Beating a Traffic Ticket for Tailgating

We all hate it when someone rides our bumper. And with good reason. Driving too closely behind another vehicle really is dangerous. That’s why the traffic laws of all states prohibit this conduct. Most define the violation as follows:

The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.

Elements of a Tailgating Violation

Here are the elements of this violation:

1. There was a vehicle in front of you, in the same lane, and

2. You followed more closely than reasonable, given the road, weather, and traffic conditions.

The key to winning a case for tailgating is to prove that your distance behind the other car was reasonable and prudent given the circumstances at the time. The big word here is “circumstances.” If you are 15 feet behind another vehicle traveling at 70 mph, your actions are not reasonable or prudent. But if traffic is creeping along at 10 mph, a distance of 15 feet behind the car in front of yours is reasonable. Now suppose traffic is proceeding at 25 mph. Is 15 feet still a reasonable and prudent distance to follow the car ahead? Probably not. The normal safety guideline is that a driver should leave one car length between his or her car and the car in front of it for every 10 mph. So, to be safe, a car traveling 60 mph should normally have at least six car lengths of empty space between it and the car in front of it.

Convince the judge your tailgating was temporary.

Every driver has experienced situations where another car suddenly slows down, with the result that you have to quickly adjust your speed by also slowing down. In this case, an officer might see you before you have completed your adjustment, making it falsely appear you were tailgating. If this was what happened to you, you should testify along theseâ

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