We all know how nerve-wracking it can be to have a driver ride your bumper so closely that you think you are about to crash. To get away from the aggressive driver, you might be forced to speed up or switch lanes prematurely. No doubt this experience is even more terrifying when loved ones and children are in the car with you.

Did you know that tailgating is considered to be aggressive driving in the US? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that aggressive driving plays a role in about 56 percent of fatal crashes. Such statistics may have you wondering how you can avoid such a situation. You probably want to protect the safety of those in your car and other vehicles.

This blog post will help you understand how close is “too close” when driving the streets of New Jersey.

How Close To Another Car Can You Be Until It's Considered Tailgating?

What is Considered Following Too Closely in NJ?

There is no definitive measurement for how close cars can or cannot drive to one another. It is the responsibility of the driver to discern how closely he or she should drive to other vehicles, depending on weather conditions and other factors.

This might not be the best news if you are the victim of a tailgating accident. However, the law is most definitely on your side.

Many people may see tailgating as a minor and inconsequential offense, but the State of New Jersey does not share the same view. Although the rules are somewhat subjective, it is reassuring to know that the New Jersey Law provides strict guidelines and consequences for tailgating.

The New Jersey Law on Tailgating

The tailgating law in New Jersey is covered by statute N.J.S.A. 39:4-89. This law states that every driver should follow another vehicle no “more closely than is reasonable and prudent,” considering the factors of speed, current traffic, and road conditions.

NJ law also clarifies that a truck driver “traveling on a highway outside a business or residence district shall not follow another motor truck within one hundred feet.” Otherwise, it’s mainly up to the driver to use his or her discretion to determine how fast to go and how close to follow other vehicles.

Nonetheless, law enforcement officers will consider the driver’s speed in a tailgating incident. If you are pulled over for tailgating, the police officers will examine all such factors to determine whether you are guilty of tailgating.

You can choose a safe driving distance using two general rules of thumb. These are the three-second rule and the one-car-length rule.

The three-second driving rule

The three-second rule is one practical way to ensure that you have adequate time to react to sudden stops and changes in traffic. There are two steps to applying this rule:

  1. Choose a point of reference. As you drive, pick up a stationary object on the side of the road: a signpost, a tree, or a road marker, for example.
  2. Wait for the vehicle ahead. When the car in front of you passes the chosen object, start counting the seconds. You should aim for at least 3 seconds to pass before your car reaches the same point.

If your car reaches the reference point in under 3 seconds, you are probably following too closely. Remember, driving too closely increases your chances of getting into a rear-end collision, whereas following the three-second rule can give you sufficient space and time to react.

The one-car-length rule

The one-car length rule is another effective way to gauge your following distance. This rule involves maintaining a specific distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. Here is how the one-car-length rule works:

  1. Look at your speed. Read the meter and identify your driving speed in miles per hour (mph).
  2. Calculate the safe distance. For every 10 mph you drive, you should maintain a distance of at least one car length. For example, if you are traveling at 60 mph, aim for a minimum of 6 car lengths of space between you and the car ahead of you.

Either rule may help you avoid getting a tailgating ticket or ending up in a car accident. Both rules help you determine a safe following distance under good weather conditions. However, you may need to keep a greater distance between you and another vehicle when driving through fog, wet roads, or icy roads.

What Are the Penalties for Tailgating in New Jersey?

If you violate the New Jersey law on tailgating, there are several penalties that you may face. These include:

  • Fines: New Jersey imposes a fine of between $50 and $200 when a driver is found guilty of tailgating.
  • Points: The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) adds 5 points to the license of the tailgater. You could have your license suspended or revoked if you accumulate points from traffic offenses.
  • License suspension: A suspended license is not listed under the New Jersey tailgating penalties. Although it is rare, a judge may revoke a driver’s license if it is proven that the driver intentionally put others in danger. In addition, if you receive 12 or more points on your license, the MVC can suspend your license.
  • Auto insurance increases: If you cause a tailgating accident, your insurance company may categorize you as a high-risk driver. This can lead to an increase in your premiums, especially if the accident resulted in significant injuries.
  • Jail time: Although it is rare for drivers to face jail time, a judge may impose a sentence of 15 days in jail. This happens when the guilty driver shows no remorse or has a history of reckless driving.

A few other penalties include paying surcharges or damages. If you accumulate more than six points, you will have to pay a $150 surcharge, plus an additional $25 for each point over six. These surcharges need to be paid every year for 3 years.

In the event of a collision, you may be held financially responsible for hitting the vehicle in front of you. You might have to pay for property damages, injuries, and – in the worst-case scenario – loss of life.

Our New Jersey Car Accident Attorneys Can Help with Tailgating Cases

Are you suffering from injuries caused by aggressive driving? Our team of skilled car accident lawyers handles various types of cases, including aggressive accident and tailgating claims. We are here to help you navigate the legal process and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Maybe you are sure who is liable for your accident and medical bills, or maybe you are unsure whether your own following distance was the reason for the collision. Either way, you can trust us to advocate for your rights and give you the advice you need during this difficult time.

Our car accident lawyers have years of experience fighting for New Jersey personal injury victims. With our No Fee Guarantee®, you won’t pay us anything unless you get money for your claim. Contact us at 1-866-909-6894 or complete our online form to request a free case review.

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Content edited by personal injury attorney Judd Shaw. From the beginning, Judd established a set of Core Values laying out the pursuit for excellence in client service. He is a regular host of the Working The Wow podcast, with the belief that providing an exceptional client experience is just as important as delivering a quality service or product. You can find us in Red Bank and Tom‘s River, New Jersey.