The practice of tailgating is rampant on UAE highways, with aggressive motorists driving at high speed while flashing headlights to push cars out of the fast lane. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: More than 52,000 drivers were fined in Dubai between January and November 2015 for tailgating which was blamed for hundreds of accidents, Dubai Police said.

Tailgating is among the two most common causes of serious accidents, claiming 37 lives in Dubai since early 2014.

Between January and September, the police recorded 435 accidents caused by tailgating, leading to 25 fatalities in the first nine months of this year, the highest among all causes of accidents in that period.

The practice is rampant on UAE highways, with aggressive motorists driving at high speed while flashing headlights to push cars out of the fast lane. In 2014, Dubai Traffic Police issued 69,964 fines to people for not leaving a safe distance between vehicles on Dubai roads.

Colonel Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, Director of Dubai Traffic Police, said that tailgating is one of the top three reasons for accidents on Dubai roads.

“People do not understand the consequences of tailgating. If there is no safe distance between the vehicles, the driver won’t have enough time to apply the brakes to avoid collision,” he said.

Dubai Police recently announced a fine of Dh400 for each instance of tailgating caught by the new tube-shaped roadside radars.

In July, Dubai Police announced that speed cameras have been activated to catch tailgaters. However, according to experts, the spacing of five metres between vehicles travelling at 80km/h that the radars look for is insufficient to provide a significant safety margin.

Cars travelling under 80km/h, such as those caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic, are exempted from the ruling.

According to experts, a two-second time gap between vehicles is the minimum safety margin required, irrespective of the vehicle’s speed.

“Tailgating is a completely irresponsible ‘actively aggressive’ activity which shows no regard for safety, either of oneself or other road users, and is a major cause of accidents. These accidents are usually of a serious or fatal nature due to the high speeds involved,” said Robert Hodges, chief operating officer of Emirates Driving Institute.

Hodges, who is also an internationally recognised road-risk and driver training expert, added that it is important for road users to understand the psychology of tailgaters and aggressive drivers.

“Tailgating is often adrenaline-fuelled; it is a classic risk-taking behavioural activity and, by tailgating, the driver gets an adrenaline rush. They feel that surge of adrenaline and this, in turn, causes the tailgater to behave even less rationally and often aggressively. In fact, some [often younger] drivers deliberately tailgate others in order to get that hyped-up adrenaline buzz,” he said, giving an insight into the minds of risk-takers on the road.

Highlighting the best road policy, he said: “Always drive in the rightmost available lane of the road. If there is a stream of slow-moving trucks, etc, in the lanes to your right, then it is OK to continue overtaking by staying in a left lane and moving past these slow vehicles safely, but when lanes to your right become clear, you should move back into that lane.”

The fast lane should be used only to overtake and by law every driver should give way to fast moving approaching vehicles from behind by safely moving to the right, regardless of the vehicle’s speed.

“Move to the next available slower lane on your right whenever approached by a faster moving vehicle from behind, irrespective of which lane and what speed you are driving. This should be understood by every driver,” he stated.

Hodges also urged drivers not to overtake from the right.

“The only legal way to overtake is that you overtake vehicles to their left; overtaking to their right is illegal under the Federal Road Law, and is extremely dangerous — it is often responsible for the common ‘side-swipe’ accidents we have in the UAE,” Hodges said.

With inputs from Noorhan Barakat, Staff Reporter

How to handle tailgaters

Robert Hodges, Chief Operating Officer of Emirates Driving Institute, offers simple tips to deal with tailgating:

Do not escalate the problem by engaging in a ‘power struggle’ and challenge the tailgater by stamping on the brakes.

Do not suddenly accelerate or deliberately block lanes if the tailgater tries to come past illegally; calmly do your mirror and shoulder checks, indicate clearly and, if safe to do so, move over into the next lane to your right. Drive smoothly and let them go past.

Avoid eye contact with tailgaters and refrain from any hand gestures.

Do not stay in the ‘fast lane’ just because you are at the speed limit, it is not your job to control the speed of other drivers approaching from behind and doing so may cause them to become aggressive.