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Fearful motorists claim that tailgating is the source of their anxiety

According to a recent Aviva study, the majority of drivers (79%) claim to feel frightened by other drivers when they are driving.

The report, which was released in conjunction with Road Safety Week (November 19–25), also showed that this increases to nearly nine out of ten (89%) new drivers or learners between the ages of 17 and 24.

When asked what makes them feel intimidated, over half of drivers (51%) said that “tailgating” is the primary source, followed by being passed at a high speed (37%) and being taken on the inside (27%).

An additional one in five people (23%) list hostile gestures and honking as threatening behaviours.

Tailgating is a careless driving infraction that has a fine and licence point consequences for drivers who intentionally drive too close to the car in front of them.

While most drivers report experiencing intimidation while driving, over half (62%) of drivers acknowledge engaging in intimidating behaviour themselves.

In fact, one in six (18%) drivers admit to flashing headlights and although well-intentioned in most cases, flashing headlights unnecessarily is against the Highway Code which states: ‘Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users’.

Martin Smith, motor claims manager at Aviva, said: “Tailgating is dangerous, intimidating and can cause accidents, especially during periods of wet weather and icy conditions.

“By keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front, it enables you to have enough time to stop if necessary and prevent a potential collision.

“It’s equally important to consider the manner in which you use your headlights and horn.

“Though a useful way to warn other road users of your presence, using either too aggressively can be viewed as an ‘intimidating behaviour’ and could potentially land you with a fine, points on your licence and in some instances, a driving ban.”

The top 10 actions/behaviours drivers felt intimidated by

Action/behaviourPercentage of driversPercentage of drivers who admit to doing this themselves
Tailgating (deliberately driving close to another vehicle e.g. if they are driving slowly)51%7%
Overtaking at high speeds37%9%
Undertaking on the inside27%12%
Making rude gestures23%16%
Honking aggressively23%11%
Flashing headlights22%18%
Sudden braking21%9%
Cutting off or blocking your vehicle20%5%
Swearing towards other drivers19%19%
Not letting me merge on to a motorway or dual carriageway   18%7%

According to the findings, younger drivers were more likely to report feeling concerned when compared to older drivers. A third of drivers surveyed between the ages of 17 and 24 (33%) and 65 to 74 (24%) reported feeling frightened.

Younger generations were, however, the least likely to experience anger (25%) compared to 33% of those aged 74–84 and 34% of those aged 65–74.

At 60% and 61%, respectively, these two age groups likewise expressed the highest degrees of displeasure.

Smith said: “While we can’t control the actions of other drivers, one thing we can control is how we respond to instances of road rage and intimidation.

“Try to keep calm, ignore them and if another driver is too close for comfort, consider letting them past – it pays to be cautious when encountering unpredictable drivers on the roads.

“Most intimidation is momentary, however if it persists and you are in a position to safely and legally do so, call the police for assistance.”

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