M1 near Leeds exposed as 'tailgating' hotspot


More motorists 'tailgate' on the M1 near Leeds than any other stretch of motorway in England.

Accidents caused by the reckless practice - also known as close following - cost the UK up to £129 million a year.

Add on the cost incurred by the traffic that builds as a result of tailgating collisions and the money wasted jumps up by as much as another £12.6 million according to the Department for Transport.

The dangerous driving method – whereby drivers allow less than the recommended two-second gap from the car in front – is very likely to blame for five road deaths and more than 1,100 accidents every year, the police and Highways Agency have reported.

Other than the Leeds section of the M1, the M42 near Solihull in the West Midlands and the M1 near Brent Cross in north-west London complete also make it to the top three tailgating hotspots, found insurer Direct Line.

Across the motorway network, 49% of all vehicles travelled closer to the car in front than allowing for the recommended two-second gap. Some 17% travelled at less than one second apart.

For those doing speeds of 60-69 mph, 78% had gaps shorter than their calculated stopping distances of between 73 and 94 metres. Some 54% had gaps of less than half the stopping distances.

Young drivers are involved in more tailgating accidents than anyone else, with under 30s accounting for 37% of such incidents.

Common reasons for tailgating include driver error in assessing speeds and gaps and drivers trying to close the distance with the vehicle ahead – sometimes aggressively.

Being caught tailgating can result in the driver facing a fixed penalty notice of £100.

Against the law

Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line, said: "Tailgating is extremely dangerous and also against the law, regardless of whether it's done intentionally or in ignorance. Often people can find themselves too close to other vehicles on motorways as they rush to their destination or try to keep up with traffic flow."

He added: "We'd urge drivers to keep their stopping distances in mind, as these are often forgotten in times of haste or frustration. Drivers should aim to always have at least a two-second gap - over 60 metres - between themselves and the car in front to keep safe on the motorway and avoid facing the on-the-spot fines for tailgating that were introduced last year."

Tailgating hotspots in England

1. M1 at A1M to J47 southbound, Leeds
2. M42 J6-7 northbound, Solihull
3. M1 within J1 northbound, Brent Cross
4. A1M J51-50 southbound, Leeming, N. Yorkshire
5. M27 J7-5 westbound, Southampton
6. M42 J6-5 southbound, Solihull
7. M42 J4-3A southbound, Solihull/Redditch
8. M42 J7-6 southbound, NEC Birmingham
9. A627M between start & J1 northbound, Oldham/Rochdale
10. M11 within J9 northbound, Bishops Stortford/Cambridge

Source: TRL & Highways Agency MIDAS data

Your Comments

If you were to leave a gap of 60 metres (195 Ft.) between you and the car in front this would leave enough space for ten cars to pull in front of you, and each time you increased the distance the same thing would happen. In addition you do not have to leave the total braking distance between you and the car in front as he also requires that distance to brake, basically you only need your reaction distance, assuming that you are being alert and this is about 10% of the total braking distance.

This has some merit, but suppose the following situation: The car in front suddenly stopped because it hit something big whilst you were turning down your radio and you couldn't stop in time because you only had 10% of your total braking distance available. Accidents aren't equations, they're unpredictable instances. Driveless cars might solve the problem, but until then it's not worth the risk.