When as many as 43 per cent of drivers in the UAE confess to not knowing what is the safe distance to be maintained between vehicles, it is not surprising that tailgating is such a common occurrence in the country. Apart from this number, a survey conducted in 2017 also revealed that the main reasons for tailgating were slow driving, running late, or being unaware of traffic rules. In Abu Dhabi, 13 per cent of traffic accidents during the first quarter of the year were due to this offence.

The sad reality is that the importance of keeping a safe distance between vehicles is among the least understood aspects of the driving discipline. This cautionary rule is not a result of some traffic analyst’s caprice. Rather, it is based on research that has to do with human perception of danger and its reaction time to it. Add to this the fact that a driver’s perception and reaction times inside a moving vehicle can only be as good as the reaction of the vehicle to commands and we can see how critical this understanding is to our safety.

In Dubai alone, 14 people lost their lives and 151 sustained injuries due to tailgating in the first quarter of 2017.

Nothing can justify these tragedies, least of all the notion that drivers believe they are capable of braking in time even if they are close to the vehicle just ahead of them.

The penalty of Dh400 and four black points for tailgating are strong deterrents, but ultimately, what will make a difference is when motorists become fully aware of their responsibilities and desist from one of the most dangerous indiscretions on the road.