The Dangers of Tailgating Car Accidents

Tailgating accidents often happen out of the blue. One minute, you’re cruising along the road safely; the next, you look in your rearview mirror and see another vehicle approaching you dangerously fast. We look at the dangers of tailgating car accidents, how these collisions happen, and what you should do if you’re rear-ended by a tailgating vehicle.

What Is Tailgating?

Tailgating happens when a driver follows another vehicle too closely — so close that they can’t see the driver of the vehicle in front. This can lead to devastating accidents because the driver behind can’t see what the other driver is doing, nor can they react in time because they’re so close to the back of the vehicle.

If a driver is tailgating you and you hit the brakes, whether to turn, avoid a hazard, or stop at a red light, the chances are that the driver behind you will crash into the back of your car.

How Common Is Tailgating?

While we don’t know exactly how many accidents happen directly due to tailgating, we do know how many rear-end collisions happen on our roads. However, nearly all rear-end crashes are caused by drivers failing to leave a gap to the car behind or ahead — whether by braking or accelerating into another vehicle, or following a vehicle too closely. These numbers clearly illustrate the danger of tailgating accidents and not leaving a safe gap.

In 2019, almost 2.2 million rear-end collisions were documented. To give you an idea of how common these accidents are compared to other types of auto accidents, rear-end collisions accounted for 32.5% of all documented crashes. Of these accidents, 7.1% caused fatal injuries.

Why Is Tailgating Dangerous?

A rear-end collision is the most common result of a tailgating accident. These are dangerous, causing anything from damage to your car to severe, even fatal injuries. But rear-end accidents aren’t the only danger.

Tailgating can also cause rollovers, head-on collisions, or multi-vehicle pileups. Though rare, if the tailgating vehicle can react in time to the driver ahead, they may swerve their vehicle into other traffic or tip the vehicle’s balance, causing it to roll over. Any of these can lead to traffic piling into the crash.

Then, there are the injuries caused by tailgating accidents. A tailgating accident can have just as much impact as a multi-vehicle pileup. Some of the most common injuries sustained in these accidents include:


Whiplash is a common tailgating accident injury that causes the head and neck to rapidly move back and forth. Because the impact comes from behind, it’s often unexpected, and a driver can’t brace their body for impact. Whiplash often causes pain, headaches, and fatigue, but some individuals may experience blurry vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and depression. These symptoms can take time to manifest and persist for months after the accident.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord sends messages between the brain and the body, so when these nerves are damaged in a tailgating accident, it can cause temporary or permanent numbness and weakness. In the most severe cases, a spinal cord injury can cause permanent paralysis, which is life-altering for the person affected.

Head and Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are common injuries sustained in a rear-end tailgating accident. The crash’s impact can throw a driver or passenger forward, causing them to strike their head on the dashboard.

Concussion is a common TBI that happens during a bump or blow to the head, causing the brain to move back and forth against the skull. This is the mildest form of traumatic brain injury, but it’s still serious, causing fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and vision problems. More severe head injuries can affect cognitive function, put a victim in a coma, or cause death.

Dental and Facial Injuries

Head injuries aren’t the only risk in a tailgating accident. Dental and facial injuries are also common, especially if the vehicle’s airbags don’t deploy correctly. These can range from cuts and chipped teeth to a broken nose or jaw and a detached retina. In some cases, these injuries may require surgery, and a victim may have permanent facial scars or disfiguration. This can have a knock-on effect in multiple areas of a victim’s life, from their confidence to their relationships with others.

Cuts, Sprains, and Bruises

Cuts, sprains, and bruises are certainly minor tailgating accident injuries, especially compared to paralysis or severe brain trauma. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re not serious or that they don’t have a substantial impact on a victim’s life.

If you can’t work because you’ve bruised your ribs, sprained your ankle, or cut your wrist, you may struggle to afford your medical bills and provide for yourself and your loved ones. 

Why Do People Tailgate?

People tailgate for several reasons. The most common is the desire to keep up with the car in front, but some people tailgate in an attempt to overtake and get to an exit first. Whatever the reason, studies have shown that certain attributes in a driver make them more likely to behave in a way that causes a tailgating accident.

Aggressive drivers are far more likely to tailgate another driver. These individuals wear their frustration on their sleeves. They might be running late or feel they’ve been unfairly cut off, so they honk, shout obscenities, speed, and, ultimately, take more risks on the road.

Some drivers also think they can get away with such behavior. These people place their needs above those of others, so if they’re running late or otherwise in a rush, they won’t think twice about tailgating another car if it means they can stay close and risk a chance to get ahead — even if it means endangering their own lives and those of others.

Then, some drivers on the road believe they have superior driving skills and could easily avoid a tailgating accident if the driver ahead suddenly brakes. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Drivers can never predict the actions of another driver or how a collision will unfold, and even those with higher-than-average reaction speeds will struggle to avoid a crash when they’re in such close proximity to another vehicle.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer if You’re in a Tailgating Car Accident

If you’re in a tailgating accident, the first step you should take — after seeking medical attention for your injuries — is to speak with a personal injury lawyer.

In most cases, the tailgating driver is liable for the accident. However, they will often dispute fault, claiming that you braked into them out of frustration or recklessness. This can affect the outcome of your claim, so gathering evidence to support your claim is crucial. This might come in the form of surveillance camera footage, witness accounts, and the crash report filed by the police at the scene.

A car accident lawyer can also negotiate with stubborn insurance companies on your behalf to secure a fair settlement that appropriately compensates you for your medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other damages you’ve suffered.

This lets you focus on the most important thing: recovering from your injuries.

If you’re in a tailgating accident that wasn’t your fault and think you may be entitled to compensation, get in touch with our McAllen and San Antonio personal injury lawyers for a free, no-obligation case review. We’ll explain your legal rights and your chances of recovering compensation.

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