm in Connecticut.

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