Don't use your brakes to deter tailgaters

vehicle tailgating anotherYou're driving on the freeway and grow annoyed at the tailgater behind you, so eventually you tap the brakes to make him back off. Admit it – you've done that, right?

It turns out that such braking can be a serious offense, especially if it's forceful braking, as reported in a Bellingham Herald story about a "brake checking" driver charged with vehicular homicide.

I've tapped my brakes before to make an aggressive tailgater back off. But I've never slammed my brakes, which can trigger road rage or collisions. There's a difference, right?

Apparently not.

Using your brakes at all to deter a tailgater constitutes aggressive driving and road rage, according to the Washington State Patrol. "Braking to get others to back off your bumper" is how WSP describes it. So whether you tap or slam, braking is not the way to deal with tailgaters.

two drivers with road rage Common sense should tell us this. Often times, tailgaters are already emotionally charged. Do you really want to aggravate them further by doing something likely to make them angrier?

Also, you don't know what you don't know. Perhaps the tailgater is not simply a rude driver. Perhaps he or she is responding to a true emergency, like rushing to the hospital.

Safety experts suggest two non-aggressive solutions to avoid tailgaters. One, move to the right if there's another open lane. If necessary, you may even need to pull off the road. (And if you're in the left lane to begin with, you have no reason to be there unless you're passing.) Two, if you gradually – without braking – slow down yet maintain a reasonable speed, the tailgater likely will grow impatient and pass you.

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