Highways England has released figures, following an analysis of traffic in England, as part of a campaign it has kicked off to highlight the dangers of tailgating. The analysis shows that, in 2016, one in eight casualties caused by high speed incidents involved a tailgating motorist. This equates to 1,896 casualties caused by tailgating, out of 16,233 in total. Of these 1,896 incidents, 114 of these resulted in death or serious injury.
In response to these figures, the police have announced a crackdown on tailgating; ordering an increase in vigilance, introducing three-points on a tailgater’s licence, and a £100 fine. Officers will now be on the lookout for drivers remaining close to the vehicles ahead of them and be issuing fines accordingly.
There is room to suggest that this £100 fine fails to adequately encapsulate the seriousness of tailgating, given that it is proven to have caused loss of life in a number of situations. Tailgating is a consequence-led offence, by which this means the seriousness of the crime is not so much judged by the act, but the outcome. If an accident is caused by tailgating, then the driver in that situation may well find themselves facing allegations of dangerous driving – the penalty of which could be years in prison.
By allowing police to make immediate penalties, there is less strain on resources and, hopefully, an incentive for motorists to avoid repeated offending. Higher penalties may be faced by those drivers who pose more serious threats to others.
Educational training may also be offered by the police, as a substitute to endorsement, in order to encourage drivers to learn the dangers behind how they drive.
In addition to the crackdown on tailgating, fines for using a mobile phone whilst driving will increase from £60 to £100, along with drivers who are found to not be wearing a seatbelt.
Of course, the laws of physics dictate that the dangers of tailgating are somewhat increased when the tailgating vehicle is an HGV. This is because they are larger vehicles, with the capability to cause heavy damage should the driver lose control, or should they collide with another, smaller vehicle. Arguably, this places more responsibility on the drivers of such vehicles not to tailgate.
The sanctions for tailgating are important for the haulage and logistics industry, and this is another opportunity for operators to remind their drivers of the importance of not driving unnecessarily close to the vehicle in front. It is a balancing act for operators who must make sure that deliveries arrive on time whilst ensuring their drivers drive carefully and follow the drivers’ hours rules to keep their drivers and other road users safe. If you are an operator, you may find it helpful to contact us to discuss this further.
Whilst normally the person receiving the penalty in criminal terms will be the driver, operators need to be aware that they can be an accessory if it is proven they knew, or ought to have known, that the driver was driving badly or was over his drivers’ hours allowance. Furthermore, if there is a bad accident, the police are likely to scrutinise the driver’s accident and disciplinary record and the telematics data. Potential offences may relate directly to the driving itself (e.g. gross negligence manslaughter) or not managing the driver properly (e.g. offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974). Convictions of this type typically trigger regulatory action such as a Public Inquiry for the operator and a driver conduct hearing for the driver.
Likewise, if one of your drivers becomes involved in a collision, with allegations of tailgating, please contact our Regulatory Team on 01254 828300, who regularly advise operators and drivers on this situation.